The DnD 5e Fighter Guide (2022)

Published on September 4, 2021, Last modified on May 23rd, 2022

In this post, we will be examining the fighter’s class features and how you can optimize your fighter through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, and feats.

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e fighter. For a quick overview of other 5e classes, check out our Guide to DnD 5e Classes.

The color code below has been implemented 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 5e. 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 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.

Best Races for Fighter

Standard Races

Dragonborn:
  • Chromatic: Great option to make your fighter more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage. Being able to use the breath weapon in place of one of your extra attacks will offer huge boosts in damage when you have enemies lined up properly.
  • Metallic: Great survivability and combat utility from the damage resistance and Breath Weapon. The Metallic Breath Weapon can offer some battlefield control and, if you're able to knock an enemy prone in place of your first attack, you can follow up with a bunch of attacks with advantage.
  • Standard: +2 STR is perfect for a STR build, damage resistance further improves tankiness, and an AoE is something many fighters lack.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for a STR-based fighter. The extra attack is great to dish out additional damage in a pinch and Breath Weapon is useful for an AoE attack.
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 hit points are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Most melee fighters will take +2 bonuses to STR and CON 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.
  • Aereni Wood: Great choice for a finesse or ranged fighter. The +2 to DEX will help pump their primary ability score and the passive features granted by this subrace are extremely synergistic. The skill expertise will go much farther than the weapon proficiency of the PHB wood elf because fighters already get all the weapon proficiencies they need.
Gnome: Eldritch Knights can make use of the INT, though the other subclasses regard INT as a dump stat.
Half-Elf: Being able to take +1 to CON or STR is not enough to make a Half-Elf Fighter optimal.
Half-Orc: +2 STR, +1 CON, and all of the half-orc’s class features are exactly what fighters are looking for.
Halfling: +2 DEX and +1 CON, is a great start for a DEX based Fighter build. Lucky is particularly helpful because of all the attack rolls you will be making.
Human:
  • Mark of Making: Eldritch Knights can get their INT and one ability score of their choosing from the Mark of Making as well as get some interesting spells for a melee spellcaster build.
  • Mark of Sentinel: No STR or DEX but does provide +2 CON. A free casting of shield is always welcome, as is the ability to swap with a party member to tank damage.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for all types of fighters.
Tiefling: Fighters are very versatile, so options with STR, CON, or DEX could work.
  • Bloodline of Dispater: Decent option for a DEX-based fighter that wants to do some sneaking around.
  • Bloodline of Glasya: Decent option for a DEX-based fighter that wants to do some sneaking around.
  • Bloodline of Levistus: No STR or DEX, but will make you very tanky.
  • Bloodline of Zariel: Slight STR bonus and some offensive spells to make your weapon attacks hurt more.
  • Variant – Feral: Perfect for DEX-based fighters as this variant gets +2 DEX instead of CHA. Eldritch Knights can make use of both DEX and INT.
  • Variant – Winged: Having flight is amazing, and combined with +2 DEX from Feral will make for a mean ranged fighter.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Most fighters need to be in melee range in order to dish out damage and tank for the party, though the added mobility is nice. A ranged fighter however will absolutely love getting flight at 1st-level.
Aasimar: Nothing here for a fighter.
Bugbear: +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 perfect for fighters.
Changeling: Fighters can use the free ability score increase for STR or DEX depending on their weapon of choice. CHA isn't the most useful stat for fighters, though the Battle Master and Purple Dragon Knight at least mention CHA-based skills in their traits.
Fairy: While a fairy may seem like a good choice for a ranged fighter build, their Small creature size restricts the best ranged weapons, like longbow or heavy crossbow. It'd be best to look elsewhere if looking for a fighter build that can pick up flight at 1st level.
Firbolg: The +2 to WIS is going to be wasted, except for when you cast your Firbolg Magic spells. The +1 to STR and Powerful Build is nice. Being able to go invisible and cast some limited spells can improve your utility to your party.
Genasi:
  • Earth: 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: Only Eldritch Knights would be interested in INT.
  • Githyanki: 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.
Harengon: Going higher in initiative, avoiding AoE damage, and extra movement ability are all solid looks on a fighter.
Hobgoblin: Eldritch Knights are interested in INT, and Saving Face could help with reliability. Despite this, a lack of STR or DEX may be too much to overcome.
Kalashtar: Kalashtar don’t come with STR, DEX, or CON.
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.
Leonin: Perfect ability score array, the bonus to your walking speed can help you close with enemies, and your Daunting Roar can provide a massive debuff to enemies you're in close quarters with. What's not to love?
Lineage:
  • Dhampir: Some extra movement is useful for closing with enemies and the Vampiric Bite will be at it's best with your pumped out CON modifier.
  • Hexblood: A free bit of utility from disguise self and the Eerie Token effects. The best feature here is definitely hex, which can result in a ton of extra damage because of the fighter's multitude of attacks. The Eldritch Knight subclass definitely would like the ability to cast hex even more because they can cast it multiple times per day.
Lizardfolk: The WIS ASI isn’t particularly useful, but the array can still work for a DEX-based fighter. the CON and Natural Armor will take you far as a DEX-based fighter, but getting a breastplate is still better for your AC. Fighters get a ton of ability score increases so they should have no problem getting their stats to where they need to be, but you typically want to be using these ASIs to pick up feats.
Loxodon: Fighters want DEX or STR depending on their build, but CON and Loxodon Serenity make the build playable.
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 STR-based fighters. 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.
Satyr: No STR or CON, but could be the start of a solid DEX-focused build. The Magic Resistance is amazing for the party's tank and the extra movement can help you navigate the battlefield. Choosing a STR-focused build could still be worth it, but the natural weapons aren't a big enough draw if you're debating between STR and DEX.
Shifter:
  • Beasthide Shifter: Excellent choice for a tanky frontline fighter.
  • Longtooth Shifter: Excellent choice for a damage dealing STR fighter.
  • Swiftstride Shifter: Works for a mobile, DEX-based fighter, though the CHA isn't very useful.
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.
Tortle: Fighters can wear heavy armor, but the tortle would allow them to focus strictly on STR as AC is already taken care of. This leaves the door open for CON for tanking, CHA to be the party’s face, or lots of feats.
Triton: STR and CON are pretty standard ability score bonuses for fighters, while CHA is largely wasted because most fighters only get access to Intimidation.
Vedalken: Vedalken don’t come with STR, DEX, or CON, rendering them a terrible choice for a fighter.
Warforged: Everything about the warforged works in tandem with what fighters like to do, with additional utility from the racial traits.
Yuan-ti Pureblood: 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 get more ASIs than any other class, which allows them to easily max their important stats and grab a bunch of feats to vary their gameplay.

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: Having a d10 hit dice gives the fighter 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 its 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 for build optimization tips.

Battle Master

Check out our Battle Master 5e Guide for build optimization tips.

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 for build optimization tips.

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. Proficiency in WIS will be useful at higher levels but won’t make a huge impact unless you stack into a typically dumped 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 11th-leveland a 4th attack at 20th-level.

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 Fighter

  • Chef: This half-feat allows you to pump your CON while also providing bonus action healing.
  • Crossbow Expert: It’s like the Two-Weapon Fighting feat 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: If you’re going for a DEX build, this feat is pretty good. While it only works for one attack per turn, it can save your bacon. However, Eldritch Knights and Battle Masters are better off keeping their reactions for other abilities.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Adept: Fighters can’t pick up this feat unless they were to multiclass or pick Eldritch Knight as a subclass. Even then, it doesn’t add much to the subclass. War Caster poses as a better feat than this one, but adding a few utility spells isn’t terrible.
  • Fey Touched: Misty step is an amazing spell for a fighter, allowing them to traverse the battlefield with ease. The ASI will likely get wasted, but can go into CHA for extra face skills or WIS for perception. The 1st-level spell will more often than not be hunter's mark because it can be cast while your hands are full and will add a d6 onto every one of your hits. Hunter's mark also doesn't really need any upcasting to increase the benefits, nor does it matter if you have a bad spellcasting modifier.
  • Fighting Initiate: Picking up an additional Fighting Style is pretty neat, and most work pretty well with one another. Your choice of Fighting Styles is very build-dependent, depending on if you fight with a bow, two-handed weapons, etc.
  • 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.
  • Magic Initiate: Utility spells for free? Yes, please! Any fighter will be happy with this feat. Eldritch Knights will almost always want to pick this up and pick the wizard spell list, as they can cast the 1st-level spell as if they already knew it since they use wizard spell slots.
  • Martial Adept: This is a fairly good option for Battle Masters 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.
  • Metamagic Adept: Only Eldritch Knights can pick this feat up, but it works well. Most of their 3rd and 4th level spells would work great with double duration, but even just having a subtle spell to prevent counterspell can be ideal. Picking up blur at 8th-level and being able to cast it as a bonus action while maintaining the ability to attack with your action is an awesome way to start off initiative.
  • Mounted Combatant: 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: Fighters will love this feat, mainly because they get so many opportunities to combine its effects with other feats. Fighters get more ASIs than any other class, so picking up Great Weapon Master and Sentinel on top of Polearm Master is well within your reach. The fighter’s playstyle synergizes exceptionally well with Polearm Master. They get attacks for days, and having the extra reach is terrific. Polearms will work incredibly well with every subclass except for the Arcane Archer.
  • 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.  If you're playing as a half-elf, half-orc, or human, this is a great pick up.
  • Resilient: This is an alright option for becoming proficient in DEX saves.
  • Sentinel: Kings of battlefield manipulation, all fighters love this feat! It pairs well with Polearm Master to lock down enemies in combat, and they get plenty of melee combat action. Almost any fighter can use this, with Echo Knights favoriting it a little more because it works with their echoes.
  • Shadow Touched: This could work out either way based on how you prefer to play your fighter. Most fighter subclasses aren’t interested in being stealthy at all, but it’s not wrong to have a few spells up your sleeve in a pinch. Yet, for most fighters, this one can be skipped.
  • 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. This is an insanely good pickup for ranged, DEX-based fighters.
  • 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: Fighters probably don’t want this as their first feat as their main role in a party is to kill stuff. It’s excellent in the long run, but there are so many other feats fighters would want first, such as Sharpshooter, Sentinel, or Great Weapon Master depending on your build.
  • Skulker: It’s pretty easy to play a DEX-based, ranged sniper fighter, pairing it with the archery fighting style. Battle Master and Samurai both make great starting options for this build, and you can open it up to multiclassing later for better benefits.
  • Slasher: Fighters love this feat, and it works with almost any subclass.
  • Tavern Brawler: Useful for grappler builds, otherwise, you can do without it.
  • Telekinetic: Fighters have little to no use for this feat because the Shove bonus action will be weak due to a lack of CHA, WIS, or INT. Also, the Shove can't knock enemies prone, only move them 5ft. These caveats make Shield Master a much more worthwhile feat for Fighters to pick up. Eldritch Knights might make decent use of this with their INT focus and it's particularly flavorful (but not powerful) for Psi Warriors.
  • Tough: Good option to boost your HP max if you are going super tank.
  • War Caster: Fighters who end up as Eldritch Knights will want this feat. They will always be up-close and personal, and they usually don’t have material components for their spells. Paired with fighter’s proficiency in CON, you’ll be tough to stop.

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

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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