The DnD 5e Fighter Guide

Published on December 9, 2019, Last modified on October 4th, 2021

In this post, we will examine the different choices you will be presented with when leveling up your character. Everything from which ability scores to max out to which races will give you the best stats (and everything in-between) will be covered.

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!

Did you know?

D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.

D&D 5e Fighter Overview

Level Proficiency Bonus Bonus Features
1st +2 Fighting Style, Second Wind
2nd +2 Action Surge (one use)
3rd +2 Martial Archetype
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement
5th +3 Extra Attack
6th +3 Ability Score Improvement
7th +3 Martial Archetype feature
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement
9th +4 Indomitable (one use)
10th +4 Martial Archetype feature
11th +4 Extra Attack (2)
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement
13th +5 Indomitable (two uses)
14th +5 Ability Score Improvement
15th +5 Martial Archetype feature
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement
17th +6 Action Surge (two uses), Indomitable (three uses)
18th +6 Martial Archetype feature
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement
20th +6 Extra Attack (3)

Playstyle

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.

Strengths

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.

Weaknesses

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.

Background

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.

Arcane Archer

Check out our Arcane Archer 5e Guide

Battle Master

Check out our Battle Master 5e Guide

Cavalier

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.

Champion

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.

Samurai

  • 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.


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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