Fighter dnd guide

Fighter dnd guide DEFAULT

Thread: An Illustrated Manual for Inflicting Violence: A Guide to Fightering

I do t think Dueling can quite be Blue while Two a Weapon Fighting is Red. Dueling adds +2/4/6/8 Damage per round throughout the game, while Two Weapon Fighting adds +2/3/4/5 capping out earlier often while excluding additional weapon damage and Crit chance. I mean through 10th level TWF will often be adding as much or more damage per round compared to Dueling. At level 11-19 it will often average only 1 damage less than Dueling excluding damage dice. Early game it is the superior damage dealing style excluding Varient Humans with Pole Arm Master. Even a 16 Str GWF GWM hits 35% for 21.33 averaging 7.5DPR while a dual Shortsword hits 60% of the time with two attacks for 2d6+6 or 7.8 DPR. If we make the TWF a Varient Human his DPR jumps to 9. A PM Varient Human only has a DPR of 8.4.

For a Fighter TWF is the best damage dealing style through level 4(20% of the game). It starts to fall off 5-10, assuming 18 Str. A Duelist deals 12.6 DPR, GWF deals 14.8 DPR, a GWF GWM deals 15.6DPR, PM deals 15.3 DPR, a PM GWM deals 18.4DPR, while the TWF Duelist deals 15.3 DPR or 13.5 without duelist or 11.1 DPR without even TWF.

At level 11-19 if falls behind, but still deals more damage than Duelist. At level 20 it ends up slightly behind a Duelist in damage if you didn't take a Duel Wielder.

Now, sure, it takes a bonus action, but Fighter doesn't have a ton of uses for his bonus action and I don't feel that something that is the superior damage dealing style at lvls 1-4, is extremely competitive lvls 5-10, and still out damages Duelist except for possibly lvl 20 should be rated as Red while Duelist is rated Blue. Either Duelist needs to drop down to Black or more likely Two Weapon Fighting needs to bump up to Purple/Black or even both

Archery is extremely strong. A +2 Static modifier to hit is amazing,mite still be Blue if it was a +1. It is by far the strongest Fighting Style.

Defense is solid. A static +1 to defense means a lot, it really does.

Great Weapon Fighting should not be Sky Blue unless you are multiclassing to something that throws extra damage dice.m as a pure damage upgrade, 1.33 per attack with a Greatsword, worse on every other weapon, it's mediocre and sub par compared to Dueling, TWF, and certainly Archery. It adds 1.3/2.7/4/5.33 Damage or worse. IMP GWF is Purple, Skyblue if you Multiclass to something like Paladin or even Eldritch Knight with melee Cantrips. It is not better than Black for most characters.

Protection. Situationally Sky Blue, often Red.

TwoWeaponFighting! Starts Blue for early levels, Mid levels is Black, and Purple for late levels. Lvl 20 it's Red.


One of the most versatile classes in D&D 5E, Fighters are a classic choice for any damage dealing- or tank-inclined roleplayers. Whether you want to be a skilled archer, a muscle-bound axe-wielding machine or even a meaty walking shield, the Fighter class perfectly embodies that timeless action hero role, expertly skilled in combat and prepped to save the day.

5E Fighters are often the first port of call for new players, and it's easy to see why. With satisfying stand-out class characteristics like choosing a Fighting Style, and their general ability to absolutely lay waste to enemies left and right, it's hard not to fall in love with D&D when playing them. But, contrary to popular belief, the Fighter isn't a newbie exclusive. With their array of exciting class features, diverse and unique archetypes, and addictively powerful damage output, even dungeon-delving veterans can get hooked.

Here’s our in-depth guide for the Fighter, offering some guidance for future character creation, a tour through all the Fighter subclasses at your fingertips, and details of some prime builds that will let you dominate the battleground during your next adventure.

If you’d prefer a ‘bird’s eye view’ snapshot of all the other classes on offer, hop on over to our overall D&D 5E classes guide.

Still here? OK then, wannabe Fighters, let’s see what you’re made of…

A D&D artwork showing characters in battle

Fighter STATS 5E

Hit Dice1D10 Per level
HP at Lvl Up1D10 (or 6) + Constitution modifier
Primary ability scoresDexterity or Strength and Constitution
Armour proficiencyAll Armour, Shield
Weapon proficiencySimple Weapons, Martial Weapons
Tool proficiencyNone
Saving throwsStrength and Constitution

The Fighter class generally has two paths players can take. You can choose to be a ranged Fighter, focusing on your Dexterity (Dex) score, or a baddie-bashing melee maniac – which is based around your Strength (Str).

It’s purely up to you which ability score to focus on maxing out. However, no matter which type of Fighter you end up picking, remember to raise their Constitution (Con) score, too. After all, you can’t have a beefy damage dealer that gets knocked out at the drop of a helmet, right?

D&D Artwork showing a fighter battling wolves in a forest using a rapier or light sword
Fighting Styles 5E

Right at level one, players will pick a fighting style that will influence how they play the rest of the campaign. This is the class’s iconic ability, and the main reason why so many D&D players choose to multiclass with the Fighter – so make sure you go through all your options, and pick carefully.

Archery: Perfect for bow-wielding Fighters, and a must for any Dex-focused players. It grants a +2 to attack rolls when using a ranged weapon.

Great Weapon Fighting: If you’re planning on using some heavy-duty weapons like a Greatsword, this style is essential. When using a two-handed or versatile melee weapon, players can reroll any ones or twos on damage. However, they must use the new result.

Defence: If you want to absorb some major damage for your party, and fully take on the role of the tank in combat, Defence increases your armour class (AC) – granting a +1 bonus, and making you harder to hit.

Artwork from the D&D player's handbook showing a tapestry of a fighter and wizard fighting an enemy

Protection: Players wielding a shield can use their reaction turn to cause an enemy to roll disadvantage when they attack a target. However, this style is only effective in a five-foot range. Overall, it’s a decent pick for Fighters wanting to focus on aiding allies.

Dueling: Fighters with this Style will gain a +2 bonus to their damage rolls when wielding a single melee weapon in one hand. This also applies when fighters are holding a shield in their other hand, making it a tempting choice for sword-wielding roleplayers.

Two-weapon Fighting: When using Two-weapon fighting, Fighters can use their bonus action for a second attack with a different light melee weapon. The style, unsurprisingly, makes fighting with two weapons more effective and lets players rack up some notable damage against enemies.

D&D Artwork from the Player's Handbook showing Drizzt as a fighter wielding two weapons

(NB: The following fighting styles are the most recent additions from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)

Blind Fighting: Nothing gets past you, literally. Fighters get blindsight with a ten feet range. Even when blinded or in complete darkness, you can see anything that isn’t behind total cover, meaning no more disadvantage imposed when attacking targets you usually wouldn’t see.

Unarmed Fighting: You can officially throw down in hardcore fisticuffs as a Fighter. Unarmed strikes deal 1d6 + your Str modifier of bludgeoning damage. If you aren’t wielding any weapons, that d6 turns into a d8. There is also the option to grapple an enemy and deal 1d4 damage at the start of your turn.

Library books: Our review of the Candlekeep Mysteries sourcebook

Superior Technique: If you want the perks of playing as a Battlemaster subclass, without fully committing, this is a great Fighting Style to pick. Players can choose one of the many useful and powerful manoeuvres from the Battlemaster’s list for free.

Interception: When you are wielding a shield or a martial weapon, if you see a creature attack within a five-foot range, you can use your Reaction to leap in and intercede – lessening their damage roll by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus. This is especially useful if your party has lots of spellcasters with low AC.

Thrown Weapon Fighting: It acts exactly as it sounds; you can throw a weapon with the “thrown” property. However, it also lets you draw multiple weapons in a turn, and adds a nifty +2 to your damage roll.

A D&D artwork showing boats at sea carrying the characters, and a sea monster attack

Best Fighter Races

For an optimal Fighter build, you’ll generally look towards races that will give some juicy bonuses to your key ability scores. Choices that will increase Dex, Str or Con are sure-fire ways to take your characters up a notch.

Mountain Dwarf: Fighters will get a +2 Str and +2 Con. That’s right, a total of four points of score improvements, adding up to one of the best choices for tanks and strength-focused Fighters. You also get some free resistance to poison thrown into the mix. What more could you ask for?

High Elf: With their +2 bonus to Dex, +1 to Intelligence (Int), dark vision and proficiency in perception, High Elves make super-effective ranged Fighters. Their Intelligence bonus also helps pump up secondary ability scores, to benefit subclasses like the Eldritch Knight. Bear in mind that their Elven Accuracy feat grants a huge damage increase as well, so if you’re planning to be an archer, or a Fighter dabbling in magic, it’s a solid pick.

Dark patrons: Our in-depth D&D Warlock 5E class guide

Dragonborn: This race will give Fighters a +2 Str and +1 to their Charisma (Cha), great for melee players looking to beef up their stats. Dragonborn Fighters also get Breath Weapon, an innate ability that lets you damage multiple enemies at once, getting past the typical and limiting single-target attack styles dominant in the Fighter class.

Variant Human: This race will let players add a point to any two ability scores of their choice, gain proficiency in any skill that tickles their fancy, and, finally, even grants an extra feat. For any Fighter characters, these perks combined make for a pretty amazing deal.

Half-Orc: Here, you get a +2 Str and a +1 Con, making Half-Orcs great from an ability score perspective straightaway. But what truly makes them stellar picks is their Relentless Endurance and Savage Attack racial abilities, making Half-Orc Fighters tough to take down, while hitting extremely hard.

D&D artwork showing various characters of different classes

Fighter Subclasses 5e

At level three, players will hone in on their decisions and build upon their chosen fighting style by picking their martial archetype – the Fighter’s term for subclass.

There are ten official subclasses for Fighters, each offering their own spin on a combative hero to dig your roleplaying teeth into.

D&D artwork showing an armoured fighter with a sword

Champion 5E

Found in: Player’s Handbook (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Improved Critical
7Remarkable Athlete
10Additional Fighting style
15Superior Critical

The simplest of all the subclasses, the Champion is a safe bet for any beginners or players who enjoy handing out mass damage, with a minimum of planning.

At level three, Champions get Improved Critical, making any natural 19 count as a critical roll. As you level up, your crit chance can get up to three times higher than anyone else in your party, and all the double damage you’ll deal will be incomparable.  At level ten, an additional Fighting Style lets Champion players become more well-rounded or highly specialised, making this class a home run combat wise.

Oathkeeper: Read our comprehensive Paladin 5E class guide

Now, if we’re completely honest, the straight-up-and-down Champion subclass can get a bit dull as you progress in the game. However, it’s still a great choice to experiment with multiclassing, and stands as one of the best archetypes in terms of damage output.

D&D artwork showing a Fighter Battle Master next to a slain giant

Battlemaster 5E

Found in: Player’s Handbook (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Combat Superiority, Student of War
7Know your Enemy
10Improved Combat Superiority

If you want to play as a Fighter who backs up deadly combat skills with some good old-fashioned creative tactical thinking, the Battle Master is the subclass to pick.

This archetype comes with a long list of battle manoeuvres – powered by your four Superiority Dice – that give players more complexity in combat, and more versatility in playstyle. Stand-out manoeuvres like Trip Attack, which lets you knock enemies prone, giving you advantage on the next three attacks, are game-changers, and let Fighters control the battlefield.

Here is a class that lets you use your smarts, and generally upgrades the Fighter experience for the player. Also, it’s worth noting that you can get all your manoeuvres back after a short rest, theoretically letting players use them multiple times in one game day.

D&D artwork showing a female fighter with sword and shield

Eldritch Knight

Found in: Player’s Handbook (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Spellcasting, Weapon Bond
7War Magic
10Eldritch Strike
15Arcane Charge
18Improved War Magic

Who doesn’t love popping some nifty spells while in the thick of the battle? Eldritch Knights are Fighters who gain access to several Wizard spells, primarily from the magic schools of Evocation and Abjuration.

They can be thrilling to play, especially during characters’ earlier levels, as they wield magic while bashing all who stand in their way. Their level seven class feature, War Magic, lets you cast a cantrip and use your bonus action to make a weapon attack on the same turn, making each turn feel way more rewarding in combat.

Play it again, Sam: Read our full D&D Bard 5E class guide

However, this subclass requires players to juggle Intelligence into their ability scores, and spell progression can feel slow. Level-up decisions get harder and harder, so be prepared to spend some time deliberating each choice.

Arcane Archer

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Arcane Archer Lore, Arcane Shot
7Magic Arrow, Curving Shot
15Ever-Ready Shot
18Improved Arcane Shot

As you progress in this subclass, the typical archer image is turned on its head, replaced with fancy tricks and thematic mechanics.

At the seventh level, all your arrows can be imbued with magic. Curving Shot uses your bonus action, letting you redirect arrows to different targets during combat, Wanted-style. If you feel inclined towards taking up a ranged fighter, this is one of the more stylish choices.

However, be prepared to fully embrace your niche, as Arcane Archers are limited to using a bow. Unlike the other Fighter subclasses that offer a range of versatility, they’re fully locked into their role as a ranged damage dealer.

Echo Knight

Found in: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Manifest Echo, Unleash Incarnation
7Echo Avatar
10Shadow Martyr
15Reclaim Potential
18Legion of One

What’s cooler than roleplaying as a mysterious Fighter who can summon a temporal duplicate of themselves?

At level three, Echo Knights can manifest their duplicate to fight alongside them, distract enemies, absorb party damage, and even teleport around the battlefield. If you like summoner gameplay, but want to try your hand at the Fighter, this subclass is a must.

Although the Echo’s abilities are limited outside combat, the Echo Knight is one of the most unusual Fighter archetypes you can play, and is a slap in the face to naysayers who reckon Fighters to be boring or vanilla…


Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Bonus Proficiency, Born to the Saddle, Unwavering Mark
7Warding Manoeuvre
10Hold the line
15Ferocious Charger
18Vigilant Defender

The image of a mounted knight immediately comes to mind for this subclass, but the truth is that they’re just as effective without a noble steed.

Cavaliers are great for defensive players, and especially for a campaign with lots of squishy spellcasters to look after. They demand more tactical thinking (reminiscent of fourth edition) so they can be incredibly rewarding for long-time players and combat enthusiasts to take on.

At level three, Unwavering Mark lets Cavaliers put enemies at Disadvantage, and gives their own attacks Advantage, if the creature targets one of their teammates. They also can grant extra AC, knock enemies prone, and generally add tons of buffing and protective value to an adventuring party.


Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Bonus Proficiency, Fighting Spirit
7Elegant Courtier
10Tireless Spirit
15Rapid Strike
18Strength before Death

One for the Overwatch Genji mains – if you like being the party’s striker, and thrive on an offensive playstyle, the Samurai is for you.

Their Fighting Spirit ability lets players use their bonus action to gain more Hit Points, as well as an Advantage on all their attacks. It’s a pretty decent feature, but has limitations – as you can only use it three times before having to take a long rest. At level 15, Rapid Strike lets you forgo your Advantage for an additional attack, allowing players to absolutely wail on enemies with abandon.

Where Samurai shine most is in the higher levels, when Rapid Strike truly comes into its own. Still, since fighters can gain Advantage in multiple ways, Fighting Spirit’s three-per-day limitation can feel jarring, especially for seasoned players.

Purple Dragon Knight

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Rallying Cry
7Royal Envoy
10Inspiring Surge
18Improved Inspiring Surge

Purple Dragon Knights act as something of a commander during their campaigns. Their abilities add a lot of support in battle, and they are masters of persuasion.

Rallying Cry activates when they use their Second Wind power, granting hit points equal to their Fighter level to all allies in range. Their other ability, Inspiring Surge, lets a chosen ally use their Reaction to perform a full-on attack.

There is a lot of crossover with the Battlemaster subclass’s manoeuvres here, but with less versatility and power, making this subclass a tough sell among its peers. However, if you want to roleplay as a charismatic Fighter, The Purple Dragon Knight is worth looking into.


Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Psionic Talent, Psi Replenishment
7Telekinetic Adept
10Psi-Enhanced Metabolism
15Bulwark of Force
18Telekinetic Master

Ever wanted to be a Jedi traversing through the Forgotten Realms? Well, playing as a Psi Warrior will probably be as close as you’ll get.

Like the Eldritch Knight, they combine melee with magic – but Psi Knights also have a mechanic similar to the Battlemaster’s superiority dice, when using their Psionic powers. Along with mimicking aspects from these subclasses, they’re a lot easier to play in general, thanks to their fixed set of built-in options.

Unfortunately, players will need to pay extra attention to their ability scores, as Psi Warriors’ powers – like Eldritch Knights’ spells – are often dependent on Intelligence.

Rune Knight

Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (buy on Amazon)

LevelSubclass abilities
3Bonus proficiency, Rune Carver, Giant’s Might
7Runic Shield
10Great Stature
15Master of Runes
18Runic Juggernaut

Rune Knights enhance their equipment through the use of ancient runes passed down from Giants. A general note to remember is that players of this subclass will want to focus on their Con score to power their rune magic effectively.

This subclass makes a great tank option. With abilities like Runic Shield (which forces enemies to reroll attacks) and Giant’s Might (which lets them apply extra damage), these folks can be invaluable party members.

Rune Knights are a powerful subclass, both in the early and late games – but require resource management skills to unlock their full potential.

D&D artwork showing a drow fighter battling a huge creature

Fighter Builds 5E

Now that you’re familiar with how the Fighter performs on paper, here are some play-tested builds to help you put yours together.

Elven Samurai

For the Overwatch Hanzo mains. When you think about a traditional image of a Samurai, an Elven archer may not immediately come to mind, but hear us out; it’s totally worth it. A Dex-focused Samurai that has the Elven Accuracy feat, paired with Sharpshooter, is terrifying. The mass damage they can deal in a single turn, plus their Rapid Strike ability, will let players dominate combat.

Ability scores

You’ll want to max out your Dex as soon as possible. Focus on Con next, but (and we can’t stress this enough) your Dex directly impacts damage scaling, and is by far the most important to pay attention to as you keep levelling.


  • Pick the High Elf race, giving you +2 Dex, the Elven Accuracy feat and Dark Vision.
  • Take a longbow for your primary weapon and choose the Archery fighting style. This will give a bonus to your ranged attacks.
  • At the third level, once you pick the Samurai subclass, you will gain the option for a bonus proficiency. Persuasion is a good choice that meshes well with the Samurai archetype, which leans more into being the party face and charismatic Fighter.
  • At level four, take the Sharpshooter feat. This feat, paired with the Samurai’s Fighting Spirit ability, is deadly. Fighting Spirit’s Advantage, paired with Sharpshooter’s damage bonus, likewise equals mind-blowing power in early levels.
  • At level six, take the Elven Accuracy feat; this will give a bonus to an ability score of your choice and attack rerolls. Now you get to roll three dice when you have Advantage, further increasing your chance to hit, crit and attack.
  • At level eight, you get an ability score improvement. Here you will want to max out your Dex if you haven’t already.
  • From here on out, the core build is pretty much in place, and the rest of the build’s decisions can be catered especially to each player’s roleplaying preferences.

Human Polearm Battlemaster

The sentinel Polearm Master often comes up when talking about optimised builds in D&D 5E. It’s an option that does a lot – and we mean a lot – of damage.

You can weaponise both your Bonus Actions and Reactions, attack from a distance, and keep enemies at bay. They are one of the strongest melee builds in the game, and can be an overpowering force on the battlefield.

Ability scores:

You’re going to be a heavy weapon fighter, so, naturally, your character is going to need a pretty sizable Str score, closely followed by Con. Your secondary focus, after maxing these, should be your Dex.


  • Choose the Human Variant Race, and with their free Feat, take Polearm Master; this will give extra bludgeoning damage to your attacks. Use their ability score bonus for your Str and Con.
  • You will want to take a Reach weapon in this build. Choose a glaive or halberd, and get some heavy armour to top it off.
  • For your fighting style, pick Great Weapon Fighting; this will give you the option to reroll any annoying ones or twos for better damage. This, paired with the bonus from the Polearm Master Feat, makes you pretty scary straight away.
  • At level three, pick the Battlemaster archetype, giving you three manoeuvres. They are all pretty good; however, we recommend picking Menacing Attack for a further 1d8 bludgeoning damage, and Lunging Attack to extend your reach.
  • At level four, take the Sentinel Feat; this will stop in-range enemies’ movements completely, and gives tons of chances for opportunity attacks.
  • At level seven, you get more manoeuvres; if you’re unsure about which ones to pick, Trip Attack is always a great choice.
  • From here, all you need to do is keep raising your ability scores, and add to your manoeuvres list. Once you gain that Sentinel Feat, you’re pretty much sorted.

Artwork from the D&D player's handbook showing a half-orc character

Two-Hander Half-Orc Champion

If you live for landing multiple crits and stacking up that sweet, sweet damage, here is the build for you. Two-hander Champions are all about maximising each attack by hitting very hard, aiming to strike down foes in a single turn.

They are incredibly satisfying to play in combat, and an excellent introduction for the fighter class in general. I mean, what else can get players into the roleplaying mood more than obliterating enemy creatures with a single swing of a giant sword or hulking axe?

Ability scores:

Like the Polearm Master, you will be handling heavy weapons, so raising your Str will be your priority. Two-hander champions will also need to raise their Con, as they’ll probably be in the frontlines, taking hits from enemies.


  • Pick the Half-Orc race. This will give your Fighter +2 Str and +1 Con. You will also get access to the Savage Attack power.
  • For weapons, Fighters should take a Greataxe, as, when paired with the Half-Orc’s Savage Attack ability, this will give you an additional bonus on any critical hits. Paired with the Champion’s subclass feature of an extra critical chance, this becomes super-powerful
  • The Great Weapon Fighting style is a must, letting fighters increase their crit damage even further.
  • At the third level, the Champion archetype will give players an increase to their critical rate with Improved Critical, letting your Fighter deal out more damage.
  • At Level four, take the Savage Attack Feat. This will let you roll damage dice again on a critical hit.
  • Level six gives players another Feat or ability score improvement. Pick the Lucky Feat to roll an additional D20.
  • Finally, at level ten, you will have the chance to pick an additional Fighting Style. Here, it depends on your party role. A good shout would be taking Protection to aid allies, making enemies roll with Disadvantage after a hit. Or take Defence to boost up your AC, making it even harder to take you down.
  • By following this core build, you will be landing a lot of critical rolls, and dishing out scary amounts of damage.

D&D Artwork showing a Drow fighter in snowy terrain

Best Fighter Feats 5E

Your first focus should be maxing out either your Str or Dex for powerful Fighters, then raising your Con. However, if your abilities are already maxed out, here are the best feats for your Fighter to grab when levelling up.

Great Weapons Master: A must for melee Fighters using two-handed weapons. This feat gives Fighters a bonus action any time they get a critical or kill an enemy. It can also increase damage output, as players get the option to take a -5 penalty to their attack roll in exchange for +10 to their damage roll.

Shield Master: This allows Fighters to use their shields to knock back enemies. They can also use their shield’s AC to assist in any saving throws.

Sharpshooter: This is essential for ranged Fighters. Sharpshooter prevents disadvantage being applied to any long-ranged attacks. It also offers an increase in overall damage, as Fighters get the option to take a -5 to-hit penalty, for a potential +10 to their damage rolls.

D&D artwork showing a party battling a huge winged demon

Resilient: With this Feat, Fighters get to increase an ability score, and then gain Proficiency in saving throws for that ability. This can be useful in boosting your Fighter’s Wisdom (often a weak area for Fighters), generally making it harder for spellcasters to charm or control your character.

Crossbow Expert: If Fighters are carrying a loaded crossbow, this lets them use it for a bonus attack, any time they make an attack with a one-handed weapon in combat. What Fighter doesn’t want an extra opportunity to deal more damage?

The road less travelled: Our Pathfinder 2E classes guide

And there you have it! That’s our in-depth look at D&D 5E’s Fighter class. Remember to always consult with your DM if you are still unsure about any details, before venturing forth on your next adventure.

Looking to expand your roleplaying horizons beyond the Forgotten Realms? Check out our guide to the best tabletop RPGs around. You might also like to keep an eye on the new official Fallout tabletop RPG, and the promising, bleak cosmic horror number, Death in Space.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Best Fighter Builds

By Glenn Carreau


Fighters may be considered the "basic build" of Dungeons & Dragons classes, but there are still ways to keep this classic new and interesting.

Fighters aren't just a classic Dungeons & Dragons class; they're the classic, around when the very first set of rules was called "Men and Magic." There's a good reason fighters have lasted this long without any crazy changes to the class's name or abilities--fighters are good at what they do, and what they do is wade into the fray and keep swinging until every enemy is vanquished.

Fighters are, well, fighters like no other class, even the other martial combat-oriented ones. They aren't exceptionally gifted in any other field, from stealth to healing party members and casting spells, but they're the reason the rest of the party has time to do those things; fighters are front and center, soaking up attention (and damage) with ease.

Still, fighters have a bit of a reputation these days for being basic and over-done, and in some ways, that's true--but that doesn't mean a player interested in trying this class has to be stuck with a "boring" character. In D&D 5th edition, there's a 'best build' formula for more than one style of fighter, so that players with any sort of combat preference can keep things interesting.

RELATED: Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance Announced at The Game Awards 2019

Fighting Races

The first step to putting a fighter together is selecting their race. First, let's talk about races that can be found in the base Player's Handbook; of those, dwarves, dragonborn, half-orcs, and elves are the top choices for a strong fighter build.

Dwarves, dragonborn, and half-orcs shouldn't surprise many people by being on this list. All dwarves have a fantastic +2 constitution bonus and poison resistance, but for the best build players should select the mountain dwarf subrace--they get a +2 strength as well. Dragonborn are a physically imposing race with +2 to strength and a handy breath weapon that gives even the most magic-deprived fighter something extra up their sleeve. Half-orcs have relentless endurance and savage attacks to go along with their +2 strength and +1 constitution, so they'll stay up and fighting for a good long time.

People don't generally think of elves as lean, mean fighting machines, but they're actually quite good at it. Wood elves in particular, with their +2 dexterity, are the best choice for either ranged or finesse fighters. Also, variant humans get an honorable mention because they're just good at everything.

Some people may want to expand their horizons a little and play a less well-known class, and there are several great options in other 5e sourcebooks too. Goliaths, bugbears, tritons, and warforged also make for fantastic fighters too; goliaths, as half-giants, get a nice +2 strength and +1 constitution, plus the Stone's Endurance ability and proficiency in athletics for free.

Bugbears are a monstrous goblinoid race with ability bonuses that line up perfectly for a strength-based fighter, while the underwater-dwelling triton race gets strength and constitution bonuses to go with a swim speed, the ability to breathe underwater and talk to water creatures, and cold resistance. That last one is great for players who basically want to be Aquaman. Finally, warforged are a mechanical race originating in the Eberron setting, with tons of cool perks for a fighter in addition to ability bonuses, resistance to poison and immunity to disease.

Ability Scores

A fighter's ability scores are pretty straightforward. The fighter's combat ability is based on either strength or dexterity (players' choice), so depending on which weapons and style the player is looking to use, one of those must be the top stat. The second most important stat is also a clear choice: constitution determines the character's hit point total, and fighters need all the hit points they can get. Third and fourth in importance will be wisdom and whichever stat between strength and dexterity isn't the fighter's chosen primary ability. Then, charisma can come second to last, and intelligence can--predictably--be the dump stat.

However, the formula changes a little for a subclass like the eldritch knight; for players tired of the "big dumb fighter" trope and looking to mix a little magic into their fighting, the eldritch knight is one of the best fighter subclasses available. It also requires the fighter's intelligence to be on par (or higher) with constitution, as intelligence will determine the fighter's spellcasting ability.

RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons 5e Best Wizard Builds

Martial Archetypes

Martial archetypes are the fighter's available subclasses, and there are seven to choose from: arcane archer, battle master, cavalier, champion, eldritch knight, purple dragon knight (aka banneret), and samurai. However, this guide will focus on the three subclasses best-suited to a different type of combat each--the arcane archer for ranged attacking, the eldritch knight for a flexible fighter who can do finesse, magic, and heavy weapons, and finally the battle master; the ultimate example of a heavy-hitting and battlefield control.

Arcane archers may be the only subclass specifically suited to range weapons, but players shouldn't let that fool them: it's also just a really strong fighter subclass. These fighters are masters of ranged weaponry, dealing the high amounts damage expected of fighters from a distance with their vast list of arcane shots. Much like battle masters, they're also in a position to take command of a battlefield more than other fighter subclasses.

Eldritch knights are the up-close and personal version of the arcane archer for those who don't want to multiclass into wizard; they can wield pretty much any type of weapon be it a finesse weapon or a heavy old greatsword, and they've got the advantage of arcane spells to buff them and their allies. That means they're dangerous at any range--and range also isn't as much of an obstacle for them, as eldritch knights are exceedingly mobile. With a simple Misty Step spell, they can teleport thirty feet in any direction in the heat of battle.

Battle masters are the tough warrior that most people picture when they think of fighters (without being as old and overused as the champion subclass). No other fighter subclass is as effective at melee crowd control, and the battle master's ability to learn about their enemies also allows them to increase the damage they deal out. Playing a battle master will require some tactical thinking to make the best use of them, but it's well worth the effort.

Skills and Feats

Before starting a game, players should also know which skills to get proficiency in. Of the skills that come with the fighter class, players will want to make sure they've got proficiencies in athletics, perception, and intimidation. However, there are also a few non-class skills that should be considered: dex-based fighters will also want stealth, and both arcane archers and eldritch knights might want arcana. If players still have a proficiency option to pick after all that, then investigation and deception are both just generally handy skills to have.

As players level up, they'll need to pick out feats for their fighter. The Great Weapons Master feat is as close to mandatory as it gets for the general fighter class, granting a free bonus action attack on a kill or crit and the ability to increase damage by decreasing accuracy. Alert is another good one for any class, as being high in the initiative order is handy. Beyond that, it gets more subclass-specific.

Eldritch Knights should grab War Caster, for advantage on constitution saves and the ability to cast spells with both hands full. For arcane archers, Sharpshooter is absolutely mandatory, as it's the ranged equivalent of Great Weapons Master. Ranged fighters using a crossbow specifically will also need Crossbow Expert. Finally, the battle master fighter should grab the Sentinel feat, making them top-tier defenders with an extra reaction to strike at enemies.

Combining all of that with a character background like Criminal and Urchin would be perfect for a dexterity-based fighter, while Soldier, Sailor, and Outlander make good picks for those with a strength base. Once all final touches are applied to the fighter, they should be all ready to take on the waves of enemies that any Dungeons & Dragonscampaign will surely throw at them.

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D&D 5th Edition

As a Fighter, you gain the following Class Features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per Fighterlevel
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitutionmodifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitutionmodifier per Fighterlevel after 1st

Starting Proficiencies

You are proficient with the following items, in addition to any Proficienciesprovided by your race or Background.

Armor:Light Armor, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, Shields
Weapons:simple Weapons, martial Weapons
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills:Choose two Skillsfrom Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival

Starting Equipment

You start with the following items, plus anything provided by your Background.

• (a) ChainMail or (b) Leather Armor, Longbow, and 20 Arrows
• (a) a martial weapon and a Shieldor (b) two martial Weapons
• (a) a Light Crossbowand 20 bolts or (b) two handaxes
• (a) a Dungeoneer's Packor (b) an Explorer's Pack

Fighting Style

You adopt a particular style of Fightingas your specialty. Choose a Fightingstyle from the list of optional features. You can't take the same FightingStyle option more than once, even if you get to choose again.


You gain a +2 bonus to Attackrolls you make with ranged Weapons.


While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.


When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other Weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to Damage Rollswith that weapon.

Great Weapon Fighting

When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an Attackyou make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the Two-Handedor Versatileproperty for you to gain this benefit.


When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your Reactionto impose disadvantage on the Attackroll. You must be wielding a Shield.

Two-Weapon Fighting

When you engage in two-weapon Fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second Attack.

Second Wind

You have a limited well of stamina that you can draw on to protect yourself from harm. On Your Turn, you can use a Bonus Actionto regain Hit Pointsequal to 1d10 + your Fighterlevel.

Once you use this feature, you must finish a short or Long Restbefore you can use it again.

Action Surge

Starting at 2nd Level, you can push yourself beyond your normal limits for a moment. On Your Turn, you can take one additional action on top of your regular action and a possible Bonus Action.

Once you use this feature, you must finish a short or Long Restbefore you can use it again. Starting at 17th level, you can use it twice before a rest, but only once on the same turn.

Martial Archetype

At 3rd Level, you choose an archetype that you strive to emulate in your Combatstyles and Techniques, such as Champion. The archetype you choose grants you features at 3rd Leveland again at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th Level, and again at 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two Ability Scoresof your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.


Beginningat 5th Level, you can Attacktwice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attackaction on Your Turn.

The number of attacks increases to three when you reach 11th level in this class and to four when you reach 20th level in this class.


Beginningat 9th level, you can reroll a saving throw that you fail. If you do so, you must use the new roll, and you can't use this feature again until you finish a Long Rest.

You can use this feature twice between long rests starting at 13th level and three times between long rests starting at 17th level.

Martial Archetypes

Different fighters choose different approaches to perfecting their FightingProwess. The Martial Archetypeyou choose to emulate reflects your approach.


The archetypal Championfocuses on the Developmentof raw physical power honed to deadly perfection. Those who model themselves on this archetype combine rigorous Trainingwith physical excellence to deal devastating blows.

Improved Critical

Beginningwhen you choose this archetype at 3rd Level, your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20.

Remarkable Athlete

Starting at 7th level, you can add half your Proficiency Bonus(round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitutioncheck you make that doesn’t already use your Proficiency Bonus.

In addition, when you make a running Long Jump, the distance you can cover increases by a number of feet equal to your Strengthmodifier.

Additional Fighting Style

At 10th level, you can choose a second option from the FightingStyle class feature.

Superior Critical

Starting at 15th level, your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 18–20.


At 18th level, you attain the pinnacle of resilience in battle. At the start of each of your turns, you regain Hit Pointsequal to 5 + your Constitutionmodifier if you have no more than half of your Hit Pointsleft.

You don’t gain this benefit if you have 0 Hit Points.

Subclass Name

Suggested Abilities

Strength or Dexterity, Constitution or Intelligence


Guide fighter dnd

[Top 5] D&D Best Fighter Builds of All Time

Most adventurers have a strong fighter or two in their parties. In my D&D 5e gaming group, one of the players half-jokingly refers to his fighter character as a “meat shield”, as he is front and center and takes the brunt of the attacks while the rest of us heal and plunder (I play a rogue assassin) and so far, we manage to survive the encounters.

Although a necessary staple for a party, the fighter is also an exciting character to play! Before you create your next fighter, read on to find out some of the best D&D Fighter Builds.

5. Arcane Archer, Elven

When I think of an Arcane Archer, the character Legolas from Lord of the Rings comes to mind. These fighters have a magical touch as they combine the use of magic and bows! In addition, they are excellent to have around in campaigns for long-range combat. Read on to find out how Arcane Archers can be an asset in your next adventure!

What Arcane Archer Excels In

  • Arcane Archers who are Elven gain +2 for Dexterity and obtain Elven Accuracy. Elves also have darkvision and can choose one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list.
  • Most fighters have strength as their highest ability score. For the Arcane Archer, dexterity is the highest ability, followed closely by intelligence. (This blows the fighter stereotype out of the water!)
  • Unlike other fighter archetypes, Arcane Archers are more advantageous from a distance: the longer the distance, the better!

Build details

  • At 1st level, with Archery Fighting Style, you would add +2 to ranged weapon attack rolls. At 3rd level, you would formally achieve the Arcane Archer Archetype and choose two Arcane Shot options.
  • At 4th level, take the racial feat Elven Accuracy from Xanithar’s Guide, and increase dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, or charisma by +1, and whenever you have advantage on an attack roll, using any of those four, you can reroll one of the dice once. As a High Elf, your starting Dexterity score increases by +2 and your Intelligence score increases by +1.
  • At 6th level, take the feat Sharpshooter. Their long-range attacks are not a disadvantage and ranged attacks ignore half and three-quarters cover, and take -5 penalty on the hit to gain +10 for damage.
  • Arcane Archers also use a longbow and find a source for magic arrows. At 7th level, you will be able to make normal arrows magical when you fire them.
  • At 8th level, develop the feat Fey Touched. You can cast Misty Step to teleport up to 30 feet away. In addition, you can have one other 1st level spell without a spell slot. Also, increase Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma by +1.

4. Battlemaster, Dragonborn

Maneuvering is the name of the game with Battlemasters! The Battlemaster is considered as the artisan of the fighter classes, fancy on their feet yet effective and strong. Read on to find out more about these renaissance fighters and how they can add both strength and intelligence to a campaign!

What Battlemaster Excels In

  • Battlemasters are great to have in up-close and personal combat.
  • Both attack and defense are strengths for a Battlemaster! Use a Glaive or Halberd - a two-handed weapon with reach (adds +5 feet of range for attacks) and high damage (1d10 slashing).
  • Commander’s Strike, Disarming Attack, and Evasive Footwork are a few of the abilities that Battlemasters could have.
  • Dragonborn Battlemasters gets Strength +2, and a breath weapon and damage resistance based on draconic ancestry (cold, fire, lightning, etc.)

Build details

  • At first level, start out with a Great Weapon Fighting style (reroll the damage die on a 1 or 2 with a two-handed weapon)
  • By 3rd level, you gain the Battlemaster archetype and learn three Combat Superiority maneuvers to start with. Good choices to use are Maneuvering Attack (lets an ally move half-speed as a reaction without provoking opportunity attacks), Lunging Attack (which increases your attack 5 feet, for a total of 10 feet if you are using a reach weapon), and Ambush (add a superiority die to the initiative roll). You start with four superiority dice to power these maneuvers. Also, take proficiency in Smith's Tools to sharpen blades and repair armor.
  • At 4th level, take the feat Polearm Master. With that, you get a bonus action to attack with the other end of the weapon, and opportunity attacks within reach.
  • Sixth level Battlemasters earn another Feat, so take Durable: you increase Constitution by 1, and when rolling a hit die, the minimum is twice your Constitution modifier.
  • At the 7th, 10th, and 15th levels, you learn two additional new maneuvers. You can also replace one you know with a new one.
  • By 8th level, you gain a feat, so choose Great Weapon Master, which gives a bonus melee attack on critical hits, or Martial Adept, which is two more maneuvers and one extra superiority die.

3. Eldritch Knight, Half-Elf 

An Eldritch Knight is a useful character for a campaign, because this fighter archetype is a dangerous
combination of charisma, fighting, and magic. When you choose a half-elven race for this character, there are additional benefits. Read more to find out why and how you can build your Eldritch Knight to be a powerful asset to your next adventure!

What Eldritch Knight Excels In

  • Because Half-elf Eldritch Knights are charming themselves, they have an advantage vs. charm spells.
  • Half-elf Eldritch Knights have darkvision; they are great to place in front or the back of a party to detect monsters!
  • These fighters also cannot be put to sleep by magic.

Build details

  • At first level, choose the Defense Fighting Style and gain +1 in Armor Class (AC).
  • Half-Elf Eldritch Knights have the charm with a +2 Charisma bonus. Choose Intelligence and Constitution at +1 each, to boost hit points and spellcasting.
  • Third level Eldritch Knights will officially earn the archetype and learn two cantrips of choice. In addition, you can gain three 1st level wizard spells from the Abjuration and Evocation schools. Good starting choices include Blade Ward, Shocking Grasp, Chromatic Orb, Magic Missile, and Shield.
  • It is advisable to choose a high-damage one-handed weapon (like a longsword) until you reach 4th level when you can take the War Caster feat, then a two-handed weapon or add a shield. With the feat War Caster, you can perform the somatic components of spells even when using both hands for weapons or a shield, and cast a spell as an opportunity attack reaction.
  • Sixth level Eldritch Knights have the option to improve Intelligence by +2, or Intelligence by +1 and Dexterity or Strength by +1.
  • At 8th level, gain the feat Lucky (spend a luck point to roll an additional d20 for attacks) or you can choose Magic Initiate (learn two new cantrips with one 1 st level spell from your choice of class.)

2. Champion, Half-Orc

My friend’s archetype for his fighter character is Champion. This is a physically astute and buff fighter type! If you want to add an additional level of fierceness to your fighter, you may want to make your champion a half-orc. Read on to find out more about the Champion build!

What Half-Orc Champion Excels In

  • Also known as a critical hit monster, this build is all about rerolling attack dice to get a critical hit (also known as a crit), and rerolling damage dice to get the maximum.
  • At 3rd level, if you roll a 19 or 20, you critically hit your target!
  • Half-Orcs also have savage attacks! On a crit, roll one additional damage die and add to extra damage.

Build details

  • This build is all about rerolling attack die to get a critical hit, and rerolling damage dice to get the maximum. Having a Greatsword is good because it is a two-handed sword with 2d6 slashing damage.
  • At 1st level, this fighting archetype has a Great Weapon Fighting style (reroll damage die on a 1or 2 with a two-handed weapon).
  • Third level Champions have Improved Critical (19-20) and eventually gain Superior Critical (18-20).
  • Fourth level Champions gain a feat, so choose Great Weapon Master for a bonus melee attack on a critical roll, or Savage Attacker (reroll damage and take either total).
  • At sixth level, Champions earn another Feat. Take Lucky, then you can spend a luck point to roll an additional d20.
  • Tenth level Champions earn a 2nd Fighting Style. Choose Superior Technique or the Feinting Attack Maneuver, which is a bonus action to feint and the next attack has advantage.

1. Samurai, Dragonborn

Calculated, sleek, and stealthy, this Samurai archetype is found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. This is a fun and useful fighter type to play because of the strength bonus and the Dragonborn Samurai’s ability to breathe cold, fire, or lightning based on draconic ancestry. Read more to find out why a Samurai would be an asset to add to a party!

What Samurai Excels In

  • At 3rd level, Samurai may pick up a language of choice; this is unusual for a fighter.
  • Dragonborn Samurai also gains +2 in strength.
  • There are also proficiency bonuses that Samurai can choose from at 3rd level: History, Insight, Performance, or Persuasion!

Build details

  • Use heavy slashing damage weapons such as a Greataxe, Greatsword, or Longsword.
  • At 1st level, you can use the Superior Technique Fighting Style option and choose Pushing Attack to push the target up to 15 feet away. With an Action Surge starting at 2nd level, you can act again on the same turn and hit it with your breath weapon!
  • At 3rd level, Fighting Spirit gives you advantage on an attack and temporary hit points as a bonus action.
  • At 4th level, take Slasher as a feat. You can increase Strength or Dexterity by 1, reduce the speed of a target hit by your slashing damage, and your critical hits cause the target disadvantage.
  • At 6th level, the feat Fighting Initiate lets you take another Fighting Style that helps with the weapon that you have chosen.
  • At 15th level, get the Samurai feature Rapid Strike. If you have advantage (as from Fighting Spirit), you can give up advantage to make an additional attack. Two attacks are better than one!

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Fighter Guide - Classes in Dungeons and Dragons 5e

The DnD 5e Fighter Guide

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e Fighter. For a quick overview of the Fighter Class, see our breakdown of the DnD 5e Classes.

The guide will color-code each separate item to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Fighter. This color-coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

So if you’re ready, grab your two-handed greatsword and let’s get swinging!

D&D 5e Fighter Overview


Fighters are meant to be among the best damage dealers and soakers in DnD. This means that you will be at your most useful whenever Initiative gets rolled. Outside of combat, Fighters can definitely still be effective additions to the party but they will feel out of their element in tricky situations where punching isn’t going to help.


Funnily enough, Fighters are good at fighting. They get access to all weapons and armor, and by 2nd-level they are given skills to heal themselves. These class features plus their extra attacks at the 5th, 11th, and 20th-level ensure that the Fighter class is the epitome of a melee damage dealer.

Some people may be put off by this and say that they don’t want to play a character that is a one-dimensional “hack and slasher”, but that’s not that the case with Fighters. Because of the Fighter’s varied subclasses, you can definitely go for the straight-up damage-dealing Champion, but you could also play as an Eldritch Knight who uses magic to supplement his melee capabilities or a Battle Master that allows you to influence the battlefield in a strategic manner. No matter what type of Fighter you build, you can be sure that they can put down more pain than just about any class in a combat situation.


While Fighters are amazing at combat, some complain that they lack versatility outside of combat. Because of their need to output and soak damage in combat, they usually have to put all of their eggs into the STR/DEX and CON basket. This means having low CHA for social interactions and low WIS/INT for problem solving and spellcasting.

Before You Start

Standard Races

Fighters need a race that plays to their build. Archers, melee Fighters, finesse-based melee Fighters, and Eldritch Knights all require different things. Generally, bonuses to physical ability scores are key.

Dragonborn: Bonuses to STR are beneficial for Melee Fighters. Breath Weapon is also a nice AoE attack that scales with character progression.

Dwarf: Dwarves are a great choice for Melee Fighters (just look at Gimli). They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison. What’s not to love?

  • Hill: Bonuses to WIS isn’t going to help a ton but may be useful if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hitpoints are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Most Melee Fighters will take bonuses to STR all day.

Elf: You’re likely not going to play an Elf unless you are a Finesse Fighter or Archer. Elves get a bonus to DEX, free Perception proficiency, and Darkvision, all of which are very important for DEX-based Fighters.

  • Wood Elf: Wood Elves get bonuses to WIS and some extra movement speed, neither of which is super exciting for Fighters.
  • High Elf: High Elves get bonuses to INT and a free Cantrip. This can help with Eldritch Knight builds but likely won’t contribute much to the other types of Fighters.
  • Drow: Drow gets a bonus to CHA, a buffed-up Darkvision, and a free Cantrip. Not what you’re looking for in a Fighter.

Gnome: Gnomes get a bonus to INT that won’t help a whole lot unless you are running an Eldritch Knight. Gnome Cunning is pretty useless for Fighters.

  • Forest: Forest Gnomes get a DEX bonus that may help if you are going for an Eldritch Knight or DEX-based Fighter. Minor Illusion could also help you add more spells to your limited spell list.
  • Rock: Rock Gnomes get a bonus to CON which is nice but really doesn’t help further than that.

Half-Elf: Being able to take +1 to CON or STR is not enough to make a Half-Elf Fighter optimal.

Half-Orc: Half Orc’s get you an STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for Melee Fighters. Darkvision is nice, proficiency in Intimidation will help you flex on other people, Relentless Endurance is a nice bonus, and Savage Attacks is just plain savage.

Halfling: Halflings get a bonus to DEX which will be beneficial for any DEX-based Fighters. Lucky is also a very handy feat when you’re swinging as much as Fighters do.

  • Lightfoot: A bonus to CHA and the ability to hide a bit better aren’t particularly helpful traits for Fighters.
  • Stout: Stout Halflings get a bonus to CON which is useful for any Fighter. They also get a resistance to poison which is a nice bonus.

Human: Due to the race’s versatility, they make a great fighter no matter what archetype you play.

  • Vanilla: Getting a bonus point to all of your ability scores is nice, but Fighters usually only need STR and CON.
  • Variant: Variant Humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for Fighters.

Tiefling: Intelligence and Charism are not what you need for Fighters. The resistance to fire and spellcasting are nice, but situational at best.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Most Fighters need to be in melee range in order to dish out damage and tank for the party. A ranged Fighter will absolutely love getting flight at 1st-level.

Bugbear: Provides +2 STR for STR-based Fighters and +1 DEX for DEX-based Fighters. If you are going for a STR-based Bugbear build it would make sense to pump DEX and wear medium armor that doesn’t grant disadvantage on Stealth checks in order to make the best use of the Bugbear’s racial traits.

Centaur: the +2 to STR and the Charge ability are nice for Fighters. Make sure you have a way to get around having to go up ladders.

Genasi: The Earth Genasi provides great ability score increases for a STR Fighter, improved movement options, and a reliable way to be stealthy as a Fighter, even in heavy armor.

Gith: Most Fighters will be just fine as a Githyanki, and Eldritch Knights are a perfect fit. Martial Prodigy is a wasted racial trait as Fighters have access to all the weapons and armor already.

Goblin: Goblins are right at home for DEX-based Fighter builds. The Goblin’s racial traits add extra movement options and boosted damage. STR-based Fighters are better off choosing a different race.

Goliath: Everything about the Goliath is perfect for a STR-based Fighter. With the Goliath’s traits, your Fighter will deal massive damage while being able to tank for the party.

Kenku: DEX is just as viable for Fighters as STR, so you won’t lose anything by choosing the Kenku. The Kenku’s unique racial traits will add some spice to some of the less mechanically interesting subclasses. All in all, Kenku’s make solid stealthy Fighters.

Kobold: DEX-based Fighters are a perfect choice for Kobolds. Pack Tactics works nicely with the Extra Attacks that Fighters get. Additionally, Fighters can use one action to use Grovel, Cower, and Beg and then Action Surge to still be able to attack in the same turn.

Minotaur: The ability scores are perfect for any STR-based Fighter, and Goring Rush and Hammering Horns give more options to the more vanilla subclasses. If combined with a subclass like the Battle Master, the Minotaur’s traits combined with the Battle Master’s maneuvers gives a huge amount of variety to how you can strategize in battle.

Orc: As expected, Orcs make the perfect Barbarians. Orcs have perfect ASIs for the class, get increased mobility through the Aggressive trait, and get some free skill proficiencies where they may otherwise be lacking.

Shifter: Beasthide and Longtooth Shifters are incredible choices for STR Fighters, while Swiftstride will also work for a DEX build. Fighters are overall a better choice for Shifters than Barbarians because Rage won’t be vying for your attention in the bonus action slot.

Simic Hybrid: Fighters can be built for either STR or DEX. An interesting option is to choose Grappling Appendages and go for a STR build, picking up the Grappler feat somewhere along the way. The Grappler feat is typically considered underpowered, but if there were a chance to make it work it would be here. With the amount of attacks you get as a Fighter you can build a really scary close-range grappler.

Tabaxi: DEX-based Fighters work with Tabaxi, since bows and finesse weapons can apply DEX instead of STR. CHA however is largely wasted on most Fighters, and Rogues can usually do CHA-related things with a much higher degree of success. That said, the extra movement options granted by the Tabaxi are very beneficial for Fighters.

Warforged: Everything about the Warforged works in tandem with what Fighters like to do, with additional utility from the racial traits.

Yuan-ti Purebloods: Eldritch Knights are interested in INT, and the other racial traits line up well for a front-line build. The downside is that a lack of STR or DEX means the character will suffer offensively.


For this section, due to the sheer number of backgrounds available, I am simply going to list the most useful Fighter Backgrounds.

  • Criminal: This will be a great choice for DEX based Fighters. Proficiency with Stealth and Deception and thieves’ tools can help your ability to sneak around and lie, increasing your utility for the party.
  • Sailor: Proficiency in Athletics and Perception would be good enough to make this a great option. If you are playing in a campaign that involves boats in any way, this turns into an amazing option.
  • Soldier: Proficiency with Athletics and Intimidation is certainly a good choice, especially because Intimidation can add to your utility for the party. Proficiency in the gaming set and land vehicles isn’t awesome but could be useful in certain circumstances.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level.

Fighters can be built in many ways. Melee Fighters are the simplest, but DEX based Fighters and Eldritch Knights all have different needs.

STR: As STR affects your Attack Rolls and Melee Damage, Melee Fighters need Strength above anything else. DEX based Fighters can dump this stat.

DEX: DEX will be important for DEX based Fighters as this will contribute to their AC and attack/damage roll. Melee Fighters don’t necessarily need DEX, but it is always a worthwhile ability to have.

CON: Every Fighter needs hit points.

INT: The only time you should consider stacking INT would be if you are an Eldritch Knight as they cast spells using INT as their spell attack modifier. Even then, an optimized EK build doesn’t necessarily need a high INT modifier for spells.

WIS: WIS is helpful for Perception (the most important skill in the game) but this would be best left up to classes that need WIS for other class features (Rangers, Monks, etc.).

CHA: Again, Fighters should typically leave the CHA skill for classes that will make better use of it (Warlocks, Bards, etc.)

Fighter Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points and Hit Dice: d10 hit points is the second-best hit dice around. The only class that gets a higher one is the Barbarian. Combine this with a high CON score, Second Wind, and heavy armor, this means your Fighter will be hard to put down.

Saves: STR saving throws are rare, but you may see them more than other classes because you will be in melee combat. CON saves are a common save for all sorts of nasty abilities.

Proficiencies: All armor, weapons, and shields? Yes, please. You don’t need to worry too much about utility skills like Stealth or Persuasion as the party’s enforcer.

Skills: Athletics (being the only STR based skill) is a shoo-in for the Fighter’s most important skill. The rest of their skills aren’t going to be stellar for most Fighters as they are mostly INT, WIS or CHA based.

  • Acrobatics (DEX): Acrobatics won’t have much use for your STR based fighter but a DEX based fighter can make good use of it.
  • Animal Handling (WIS):Animal Handling is rarely used and certainly isn’t worth investing in WIS for. 
  • Athletics (STR): Athletics will remain your domain as an STR based build.
  • History (INT):I thought you wanted to punch stuff, not be a historian?
  • Insight (WIS): Insight is an important social skill, but let your other party members deal with that kind of stuff.
  • Intimidation (CHA): Intimidation rolls can be made with STR using the “Skills with Different Abilities” variant rule. Talk to your DM before you rely on this option.
  • Perception (WIS): Perception is an extremely important skill to have, gaining proficiency will help offset any negatives you have taken to your WIS modifier by dumping WIS.
  • Survival (WIS):Survival checks will come up every once in a while, but this should be left to the Ranger, Druid, or another WIS-based caster (if you have one).

Fighting Style: One of the Fighter’s iconic abilities, and a great reason to multiclass into Fighter.

  • Archery: The go-to for DEX based Fighters (specifically Ranged). +2 to ranged attacks? Yes, please.
  • Defense: +1 to AC isn’t overly exciting but seeing as AC is hard to scale it can make a difference in the early and long game.
  • Dueling: Being able to wear a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage is a very, very tempting option.
  • Great Weapon Fighting: Not an awesome option, only adds about 1 damage per attack. It would be better to pick up Defense to make up for the fact you aren’t wielding a shield.
  • Protection: Only being useful when within 5ft is a major disadvantage for this skill, especially if you’re the tank of your party as most of your party members will be staying back while you are up in the fray.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: While Two-Weapon Fighting can make you hit a lot easier with your offhand weapon, there are some disadvantages to being a dual-wielding fighter. Mainly, the fact that attacking with your offhand takes your bonus action. This doesn’t cause your offhand attacks to scale with your extra attacks. This will cause the damage you output to quickly become overshadowed by something like using a Greatsword or taking the Dueling Martial Archetype.

Optional Class Feature: Fighting Style Options:

This optional class feature adds to the list of available fighting style options:

  • Blind Fighting: Blindsight is a powerful ability, there is no doubt about that. If you are a Fighter, the reality is that you should be focusing on something that will allow you to hit people harder, or get hit harder without going down.
  • Interception: This is a very similar ability to the Protection fighting style. The same limitations apply (have to be within 5ft, uses your reaction), but you are able to use this ability if you are wielding a weapon or shield, not just a shield. The actual effect is kind of a toss-up when compared to Protection. If you are going to be fighting alongside another melee fighter that has a reasonable AC, the disadvantage granted by Protection is better. If you are going to be mainly defending casters with poor AC, Interception is better.
  • Superior Technique: Picking up a free Battle Master maneuver and d6 superiority die is a solid choice.
  • Thrown Weapon Fighting: This allows Fighters who are using thrown weapons to get around rule-stingy DMs who won’t allow you to draw multiple weapons in a turn. The +2 to damage is a significant increase.
  • Unarmed Fighting: Being able to punch people for longsword damage is very useful. This ability is particularly strong because it will allow you to make offhand attacks with a d8 damage dice, which wouldn’t be possible unless you took the Dual Wielder feat. You’re going to make any Monk in your party extremely jealous because they won’t match your unarmed strike until the 11th level. The extra 1d4 damage per turn to a creature you are grappling is okay, but still not enough to make a grapple build worth it.

Second Wind: 1d10 + Fighter level as a bonus action is certainly a great feature for someone who is going to be in the middle of most fights.

2nd Level

Action Surge: An extra action allows you to do a lot of really powerful things, including a pile of additional attacks. This is a good reason for nearly any class to multiclass into Fighter.

3rd Level

Marital Archetype: The 5e Fighter archetypes dictate the way your Fighter will play. By its definition, the Fighter class is considered easier to play than other classes. The class’s strength is their ability to provide consistent damage throughout combat by being able to attack more than any other class in the game. Some people view Fighters as “swingy”, but this doesn’t mean that playing a Fighter is boring or wrong, Fighters are an extremely fun class to play, and depending on the way you play your Fighter, you will be able to find plenty of fun and interesting maneuvers in combat.

Battle Master

Check out our Battle Master 5e Guide


The Cavalier is a warrior proficient in mounted combat. Even without a mount, Cavaliers are extremely effective melee fighters that have a wide variety of battlefield control options.

  • 3rd Level
    • Bonus Proficiency: Choose an extra skill proficiency from a list of “meh” skills.
    • Born to the Saddle: Nothing groundbreaking here. Makes it easier to get on and stay on your mount.
    • Unwavering Mark: A strong ability that provides a bonus action attack, advantage, and extra damage on the attack if someone you hit hits another creature. Its primary purpose is obviously to punish creatures for attacking your mount, but seeing as you don’t get the special attack until your next turn, your mount could easily be put down before then. Either way, this ability grants a ton of benefit and provides an excellent battlefield control option.
  • 7th Level
    • Warding Maneuver: Adding an average of +4 to your AC as a reaction is a stellar ability. Throw in that you can apply this to your mount or other friendlies within 5ft and it gets even better. NOW throw in the fact that, even if the attack hits, the target gains resistance to the attack’s damage, and you have an absolutely amazing ability.
  • 10th Level
    • Hold the Line: This ability is kind of like “Polearm Master lite”. Being able to attack creatures if they move within your reach and reduce their speed to 0 if you hit is very exploitable with a reach weapon.
  • 15th Level
    • Ferocious Charger: Another class feature that mimics a feat. This ability is an improvement over the dismal Charger feat because it can be activated by simply moving 10ft before hitting a creature, rather than having to take the dash action. Being able to use this once per turn will mean a lot more prone enemies, which means a lot more attacks with advantage for you and your party.
  • 18th Level
    • Vigilant Defender: Hold the Line makes using the special reactions granted by this feature more than once per round more likely. If you are able to pick up the Sentinel feat with one of your myriad of ASIs, you will be a force of nature when dropped into a group of enemies.


Simple but effective. Hitting things with criticals more often is a big deal, especially for Fighters.

  • 3rd Level
    • Improved Critical: Doubling your chance for a critical hit feels very, very nice.
  • 7th Level
    • Remarkable Athlete: This is great for builds that have a lower DEX stat as it allows you to act outside of combat a little more (sneaking, sleight of hand) and provides a great bonus to initiative rolls.
  • 10th Level
    • Additional Fighting Style: If you didn’t pick up Defense the first time around, now is your time for +1 to AC. Otherwise, the world is your oyster.
  • 15th Level
    • Superior Critical: Just as exciting as when your chances for a critical hit increases the first time around. Although this time you will have three (possibly six) attacks in a round.
  • 18th Level
    • Survivor: Automatically healing at the beginning of every round when you’re below half health is extremely good.

Echo Knight

Create an echo of yourself that you can use for attacking, teleport, healing, and much more.

  • 3rd Level
    • Manifest Echo: This is the Echo Knight’s primary ability and all of its class features revolve around the Echo. The echo has tons of potential for shenanigans and its baseline is stellar. Repeatable bonus action teleportation is amazing and doubling your opportunity for opportunity attacks is always useful.
    • Unleash Incarnation: Free extra attacks to go with all of your Fighters extra attacks? Yes, please.
  • 7th Level
    • Echo Avatar: Your echo becomes the ultimate scouting tool. It is like a familiar because you can see and hear from its position, but is even better since you can summon it as a bonus action instead of having to perform a 1-hour ritual. Seeing as this echo can be moved in any direction and doesn’t need to breathe, it can travel through the air, underwater, etc. Then, you can teleport to its space whenever you see fit.
  • 10th Level
    • Shadow Martyr: Being able to automatically redirect an attack is a great backup plan in case you really need an attack to miss. Only being able to use one per short/long rest is somewhat limiting.
  • 15th Level
    • Reclaim Potential: Excellent way of getting some healing mid-combat. You can also use this outside of combat for some extra hit points if you’re willing to kill your own echo.
  • 18th Level
    • Legion of One: Doubling your echo is a fine capstone ability for the Echo Knight, and always having a use of Unleash Incarnation is certainly useful. That said, having two echos isn’t twice as good as having one echo. Their strengths are somewhat diluted by the fact that you still have the same number of actions, bonus actions, and reactions as before.

Eldritch Knight

Check out our Eldritch Knight 5e Guide

Psi Warrior

The Psi Warrior’s Psionic Power gives the Fighter a lot of additional utility. Unfortunately, these abilities often rely on your INT modifier. While having a Fighter with a high INT is entirely possible, it will come at a tradeoff of becoming MAD (Multi-Ability Dependant) and being able to pick up fewer feats.

  • 3rd Level
    • Psionic Power: Expend uses of your Psionic dice to provide useful abilities in combat. Most of the abilities gained at 3rd-level use your INT modifier, which is a tough sell for Fighters.
      • Protective Field: Reduce damage equal to Psionic die + INT as a reaction. To be really effective having a high INT is necessary which, as mentioned before, is a tough sell for Fighters. Because of the somewhat meager damage reduction, you’ll usually want to keep the dice for other uses.
      • Psionic Strike: An extra die of force damage is solid, but not overly powerful. Because this ability activates after you hit, it can’t be used for crits, which is a bummer. This ability would be even better if the force damage wasn’t dependant on INT.
      • Telekinetic Movement: You can move a size Large or smaller object or willing creature up to 30ft. This is feature will have some solid utility outside of combat but inside of combat its best use will be pulling friendly creatures out of dangerous situations.
  • 7th Level
    • Telekinetic Adept: Two more amazing psionic abilities to help increase your utility in combat:
      • Psi-Powered Leap: If you’ve ever wanted to live out your Jedi fantasy and force jump around, now is your time. Gaining flying speed as a bonus action for free once every short/long rest provides excellent mobility options. You can maintain your flying speed for a short time by expending psionic dice if you can’t get to your desired location in one turn. Use this to get to high ground for ranged attacks, or to get out of trouble.
      • Telekinetic Thrust: This is simply adding value to your psionics strike because it doesn’t require any further resources. Of course, if you haven’t pumped your INT this could end up failing more often than not, but seeing as it doesn’t cost you anything it is still stellar. Because Psionics Strike doesn’t require an attack from a melee weapon, this is especially useful against flying creatures because it can knock them prone.
  • 10th Level
    • Guarded Mind: Resistance to psychic damage will come up in a typical campaign, but not often. Being able to end Charmed and Frightened conditions at will makes up for the situationalness and renders this ability very useful.
  • 15th Level
    • Bulwark of Force: Give +2 to AC and saving throws to your entire party (depending on your INT modifier) with no way of breaking it short of killing you, for a full minute, as a bonus action. Oh, you can do this up to 11 times between long rests. Damn.
  • 18th Level
    • Telekinetic Master: Telekinesis is an excellent spell that offers a ton of utility. Moving an object up to 1,000 pounds won’t require a high INT modifier, but you will likely need a pumped INT if you are attempting to grapple a high level, strength-focused creature. The second part of the feature allows you to take a bonus action attack while using telekinesis. While this doesn’t quite make up for losing your other three attacks, it can allow you to strike out at foes that get too close while you are busy levitating things with your mind.

Purple Dragon Knight

A noble knight that can extend their core Fighter features to other party members.

  • 3rd Level
    • Rallying Cry: Healing up to three party members from 60ft away is nice, but seeing as it’s not a ton of healing it would be best for saving downed teammates. Unfortunately, because you can only heal creatures that can see and hear you, this ability doesn’t work on unconscious teammates.
  • 7th Level
    • Royal Envoy: Grabbing a free expertise in Persuasion is a nice bonus, but Fighters will usually dump CHA. This means that, unless you spend your precious ASIs on pumping CHA, you likely won’t feel the full benefits of this bonus. The other skills you can pick up aren’t bad but doesn’t change that this feature is weak compared to other 7th-level subclass features.
  • 10th Level
    • Inspiring Surge: Giving another party member a free attack will vary in effectiveness based on your party’s composition. If you have a Paladin or Rogue, you are going to get way more mileage out of this feature than if you don’t. Getting an extra use of this feature at 18th level won’t necessarily be twice as effective unless you’ve managed to party up with two of the classes mentioned before.
  • 15th Level
    • Bulwark: Failing a WIS, INT, or CHA save past 15th-level usually comes with very serious consequences. Being able to extend your Indomitable feature to another team member that failed their save can turn around an entire encounter.

Rune Knight

Use runes, the language of giants, to infuse your weapon and armor with special abilities.

  • 3rd Level
    • Bonus Proficiencies: Smith’s Tools are one of the more useful tools in 5e and many high fantasy campaigns will run across Giants at some point.
    • Rune Carver: Runes are an absolutely stellar ability. They are extremely flexible because you can switch known runes each level and you can change the inscriptions each long rest. The rune’s save also uses CON, which doesn’t impede the Fighter’s typical gameplan.
      • Cloud Rune: Being able to transfer an attack that will hit a party member is twice as good as negating said attack or causing it to miss. This is especially nice because the damage of the attacks will scale with your level. Getting advantage on Sleight of Hand and Deception checks is a strange addition but a nice bonus.
      • Fire Rune: Restraining a creature on a failed STR save is solid for weaker, caster-type enemies and will allow you and your party to get attacks with advantage while preventing them from escaping. The 2d6 fire damage per turn is great but will become less impressive as you level up. Doubling your proficiency with tools is exciting, but certainly isn’t highlighted by 5e’s blatant disregard for tools.
      • Frost Rune: Animal Handling just isn’t a great skill and, while intimidation has its uses, it’s one of the more situational social skills. The +2 to STR and CON ability checks is fairly narrow because it really only applies to Athletics. +2 to STR and CON Saving throws is extremely situational because of the lack of attacks that call for them.
      • Stone Rune: The activated effect is extremely powerful. Not only is it a reaction, but the save or suck charmed effect can take even the most powerful enemies out of the fight for a couple of rounds. The passive effects are great as well; Insight is always useful, and Darkvision of 120ft is amazing for creatures that don’t typically have Darkvision and is a solid increase to those that do.
      • Hill Rune (7th-level): This rune gives a ton of damage resistances which will come in handy throughout the course of a campaign. The rune’s activated effect grants resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage for 1 minute, which will likely last the entire encounter and can recharge on a short rest. The advantage on saves against being poisoned and resistance to poison damage are more situational but still useful.
      • Storm Rune (7th-level): Arcana may not be a useful skill for most Fighters, but never being surprised while you aren’t incapacitated is extremely useful. The rune’s activated effect turns your reaction into an advantage/disadvantage roll for any creature within 60 feet. While you need to make the choice to use this effect before the dice is rolled, it can still be very powerful when you need an effect or attack to land.
    • Giant’s Might: This ability provides 3 passable abilities that, when stacked together, form a powerful feature. Becoming Large will allow you to carry or move heavier objects, as will the advantage on Strength checks. The extra 1d6 damage per turn on weapon attacks increases later on, but is pretty unimpressive.
  • 7th Level
    • Runic Shield: This ability’s main use is to negate critical hits but can be used any time you need a creature to miss a party member.
  • 10th Level
    • Great Stature: This feature really doesn’t offer much. The extra height is meaningless and the increase of Giant’s Might damage is still unimpressive.
  • 15th Level
    • Master of Runes: Double the activations on your runes means double the fun. Most of the runes have very powerful activated abilities and triggering the twice per short/long rest is going to feel really nice.
  • 18th Level
    • Runic Juggernaut: The extra damage is still unimpressive and the size increase won’t help much beyond the reach it grants. However, being Huge is pretty funny and will let you grapple almost anything your DM can throw at you.


  • 3rd Level
    • Bonus Proficiency: History, Insight, Performance, or Persuasion aren’t going to do a whole lot for your Fighter.
    • Fighting Spirit: Three times per long rest, you can give yourself advantage on all attacks and gain temp hit points. This is an amazing ability.
  • 7th Level
    • Elegant Courtier: It’s nice flavor, but adding your WIS modifier to Persuasion checks isn’t going to do much if you dumped the stat.
  • 10th Level
    • Tireless Spirit: Regaining a use of Fighting Spirit every initiative allows you to use them much more freely.
  • 15th Level
    • Rapid Strike: Being able to forgo one of your Fighting Spirit granted advantages for an extra attack is essentially a free crit against lower AC creatures.
  • 18th Level
    • Strength Before Death: This is an absolutely amazing ability. You immediately take a whole extra turn when you drop to 0 hit points. This means when you drop to 0, you can take a round of three attacks and use either a Fighting Spirit or Second Wind to keep yourself standing.

4th Level

Optional Class Feature: Martial Versatility:

This optional class feature allows Fighters to replace a Fighting Style or Battle Master maneuver whenever they are granted an ASI. This ability isn’t inherently strong or weak because it is difficult to make strategic changes according to what scenarios you will be facing. This optional feature is mainly here to change an aspect of your build that you don’t like without having to argue with a stubborn DM.

5th Level

Extra Attack: Fighters get more attacks than any class except for the Monk. This allows Fighters to be incredibly reliable when dealing damage.

Get a 3rd attack at level 11 and a 4th attack at level 20.

9th Level

Indomitable: The ability to reroll failed saving throws will be extremely important in the upper tiers of play.

Get a 2nd use at 13th level and a 3rd at 17th level.

Best Feats for Fighters

In this section, we will be focusing on feats that are applicable to the typical Fighter builds.

  • Chef: This half-feat allows you to pump your CON while also providing bonus action healing.
  • Crossbow Expert: It’s like Two-Weapon Fighting but you can add your DEX modifier to the offhand attack. If you are a DEX build this is an extremely tempting option.
  • Crusher: Crusher is a very strong pickup for any build using a bludgeoning weapon. The Champion especially loves this feat because of how much more often they will be landing critical hits. The only downside of this feat would be if your Fighter finds a magical weapon that isn’t bludgeoning and is strictly better than your current weapon.
  • Defensive Duelist: It is very unlikely that you will be wielding a finesse weapon as a Fighter.
  • Dual Wielder: Good option for Two-Weapon Fighting builds, but seeing as that build is optimal, the ceiling for this feat is quite low.
  • Durable: The amount of healing this provides in conjunction with an already high CON stat is an awesome way to keep your Fighter on their feet throughout the day. Plus, it gives a +1 to CON. Great choice.
  • Grappler: I get that a Grapple build is a thing, but it is not a very strong option.
  • Great Weapon Master: GWM, combined with the Fighter’s ridiculous number of attacks will result in a lot of extra damage and, therefore, a lot of extra bonus action attacks. 
  • Heavy Armor Master: Damage reduction like this is a massive boost to being able to stay alive through fights, especially good on builds not looking to use a shield.
  • Lucky: Just a straight-up, damn good feat that’s made even better by the Fighter’s ability to make tons of attacks.
  • Martial Adept: This is a fairly good option for Battlemasters that want more dice/maneuvers and for Champions that want to trip a foe and use the advantage to aim for critical hits. It is, however, a bit more clunky than taking something like Lucky.
  • Mounted Combat: Very specific feat but if you find yourself on horses a lot this is a must-have.
  • Orcish Fury: Half-Orcs are a very synergistic race for Fighters and this feat adds additional utility to martial builds. It’s a half-feat so it provides an STR or CON bonus, provides additional damage once per rest, and provides an extra attack when you use your Relentless Endurance feature.
  • Piercer: Great half-feat for DEX Fighter builds that will either be using a bow, crossbow, or rapier.
  • Polearm Master: This is definitely one of the more busted feats. The number of attacks this will net you in a single encounter will be substantive. Pair with Defense Fighting Style and Sentinel for pure insanity.
  • Prodigy: Fighters get access to loads of feats and this is a great way to pick up a proficiency and expertise with some of those extra resources.
  • Resilient: This is an alright option for becoming proficient in DEX saves.
  • Sentinel: Great feat all on its own to control the battlefield. Combine with Polearm Master for an insane combo.
  • Sharpshooter: Pretty much the same thing as Great Weapon Master. The negative you take to your attack roll for damage can be offset a bit more by using the Archery Fighting style.
  • Shield Master: This is a great option to use your bonus action if you don’t already have a use for it. Knocking a creature prone gives the rest of your party advantage, but keep in mind that this is only available after you have taken an attack action.
  • Skill Expert: Similar to Prodigy, but better because you get an ASI instead of the tool proficiency.
  • Tavern Brawler: Useful for grappler builds, otherwise, you can do without it.
  • Tough: Good option to boost your HP max if you are going super tank.
  • War Caster: Don’t bother, unless you are an Eldritch Knight in which case you need this feat.

Best Multiclass Options for Fighters

Barbarian: No one is shocked here. The Barbarian class gets you Rage and a d12 hit die at 1st-level though, unfortunately, your Unarmored Defense will likely go to waste. Depending on how long your campaign intends to run, 2nd-level and 3rd-level Barbarian is also worth a dip to get Danger Sense, Reckless Attack, and a Path feature. As for Paths, Path of the Berserker and Path of the Totem (Bear) will give you the best features for the lowest amount of trade-off.

Rogue: The Rogue class will synergize best with a DEX Fighter build. A one-level dip gets you access to Sneak Attack and Expertise. A two-level dip gets you Cunning Action. Three levels nets you a Roguish Archetype, the Assassin and Swashbuckler are usually best when combined with the Fighter’s strengths.

Ranger: Rangers are where things get a bit further away from ideal. Luckily, you aren’t restricted with either being a DEX or STR fighter when you choose a Ranger multiclass. Favored Enemy and Favored Terrain are nice, but are much more restricted in their usage than either of the Barb’s or Rogue’s 1st-level features. A two-level dip nets an extra Fighting Style and Spellcasting. Make sure to choose spells that don’t need WIS to be effective, Hunter’s Mark is the best choice here. Absorb Element, Good Berry, and Zephyr Strike are all solid picks for your second spell. A three-level Ranger dip nets a Ranger Archetype, the Hunter is definitely the most conducive towards the Fighter’s strengths though any of the other Ranger subclasses will work if you like the flavor more.

Sources Used in This Guide

Hope you liked the guide! If you have any questions or feel like we missed something for the 5e Fighter, go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.


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DnD 5e – The Fighter Handbook

Last Updated: September 24, 2021


The Fighter is a fantastic addition to any party. While their skill and tool proficiencies are extremely limited, Fighters excel in combat. They are durable, have great armor, and provide plenty of damage output. Fighters get more Ability Score Increases than any other class, allowing them to easily explore feats without sacrificing crucial ability scores. They also notably get more attacks than any other class, which can be a lot of fun.

Fighters are a great example of “opt-in complexity” in DnD 5e. The core of the class is very simple, but the complexity of the subclasses varies significantly. The Champion adds almost no complexity, while subclasses like the Edlritch Knight can add quite a bit. This makes the Fighter a great choice for players of all experience levels and for players with a broad range of preferences, allowing you to build a character that you find mechanically appealing but without making it more work than you might like. For players totally new to DnD or to tabletop RPGs in general, the Champion Fighter is among the simplest characters in the game and is a great way to learn if you’re nervous about learning the game’s mechanics.

Feats and class options allow for Fighters to fill a variety of roles, including as a Defender and a Striker, and Fighters work with a variety of interesting builds. A bit of work allows the Fighter to also serve as a Face (Purple Dragon Knight) or Librarian, (Eldritch Knight, Psi Warrior) though they won’t excel in those roles as much as a Bard or a Wizard whose ability scores are more tailored to those functions. You can also exploe a role as a Scout if you’re built around Dexterity, allowing you to succeed with skills like Stealth and with tools like Thieves’ Tools.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Fighter Subclasses Breakdown to choose a subclass and my Fighter Spells Breakdown if you plan to play an Eldrich Knight.

Table of Contents


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Fighter Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for martial characters, and it’s plenty to keep you going, especially with heavy armor and abilities like Second Wind.

Saves: Strength saves are fairly rare, but Constitution saves are common and typically very problematic.

Proficiencies: All weapons, armor, and shields, but you get no tool proficiencies, and only two skills.

Fighting Style: One of the Fighter’s iconic abilities, and a great reason to multiclass into Fighter. Your choice of Fighting Style can determine which weapon options work best for you and whether or not it makes to use a shield. If you’re totally uncertain, Defense is always a good choice.

The options below include the optional fighting styles introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Check with your DM before assuming that those styles are allowed, and while you’re having that discussion be sure to discuss the Martial Versatility Optional Class Feature.

  • ArcheryPHB: The obvious choice for ranged builds. +2 to hit is a big deal in a game where a 20th-level character can expect a maximum of +11 to hit. The math of the game gives you a roughly 65% chance to hit when attacking a CR-appropriate creature with average AC, and raising that to 75% feels very satisfying. If you want to take the Sharpshooter feat, this is an absolute must.
  • Blind FightingTCoE (Optional): This one is hard. Blindsight, even at just 10-foot range, is extremely useful. It solves issues of invisible enemies, it helps make up for lack of magical options for Darkvision, and it addresses effects which block line of sight like fog, magical darkness, or other stuff. But those effects don’t appear in most encounters, so this is only situationally useful. When it works it’s great, but the rest of the time it’s useless. Unless you have allies in the party who plan to frequently use magical darkness or other options to obscure vision I would skip this.

    Races which suffer from Sunlight Sensitivity might consider this as a solution to their sunlight issues. If you don a blindfold (or close your eyes), your DM may allow you to overcome the effects of Sunlight Sensitivity by willingly blinding yourself. The text of Sunlight Sensitivity isn’t perfectly clear if it only applies to attacks which rely on sight, so this may not work RAW, but the idea makes sense.

  • DefensePHB: Not very exciting, but since AC scales so little in 5e a +1 can be a big difference. Defense also doesn’t lock you into using one type of weapon, so if you like to change weapons to suit the situation Defense can be a great choice.
  • DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon like a greataxe or greatsword (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7), so you can have the damage of a two-handed weapon with the AC of sword-and-board.
  • Great Weapon FightingPHB: This adds an average of just over 1 damage per attack on average, and even then only with a greatsword. If you’re using a greatsword, the average increase in damage per round is roughly equivalent to Archery, but if you plan to use two-handed weapons other than a greatsword (grataxe, polearms, etc.), pick up Defense instead to compensate for lack of a shield.
  • InterceptionTCoE (Optional): Conceptually similar to Protection, but there’s no nuance in how the two styles protect your target. Protection imposes Disadvantage, so if there’s a good chance that the attack would miss it’s the better choice. Interception reduces the damage, so it always work but for big attacks it won’t negate the whole attack. The decision between the two comes down to who you’re going to be protecting. If you’re protecting other allies with decent AC (a melee cleric or rogue, for example), go for Protection. If you’re protecting allies with awful AC (most wizards), Disadvantage won’t help much so go for Interception.
  • ProtectionPHB: Tempting for Defender builds, but allies need to remain adjacent to you for this to work. Being adjacent to the front line tank is generally a bad place to be unless you can do so safely without someone defending you. This also appeals to mounted combat builds because you can use to compensate for your mount’s relative fragility, but if you’re going that route you really need the Mounted Combatant feat which lets you retarget attacks at yourself instead.
  • Superior TechniqueTCoE (Optional) If you’re going for Battle Master and just can’t wait for level 3, this is really tempting. But numerically this isn’t a great choice. You’ll get much more mileage out of a style which adds to all of your attacks like Dueling, and if you’re desperate for Superiority Dice you can go for Custom Lineage or Variant Human and take the Martial Adept to get two maneuvers and one die at first level. If you’re high level and happy with your ability scores, you can take both Martial Adept and Fighting Initiate (Superior Technique) to get a total of three maneuvers known and two dice on top of the normal Battle Master progression.
  • Thrown Weapon FightingTCoE (Optional) Finally a way to make thrown weapons workable in 5e! Unlike a bow or crossbow, you can use thrown weapons one-handed and some even work effectively with two-weapon fighting since thrown weapons are usually melee weapons with the Thrown property. If you’re using magic weapons you may have some trouble since you’re repeatedly throwing your weapons away, but you’ll be able to recover them after combat.

    Thrown Weapon Fighting has some unique interactions with other fighting styles. If you use a melee weapon with the light and thrown property like handaxes, you can benefit from the Two-Weapon Fighter style. If you take the Dual Wielder feat, you can upgrade to Javelins. If you instead use ranged weapons with the thrown property like darts, you can benefit from the Archery style, adding +2 to both attacks and damage. That allows you to match the average damage of a longbow while still holding a shield.

    To summarize: This is probably the most complex Fighting Style because you need to combine it other options (feats and/or another Fighting Style) to make it as truly effective, but those complex interactions also allow some really fun combinations. I don’t recommend this for new players, but an experience player could build a very interesting character around this.

  • Two-Weapon FightingPHB: One of the biggest issues with two-weapon fighting is that you don’t get to add your ability modifier to your off-hand attack without this Fighting Style. While this resolves that issue, TWF is still sub-optimal for Fighters because they get more attacks than anyone else in the game and don’t have an on-hit damage boost effect like Hunter’s Mark or a crucial once-per-turn damage boost like Sneak Attack which requires you to attack as many times as possible to guarantee at least one hit.

    Consider that one attack with your off-hand will likely deal something like 1d8+5 damage at most (assuming 20 in your attack stat and the Dual Wielding feat) compared to 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, or 4d6 additional damage from using a Greatsword on your normal attacks (each d6 representing one additional attack, up to the Fighter’s maximum of 4 with Extra Attacj). It’s 9.5 vs. 3.5, 7, 10.5, or 14 damage depending on how many attacks you get.

    By the time you get two attacks it’s close, but by the time you get 3 it’s clear that a two-handed weapon is the better choice. On top of that, two-weapon fighting eats your Bonus Action. Any time you want to use that for anything else (Second Wind, Battlemaster Maneuvers, etc.) you lose 20-50% of your damage output for the round. Effects like Haste and Opportunity Attacks widen the gap even further, putting Two-Weapon Fighting further behind other weapon configurations in terms of damage output. Unless you’re going for the Champion archetype to fish for critical hits or you’re multiclassing, this is a mistake.

  • Unarmed FightingTCoE (Optional) Unless you’re benefiting from the bonus grapple damage, this is worse than just using a warhammer, so if you take this style, expect to lean heavily into the Athletics skill and the Grapple+Shove combo. Get Expertise in Athletics (either from the Skill Expert feat or from a class dip into rogue), build yourself around Strength, and see if there’s a way to get Advantage on Athletics checks, such as from the Enlarge/Reduce spell or from the Rune Knight’s Giant’s Might feature.

    For feats, consider the Tavern Brawler feat. Allowing you to Grapple as a Bonus Action will imnprove your action economy, though you may prefer to start with a Shove so that you can attack at Advantage and follow that attack with your Bonus Action Grapple. You still don’t need the Grappler feat, though. It’s awful.

Second Wind: A bit of healing can be very helpful, but it’s not a lot of healing, and you can reasonably expect to use abilities which recharge on a short rest 2 to 3 times per adventuring day.

Action Surge: An extra action allows you to do a lot of really great things, including a pile of additional attacks. This is a good reason for nearly any class to multiclass into Fighter.

Martial Archetype: Fighter subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Fighter Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Arcane Archer: Gain the ability to enchant and fire magic arrows in battle.
  • Battle Master: Master of combat maneuvers, the Battle Master uses a unique Maneuvers mechanic which allows you add additional effecs to your attacks to harm and hinder your foes.
  • Cavalier: Known for their exceptional abilities to fight while mounted, but the Cavalier is also a capable bodyguard and Defender.
  • Champion: Simple and straightforward, but unquestionably effective, the Champion thrives on the Fighter’s central features.
  • Echo Knight: Summon an echo of yourself from alternate time streams to fight alongside you in combat.
  • Eldritch Knight: Complement your phenomenal martial prowess with magic to defense yourself and to strike at your goes.
  • Purple Dragon Knight: An inspirational leader and diplomat, the Purple Dragon Knight is a capable leader and good Face despite the stereotypically non-charismatic nature of fighters.
  • Rune Knight: Empower yourself with the magic power of giants, using runes to create fantastic magical effects and enlarging yourself in combat.
  • Samurai: Capable and resilient, the Samurai is hard to capable of sudden bursts of incredible prowess and adds some proficiencies to aid them in social situations.

Extra Attack: Fighters get more attacks than anyone but the Monk.

Indomitable: Fantastic for saves which take you out of a fight, but don’t waste it on things which are just going to hit you with a bit of damage.

Optional Class Features

Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.

Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.

Fighting Style Options (Addition): The new options add a lot of exciting new concepts to the Fighter, but none of them are actually better than what’s available from the existing options. In terms of game balance, this is right where you want things to be: more options, more diverse concepts, but no actual power creep.

I recommend allowing the new Fighting Style options on all fighters. Players still only get one (champions get two, and now there’s a feat to get another), so more choices won’t make the Fighter any stronger.

Martial Versatility (Addition): The fact that fighters are forced to pick their fighting style at level 1 and can never change it has been a huge problem for years. If your fighter has the Dueling style and picks up a magic two-handed weapon, they’re forced to either ignore the weapon or ignore their Fighting Style. The inability to adapt to changing needs within the party or changing externalities (buffs from the party, subclass features, magic items, etc.) means that players are encouraged to take options like Defense because they’re the safest choice. Allowing the Fighter to retrain their Fighting Style encourages players to explore other options, which means more interesting characters.

The second bullet only applies to the Battle Master, but they face the same concern: since you can’t change your choices, players will always go for the safest and most reiable options so many options will never be selected.

I recommend allowing Martial Versatility on all fighters. Like with other retraining mechanics, players still can’t have more options at the same time than they could get if they didn’t retrain, so players will be more satisfied with their character but won’t actually be any stronger than they could be.

Ability Scores

Fighters can be built in many ways. Strength-based Fighters are the simplest, but Dexterity builds can be very appealing, and your subclass might introduce a need for mental ability scores like Intelligence or Charisma.

Str: Strength-based Fighters need Strength above anything else. Everyone else can dump it.

Dex: Strength-based Fighters will be wearing heavy armor, so they can dump Dexterity. Archers and Finesse builds rely almost exclusively on Dexterity, so they need as much as they can get.

Con: Every fighter needs hit points.

Int: Eldritch Knights need a bit for their spells, but if you avoid spells which call for saving throws you can get away with very little. 14 is typically sufficient.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Survival. If you don’t need Intelligence or Charisma for your subclass, investing in Wisdom is a good choice.

Cha: Only useful for saves and Face skils for most subclasses, but the Purple Dragon Knight needs it for some of their subclass features.

Strength-Based MeleeEldritch Knight / Psi WarriorFinesse/Archery
Point BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard Array
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 10
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 9
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 13
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12


Fighters need a race which plays to their build, and your choice of subclass and your weapon preferences will dramatically affect what you need in terms of ability score increases. Generally, bonuses to physical ability scores are key: a Strength or Dexterity increase is almost required, and a Constitution increase is helpful.

Beyond your abiliy scores, access to Darkvision, Flight, and innate spellcasting can all be very helpful. Most fighters can’t produce any of those effects without items, so your race can give you a lot of capabilities which go beyond what the class can provide.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and flight in light armor. It’s an excellent package, but the winged tiefling is better in every way except fly speed.

Default Rules: Bonus Dexterity and the ability to fly out of reach are perfect for ranged builds. You can only fly in light armor, but that’s not a problem since you’re building for Dexterity anyway.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The subraces are distinguished by their transformation, and that distinction makes a big difference.

  • Fallen: The fear effect on the Fallen Aasimar’s transformation is great, but the DC is Charisma-based so it may be hard to rely upon.
  • Protector: Temporary flight when you need it.
  • Scourge: The area damage is great for handling crowds, but make sure that you have someone around to heal you in a hurry.

Default Rules: Very tempting for purple dragon knights. Each subrace offers a unique active ability and a different ability score increase, and the base race’s Charisma will help you serve as a face. Darkvision is great on a class that can’t get it on its own, and Healing Hands is great for a front-line class.

  • Fallen: Strength is great for a fighter, and the extra damage output from Necrotic Shroud is excellent, but the fear effect’s DC is Charisma-based so it may be unrealiable.
  • Protector: Wisdom doesn’t do much for a fighter.
  • Scourge: Constitution is great on a front-line character, but be careful not to let Radiant Consumption burn through your hit points if you don’t have a cleric handy.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The spellcasting includes Lesser Restoration which allows you to handle problems beyond hit point restoration which the Fighter is normally unable to handle unassisted.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Surprise Attack can be useful, but you may want to build around Dexterity so that your initiative will be reasonably high. Long-limbed is neat, but remember that it only applies while attacking on your own turn so you don’t just get ridiculously long reach.

Default Rules: Able to fill a variety of fighter builds. Keep in mind that Long-Limbed only applies to attacks made on your own turn.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: +2 to either Strength or Dex, Darkvision, and a feat. Excellent, but in many cases the Variant Human’s split increases may be more effective so that you can also start with 16 Constitution.


The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 inceases, damage resistance, and a beath weapon which will help you handle crowds.

Default Rules: The Strength bonus is nice, and the breath weapon is fun, but if you need AOE damage play an Eldritch Knight. Purple Dragon Knight is probably the best option for a dragonborn fighter, but the Charisma increase isn’t so crucial that the Dragonborn is a go-to option over other races.


Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, plus poison resilience and some weapon proficiencies that you can retrain into tool proficiencies.

  • DuergarSCAG: A second +1 increase, and the Innate Spellcasting works really well for the Fighter. But Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain, so I would only consider this in a subterranean campaign.
  • HillPHB: A second +1 increases and some extra hit points. A very solid choice, but it’s hard to compete with the Mountain Dwarf’s two +2 increases.
  • MountainPHB: Two +2 increases is really great for the Fighter. Starting with two ability scores at 17 makes it very easy to make a lot of room in your build for feats. You also get some more proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: Dwarves make excellent Fighters. Their bonus Constitution provides more hit points, and Dwarves get Darkvision and resistance to poison. Many of the Dwarf’s free proficiencies are wasted because Fighters already get them, but even without those benefits Dwarves are still excellent Fighters.

  • DuergarSCAG: In a subterranean campaign, this is at least on par with Mountain Dwarf. Otherwise, Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem.
  • HillPHB: Bonus Wisdom is great if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome, but without a Dexterity or Strength increase you’ll lag offensively.
  • MountainPHB: The Strength bonus is fantastic for any Strength-based Fighter.


The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, and one skill.

  • DrowPHB: The innate spellcasting is decent, but it’s Charisma-based so Faerie Fire will be unreliable. If you take Fighting Style (Blind Fighting), Darkness can be very effective. But that short bust of being really effective may be offset by Sunlight Sensitivity, so be cautious considering the Drow outside of subterranean campaigns. If you just want the Innate Spellcasting, consider the Drow Half-Elf instead.
  • EladrinMToF: The teleportation is great, but it’s Charisma-based which is a hard choice for most fighters.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: An easier choice for the Fighter than the regular Eladrin, you still get to teleport on a short rest but instead of the teleportation rider effect you get weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.
  • High ElfPHB: Take Booming Blade if you plan to play an Eldritch Knight. You may also consider the High Half-Elf, which trades the Elf’s skill proficiency and the High Elf’s weapon proficiencies for an additional +1 skill increase.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Damage resistance and a once-per-day teleport which is great for diving into melee. The Variant Eladrin’s teleportaiton is more frequent, but the Shadar-Kai is still competitive due to its other benefits.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Unremarkable. If you want speed, play a centaur. If you want to be sneaky, play something that can cast Invisibility as an innate spell. If you want weapon proficiencies to trade for tool proficiencies, several other subraces will give them to you. The Wood Elf isn’t bad, but it’s not good at anything noteworthy and it simply can’t compete with the broad range of viable races when you’re using the Customizing You Origin optional rule.

Default Rules: A Dexterity bonus makes Elves obvious choices for Finesse Fighters and Archers. Free Perception proficiency and Darkvision are both welcome on any character.

  • DrowPHB: Nothing useful for a Fighter that other Elves can’t do better.
  • EladrinMToF: Shadar-kai is a better fit for most fighters, but Purple Dragon Knights may enjoy the Charisma increase.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: A tempting choice for the Eldritch Knight due to the Intelligence increase, but otherwise ther regular Eladrin or the Shadar-Kai are better choices. The Eldritch Knight might also prefer the High Elf for early access to a wizard cantrip, but for a long-form campaign the Variant Eladrin may be more effective.
  • High ElfPHB: A bonus to Intelligence and a free Cantrip make the High Elf an obvious choice for an Eldritch Knight. Grab Booming Blade and you can pretend to be an Eldritch Knight at levels 1 and 2 until you can get your subclass features.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity, Constitution, damage resistance, and the ability to teleport. The ability to jump into melee quickly and not suffer a mountain of damage for doing so is a great benefit for melee fighters. However, you only get to teleport once per long rest, while both versions of the Eladrin can teleport once per short rest.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Extra Wisdom works very well with Perception, and the extra movement speed is great for getting into (or out of) melee range, but the rest of the Wood Elf’s features probably won’t be useful.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, and some innate spellcasting. Unfortunately, the spellcasting won’t do much to help the Fighter. Hidden Step is good, but if you want invisibility there are several races which can do it better.

Default Rules: A little bit of Strength and some useful magic abilities, but not much that specifically caters to the Fighter.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi’s traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Even without magic options to handle flight, Levitate isn’t great. It can be helpful for archers in encounters with creatures that can’t fly or attack at range, but the Aarakocra and the Winged Tiefling can both fly, which makes Levitate feel pretty silly.
  • Earth: Earth Walk is neat and Merge With Stone suddenly makes you very good at stealth, but those effects are only situationally useful, so you’re mostly leaning on the same +2/+1 increases that nearly every race gets.
  • Fire: The fact that the Fire Genasi’s innate spellcasting is Constitution-based makes them a profoundly weird racial option. Your best bet is to go for Eldritch Knight and you can use War Magic to attack with Produce Flame and follow it with a weapon attack, but you’ll want to emphasise Constitution first so your weapon attacks will suffer. You also get Darkvision and damage resistance, but if that’s all you want the Tiefling is a better choice.
  • Water: Fine, but I would only consider it in an aquatic campaign.

Default Rules: A Constitution increas is always welcome on front-line characters like Fighters, and the Genasi subraces allow for some interesting options for different Fighter builds.

  • Air: The Dexterity bonus is nice, and Levitate can be helpful at low levels before you have access to real flight, but it’s just not enough compared to the other Genasi types.
  • Earth: Bonus Strength, and the ability to move across difficult terrain unimpeded helps you to get into melee in situations where it’s normally difficult to do so.
  • Fire: Bonus intelligence, damage resistance, a free offensive cantrip, and a free offensive spell all play nicely to the Eldritch Knight. The fact that the innate spellcasting is Constitution-based is interesting, possibly making it a better option for fighters than options like Fire Bolt. If you raise your Constitution as you gain levels, you can keep the innate spellcasting viable, making Produce Flame a viable combination with War Magic and a weapon attack. However, without a Strength or Dexterity increase you’ll basically be a bad wizard until you get War Magic at level 7.
  • Water: Bad ability spread.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: One skill and some armor and weapon proficiencies which you can trade for a total of 5 tool proficiencies. The innate spellcasting offers some utility options, including teleportation via Misty Step, but if you just want teleportation the Shadar-Kai is a better choice.
  • Githzerai: Mental Discipline will protect you from common status conditions which are frequent problems for the Fighter, but the Githzerai’s innate spellcasting may be less useful for the Fighter than the Githyanki’s, and the Githzerai does nothing to expand your capabilities outside of combat like the Githyanki does.

Default Rules: The shared Intelligence increase is only helpful for the Eldritch Knight, but is otherwise wasted.

  • Githyanki: Strength and some bonus proficiencies. The Intelligence is helpful for Eldritch Knights, and Githyanki Psionics offers some useful magical utility options. If you just want teleportation, consider the Shadar-Kai instead.
  • Githzerai: Bad ability spread.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning. Gnome Cunning is a great defensive option for martial classes which typically have poor mental saves and are frequently very easy to incapacitate using spells.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Even though they don’t suffer Sunlight Sensivity like the Duergar or the Drow, I would still only consider the Svirfneblin in subterranean campaigns where you know that Stone Camouflage will be consistently useful, and you’ll want to build around Dexterity.
  • ForestPHB: Minor Illusion and Speak with Small Beasts are weird choices for most martial classes, but Minor Illusion can do a lot before your spell save DC actually matters and it nicely complements the Eldritch Knight’s mostly violence-related spellcasting.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful. Tinker is a fun novelty, but it doesn’t actually make your character better.

Default Rules: An Intelligence bonus doesn’t help the Fighter unless they’re an Eldritch Knight. Gnome Cunning is an excellent defense against spells which can often take fighters out of a fight due to their poor mental saves.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: For a finesse-based Gnome Fighter, Forest Gnome is an easier choice, but the Svirfneblin may still be worthwhile in a subterranean campaign. The innate spellcasting is nice, and could be a good utility complement to the Eldritch Knight’s purely offensive spellcasting, and Stone Camouflage may make it easier for a Dexterity-based fighter to serve as a scout.
  • ForestPHB: A Dexterity bonus helps for a finesse-based Eldritch Knight, and Minor Illusion expands your limited spell options. If you want something more offensive than Minor Illusion, consider the High Elf.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Fury of the Small will be easy to apply, but try to reserve it for when it will be impactful rather than dropping it on the first thing you hit. Nimble Escape is great for hit-and-run tactics, but generally the Fighter is expected to keep enemies tangled up in melee so it’s hard to abandon that crucial function by moving away. You might be able to use Nimble Escape to abuse Polearm Master, though.

Default Rules: Nimble Escape gives you the most important parts of Cunning Action, allowing you to hit-and-run much like a rogue. The Dexterity bonus works great for a finesse fighter. However, since the Fighter is typically the party’s front line it can be hard to have the Fighter running away from enemies instead of trying to hold them in place.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and damage resistance to cold. Stone’s Endurance is a great additional defense on top of the Fighter’s tyically high AC. A great package, and very simple to build and play successfully.

Default Rules: Tailor-made to be a melee Monster. Bonuses to your important abilities, free Athletics proficiency, and Stone’s Endurance adds a pile to your effective daily hit point total.


Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. Most builds won’t need all three ability score increases, but the Eldritch Knight and the Purple Dragon Knight will benefit greatly.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options like the Locathah and the Triton.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: If you want the Drow’s innate spellcasting, this is the best way to get it. Put some resources into Charisma and Faerie Fire can be an excellent combat option for the Fighter.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Arguably the Eldritch Knight’s best racial option, you can increase all three of the ability scores that you care about and still get Booming Blade at first level.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: An excellent way to expand the Fighter’s capabilities outside of combat.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: None of the Wood Elf’s traits are as good as two skills. You might take the weapon proficiencies and trade them for 4 skills, but even that isn’t a great option for most characters.

Default Rules: Probably the best racial option for the Purple Dragon Knight, the half-Elf is a great way to expand the Fighter beyond their “guy with weapon” capabilities without sacrificing your primary functions in combat.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only if you’re in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: A handful of magical options is tempting on a class with no magical utility options. Keep in mind that innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so if you want Faerie Fire to be useful you’ll need to invest in Charisma.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: An option for the Eldritch Knight, but the Eldritch Knight is already among the most MAD fighters so trying to bring Charisma into the mix won’t do you any favors. Go for a regular High Elf instead.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two more skills can do a lot. Between these skills and your background, you can easily grab several Face skills to capitalize on the Half-Elf’s Charisma increase, or you could build around Dexterity and grab skills and tools that let you stand in for a rogue.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Fleet of foot is the best option, which is pretty sad because it’s such a poor option.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Savage Attacks is still used best with the biggest damage die possible and Relentless Endurance doesn’t change, so the Customizing Your Origin optional rule doesn’t change the Half-Orc very much. They still make a great Champion, especiall with a Greataxe in hand, and Relentless Endurance is great on front-line characters who frequently draw a lot of attacks.

Default Rules: Relentless Endurance brings some of the Barbarian’s durability, and Savage Attacks is extremely potent when combined with the Champion Fighter’s improved critical range. Grab a greataxe.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1). Rearranging your ability scores means that Brave and Lucky are the Halfling’s most defining traits and they’re absolutely fantastic for the Fighter. Brave will help compensate for you relatively poor mental saves, and Lucky will improve your results when attacking with the Fighter’s incomparably high number of attacks.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech isn’t especially helpful unless you’re built for stealth, and even then it’s not crucial.
  • LightfootPHB: Useless without a rogue dip, and even then you’re basically playing a rogue who’s trying no to rely on Sneak Attack for no readily apparent reason.
  • StoutPHB: Basically a short dwarf. Poison damage is common, so resistance to it will save you a lot of damage over your career.

Default Rules: A bonus to Dexterity makes the Halfling great for both Finesse and Archery builds, and Lucky is fantastic when you make as many attacks as a Fighter does.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech isn’t especially helpful unless you’re built for stealth, and even then it’s not crucial.
  • LightfootPHB: This would be a very strange build, but a stealthy Purple Dragon Knight could potentially make use to the Lightfoot Halfling’s traits.
  • StoutPHB: Excellent ability score increases for a Dexterity-based fighter, and poison resilience.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and three proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies. The Hobgoblin’s noteworthy feature is Saving Face. It provides a great way to turn near-miss failed rolls into successes, especially if you have numerous alies nearby. This provides great insurance against problematic saving throws.

Default Rules: An interest option for Eldritch Knights. Saving Face will help cover the difference in your attack bonus until you get enough Ability Score Increases to get your Dexterity or Strength up to 20, which fortunately the Figher does faster than anyone else. But until then you’re basically limping along to keep up with other options like the High Elf.


Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Standard: Fighters really only need two ability scores for any specific builds, but a +1 to all of your scores can be helpful if you use the point buy ability generation method to give yourself low, odd-numbered base abilities to save points, and it can make it easier .
  • Variant: You get crucial bonuses to your two favorite ability scores (Typically Str/Con or Dex/Con), and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. Feats are especially potent for Fighters since it’s so easy to fit them into your build, and you can easily combine feats like Polearm Master and Sentinel without falling behind on your abiltiy score progression. The bonus skill isn’t super important for a Fighter since Fighters aren’t really built for skill use, but pick up something fun or which no one else in your party takes and you may find it useful outside of combat.

    The Variant Human is especially appealing for the Champion Fighter because the Champion is mechanically simple. Adding the additional complexity of a feat can do a lot to make the Champion more engaging to play in combat.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry aren’t particularly impactful, so basically any other race with two skill proficiencies will be linearly better than the Kenku.

Default Rules: An interesting option for stealthy, Dexterity-based fighters, the kenku’s free skils overlap with the rogue’s quite a bit. Be sure to pick up proficiency with thieves’ tools from your background.


Customized Origin: +2 increase and Superior Darkvision. The Customizing Your Origin optional rule does little to change the Kobold unless you’re dead set on a Strength-based build for some reason. Pack Tactics is still great, and Sunlight Sensitivity is still a pain, but Pack Tactics conveniently provides a way to negate it.

Default Rules: With easy access to Advantage from Pack Tactics, it’s really easy to rely on things like the Sharpshooter feat which normally present accuracy issues. You can also use Pack Tactics and the Champion subclass’s improved critical range to fish for critical hits, potentially earning you big damage spikes with a relatively simple build.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and natural armor. It’s really tempting to build the Lizardfolk around Dexterity because at 20 Dexterity you can match Full Plate’s AC. But Hungry Jaws is still Strength-based, so it may be better to go for a Stength-based melee build and ignore Natural Armor. It’s somewhat frustrating to take the cool barbaric lizard person who fights naked and turn them into a somewhat toothy but otherwise unremarkable humanoid, but it’s probably the best mechanical option.

Default Rules: Tempting but frustrating due to their ability score increases not lining up well with their needs. With 20 Dexterity you can match full plate AC without wearing armor. However, Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength, so emphasizing Dexterity may mean giving up on Hungry Jaws. Sadly, the Lizardfolk gets increases to neither so it’s a perpetually tempting but frustrating option.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Leviathan Will. Among the better aquatic options, Leviathan Will provides a robust defensive option against a long list of harmful status conditions which any adventurer is sure to face.

Default Rules: Increases to both Strength and Dexterity are difficult to use at the same time, but it means that you can build your Fighter nearly however you want. Leviathan Will offers some useful defenses against status effects, and two additional skills help you to diversify your capabilities beyond fighting stuff.


Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it’s not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. A great option for any melee build, Aggressive allows you to quickly close to melee without sacrificing your Action to Dash.

Default Rules: Perfect ability scores from Strength-based builds, Aggressive gets you into melee quickly, and two additional skills can add some useful options outside of combat. It’s easy to compare the Orc to the Half-Orc because there is definitely some overlap. They’re roughly equivalent, but the Half-Orc really shines with a greataxe or a similar large damage die, but the Orc works for basically any Strength-based weapon and has the ability to pick their skills (albeit from a list) so they’re a bit more versatile.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi’s signature skill. It’s roughly equivalent to the Orc’s Aggressive, but it also allows you to run away (rather than only toward an enemy) and doesn’t eat your Bonus Action so it’s arguably a litle better.

Default Rules: Similar to the kenku, the Tabaxi makes an excellent rogue-ish fighter.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is difficult for most fighters to use, but might be viable for a Purple Dragon Knight.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: The innate spellcasting is passable, but the most easily usable part is Hellish Rebuke, and without decent Charisma to back it up it’s not worth your subrace.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad innate spellcasting.
  • DispaterMToF: Disguise Self is the best thing you get from this, and if that’s all that you want you should play a changeling instead.
  • FiernaMToF: Maybe viable for a Purple Dragon Knight with enough Charisma, and the spells certainly work thematically for a Face build, but your low save DC will absolutely be a problem.
  • GlasyaMToF: The innate spellcasting can go very far without worrying about your Charisma score, and the spells are outside of the Eldritch Knight’s school limitations so they introduce some options which are normally hard for the Fighter to access.
  • LevistusMToF: Armor of Agathys looks very tempting, but it will break if you get hit once. The Drow’s innate spellcasting is similar but more effective even though it’s also Charisma-based.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options, but they don’t care about low Charisma.
  • MephistophelesMToF: The offensive spells are worthless, and if you just want Mage Hand, Mammon will be better.
  • ZarielMToF: The smite spells are decent, but Searing Smite allows a Constitution save and Branding Smite isn’t good enough on its own.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: All offensive options that you don’t have the save DC to support.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is a more safely reliable choice.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor. You trade some of the Aarakocra’s speed for Darkvision and damage resistance. It’s a good trade.

Default Rules: Darkvision and Fire resistance are both great, and the bonus spells can be very helpful, but ability score increases are a problem for most of the subraces. You may also have trouble with the innate spellcasting because so much of it requires a spell attack or allows a saving throw.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • DispaterMToF: Potentially good for a Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight, but the the spellcasting isn’t very good.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • GlasyaMToF: Potentially good for a Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight. The innate spellcasting adds some great illusion options that care very little about your Charisma modifier, so this could be a great option for a tricky, sneaky fighter.
  • LevistusMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MammonMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • ZarielMToF: Potentially good for a Strength-based Purple Dragon Knight. Smite spells are great options for the Fighter, but Searing Smite allows a Constitution save that you should always expect the target to pass due to your poor save DC and typically high Constitution saves. Branding Smite is decent, though. Unfortunately, one decent innate spell is not enough to make this good.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: A fantastic option for Dexterity-based fighters, especially Eldritch Knights. A Feral Winged Tiefling is basically an Aarakocra with Darkvision and fire resistance, and that’s an excellent set of racial traits.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Charisma-based spells are hard for most Fighters, and even Purple Dragon Knights won’t really get any use out of them
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is a better option for fighters.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor. You’ll almost certainly build around Dexterity so light armor will be better.


Customized Origin: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no niche for the Tortle. You might get slightly better AC at low levels for Dexterity-based builds before other fighters hit 20 Dexterity at level 6, but that is nowhere near enough.

Default Rules: Strength and natural armor are great, but once you can afford full plate armor the Tortle will fall behind and you lose your most notable racial trait.


Customized Origin: Three +1 increases, Darkvision, amphibious, and some innate spellcasting. Like the half-elf, having three increases makes it easy to support MAD subclasses like the Eldritch Knight, the Psi Warrior, and the Purple Dragon Knight. The innate spellcasting isn’t fantastic, but it does offer some interesting utility options. In an aquatic campaign this is a great choice, but even on land it’s still a good option.

Default Rules: Surprisingly appealing for an aquatic race, the Triton gets good ability score increases for the Fighter, and has a little bit of innate spellcasting which may provide some utility options that fighters can’t replicate on their own.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Telepathic Insight protects you from the most common mental saves, which is great since fighters are so easily taken out by mental stuff. Black Blood Healing will help pad your hit dice a little bit, and Limited Telepathy can be helpful for sneaky fighters. You do need to deal with the weird size mechanic, but on a Dexterity-based buiild this will work reasonably well.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance protects you from one of the Fighter’s biggest and most problematic weaknesses. The innate spellcasting is useless, but honestly it doesn’t matter because everything else is so good.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. Magic Resistance is great, but it’s not enough.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren’t typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game. 

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechanger isn’t a good fit for the Fighter, and there are other racial options which can cast Disguise Self which arguably does a better job at solving the same problem.

Default Rules: Purple Dragon Knight has a small dependency on Charisma, and makes for an excellent Face. While they tend to be less sneaky and deceptive than a changeling is expected to be, there’s no reason you couldn’t reject that stereotype.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Resistance to psychic damage is nice, though psychic damage isn’t common. Dual Mind provides an important defense, but other options like the Yuan-Ti Pureblood and the Verdan are more appealing and may be more broadly effective at protecting you from stuff that hurts your brains.

Default Rules: Bad abilty spread.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), Darkvision, and one skill. The Shifter’s signature trait is Shifting, which is a Bonus Action combat buff which works great for most fighters. It’s a decent buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus do a lot to complement the Fighter’s already impressive durability.
  • Longtooth: Many fighter subclasses don’t lean heavily on their Bonus Action, so adding the ability to make a bite attack with your Bonus Action is a significant increase to your damage output for Strength-based builds.
  • Swiftstride: The intent of this ability is to let you move away from enemies when they get into melee with you so that you don’t need to Disengage on your turn. Fighters rarely need that.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default Rules: Darkvision is a great start, and several of the Shifter subraces support some fighter builds.

  • Beasthide: Great ability score increases, a good free skill, and additional temporary hit points amd AC when you shift to help you absorb more damage.
  • Longtooth: The Fighter has very few uses for their Bonus Action (unless you’re built for two-weapon fighting), so using it to make an extra attack offers an easy way to boost your damage output. The ability score increases aren’t as good as the Beasthide Shifter’s, but they’ll still work.
  • Swiftstride: Dexterity can work, and the Shifting Feature can be a lifesaver for archers, but I would consider the Goblin first if that’s all that you want.
  • Wildhunt: The Dexterity increase is the best part, and you can get that from numerous other places.


Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Constitution, a flexible ability increase, a pile of useful resistances that cover things that front-lint martial characters frequently face, and a bonus to AC which puts you ahead of every other heavyily-armored character in the game. A warforged fighter with full plate armor, a shield, and the Defense fighting style sits at 22 AC without magic items or spells, making you nearly untouchable. If you can force enemies to stay in melee with you (consider grappling), you’re a fantastic Defender.


While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you’re not playing a spellcaster you’re giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can’t cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: This could be interesting for a Dexterity-based Eldritch Knight. The skill bonuses work great for a character with high Intelligence and Dexterity, and the innate spellcasting saves you the trouble of learning Mage Armor. However, you still need to spend your spells known to take advantage of the dragonmark spell list, and I don’t see anything on the list that’s worthwhile except possibly Armor of Agathys.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Interesting thematically, and some of the spells are tempting, but this is a hard choice without a Strength or Dexterity increase. I wouldn’t consider this on anything except an Eldritch Knight, and even then it’s not a fantastic choice.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: A Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight is likely your best bet here. The innate spellcasting is great, but you can get the same from the Glasya Tiefling, which is probably a better fit for the Fighter. The dragonmark spells are wasted on anything except the Eldritch Knight, and since you get so few spells known outside of your school limitations you’re not likely to learn most of them.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: The innate spellcasting is neat, but it’s hard to choose this for an Eldritch Knight because the ability increases don’t line up well, and no other fighter subclass gets spellcasting so you lose a big part of the dragonmark’s benefits. A sneaky, Dexterity-based fighter is absolutely an option, but at that point you may do better as a swashbuckler rogue.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The skills and innate spellcasting don’t help the Fighter, and the dragonmark spells aren’t appealing for the Eldritch Knight.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The innate spellcasting offers some itneresting utility options, but the dragonmark spell list has little to offer that the Eldritch Knight would care to learn. The skill bonuses are fine but it will be hard to use both effectively on one fighter.
  • Mark of Storm: The spellcasting is bad and the skill bonuses are too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: Bad ability spread, and the spellcasting does very little to complement the Fighter’s capabilities.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability spread is too poor to justify how little you’ll benefit from the spellcasting.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. A bit like a class dip into ranger, you get Hunter’s Mark once per day and bonuses to some Wisdom-based skills. Hunter’s Mark is tempting since the Fighter makes lots of attacks and has good Constitution saves, but remember that it’s only once per day. The only fighter subclass with spellcasting is the Eldritch Knight, so unless you ignore Wisdom to focus on Intelligence, you’re going to miss out on the dragonmark spells.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The ability to heal yourself is certainly tempting for a class with few healing options beyond hit dice, but I don’t think it’s enough. The Eldritch Knight can benefit from the dragonmark spells, but they’re beyond the Eldritch Knight’s school limitations so that’s a very hefty cost to get spells which you can’t use very often due to your tiny pool of spell slots.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The spells do very little to help the Fighter, and the dragonmark spell list doesn’t include anything that the Eldritch Knight wants.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: A Dexterity-based Eldritch Knight could make us of the new spell options to complement their party’s existing healing capabilities, but the ability score increases aren’t spectacular. It’s a workable build and it could be a lot of fun, but it tries to do too much at the same time, which very few classes can successfully manage.
  • Mark of Hospitality: There’s very little here that works well for the Fighter.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: The Wisdom-based innate spellcasting is neither useful nor reliable, and the dragonmark spells are not even remotely appealing to the Eldritch Knight.
  • Mark of Making: An interesting choice for the Eldritch Knight, Magic Weapon is a fantastic buff and the Arcana bonus will close the gap between you and a real wizard on Arcana checks. The innate spellcasting has a few gems like Elemental Weapon which work very well for the Fighter, but which aren’t on the Wizard’s spell list so you normally can’t cast them.
  • Mark of Passage: Misty step for free once per day, and teleportation options on the spell list. Unfortunately the spells are outside of the Eldritch Knight’s school limitationso you’ll have trouble actually learning them. If you want teleportation, the Eladrin, the Githyanki, and the Shadar-Kai are all easier choices.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Thematically a fighter with the Mark of Sentinel makes a ton of sense, and everything about the racial traits works. The skills are Wisdom-based, which is hard for the Eldritch Knight but otherwise fantastic. Vigilant Guardian shares some function with Fighting Style (Protection). The dragonmark spells include some great options from the Cleric and the Paladin’s spell lists, including Shield of Faith, Protection from Energy, and Death Ward, all of which are within the Eldritch Knight’s school limitations. There are some worthwhile options outside of the school limitations, but they may not be worth your limited number of unrestricted spells known.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Bad ability spread, and the spellcasting does very little to complement the Fighter’s capabilities. Hunter’s Mark looks really tempting with the Fighter’s crazy number of attacks, but I don’t think it’s worth your subrace to cast Hunter’s Mark once per day since you benefit so little from everything else here.
  • Mark of Making: The flexible ability increase can go into your choice of Strength or Dexterity, and you’re off to a great start as an Eldritch Knight. The ability to cast Magic Weapon without Concentration is a significant benefit at low levels, providing a reliable numeric boost over other fighters. The dragonmark spells offer some excellent new spell options, and there is no character in the game better suited to benefit from Elemental Weapon than a fighter with up to four attacks per Action.
  • Mark of Passage: If you miss the 4e Warblade class, famous for teleporting around in combat while using weapons to attack, Mark of Passage may scratch that itch. Grab a rapier to take advantage of the Dexterity increase, take the Eldritch Knight subclass for the spellcasting, and get really comfortable using Misty Step rather than walking around in combat like a peasant.
  • Mark of Sentinel: I really wish that the ability score increases worked for the Fighter, because Mark of Sentinel’s traits and spells all make perfect sense for the Fighter. If you can survive without a Strength or Dexterity increase you may really enjoy Mark of Sentinel, but mathematically you’ll suffer any time you try to use a weapon.

Races of Ravnica


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and Fey creature type. Grab the Mobile feat and you’re ready to do some hit-and run attacks. Charge requires that you hit with a melee weapon attack to use Hooves as a Bonus Action, but with the Fighter’s number of attacks that shouldn’t be a problem. A great high-damage Striker option, though if you’re standing still and tanking you’re not benefiting from what makes the Centaur special.

Default Rules: Not quite as powerful as the Minotaur, the Centaur’s bonus skills and non-humanoid creature type help to make up the difference defensively.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.


Customized Origin: The natural armor is useless for the Fighter, and while Loxodon Serenity is great for the Fighter, numerous other races get that same defense. The Loxodon’s other racial traits are mostly novelties, and none of them are especially useful for the Fighter.

Default Rules: Very little that directly helps the Fighter.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Hammering Horns is the most important part of Shield Master, and Goring Rush is the most important part of Charger. A great choice for a Strength-based melee build.

Default Rules: An absolutely perfect melee fighter, the Minotaur’s racial traits replicate the important parts of both the Charger feat and the Shield Master fields.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and Versatile. Animal Enhancement can benefit the Fighter in much the same way that a feat does.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, one tool. Vedalken Dispassion is the most interesting part of the Vedalken’s traits for the Fighter. It’s a powerful defense against mental effects which can easily take the Fighter out due to their poor mental saves.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roat provides a great crowd control effect, and since the DC is Constitution-based it should be reasonably reliable.

Default Rules: Great for a Strength-based build, and the roar helps handle crowds much like the Dragonborn’s breath weapon.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the Ravnica Races section.


Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Fey creature type. Magic Resistance and the Fey creature type will protect you from problematic spells, especially options like Hold Person which may be difficult even with Magic Resistance. Mirthful Leaps may let you jump over small natural hazards like difficult terrain. If you just want durability I would consider the Yuan-Ti Pureblood first, but the Satyr’s additional skills offer some utility outside of combat which is very appealing on a class which is already so combat-focused.

Default Rules: A great option for a Purple Dragon Knight, but any Dexterity-based build works well with the Satyr. Magic Resistance and not being humanoid are powerful defenses for a class which is normally very weak to magic.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.


Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn’s ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Forceful Presence is neat and could work for the Purple Dragon knight, but even then it’s not fantastic.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Vengeful Assault is a great option on any martial character.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Better ability scores for most fighters than the standard Dragonborn, and you can survive without the Dragonborn’s damage resistance. Ravenite adds Darkvision, a Constitution increase, and Vengeful Assault which offers an occasional boost to your damage output.


Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The skill bonuses are neat but it may be hard for the Fighter to use both. The innate spellcasting is rough. Sleep is obsolete the moment you can cast it, and invisibility is available from numerous other races with better innate spellcasting.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The same ability increases as the Wood Elf, but arguably better traits for the Fighter. The skill bonuses will help you contribute outside of combat, and while the innate spellcasting isn’t great, casting Invisibility once per day is much more broadly useful than Mask of the Wild.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.


Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Rearranging the ability score increases doesn’t salvage the Lotusden Halfling. In fact, it will more likely make the innate spellcasting worse since you’ll likely move the ability increase away from Wisdom.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Nothing specificlaly useful to the Fighter. The innate spellcasting is neat, but it’s all Wisdom-based so your spell save DC will be terrible.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under “Races of Eberron”. Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.


  • Acrobatics (Dex): Nothing the Fighter does makes use of Acrobatics.
  • Animal Handling (Wis): Not really helpful for the function of the Fighter.
  • Athletics (Str): The only Strength-based skill, Athletics is more than climbing and swimming. You use Athletics for grappling and for pushing enemies, both of which can be excellent options for Fighters.
  • History (Int): History can provide a lot of useful background information. This is especially viable for Eldritch Knights.
  • Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but few Fighters have the Wisdom to back it up.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Very few Fighters will be good with Charisma, but a Purple Dragon Knight with the right skills and background can make a perfectly viable Face.
  • Perception (Wis): One of the most important skills in the game. At least two people in the party should have it, but more is always better.
  • Survival (Wis): Adventuring tends to involve a lot of wandering around in untamed wilderness, so Survival can be very helpful to your party.


This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Fighters don’t really need a lot of skills, so pick up whatever fits your concept. Eldritch Knights have the Intelligenc to back up knowledge skills, and Purple Dragon Knights have the Charisma to be a Face.

If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • AcolytePHB: Access to Religion can be useful for Eldritch Knights in a party with few Knowledge skills, but Insight isn’t fantastic, and you probably can’t make use of extra languages.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics is great, but you won’t get much use from Insight or the ability to speak two languages with your garbage Charisma.
  • Cloistered ScholarSCAG: An Eldritch Knight can make good use of the knowledge skills.
  • CourtierSCAG: A Purple Dragon Knight can make good use of Perception, but Insight is hard.
  • CriminalPHB: A Fighter with decent Dexterity can make use of Stealth, and with a bit of Charisma and Deception you’re well on your way to being an effective Face. Thieves’ tools let you handle traps and locked doors as well as any Rogue. A Half-Elf’s bonus skill proficiencies or the Skilled feat will help to pick up whatever other Face or Rogue skills you might need.
  • Folk HeroPHB: Two skills off of the Fighter list, but neither are fantastic. Proficiency with a set of Artisan’s Tools won’t have a significant effect on the game.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Helpful if you plan to play a Face, but Criminal is more useful.
  • HermitPHB: A bit of Wisdom can make Medicine worthwhile, and an Eldritch Knight with some Intelligence makes Religion useful. An herbalism kit is helpful for making potions of healing and for handling interesting herbs.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Athletics is good, but very few Fighters can make decent use of Persuasion.
  • NoblePHB: Perception helps if you plan to play a Face, but Criminal gets you access to more things which aren’t normally available to Fighters.
  • OutlanderPHB: Two good skills from the Fighter skill list, but the instrument isn’t particularly helpful.
  • SagePHB: Arcana and History are both great for Eldritch Knights, but you can already get History from the Fighter skill list.
  • SailorPHB: Great for aquatic campaigns. Two good skills from the Fighter list, and boats!
  • SoldierPHB: Somewhere between the Folk Hero and the Outlander. Two good skills from the Fighter skill list, and some fun tool proficiencies.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Basically two skill choices from the Rogue class skills, plus some tool proficiencies, including the ever-important Thieve’s Tools. A finesse-based Fighter might be able to make good use of this.
  • UrchinPHB: Comparable to the Criminal, but more focus on Dexterity skills, and less on Charisma skills, so this works well for Dexterity-based Fighters who don’t want to be a Face.
  • Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: Athletics is good, but you may have trouble getting any use out of the rest.


This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • Artificer InitiateTCoE: Magic initiate is typically a better choice for the Fighter because using a tool as a focus doesn’t get you anything, and you get one less cantrip. However, the Artificer’s unique spell list offers some interesting options. The Eldritch Knight may enjoy Thorn Whip and Healing Word, neither of which are available to the Wizard and therefore aren’t available to the Eldritch Knight.
  • ChargerPHB: Great for closing to melee, but situational. If you can’t get into melee range with your movement it may be better to use your action to throw some javelins. If you really want this, consider the Orc race to save yourself the feat.
  • ChefTCoE: It’s easy to add this to your build once your Strength or Dexterity hits 20, and if you don’t rely heavily on your Bonus Action this can be a huge improvement to your durability, potentially more impactful than the Tough feat. Two-handed weapon users can take a hand off of their weapon to eat a treat for temporary hit points, but if you’re using two weapons or a weapon and a shield, you may have trouble finding a free hand in combat.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: All the action economy of TWF with the range of Archery, and you can do it in melee combat if necessary. Consider combining this with Sharpshooter.
  • CrusherTCoE: I would consider this on a Champion or the Eldritch Knight. The Champion’s increased likelihood of scoring a critical hit improves your odds of trigger the Advantage benefit from Crusher, which then improves your odds of scoring additional critical hits. The Eldritch Knight can combine the knockback effect with Booming Blade to push enemies too far away to reach you without taking the additional damage from Booming Blade. However, in many builds it will still be easier to Shove enemies prone if you need Advantage.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Fantastic for finesse fighters, but the Battle Masters should use the Parry maneuver instead.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Moving from light weapons to one-handed weapons offers additional weapon options, but the extra damage is negligible, and drawing weapons is rarely a problem unless you’re really surprised. However, the AC bonus is helpful, and when combined with the Defensive fighting style you can match the AC of a shield while still fighting with two weapons.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: With a bit of Intelligence and Wisdom you can be perfectly good at both Investigation and Wisdom. If your campaign involves a lot of dungeons, this might be helpful.
  • DurablePHB: Fighters are typically the party’s front line, which means you’re going to be taking the bulk of the damage pointed at your party. Magical healing goes a long way, but since 5e’s healing comes mostly from hit dice, Durable can go a long way to keep you going throughout the day without eating all of your party’s spell slots.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Even Eldritch Knights can’t justify this. Booming Blade will be your go-to cantrip option, and Elemental Adept doesn’t apply. Most of your spells should avoid using spell attacks or saving throws, so you won’t be using leveled spells enough to make this a meaningful addition.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: Misty step is a great spell that any melee fighter will enjoy, but few fighters can produce unless you get it from your race (Eladring, Shadar-Kai, etc.). The 1st-level spell is hard to pick, but Hex is a good go-to option for the Fighter. You get more attacks than anyone else (with the possible exception of the Monk), you’re proficient in Constitution saves so Concentration is reasonably safe, and with a 1-hour duration you can get a lot done on one spell slot. The Eldritch Knight can cast these spells again using spell slots, but even without spell slots this is still a tempting option.

    On top of those benefits, you also get a +1 increase to a mental ability score. Most fighters should choose Wisdom, but the Eldritch Knight should choose Intelligence. For Variant Humans, that means that you can get three +1 increases at first level, which may be appealing.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: Another Fighting Style without multiclassing or taking Champion. This can support some really interest combinations and character concepts, but if you’re just going for Defense+Dueling you can almost certainly find something more exciting to do with a feat.
  • GunnerTCoE: With the Fighter’s high number of attacks, upgrading from a longbow to a musket can be a meaningful boost to damage output. Fighting Style (Archery) still applies, and without an on-hit damage boost like Hex or Hunter’s Mark, the Bonus Action attack from Crossbow Expert is less crucial for the Fighter than for other ranged martial characters. If we consider a fighter with three 3 attacks and 20 Dexterity, three attacks at 1d12+5 averages to 34.5 compared to four attacks with a hand crossbow which averages to 34. Add on things like Haste and Action Surge, and the musket pulls further ahead, but add on numeric bonuses from a +X weapon and the crosssbow pulls ahead.

    To summarize: Gunner is very slightly better than Crossbow Expert once you get three attacks starting at level 11, but there is some nuance so the two are roughly comparable.

  • GrapplerPHB: Just a terrible feat in general. You don’t need it to grapple successfully.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Excellent for any Fighter using a two-handed weapon. Combining this with Polearm Master is a popular and effective combination because you can still take the -5 attack penalty to get extra damage with the Bonus Action attack, but even if you don’t go that route this provides a good boost to your damage output.
  • Heavy Armor MasterPHB: Excellent for melee fighters, especially if you don’t want to use a shield, because you can offset your reduced AC by reducing the damage you take from weapon attacks.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: This is generally better for more charismatic characters like Bards or Paladins, but temporary hit points are great for Fighters. Purple Dragon Knights might consider this.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Only useful in games which feature an abnormally large number of spellcasters.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Potentially helpful for an Eldritch Knight who is already built for spellcasting, but you probably already get enough spell options to consume your limited number of spell slots, and there are only so many cantrips that the Eldritch Knight can use effectively.

    For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Martial AdeptPHB: A Battle Master Fighter is limited by their number of superiority dice and their number of known maneuvers, and this expands both. If you take this and still want more, take Fighting Initiate (Superior Technique) for another maneuver and another die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: If you’re going for a high Dexterity build, you should be in light armor. This nets +1 AC, which is nowhere near enough for a feat.
  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: Powerful, but the Eldritch Knight doesn’t get enough spellcasting to make this an easy choice. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
  • MobilePHB: Fighters generally don’t rely on hit-and-run tactics. If you’re built for melee, stay in melee and get some killing done. The one possible exception is the Eldritch Knight, who can make effective use of Booming Blade to lock enemies in place before stepping out of reach. Your first insinct might be to try using areach weapon, but Booming Blade requires that the target of your attack be within 5 feet.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: Fighting while mounted can be a great option for Fighters, and you have plenty of hit points and AC to absorb any attacks which might target your mount. If you go this route, I recommend reading my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat.
  • ObservantPHB: Excellent if you’re the only one in the party with Perception and Investigation, and it works very well with Dungeon Delver.
  • PiercerTCoE: The damage reroll mechanic combines well with Fighting Style (Great Weapon Fighting) for melee builds, allowing you multiple opportunities to reroll your damage dice. Even so, the critical hit effect is more impactful. You could combine this with Polearm Master, but given the choice I would rather do Polearm Master+Sentinel. The best way I can think to use this is for critical hit fishing with a war pick or a pike. Go for Half-Orc Fighter (Champion) 3 or 4, then consider straight Barbarian after that for Reckless Attack and Brutal Critical. Fish for critical hits and roll a big pile of d8’s or d10’s (depending on your choice of weapon).

    For ranged builds, the damage reroll and additional damage both improve in effectiveness as your damage die gets larger. For Crossbow Expert builds, you’re using a hand crossbow with a tiny damage die, so your best use case here is with a longbow or to combine Piercer with Gunner and use muskets to get a d12 damage die at range.

  • Polearm MasterPHB: Absolutely fantastic for Defenders. More ways to get opportunity attacks actively discourages enemies from charging past you to reach your allies. Combined with Sentinel you can easily trap enemies within your reach. Even if you don’t want to use a polearm with reach, a quarterstaff or spear (spear was added in errata in 2018) with a shield works great.
  • ResilientPHB: More saves never hurt. Fighters tend to get hit with lots of Dexterity save stuff (fireballs, breath weapons, etc.) and passing those saves more easily can help stretch your hit points quite a bit, but if that’s your concern you may find Shield Master more effective.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: A tempting way for Eldritch Knights to improve their utility options if your party lacks full spellcasters, but ideally a full spellcaster should cover your party’s spellcasting needs so that you can focus on keeping them alive.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: Absolutely essential for Defenders.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: Invisibility is tempting for a class which is frequently terrible at stealth, but it’s difficult to find a 1st-level spell which works for the Fighter within the narrow schoool limitations. Maybe False Life or Silent Image? I would only consider on the Eldritch Knight, but it wouldn’t be a go-to choice.

    For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • SharpshooterPHB: Fantastic for ranged builds. The Archery style provides a +2 to attacks, which helps to offset the -5 attack penalty, allowing you incredible damage output while still being reasonably accurate with your attacks. Consider combining this with Crossbow Expert.
  • Shield MasterPHB: The best part of this is probably the ability to shove enemies (possibly shoving them prone) as a Bonus Action. If you don’t have other ways to use your Bonus Action, this can be a great option for sword-and-board builds.
  • Skill ExpertTCoE: +1 Strength and Expertise in Athletics makes Grappling and Shoving an easy and reliable tactic, allowing you to quicky hamper enemies and keep them on the ground for easy Advantage, and with your high number of attacks it’s easy to do so. If you add Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), you can easily grapple numerous enemies and get easy damage every round.
  • SkilledPHB: High-Dexterity builds and Eldritch Knights have good abilities to support a lot of important skills, so this can be a great way to pick up proficiencies which will be very helpful for your party.
  • SkulkerPHB: Leave this for Rogues.
  • SlasherTCoE: The speed reduction is a great way to keep enemies from escaping you. The critical hit benefit is great, too, but you can’t count on critical hits (even if you’re a Champion) so you need to consider the ability increase and the speed reduction as the core of the feat. Like Sentinel, this is a great way to address the “Tank Falacy” because it makes it so much more difficult for enemies to simply ignore you and walk past you to attack your allies.
  • Spell SniperPHB: This can be a good way for Eldritch Knights to expand their cantrip options, and it’s particularly helpful if you prefer fighting at range, but you already get wizard cantrips and there aren’t any other Intelligence-based options under Spell Sniper.

    Once you get War Magic, you can use a cantrip at exceptionally long range then follow it with an attack from a bow or crossbow. Unfortunately, spell attacks rely on Intelligence so if you go this route you’ll need to invest in Intelligence much more than most eldritch knights.

    For more advice on Spell Sniper, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: Helpful if you go for Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), but otherwise skip it.
  • ToughPHB: Boosting your Constitution by 2 is a fine way to get more hit points, but if you’re not worried about Constitution saves, this has a better return. Keep in mind that this won’t improve the amount you heal from Hit Dice, so combining this with Durable may be helpful if you find that your Hit Dice aren’t healing you enough.
  • War CasterPHB: Absolutely essential for melee Eldritch Knights. Using Booming Blade in place of an Opportunity Attack is a truly stellar tactical option. Also, with both proficiency in Constitution saves and Advantage on Constitution saves to maintain Concentration you can comfortably maintain Concentration spells with little risk.


There are few wrong choices for Fighters. Every build has at least one good option, and most have several.

  • Crossbow, Heavy: If you have Crossbow Expert, a Hand Crossbow will be better. If you don’t, a bow will be better. For the brief window of levels 1 through 5 where you can’t make more than one attack on most turns, the Heavy Crossbow does slightly more damage than a bow, but if you use Action Surge once it will easily make up the damage gap you can expect to accrue in the course of a typical day.
  • Crossbow, Hand: Ranged. Use a bow until you get Crossbow Expert. Fighters don’t have a ton of options which use their bonus action, so Crossbow Expert is a great choice, and even on turns where you use your bonus action the damage gap between a hand crossbow and a longbow is miniscule.
  • Glaive / Pike: Two-handed reach. Combines will with Polearm Master and Sentinel.
  • Greataxe: Only for half-orc champions.
  • Greatsword / Maul: Two-handed non-defenders.
  • Handaxe: High Strength TWF.
  • Longsword / War Pick / Warhammer: High Strength single weapon.
  • Longbow / Shortbow: Archery until you pick up Crossbow Expert. Small characters will need to use a shortbow because longbows have the Heavy property.
  • Quarterstaff / Spear: One-handed Polearm Master.
  • Rapier: High Dexterity single weapon.
  • Shortsword: High Dexterity TWF.
  • Whip: High Dexterity single weapon. Less damage than the rapier, but you get Reach. Tempting if you get Sentinel but don’t also want Polearm Master.


  • Chain Mail: Free starting armor for heavy armor users. Works fine until you can afford Full Plate.
  • Leather: Free starting armor for light armor users. Upgrade as soon as you can afford it.
  • Half Plate: Half-Plate will be your best AC for Dexterity-based builds until you hit 20 Dexterity. However, Disadvantage on Stealth might be a problem for you, so if you’re trying to be sneaky you’ll want Studded Leather instead.
  • Studded Leather: High Dexterity builds will want to upgrade to Studded Leather eventually, but it won’t match the AC of Half Plate until you hit 20 Dexterity.
  • Full Plate: The obvious end goal for heavy armor users.


This section briefly details so obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Artificer: A potential option for the Eldritch Knight, but generally not as effective as the Wizard. Artificers still get some spellcasting and some ritual casting, they notably get options like Cure Wounds, and they round up when calculating spell slots for multiclass character so you can work the math in your favor more than you can with other classes. Unfortunately, the armor proficiencies are redundant with the what the fighter gets and the infused items depend heavily on levels in Artificer, so you get very little from a class dip compared to the wizard.
  • Barbarian: Rage is tempting, but without investing a huge number of levels you can’t expect more than 2 or 3 rages per day. Unarmored Defense is hard to use without investing in a ton of Constitution. Reckless Attack and Danger Sense are both nice, but hardly essential. Primal Path is fantastic, but at level 3 you still only have 3 rages per day, so you won’t get as much use as you might from your Fighter abilities.
  • Ranger: Two levels gets you an extra Fighting Style and a tiny bit of spellcasting. Three gets you a subclass, but very few of the Ranger’s subclass options lend themselves to a dip like this. Hunter and Gloom Stalker may be your best bet. If you go for Hunter, I would pick Horde Breaker and go for a two-handed weapon build, and consider taking a 4th level for the Ability Score Increase. But that’s a lot of fighter levels to give up, and I’m not certain that it’s worth the effort to do so.
  • Rogue: A dip into Rogue for Expertise in Athletics will go a long way if you plan to use Shove or Grapple, but if that’s all that you want you can take the Skill Expert feat. Cunning Action is also helpful if you like hit-and-run tactics.
  • Warlock: For the Purple Dragon Knight, a dip into Hexblade Warlock offers a great way to focus heavily on Charisma. The leveled spells won’t do much because you’ll get so few spell slots and your spell level likely won’t go past 1st-level, but Eldritch Blast remains a solid ranged option, Hex can trivialize grapples and make it easier to Shove enemies prone, and Hex Warrior allows you to fight using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity. A second level gets you another spell slot and an Invocation like Devil’s Sight, but that may not be worth giving up a second fighter level.
  • Wizard: For an eldritch knight, a level or two in wizard has a lot to offer. First level gets you additional spellcasting and ritual casting, and 2 levels gets you a subclass. Many of the wizard subclasses offer excellent initial features. Some notable examples include Bladesinging for Bladesong, School of Divination for Portent, and War Magic for Arcane Deflection and Tactical Wit.

Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: This solves two problems for the martial characters. First, the sword glows almost as brightly as a torch, allowing you to see in dark places without devoting a hand to a torch and without asking your allies to cast light or something. Second, and more important, it allows you to overcome damage resistance to non-magic attacks. Resistances like this are common as you gain levels, and the Moon-Touched Sword is an inexpensive way to overcome them until a better weapon comes along.
  • Ruby of the War MageXGtE: Tempting for the Eldritch Knight. This reduces the issue of juggling your weapon and a spellcasting focus, making it easier to manage sword-and-board configurations. Unfortunately, you still need a free hand to cast spells which requires a Somatic component but don’t require a material component, so if you’re fighting sword-and-board you’re still unable to cast spells like Shield, Absorb Elements, and most cantrips.
  • Staff of Adornment/Birdcalls/FlowersXGtE: Works as a quarterstaff, and it can overcome damage resistances to non-magical attacks. The actual magic stuff is amusing, but probably not important. Most melee fighters will prefer a Moon-Touched Sword, but for polearm masters this is your best bet at this rarity.
  • Unbreakable ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but it’s only one arrow so you really want to get a magic bow. Since the arrow can’t be broken, it’s weirdly useful for wedging doors and windows closed or open.
  • Walloping ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but the DC of 10 won’t be reliable and knocking foes prone makes it hard to hit them with ranged attacks which may hamper you and your allies.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Adamantine ArmorDMG: Curiously, due to the insanely high price of full plate and the inconsistent price of magic items, adamantine full plate can often be less expensive than regular full plate. Based on the expected gold awarded per level, most characters can’t afford full plate until around level 5 without borrowing from their party, while Uncommon magic items may be available several levels earlier. This mechanical oddity is a popular trick in Adventurer’s League.
  • Ammunition, +1DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Boomerang, +1DMG: Helpful for thrown weapon builds or for Strength-based builds that need an occasional ranged option, but if you hit you’re still out a weapon so it doesn’t perfectly address your need for magic weapons to overcome damage resistances.
  • Bracers of ArcheryDMG: An easy choice for archer builds. Unfortunately, they don’t work with crossbows so Crossbow Expert builds won’t benefit. The damage bonus may be enough to make Crossbow Expert unnecessary, especially once you have numerous attacks.
  • Broom of FlyingDMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
  • Efficient Quiver / Quiver of ElhonnaDMG: Most games don’t bother tracking ammunition. It’s not worth the effort. If your game does so, this may be helpful.
  • Eldritch Claw TattooTCoE: If you took Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), this is one of very few ways for you to make your attacks magical.
  • Eyes of the EagleDMG: Perception is the most frequently rolled skill in the game, and while the Fighter isn’t fantastic with skills Perception is still one of your better skill options. Pass this off to someone with a better bonus if you can, but you may still find this helpful if that’s not an option. If you use a shield, look at a Sentinel Shield instead.
  • Gauntlets of Ogre powerDMG: Maybe helpful for Dexterity-based builds. If you dumped Strength to 8, going straight to 19 can be helpful. But at that point you’re mostly using it for saves and for Athletics checks.
  • Gloves of Missile SnaringDMG: Similar to the Monk’s Deflect Missiles feature, this is an interesting defensive option for melee characters. However, ranged missile attacks are relatively rare since so many monsters can’t fight at range and many ranged enemies will be spellcasters, so this is situational by nature.
  • Goggles of NightDMG: Crucial for races which don’t get Darkvision, especially if your party can’t cast the Darkvision spell for you.
  • Headband of IntellectDMG: Absolutely spectacular for Eldritch Knights. You may not be able to raise your Intelligence past 14 without sacrificing elsewhere, so skipping straight to 19 is a huge benefit.
  • Lantern of RevealingDMG: An excellent counter to invisibile enemies for a class without a built-in way to handle them.
  • Mithral ArmorDMG: Negate the Disadvantage on stealth checks imposed by half plate. Just as effective as +1 Breastplate, and it’s one rarity lower.
  • Periapt of Wound ClosureDMG: Excellent if your party has few magical healing resources.
  • Saddle of the CavalierDMG: If you’re going for mounted combat, take the Mounted Combatant feat. if you took Mounted Combatant, this item is mostly useless.
  • Sentinel ShieldDMG: Going first isn’t critical for the Fighter, but Advantage on Perception and and Initiative is still really good. Make sure you take proficiency in Perception.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach, making this an excellent option for ranged builds.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: Fighters are all about weapon attacks, so a numeric bonus to attack and damage is hard to beat. As you gain levels weapons more interesting than a +X bonus to attack/damage may be more interesting and more effective, but at the Uncommon rarity nothing can compete with a +1 Weapon for your offensive needs.
  • Winged BootsDMG: In heavy armor, winged boots are a safer choice than a Broom of Flying because they don’t have a weight cap. Lightly-armored fighters might still prefer a Broom of Flying.

Rare Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +2DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Amulet of HealthDMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Arrow-Catching ShieldDMG: If you’re considering Fighting Style (Defense) or Fighting Style (Interception), this can do half the job and arguably does it better. Note that despite the name, this wo
  • Belt of DwarvenkindDMG: For non-dwarves, Darkvision and resistance to poison is extremely useful since most fights don’t get a way to provide them on your own. The increased Constitution is nice, too, especially if you’re planning to sit at 18 Constitution for a long time in order to focus on feats.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Hill)DMG: The fact that this item exists makes putting ability score increases into Strength feel a bit silly. Imagine rushing to get to 20 Strength then finding an item that raises your Strength to 21 (more with higher rarities). Still, if you can get one you absolutely should.
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
  • Figurine of Wondrous Power (Rare)DMG: Fighters are the best characters for a mounted combat build, except for the frustrating problem that they have no built-in access to a suitable mount. A warhorse is a fine mount, but with just 19 hit points a warhorse is extremely frail beyond low levels. Even if your DM gives you a better mount like a Griffon or a Hippogriff, those creatures are only slightly more durable and their deaths can derail not only your build, but often the plot of the game while your characters runs off to find a replacement. The Figure of Wondrous Power presents a convenient solution to that problem, offering you a way to conjure up a powerful mount for a few hours. If it dies, it just turns back into the figure (which it was going to do anyway) and after a few days it’s ready for more adventures. This admittedly trades the issue of permanent death for a cooldown period which can often be frustratingly long, but compare a multi-day cooldown to the time it takes to raise and train a griffon from an egg.
    • Bronze Griffon: Good fly speed and it’s more durable than a warhorse.
    • Ebony Fly: Basically a flying riding horse with Darkvision. It’s not nearly as durably or as fast as a griffon, but the figure stays active for twice as long and with a cooldown of just 2 days you can use it more frequently than most figurines.
    • Golden Lions: You probably don’t want to ride these, but they’re decent combat summons thanks to Pack Tactics.
    • Ivory Goats: Three mounts in one! There’s some complexity here, and you need to track each goat separately, which is annoying but absolutely worth the effort considering how good the Ivory Goats are as a set.
      • Goat of Traveling: Your go-to mount most of the time. The 24 charges can be easily broken up, so you can easily activate, deactivate, and reactivate the figuring whenever you need it. This allows you to easily recover if your goat dies (which it will with 10 AC and 13 hit points), so you always have a mount ready. However, you need to remember to manage the charges because they don’t start recharging until you expend all 24, and with a 1-week cooldown you don’t want to be caught with too few charges to get through a day. Expect to
      • Goat of Travail: Basically your backup goat when the other two are recharging or if you’re saving them for some reason. The stats are bad, and the cooldown is horrifyingly long.
      • Goat of Terror: When it’s time to throw down, it’s time for the Goat of Terror. Summon the goat ahead of time and pull off its horns so that you’re not spending an Action in combat to change weapons. The fear aura is great crowd control, and the horn weapons are exactly what a mounted combat build needs unless you already have better magic weapons.
    • Marble Elephant: CR 4, a mountain of hit points, and attacks good enough to make many player characters jealous. The 24-hour duration means that you can very easily activate the figure, spend a day adventuring, then keep the elephant around for a long rest and get a second day of adventuring before it reverts to a figurine. However, the elephant can’t fly, so in many ways it’s just a bigger, better warhorse. If course, the Mounted Combatant feat makes having a really big mount a great idea, so maybe that’s all you need.
    • Onyx Dog: The Mastiff is the go-to mount option for small riders, but with just 5 hit points it’s incredibly frail. The Onyx Dog’s big appeal is that it adds Darkvision and can see invisible creatures, but if invisible foes are a problem you should consider a Lantern of Revealing instead.
    • Serpentine Owl: The 8-hour duration and 2-day cooldown mean that the owl is frequently available and lasts for a full adventuring day, and with 60 ft. fly speed and flyby it’s excellent for charging in and out of melee. However, the Giant Owl is actually less durable than a warhorse so you really need to work to protect your owl.
  • FlametongueDMG: Mathematically the +2 bonus to attack rolls from a +2 weapon will be a more consistent improvement to your damage output, but the Flametongue is way more fun. The 2d6 damage is multiplied on critical hits, so champions may find that when combined with Improved Critical the Flametongue is extremely effective when used in conjunction with other tactics that help fish for critical hits like Shoving enemies prone to get Advantage.
  • Mace of SmitingDMG: Basically a +1 mace with some bonus damage on a critical hit. I might take this one a champion fighter, but I wouldn’t consider it for any other character.
  • Mantle of Spell ResistanceDMG: Many martial characters struggle when targeted by spells, and the Fighter is no exception. A Cloak of Protection is probably easier to find and provides more general defense, but Mantle of Spell Resistance focuses on protecting you from your biggest weakness.
  • Periapt of Proof Against PoisonDMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you’re not built around Dexterity.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield and recharge it whenever possible, and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Shield, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Sword of Life StealingDMG: Tempting because the Fighter makes so many attacks, but a +2 weapon will yield considerably more damage output, and defeating enemies faster will be more impactful than the temporary hit points.
  • Sword of WoundingDMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. It’s only 1d4 and only once per turn, but it stacks with itself and “once per turn” means that if you can attack again outside of your own turn (Opportunity Attacks, etc.) you can get additional dice very quickly.
  • Vicious WeaponDMG: Mathematically this is worse than a +2 weapon in every way. If you really like the natural 20 effect for some reason, go for a Sword of Life Stealing.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Absorbing TattooTCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
  • Ammunition, +3DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. If you plan to get full plate, get Dwarven Plate instead.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Frost, Stone, Fire)DMG: Much like a +X weapon, it’s hard to beat the math here. For a Strength-based character, raising your Strength above 20 is a massive benefit, and going up as high as 25 is spectacular. Add a +X weapon on top of that, and you hit so reliably that you almost can’t miss with your attacks.
  • Dancing SwordDMG: A great way to spend you Bonus Action if you don’t have many uses for it, but the sword only uses your attack and damage modifiers, so it can’t benefit from feats, class features, etc.
  • Dwarven PlateDMG: Basically just +2 full plate but it can reduce forced movement a little bit.
  • Dwarven ThrowerDMG: The pinnacle of thrown weapons, the Dwarven Thrower is an impressive weapon for several reasons, but it’s most noteworthy ability is that you can attack by throwing it and it immediately returns, never leaving you without a weapon in hand and saving you the trouble of carrying a stack of javelins or something.
  • Figurine of Wondrous Power (Rare)DMG: Only one option at this level.
    • Silver Steed: A Nightmare is a great mount. It flies, it’s reasonably durable, and it gives you resistance to fire. If you’re good-aligned it may occasionally decide to ignore your orders, but it’s still friendly to you and your allies so it (probably) won’t just run off and abandon you unless you try to ride it. However, the 5-day cooldown can be difficult. Fortunately, the 24-hour duration is long enough for a full day of adventuring, a long rest, and another day of adventuring.
  • Frost BrandDMG: Less damage than the Flame Tongue, but higher rarity and it requires attunement. Yes, you get resistance to fore damage, but you can get that from dozens of other sources by this level.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
  • Manual of Gainful ExerciseDMG: Unless you are struggling with the cap on attuned items, a Belt of Giant Strength is a better choice.
  • Manual of Quickness of ActionDMG: Permanent Dexterity bonus and raises your cap by 2. Excellent for Dexterity-based builds since Dexterity doesn’t have an equivalent to the Belt of Giant Strength.
  • OathbowDMG: So cool, but so weak. Unless you’re attacking your sworn enemy, it’s just a magic bow with no benefit other than being chatty. Imagine using Action Surge and Haste and making 9 attacks in one turn and having the bow struggle to whisper “Swift defeat to my enemies” 9 times in six seconds.
  • Ring of RegenerationDMG: Short Rests exist for a reason. If you want this, consider a Periapt of Wound Closure instead.
  • Scimitar of SpeedDMG: Among the best weapons to use with the Dueling style, you get two-weapon fighting action economy on a single weapon.
  • Shield, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Spellguard ShieldDMG: A minor upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Spellguard Shield protects you not just from spells, but from all magical effects.
  • Staff of StrikingDMG: The charge effect isn’t good enough to make this worth Attunement compared to a +3 quarterstaff.
  • Sword of SharpnessDMG: Basically a Vicious Weapon with a damage boost. The limb removal is neat, but only occurs on average once every 400 attacks (more often with Advantage, but still not often enough to make this good). A +3 weapon is massively more reliable and effective.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor of InvulnerabilityDMG: Resistance (immunity sometimes) to non-magical damage may protect you from most weapon attacks. At high enough level that you might have this item there will definitely be enemies with access to magic attacks (spellcasters, magic weapons, natural weapons which count as magical, etc.), but in many encounters this will still provide a great deal of protection.
  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math if good.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Cloud, Storm)DMG: As good as a +4 weapon for Strength-based character, and that doesn’t even consider Athletics checks or saves.
  • Blood Fury TattooTCoE: The first ability provides a great damage boost which also heals you, and since it’s “extra damage” the damage is multiplied on a critical hit. The second ability provides a way to counterattack using your Reaction, and with Advantage on that attack it’s an easy and reliable boost to your damage output.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
  • DefenderDMG: Given the choice, I would trade this for a +2 weapon and a +2 shield and consider that a very good trade.
  • Efreeti ChainDMG: Even at high levels fire damage is a frequent problem, so immunity is really nice, but the AC simply isn’t good enough.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). Green if it can’t cast Wish.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.

    For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.

  • Rod of Lordly MightDMG: Allows you to easily change your weapon damage type, and provides three powerful offensive abilities which work in a variety of situations. Unfortunately all of the weapon types (with the exception of the Flametongue) aren’t appealing to Dexterity-based builds.
  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
  • Vorpal SwordDMG: Mostly useful as a +3 weapon, but if anyone is going to get a natural 20 with an attack it’s going to be the Fighter since they get four attacks. Get Advantage if you can since it doubles your likelihood of rolling a 20.

Example Build – Half-Orc Fighter (Champion)

Ghry Manqula the Half-Orc Champion

Well-kept chainmail drapes the half-orc’s broad frame, fitted and snug against their impressive physique. They stand tall and straight-backed, carrying themselves with the rigid posture and stoic countenance of a lifelong soldier. At their hip hangs a steel longsword, broader and heavier than is typical of the weapon, yet its wielder moves with a sure and practiced grace. The half-orc keeps their steel kite shield at the ready as well, strapped loosely across their back.

— Boxed text provided by dScryb(affiliate link)

This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

This is a very simple build. Champion Fighters have very few decision points, and almost all of their abilities are numerical increases of some kind. If you’re looking for a mechanically interesting build, this is not it. If you want something easy to play and you just want to swing a sword, this is a good option.

The most important decision point for the Champion Fighter is Fighting Style. This build will look at two combinations: Dueling+Defense and Great Weapon Fighting+Defense. You might trade out GWF or Defense for Protection if you would like to place more emphasis on protecting your allies, but we’ll ignore that option for this build so I can more clearly emphasize the numeric differences between the two builds.

I’ve listed Damage Per Round (DPR) in the level entries below for each build, which presents us with an objective, numerical comparison between Dueling and GWF.


We will assume the point buy abilities for Strength-based melee suggested above, but we’ll switch Wisdom and Charisma so we can be better at Intimidation.



Half-Orc. Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks work really well for the fighter, and Savage Attacks combines well with Improved Critical and the Fighter’s high number of attacks. Strength and Constitution is a perfect spread for a simple melee fighter, which is exactly what we’re shooting for.

I also considered Dwarf for this build, but the Basic Rules and the SRD include the Hill Dwarf. The Hill Dwarf works fine as a fighter, but without the Mountain Dwarf’s Strength increase the Hill Dwarf feels like a step down in effectiveness offensively. Staple Builds are intended to serve as an effective base line and as a go-to simple build for new players, and starting without a +3 Strength modifier can feel like a significant handicap.

Skills and Tools

Half-orcs get Intimidation for free, so we’ll pick up Athletics and Perception. Athletics is used for grappling and shoving, both of which add useful options to the Champion, which is helpful when you’re otherwise a ball of numbers.


Soldier makes the most sense thematically, and since we get two redundant proficiencies you can pick any two skills you want. Since we’re starting with 12 Charisma, you might consider Deception and Persuasion to make yourself a passable Face.

There’s room for customization here. By switching around your mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma), you can set yourself up for success with different sets of skills. If you emphasize Intelligence, you could take the Sage archetype. If you emphasize Wisdom, you could take the Acolyte archetype.


Staple builds intentionally don’t use feats so that I can focus on simplicity and limit the build to the Basic Rules and the SRD. But the Fighter gets more Ability Score Increases than any other class, and only needs two good ability scores, so 7 Ability Score Increases leaves us with a ton of resources that we simply can’t use. If you’re willing to go beyond the confines of this build, feats are a really good idea. If you still want to keep things simple, look at simply feats like Durable, Resilient, and Tough.

It just occurred to me that those are all synonyms. No wonder I can never remember which is which without checking.


LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
  • Fighting Style (Dueling or Great Weapon Fighting)
  • Second Wind

For your starting equipment, take chain mail, a longsword and shield or a greataxe and a warhammer, two handaxes, and either “pack” option.

In chain mail you’ll have an AC of 16. You don’t have as many hit points as the Barbarian, so you’re not quite as durable. Fortunately, Second Wind gives you another 1d10+1 hit points every short rest, giving you nearly as many available hit points as another hit die. Neither of the builds we’re considering use two-weapon fighting, so your bonus action is rarely in use so Second Wind won’t cut into your damage output.

As explained above in my assessment of Fighting Style, Great Weapon Fighting is really bad. With GWF, using a Greataxe does just 1 more damage on an average turn than using a Longsword with Dueling. Without it your DPR with a greataxe drops by just 0.5, which even at 1st level is basically nothing.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 5.9)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 6.9)


Very little changes at this level. Action Surge only gets you one extra attack, but at this level an extra attack can make a big difference in a single turn.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 5.9)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 6.9)

  • Martial Archetype (Champion)
  • Improved Critical

Improved Critical adds a bit to our damage per round, but otherwise nothing changes at this level.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 6.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 7.7)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 17 -> 19)

We started with 17 Strength, so at 4th level you could either raise it to 19 or you can split your points.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+6 (DPR 7.2)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+4 (DPR 8.3)


Extra Attack doubles our DPR.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+6 (DPR 14.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+4 (DPR 16.6)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 19 -> 20, Constitution 16 -> 17)

More Strength puts us ahead of the Attack vs. AC curve, and the curve won’t catch up until 8th level, so for 2 levels you get to enjoy being 5% more accurate than anyone else.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 16.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 19.0)


Remarkable Athlete is neat, but the biggest things that you would want it for are covered by Athletics.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 16.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 19.0)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 17 -> 19)

Our DPR actually goes down at this level as the Attack vs. AC curve catches up to our attack bonus.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)


Indomitable is the closest that players get to Legendary Resistance.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)


More AC is always welcome. You’ve had plate armor for a long time now, and short of spells and magic items your AC has been largely fixed at 18 or 20.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)


Three attacks means that you now get more attacks than any other character in the game. That also means that your DPR goes up 50%.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 19 -> 20, Wisdom 9 -> 10)

Level 12 and you have 20 in two ability scores. Nice.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)


More uses of Indomitable means that you can tank more things and that you don’t need to leave your single use in reserve in case of a save-or-die scenario.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

At this point I would be seriously surprised if you haven’t given in to the temptation to use feats.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)


Superior critical nets a small increase in DPR.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

By this point you’ve probably run out of ideas for how to use an Ability Score Improvement.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

  • Action Surge (two uses)
  • Indomitable (three uses)

A second use of Action Surge comes online at the same time that spellcasters get their last cantrip damage boost.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)


Free, automatic healing. Unfortunately it doesn’t work while you’re at 0 hit points so you still need someone to hit you with Healing Word once in a while, but it’ll dramatically reduce how much you rely on Hit Dice or other sources of healing.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

Your final Ability Score Increase. You’ve now increased your base ability scores by a total of 14. If you’re looking at this before starting at 1st level, just imagine what you can do with all those points. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)


Your fourth attack makes you truly terrifying with a weapon. You have a 47.8% chance to score a critical hit at least once in a round, so you’re routinely enjoying Savage Attacks.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 33.0)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 38.4)


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