The Ultimate DND Fighter 5e Class Guide for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition
What class should I play in Dungeons and Dragons? What's a great class for a beginner in Dungeons and Dragons 5e? What's the best build for fighters in 5e? Read below for the best guide on the fighter class in DND5E.
"Scars" used under license by Armiche Lora Sánchez. Check out their work here
If you’ve chosen to play a fighter in D&D 5E, you may wonder what skills, feats, and class features you can use to help your party the most. That’s what we’ll cover in this guide.
Fighters are one of the oldest Dungeons and Dragons classes. They were present even in “Men and Magic,” the very first version of the rules. They are the best at fighting with weapons and armor.
Fighters are not great at sneaking around, casting spells, or healing. But when it comes to beating down their opponents in melee combat, they excel like no other class.
This guide will explain what we’ve found to be the most powerful options when creating and playing a fighter.
A fighter’s primary goal is to be good at damaging their enemies with weapons. Most fighters use a two-handed melee weapon or a one-handed weapon with a shield. Either way, most of these weapons use Strength for attack rolls. For a traditional fighter build, put your highest ability roll into strength.
Another option is to create a fighter that uses ranged or finesse weapons, such as crossbows, rapiers, scimitars, or shortswords. These weapons are lighter, and do not require high strength to use effectively. Because of this, they use Dex instead of Str for attack rolls. If you plan on playing this type of fighter, put your highest roll into Dex instead of Str.
Constitution is important for any D&D character. The higher your constitution, the more hit points you will gain as you level. This will improve your ability to survive long fights. Put your second-highest roll into Con.
Wisdom is another important ability score for all D&D characters. If you have low Wis, you may often fall victim to magic spells and other types of mental manipulation that your foes may try to dominate you with. And Wisdom is important for succeeding at perception rolls, which happens often in D&D. Put your third-highest roll into Wis.
If you chose a traditional high-Str fighter build, dump your bad rolls into Dex, Cha, and Int. If you chose a finesse or ranged weapon fighter build, dump your bad rolls into Str, Cha, and Int.
Best races for a fighter
You can play a fighter as any race. But some races are ideally suited for a life of combat. Here is a list of the best races for a fighter.
Dwarf - All dwarves get + 2 Con. This is great for a fighter, but Mountain Dwarf is especially good for the class with +2 Con and +2 Str. Dwarven Resilience also provides resistance to poison, which is useful for any class
Dragonborn - Dragonborns get + 2 Str. In addition, they have a Breath Weapon attack that damages all enemies within an area of effect. Since fighters often struggle when combatting multiple enemies, this ability shores up a weakness and helps to make the fighter stronger
Half-orc - All half-orcs get +2 Str and +1 Con, which makes them perfectly suited to be fighters. They also get Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks. These abilities increase half-orcs’ survivability and crit damage
Elf - If you are playing a ranged or finesse weapon fighter, Elf is a great choice. Elves get + 2 Dex. Wood Elves are an especially nice pick, since they have a speed bonus from Fleet of Foot and are better at hiding thanks to Mask of The Wild
When you reach level 3, you’ll be able to choose a martial archetype. Here are some tips on how to decide which archetype to pick. We’ll also discuss the best features of each archetype.
This archetype is best for players who don’t want to make a lot of complicated combat decisions each round. Improved Critical will let you critical hit on 19 or 20 instead of just 20.
At level 7, Remarkable Athlete lets you add your proficiency bonus to any Str, Con, or Dex check, including initiative rolls. This can help you win initiative in many cases that you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s also useful for many other Str, Con, and Dex checks.
If you choose Champion as your archetype, just swing your weapon each round to do as much damage as possible. It’s that simple.
This archetype gives you access to Battle Maneuvers, which opens up more complexity during combat. If you choose this archetype, Combat Superiority will give you three Maneuvers and four Superiority Dice at level 3. You can expend a superiority die to use any of your maneuvers.
Use Trip Attack to add 1d8 to your attack roll and knock your foe prone if they fails their saving throw. Use Riposte to make a reaction attack against a creature that misses its attack against you, and add 1d8 damage to your attack.
Make a Menacing Attack to do 1d8 extra damage and make your opponent afraid of you if he fails their saving throw.
This is a hybrid fighter/mage specialization. At level 3, spellcasting allows you to learn 2 cantrips from the Wizard spell list and gives you 2 1st-level spell slots.
Use Shield to gain +5 AC and Acid Splash to damage more than one enemy at a time.
Thunderwave is also a powerful spell for Eldritch Knight fighters. It does 2d8 thunder damage in a 15 ft. cube surrounding you for each victim that fails its saving throw and half damage to each victim that makes the save. It also pushes each victim 10 ft. away if it fails its roll.
Eldritch Knight is a great choice if you want to play a fighter, but want some spellcasting abilities as well.
Best class features for a fighter
As a fighter, you will have access to many features unique to your class. But out of these features, only a few will be so good that you will find yourself using them time and again. Here are some of the best fighter class features.
At level 1, you can choose a fighting style to specialize in. If you want to use ranged weapons, choose Archery to get + 2 bonus on attack rolls. If you want to use a sword and shield, choose Dueling to get + 2 bonus to damage rolls.
For fighting with two-handed weapons, choose Great Weapon Fighting to let you reroll 1s and 2s on damage - as long as you are willing to keep the second roll.
These are the most powerful fighting styles.
At level 2, this gives you one extra action per short rest. It is extremely useful for finishing off a wounded enemy.
The name says it all. As a fighter, your damage comes from your weapon. The more attacks you get, the more damage you do. You get this feature at level 5, and it scales further at levels 11 and 20.
As you gain levels, increasing your primary ability through Ability Score Improvement will usually make you a better fighter than taking feats will. But if your primary stat is already at 20, here are the best feats for a fighter.
If you use a sword and shield, this will give you a variety of benefits. You can knock a foe back with your shield or use your shield’s AC to help with Dex saving throws. If an effect would make you take half damage on a Dex save, you can use your shield to protect yourself on a successful save, reducing the damage to zero instead of half.
If you use ranged weapons, take this feat to prevent attacks at long range from imposing disadvantage, ignore half cover and three-quarters cover, and allow you to take a -5 attack roll penalty in exchange for a +10 to your damage roll. These are all great benefits for ranged weapons users
Lets you increase an ability score by 1 and gain proficiency in saving throws using the chosen ability. Many fighters have low Wisdom, making it easy for them to be dominated by magic and psychological manipulation. Use this feat to increase your Wisdom and help you make more saving throws in these situations
Great Weapon Master
If you use two-handed weapons, choose this feat to give you a bonus action anytime you get a critical hit or kill an opponent. You can also use this to take a -5 attack roll penalty in exchange for + 10 to your damage roll
Another great feat for ranged weapons fighters, although it can only be used specifically with a crossbow. As long as you have a loaded hand crossbow, this lets you make a bonus attack with it anytime you make an attack with a one-handed weapon.
This alone makes it worth taking. But it also lets you ignore the loading quality of crossbows you are proficient with and prevents disadvantage from being imposed if a creature is within five feet of you, making it an even greater choice.
Best fighter skills
Fighters will mostly rely on their class features and feats to accomplish things in the game. However, there are a few skills that can be useful for fighters.
- Athletics can help you shove or grapple your opponent, as well as avoid having these things done to you
- Perception can help you find clues and avoid dangerous situations - it is a basic skill that is useful for any class
- If your Charisma isn’t awful, take Intimidation to help get information out of NPCs.
**Xanathar's Class Updates**
Arcane Archer (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
This is an old favorite of mine that they’ve made beautifully simple and easy to play in 5e. Just firing arrows can get boring in combat, why not shoot arrows around corners or ones that explode with magical power? Pick this up if you want to play an archer with a few tricks up their sleeve.
Cavalier (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
A lot of people pass this up because they can’t count on having a mount all the time, thankfully 5e cavaliers are just damn good sword and board fighters regardless. Cavaliers force duels, gain bonuses for wielding sword and shield, and yes, are also good at charging people down on a mount. Grab this if you want your fighter to shout, “I challenge you to a duel” at every combat.
Samurai (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
The core of this archetype is the “fighting spirit” which just lets you choose to gain advantage on your next swing and temporary hit points 3 times a day. You’re also a friggin samurai! You get a bonus skill and some rather useful diplomatic abilities, but that fighting spirit and the inherent cool factor is the main reason to pick this one up, it’s so good!
These are the best ways to maximize the power of a fighter in D&D 5E.
Fighters are often perceived as a “boring” class. They usually can’t cast spells or heal, and they don’t have cool rogue abilities like Supreme Sneak and Assassinate.
But as this guide has shown, they do have many options that can be used to flesh them out. You can play a Battle Master crossbow expert, an Elkdritch Knight who combines sword-and-shield fighting with AoE spells, a heavy-weapons fighter who uses Trip Attack to stun their opponents, and many other unique builds.
Regardless of which options you choose, we hope this guide to fighter-maximization has helped you. Comment below if you have any questions - or if you have other ideas for powerful fighter builds.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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