DnD 5e Fighter Subclass Breakdown – RPGBOT (2024)


Your choice of subclass will greatly affect the way you function in combat.Any fighter can swing a weapon, but your most interesting options will oftencome from your subclass.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Disclaimer
  • Fighter Subclasses
    • Arcane Archer (XGtE)
    • Battle Master (PHB)
    • Cavalier (XGtE)
    • Champion (PHB)
    • Echo Knight (EGtW)
    • Eldritch Knight (PHB)
    • Psi Warrior (TCoE)
    • Purple Dragon Knight / Banneret (SCAG)
    • Rune Knight (TCoE)
    • Samurai (XGtE)


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 whichare extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful optionsthat only apply in rare circ*mstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essentialto the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we 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 the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.

Fighter Subclasses

Arcane Archer (XGtE)

A really cool concept largely squandered. Arcane Shot is the heart of the subclass, and with just two shots per Short or Loing Rest you can’t afford to rely on your signature ability often enough for it to be a meaningful part of your character. Arcane Archer gets a couple of excellent abilities, but they simply don’t compensate for the massive amount of time you’ll spend wishing that you had more Arcane Shot uses.

Arcane Archer Fighter Handbook

  1. Arcane Archer Lore: A skill proficiencyand a cantrip. Choose Prestidigitation and then go read myPractical Guide to Prestidigitation and Similar Cantrips.
  2. Arcane Shot: A powerful and versatileability, but you get just 2 uses between short rests until you getEver-Ready Shot at 15th level. A lot of people mis-read the feature’s text:you get additional Arcane Shot options, not Arcane Shotuses. Plan to reserve your Arcane Shot uses until doing so isexceptionally beneficial, because you don’t get enough to be careless with them.

    This resource constraint was apparently intentional. The designers intended for the shot usesto remain flat, but for the powers to increase over time to keep the Arcane Archer consistentlypowerful. Unfortunately, they forgot the part where the power increases over time, and, sincenone of the options are restricted by level, you are most powerful relative to your enemiesat level 3 and only diminish in effectiveness from there.

    The saving throws are based on your Intelligencescore, which likely won’t be stellar, so your save DC may not be high enoughto be reliable. Try to pick options which work against a variety of savingthrows and use them on foes which are bad at the chosen saving throw.

    • Banishing Arrow: Take the targetcreature out of combat for one round. This allows a Charisma savingthrow, and most creatures have absolutely terrible Charisma saves, sothis is decently reliable even with a poor save DC. Creatures which youmight expect to banish (demons, elementals, etc.) often have highCharisma saves, but you’re free to use Banishing Arrow on creatures ofany type, so if you want to banish a dinosaur or a zombie or somethingyou’re ready to go.

      At high level this adds a little bit of damage, but it’s a negligiblequantity of damage and it doesn’t improve Banishing Arrow’susefulness.

    • Beguiling Arrow: Prevents the targetfrom attacking one of your allies for one round, and does a little bitof bonus damage. This allows a saving throw and relies on the Charmedcondition, so many creatures will be resistant, immune, or will have agood chance of resisting simply due to a decent Wisdom score.
    • Bursting Arrow: A bit of extra damageand AOE damage with no saving throw. Excellent in an opening volleyagainst groups of enemies, but it also requires that your enemies benumerous and tightly packed to make this worthwhile. Unfortunately,Bursting Arrow’s damage bonus isn’t “extra damage” so the damage isn’tmultiplied on a critical hit.
    • Enfeebling Arrow: Creatures that relyon weapon attacks tend to have good Constitution saving throws.Banishing Arrow will be more effective if you need an enemy not to doany damage for a turn.
    • Grasping Arrow: Bonus damage and aspeed debuff with ongoing damage. The target can waste its action toattempt to remove the brambles, but, even if they succeed,they’ve wasted their Action for a turn, which is a trade that you shouldbe very happy to make.
    • Piercing Arrow: Bonus damage, hiteverything in a line, and ignore full cover. Unfortunately it’s hard tohit more than two creatures with a line, and, since the line is only 30feet long, you’ll need to be in close quarters to use this. Plan to spendas much movement as possible moving away after using this.
    • Seeking Arrow: Ignoring cover and suchis nice, but the big draw is that you learn the target’s location, soyou can locate invisible creatures and enemies who might be hiding ortrying to escape from you.
    • Shadow Arrow: An excellent way toincapacitate enemies who use extended reach, ranged weapons, or spells.Unfortunately it’s on a Wisdom save, so, if you just need a creature tobe unable to attack for a turn, you’ll have better results with BanishingArrow.
  3. Magic Arrow: If you’re in a campaign withfew or no magic items, this is absolutely essential.
  4. Curving Shot: Redirect a missed attackonce per turn. Absolutely amazing. With 2 to 4 attacks per turn, you’reinevitably going to miss with some of them, so turning a missed attack intoanother chance to hit something provides roughly as much attack output asthe Crossbow Expert feat. This also makes the attack penalty from theSharpshooter feat less risky. All around, it’s really great.

    Note that RAW you are required to use a magic arrow here, and the Magic Arrow feature doesn’t actually make your arrows magical. This means that you are required to find magic arrows, most of which are single-use, in order to use what is arguably your best class feature. Jeremy Crawford has stated on Twitter thatthis an error, but that was 2017 and we still don’t have errata. At my tables I would allow the Magic Arrow feature to work with Curving Shot. There needs to be something mechanically appealing about the Arcane Archer. If your DM won’t make that concession, maybe they’ll let you collect some Unbreakable Arrows, which are the only arrows I know of which aren’t single use.

  5. Ever-Ready Shot: Now you can afford touse your signature ability in every encounter. Sure, it’s only once andthat’s not nearly enough, but considering how resource-starved the ArcaneArcher is, this is still a massive improvement.
  6. Arcane Shot (improved shots): At thislevel all of your Arcane Shot options deal 1d6 or 2d6 more damage and literally nothing else changes. This isnot at all significant when we’re 1 level past wizards casting Wish.

Battle Master (PHB)

Do you want a martial character with a combat toolset as versatile as aspellcasters? Do you want to go beyond the basic combat mechanics and reflecta more nuanced style of combat? Do you see the battlefield as a complex chessgame to be mastered and dominated? Do you want to shout the names of yourspecial attacks? The Battle Master may be for you.

The Battle Master is more complicated than most fighter subclasses, but hasthe potential to do a lot of cool tricks beyond repeatedly stabbing thingsuntil they fall down. Each maneuver, much like a spell, is a tool tailor-madeto address a specific situation or problem, allowing the Battle Master torespond dynamically to scenarios which are often more complex than simple hitpoint attrition and which require more nuanced solutions than swinging yourweapon until your enemy falls down.

While almost every one of the Battle Master’s maneuvers works with meleeweapons, many of them also work with ranged attacks. This allows for coolthings like using Disarming Attack to shoot a weapon out of a target’s hand orusing Goading Attack to make it hard for a melee-only enemy to attackeffectively for a turn. Many of the Battle Master’s best maneuvers aremelee-only, but a ranged battle master is still viable and effective.

The Martial Adept feat (PHB) and Fighting Style (Superior Technique) both grant additional maneuvers and superiority dice, making them great additions to the Battle Master’s limited pool of both. More dice means that you can use your maneuvers more often, and knowing more maneuvers means that you have more room to explore situational options to broaden your ability to respond to unusual circ*mstances in combat. This is a heavy feat cost, but many of the Battle Master’s maneuvers replicate the effects of feats, so you may find that a maneuver is sufficient in place of a whole feat.

Battle Master Fighter Handbook

  1. Combat Superiority: You get foursuperiority dice, which means you get to use 4 maneuvers between eachshort/long rest. You gradually get more dice, allowing for more maneuvers athigher levels, and you gradually add more known maneuvers. You can replaceknown maneuvers as you level, but since there aren’t any maneuvers withprerequisites or anything, you really only need to replace maneuvers thatyou tried and didn’t like.

    Many maneuvers add your superiority die to the damage roll if you hit.Since the damage die is added to the damage roll, the additional damage ismultiplied on a critical hit. This makes it especially appealing to applya maneuver when you score a critical hit so that you get both a big pileof damage and a cool rider effect.

  2. Student of War: Artisan’s tools probablywon’t matter to the game, but the expanded options in Xanathar’s Guide toEverything make this much more fun than it was when the core rules werepublished. Check out outPractical Guide to Tools.
  3. Know Your Enemy: This won’t come intoplay in most encounters unless you work to make it happen, but it’s great ifyou can get the BBEG monologuing while you study him or if you can manage tobe stealthy long enough to observe the target. There’s no limitation on theusage, so you could spend additional minutes studying the target to learneverything on the list and get a really good sense of the target’sstats.
  4. Improved Combat Superiority (d10): Thesebumps only amount to an increase of 1 each, but they feel very nice andsince you’re using Superiority Dice so frequently the small bonus addsup. As an interesting quirk, RAW if you have any dice from the Superior Technique style or the Martial Adept feat those dice also increase to d10s at this level, though that won’t be reflected in DnDBeyond.
  5. Relentless: This ensures that you alwayshave at least one superiority die, so you don’t have to stress about usingyour last die before the adventuring day is over.
  6. Improved Combat Superiority (d12): Thesebumps only amount to an increase of 1 each, but they feel very nice andsince you’re using Superiority Dice so frequently the small bonus addsup.

Cavalier (XGtE)

The Cavalier is a fantastic Defender, and possesses several features which I have been hoping to find since I first started writing handbooks for 5e which answer long-standing problems for Defenders. The Cavalier also caters well to fighting while mounted, allowing you to protect your mount from harm and providing fun abilities like Ferocious Charge, but the abilities are also worded so that fighting mounted is not strictly required so you can still go into a dungeon without your horse.

Cavalier Fighter Handbook

  1. Bonus Proficiency: A free skill orlanguage proficiency. Take the skill. Languages can be solved magically.
  2. Born to the Saddle: It’s difficult toknow how often you’ll need to make a saving throw to stay in the saddle.Arguably anything with a save to prevent forced movement would count(Thunderwave, Command (Flee), Telekinesis, etc.), but it’s not clear.Allowing you to mount/dismount for only 5 feet of movement means that youcan get back onto your mount when you start your turn further away. However,it doesn’t remove the once-per-turn limitation on mounting or dismounting amount, so don’t expect to go hopping on and off of your mount a bunch oftimes in the same round.
  3. Unwavering Mark: This is a great tauntmechanic. It makes it difficult for foes to attack your allies, and if theydo it anyway you get an extra attack as a Bonus Action on your next turnwith a nice damage boost.

    The Disadvantage portion of Unwavering Mark only functions while thetarget is within 5 feet of you, making lances, whips, and other reachweapons difficult to use in conjunction. You can still make the BonusAction attack if those enemies attack someone else, but you still want tokeep enemies within 5 feet of you in order to impose Disadvantage on theirattacks.

    You’re limited in the number of times that you can use the BonusAction attack between rests, so try to use the attack only as neededrather than throwing it on everything you hit. But you can mark foes (andimpose Disadvantage) as much as you want, so spread the marks around andtry to keep as many enemies as possible within 5 feet of you.

    For cavaliers fighting while mounted, imposing Disadvantage on attacksagainst creatures other than you is a good way to keep enemies from attackingyour mount. Considering how frail most mounts are compared to you, that’sa huge benefit.

    If you really want to lean into this feature, consider the Sentinel feat.It will make it especially difficult for enemies to move away from you,making it easy to keep marked creatures within 5 feet of you. Even better,if they still attack a creature other than you, you get to attack them asa Reaction.

  4. Warding Maneuver:Similar to theProtection Fighting Style. You can only use this a few times per Long Rest,so use it sparingly, and make steps to avoid needing it if you can.
  5. Hold the Line: This is considerably betterthan the Sentinel feat in most cases, as it prevents enemies from runningaround within your reach. This means that you can reliably hold enemies inplace while remaining adjacent to allies so that you can protect them withWarding Maneuver and/or the Protection Fighting Style. It gets even betterif you have extended reach because it doesn’t require you to be within 5 feetof the target like other Unwavering Mark’s Disadvantage effect does. However, unlike Sentinel, theDisengage action still allows enemies to get past you.
  6. Ferocious Charger: Two important notes:First, your mount moving counts, so you don’t need to use your own movement.Second, your mount can still Dash or Disengage to put distance between youand your enemy to set up your charge. You should be doing everything you canto use this every round. The benefits are simply too great to ignore.
  7. Vigilant Defender: This solves the secondmajor problem with Defender builds in 5e. Combined with Hold the Line youcan drop yourself into a crowd of enemies and force them all to stay exactlywhere they are, especially if you have a reach weapon in hand.

Champion (PHB)

The Champion is simple, but very effective. Champions get an improvedcritical hit range, and at high levels they heal themselves constantly forfree up to half hit points. If you just want an easy to play block ofexcellent stats, the Champion is the way to go this simplicity makes theChampion an ideal character for new players, but veterans will likely find theChampion boring.

The Champion’s biggest problem is that it basically can’t do anything beyondwhat the core rules allow creatures to do. This is a subclass that isabsolutely desperate for some buttons to push. The Champion has no utilityoutside of combat beyond skills and ability checks, and in combat your onlyoptions are attacking, grappling, and shoving. This is a subclass that’sabsolutely desperate for feats and magic items to make them moreinteresting.

Since the Champion can deal critical hits more reliably than any other character, the Bludgeoner (TCoE), Great Weapon Master (PHB), Piercer (TCoE), and Slasher (TCoE) feats are worth considering, but if you’re playing a champion long-term I recommend a feat that adds some mechanical complexity like Polearm Master or Sentinel before you go for something that just adds a passive benefit on top of the same hack-and-slash tactics.

If you’re set on playing a champion but want it to be effective enough to compete with other fighter subclasses, consider replacing Remarkable Athlete with some additional skill proficiencies and replace Additonal Fighting Style with a feat of the player’s choice.

Champion Fighter Handbook

  1. Improved Critical: Critical hits are abig deal in 5e, and this doubles your chance of getting one. Remember thatcriticals only multiply damage dice, so to maximize this you want to use abig weapon for the biggest damage die/dice possible and look for magic itemsthat add additional damage dice like flametongue swords. Improved Critical also synergizes well with theHalf-Orc’s Savage Attacks, so half-orc champions are a popular build for newplayers.
  2. Remarkable Athlete: Half proficiency inAcrobatics, Athletics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Initiative rolls, andseveral other possible ability checks. It’s not as good as Jack of AllTrades, but it’s enough that you can forgo some of those skills and put yourproficiencies into something which will make you useful outside ofcombat.
  3. Additional Fighting Style: For manybuilds the only option which works alongside your first choice is Defense,and this became much less interesting when the Fighting Initiate feat wasintroduced.
  4. Superior Critical: This is a hugecritical range, especially with as many attacks as a Fighter can make. Ifyou combine this with the Grapple+Shove combo to keep enemies prone, you’llscore critical hits 27.7% of the time thanks to Advantage and your highcritical hit rate. Make sure that you pick up a feat which provides an extrabenefit on critical hits.
  5. Survivor: Constant healing makes SecondWind largely obsolete, and can keep you in a fight almost indefinitely.

Echo Knight (EGtW)

The Echo Knight’s central feature is its ability to create an “echo”, whichallows you to fight in two places at the same time. Mechanically, it’s asimple subclass with very little management and no decision points, butmastering the use of your echo is central to making the Echo Knighteffective.

Tactically, your echo is like a second character in some ways, and using yourecho effectively is crucial to succeeding in combat. A clever Echo Knight cangain additional damage output and reduce damage to themselves and their partyby ensuring that their echo is in the the right place at the right time.Players who can make this work consistently will find that the Echo Knight isan exceptionally powerful character.

Because the Echo Knight depends so heavily on your Bonus Action to manage your Echo, avoid Two-Weapon Fighting, Crossbow Expert, and anything else that touches your Bonus Action.

Echo Knight Fighter Handbook

  1. Manifest Echo: This is the Echo Knight’ssignature feature, and, while it gains some extra stuff over time, the coreability never really changes. Get really comfortable using it, becauseit’s going to take your Bonus Action to recreate if need be for the rest of your career. Youcan move your echo for free once per turn in addition to recreating it in anew place or switching places with it, and unlike moving your own character,your echo doesn’t have specific movement types so you can move it 30 feet inany direction,including vertically into the air!

    Remember that your echo disappears if you move too far away, but it costsyou nothing except a Bonus Action to recreate, so in many cases it may bemore effective to intentionally walk away from your Echo and recreate itthan to try to move it along with you. You can also teleport to switchplaces with your echo, allowing you to escape grapples, difficult terrain,and bindings with little effort (though it does also cost part of yourmovement for the turn). There is no limitation on how often you can createyour echo, so recreating it every round is basically expectedif yours has been destroyed by an attack or moved too far away.

    There is some confusion around how this works since the Grappledcondition reduces your speed to 0, which means that you don’t have 15 feetof movement to spend. I think RAI you’re intended to be able to teleportout of a grapple, but RAW you definitely can’t since the effect doesn’tspecify a rules exception around grapples the way that the spell Freedomof Movement does. That said, Jeremy Crawford had adiscussion on Twitterin which he discusses Freedom of Movement’s interaction with the Grapplerules. He points out that once you’re no longer grappled, your speed is nolonger 0, so it makes sense that you could pay the 5-foot cost to escape agrapple using Freedom of Movement even though your speed is 0 when you doso. We can apply that same logic to the Echo’s teleportation, and so longas you will have 15 feet of movement to spend after teleporting you canpay the cost. However, the Echo Knight’s text doesn’t specify an exceptionto the grapple rules, so it’s not perfectly clear. Discuss this with yourDM to see how they would like to handle things.

    Manifest Echo doesn’t specify, butthe echo is an object. It can be targeted by things like attacks and spells, but weirdly RAWthat means that it can’t be targeted or damaged by many spells. Evenoptions like Meteor Swarm RAW only damage creatures, but I think areasonable DM will rule that the echo qualifies as a valid target for suchthings and takes damage appropriately. This thing is already insanelypowerful, and it doesn’t need broad immunity to damage to keep itpowerful.If that’s the case though, it also makes it a valid target for beneficial spells like Shield of Faith, Blur, etc. That means that it’s a valid target for Sanctuary, which is busted because the Echo never actually attacks, it just allows you to use its location.

  2. Unleash Incarnation: Up to 5 extraattacks per day. Not a huge boost in damage, but fantastic when you reallyneed it.
  3. Echo Avatar: You can walk/float your echoup to 1,000 ft. away from you and see/hear through it. Unfortunately,according to Jeremy Crawfordyou’re not allowed to attack through it, but the text explaining that was allegedly omitted from the firstprinting of the book and Wizards of the Coast hasn’t issued errata. Thatmeans that you can’t send your Echo Avatar to attack people according toCrawford, but apparently it’s not enough of a problem that WotC actuallycares to correct it, so RAW you can send your echo a few hundred feet intothe air and rain arrows on everything in range.
  4. Shadow Martyr: In many ways this is likethe Protection fighting style, but it works on any creature you can see.Limiting use to once per rest means that you need to be cautious about whenyou use it, and save it for when it will be really impactful.
  5. Reclaim Potential: With just 1 hit pointyour echo is going to die constantly if it’s targeted, so this is an easy way to gettemporary hit points whenever you don’t have them. 2d6+Con is a decentamount, too, and you get enough uses per day that it’s a significantimprovement to your total capacity to endure damage.
  6. Legion of One: Two echos means that youcan fill two additional spaces on the battlefield, offering additionalchances to make Opportunity Attacks, and creating more targets to drawattacks which would otherwise be directed at you and your allies.

Eldritch Knight (PHB)

A fantastic combination of combat prowess and offensive magic, the EldritchKnight is perhaps the simplest “gish” build, combining the Fighter’s excellentcombat capabilities and durability with a splash of spellcasting from theWizard.

While the Eldritch Knight is fantastically durable and plenty effective, they usually can’t compete offensively with the Hexblade Warlock or the Bladesinger Wizard, both of which have considerably better spellcasting options but are nowhere near so capable of surviving in melee for extended periods.

Mastering the Eldritch Knight’s spellcasting comes with some pitfalls whichare easy to fall into and end up with an ineffective build. Since the EldritchKnight’s spellcasting is Intelligence-based, you need to put some resourcesinto Intelligence, but it’s easy to invest far more than necessary. Manyspells will depend on your spellcasting modifier, so it’s tempting to raiseyour Intelligence to get better fireballs and such, but this is usually a poorinvestment.

You can get by on very little Intelligence (14 is likely sufficient) bysticking to spells which don’t care about your spellcasting modifier (BoomingBlade, Shield, Resist Energy, etc.) and still be extremely effective.Remember: The Eldritch Knight is still primarily a fighter, so throwingfireballs is a rarity rather than your go-to tactic.

While it’s totally possible to play an eldritch knight at range, it comes with some specific challenges. Since ranged attack cantrips all depend on your spellcasting modifier, you can’t get by on as little Intelligence as melee eldritch knights. You’ll likely need to reduce your investment in Constitution to make up the difference. But in exchange for that trade, you’re better situated to capitalize on Eldritch Strike, using ranged attacks to prime enemies for cantrips like Acid Splash and Toll the Dead which will impose saves made at Disadvantage. Once you move up to Improved War Magic you can shoot several foes one round, then fireball them the next round and impose Disadvantage on their saves.

Eldritch Knight Fighter Handbook

  • Spellcasting: Spellcasting is what definesthe Eldritch Knight. You’re limited almost entirely to Abjuration andEvocation spells, but those offer plenty of options which work for aFighter. Be sure to pick up an offensive cantrip like Booming Blade whichyou can use alongside weapon attacks with War Magic.

    You’ll get just one spell of each spell level which isn’t restricted toAbjuration/Evocation, so be very careful when picking thosespells.

    For help selecting spells, see ourFighter Spell List Breakdown.

  • Weapon Bond: Very cool, but it rarelyhas any mechanical impact unless you plan to throw your weapon(s)or want to appear unarmed somewhere. Casting spells like light or darkness on your bonded weaponbefore throwing it means that you can place the spell effect at greater range and recall the weaponin order to throw it again. But this combo is both more work and less effective than most methodsfor abusing magical darkness.

    You can accomplish some odd shenanigans like bonding to oversized weapons or even siege weaponsin order to freely teleport a massive object to yourself, but be cautious about how much your DMwill tolerate before they have your bonded trebuchet appear over your head.

  • War Magic: With the addition of newcantrips in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, War Magic is better than ever.Using either Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade in conjunction with theBonus Action attack from War Magic deals more total damage than a fighter makingnormal attacks at any level (provided that you can trigger the secondarydamage from either cantrip) and offers tactical options that you simplycan’t replicate by just swinging a weapon. See our article onMelee Cantrips vs. Extra Attackfor a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martialattacks.
  • Eldritch Strike: Since your Intelligencewon’t be as high as that of a real Wizards, DCs can be a real problem.Imposing disadvantage will make your spells considerably more effective.This can enable some interesting combinations like hitting a bunch ofadjacent enemies, then hitting them with Sword Burst on your next turn, orshooting a bunch of enemies with a bow then hitting them with a fireball onthe next turn. If you’re facing single targets you can hit them every roundwith a Toll the Dead and a weapon attack thanks to War Magic. Look foropportunities to put this to use, but remember that War Magic is still yourdefining tactic.
  • Arcane Charge: This is as much movementas using the Dash action, so, combined with Action Surge, you get to do almostas much as you could in a complete additional turn (you still don’t get asecond Bonus Action).
  • Improved War Magic: Drop a huge spell,then stab/shoot someone. Next turn, capitalize on Eldritch Strike to imposeDisadvantage and hit the target with another spell.

Psi Warrior (TCoE)

The Psi Warrior Fighter is a martial psionics user, making use a semi-magical mechanism known as “psionics” to produce effects which are borderline but technically not magical. Is it magic? Not quite, but more “yes” than “no”. Th Psi Warrior plays similarly to the Battle Master, but with considerably less analysis paralysis since you get a fixed set of abilities.

Psi Warrior Fighter Handbook

  1. Psionic Power: Your pool of Psionic EnergyDice are your defining resource. You get a number equal to double yourProficiency Bonus and the size goes from d6 to d12 over the course of yourcareer. That sounds like a big pool, but they mostly recharge on a LongRest, and between Long Rests you can recharge just one die as a Bonus Actiononce per Short Rest.

    If your DM adheres to the Adventuring Day rules in the DMG, that means you canrecharge as many as three dice per day. Across a full day of adventuring,that’s a small pool to work with and you need to be cautious aboutspending your dice rather than burning through them in the firstencounter. The initial options for spending your Psionic Energy Dice areeasy ways to quickly burn through your dice for modest amounts of damageor protection.

    • Protective Field: Preventing some orall of the damage from an attack can keep you or an ally fighting, andcan help allies maintain Concentration on spells. Save this for when hitpoints are low or when an ally’s Concentration is crucial, otherwise yourisk running through your Psionic Energy dice in a hurry.
    • Psionic Strike: A modest burst ofdamage. The damage is a separate source from your attack (it dealsdamage on its own rather than adding damage to the attack), so it’s notmultiplied on a critical hit. I wouldn’t consider this a go-to optionuntil you add Telekinetic Thrust at level 7 because your pool of dice istoo small and too precious to spend on something as mundane as a tinybit of damage. However, you might make an exception in cases where theextra damage could kill the creature or cause it to lose Concentration(since it’s a separate source of damage it forces a second savingthrow).
    • Telekinetic Movement: Situational.You get it once per Short Rest, which may be enough. This is forcedmovement (even though the target is willing), so you can use it to pullallies out of melee (even if they’re grappled) without provokingOpportunity Attacks.

      Despite being part of Psionic Power, this does not consume one of your Psionic Energy dice.

  2. Telekinetic Adept: Two new options forusing your Psionic Energy Dice.
    • Psi-Power Leap: Even though theflight only lasts until the end of your current turn, that’s enough toget into melee with flying enemies and beat them up (consider usingAction Surge to maximize the benefits) or Shove them prone to force themto fall. You can also use this to fly over pits, high walls, and otherbarriers. You get this once for free, but if you need it again you canrecharge it with a Psionic Energy Die.
    • Telekinetic Thrust: Shove istypically sufficient for melee fighters, but this works at range, whichmakes it a great counter to flying enemies. Flying creatures that areknocked Prone fall, which can both cause a lot of damage and bring theminto melee range.

      While this doesn’t consume a Psionic Energy die on its own, this is an optional rider effect that you add to Psionic Strike, which does consume a die.

  3. Guarded Mind: While this is technicallysituational, Charm and Fear effects are common and annoying across the fulllevel range, and can take you out of a fight. They’re especially goodcounters to martial characters (like you) because they tend to requireWisdom saving throws which martial characters are usually bad at.
  4. Bulwark Force: +2 AC and +2 on Dexterity saves to you and possiblythe rest of your party for 1 minute, activated as a Bonus Action. This is agreat buff at any level, but remember that it won’t stack with other sourcesof cover. You only get to use this once per day, but you can recharge itwith a Psionic Energy Die, and I recommend doing so. The +2 AC to your wholeparty will mitigate a huge amount of damage in a typical fight. +2 on a20-point scale is 10% of the scale, so a +2 AC bonus will negate roughly 10%of all attack damage to your party in that encounter.
  5. Telekinetic Master: By this level it’sentirely possible that you have raised both your Strength/Dexterity and yourIntelligence to 20, so your Intelligence checks may be very good. That makesTelekinesis a useful option in combat, especially against foes with poorStrength like many spellcasters. You can use this to lift foes into the airand drop them, to move them over pits or into hazards, or just to pull theminto melee range.

    The ability to make a weapon attack as a Bonus Action whileconcentrating on Telekinesis is very exciting. The obvious intent is thatyou use your Action to use Telekinesis, and that can be a powerfulcombination: lift your target into the air and shoot them, or drop them toforce them to fall prone before attacking them in melee.

    However, you’re under no obligation to actually use Telekinesis whileyou’re concentrating on it. The spell has a 10-minute duration, so you caneasily use it as a buff to add an attack as a Bonus Action. If you enjoythis strategy, I think you’ll agree that spending a Psionic Energy Die torecharge this ability is well worth the cost to get an additional attackwith little effort.

Purple Dragon Knight / Banneret (SCAG)

I love the flavor the Purple Dragon Knight (Banneret in non-Forgotten Realmsgames). A charismatic, knightly fighter. The class adds some nice supportabilities, and encourages the Fighter to serve as a Face. Unfortunately, toreally work as a Face you need Charisma, which is typically a Fighter dumpstat, and as great as Royal Envoy is, it’s not enough to justify significantinvestment in Charisma when the Fighter already needs to maximize two otherability scores.

The biggest problem with the Purple Dragon Knight is that it takes theFighter, who is almost exclusively good at fighting, and tries to make themgood at some other stuff. While it’s a nice option in the right party,Dungeons and Dragons is a game that rewards specialization and punishesdiversification. If you do want to play a martial Face character, the Paladinis likely a better way to do so.

Individually, each of the Purple Dragon Knight’s abilities are great, but thesum of the abilities in the broader context of the Fighter class makes thePurple Dragon Knight a difficult option. I don’t recommend this for newerplayers, but it could be a really fun option for veterans in a low-poweredgame or in a party with new players.

I frequently offer suggestions to help balanced problematic subclasses, but the Purple Dragon Knight is difficult to fix. I think it needs more features to make it interesting, but I haven’t come up with any options which I think would make the Purple Dragon Knight appealing without introducing more problems.

Puple Dragon Knight Fighter Handbook

  1. Rallying Cry: This isn’t a ton ofhealing, but it doesn’t need to be. This is effectively Mass Healing Wordwith a few restrictions in exchange for it not being a spell. It does affectunconscious allies, as theUnconscious condition was not intended to deafen creatures accordingto Jeremy Crawford.
  2. Royal Envoy: Persuasion is the king ofsocial skills, and Expertise with it will go a very long way,compensating for even a more modest Charisma score. The free skill proficiency is nice, too, but ifyou’re planning to play a Face, then you probably have both Persuasion andIntimidation, and quite possibly have Insight as well. Animal Handling isfun flavor for a knight, but not especially useful since mounted combat issuch a niche option in 5e. If you start your build planning to be a PurpleDragon Knight, you might leave Insight or Intimidation open so that you canmake use of this free proficiency.
  3. Inspiring Surge: Use this on a Rogue if atall possible. Rogues can Sneak Attack once per turn, not once perround, so they could in theory sneak attack hundreds of times if enoughpeople could give the Rogue a free attack on their turns. (This has beenexplained several times by WotC’s designers in various places.) Rememberthat this needs to be a weapon attack, and it’s only one attack, sobarring a Rogue, anyone else that can make a big solid hit (Raging Barbarian, Ranger with Hunter’s Mark, Hexblade Warlock, Paladin with Smites, etc.) will do.
  4. Bulwark: Rerolls on saving throws arefantastic, especially on mental saves which can often take you and yourallies out of a fight.

Rune Knight (TCoE)

The Rune Knight runs on magic runes which they accumulate as they gainlevels. There are just 6 runes available and you’ll get 5 of them, so there’snot much diversity in rune knight builds as you gain levels. Each runeprovides a passive buff (often a bonus to a skill) and an active abilitythemed after the corresponding variety of giant. Since the active abilitiesare usable once per Short or Long Rest (twice once you get Master of Runes),they feel a bit like Warlock spell slots: few in number, but big on impact,and you get them back quickly.

Tactically, the Rune Knight has a limited pool of resources and you’ll needto weigh the cost and benefit of using any given rune’s active effect. Theresource management is the core complexity of the subclass, and if you canmaster that resource management you’ll find that the Rune Knight is a capable,interesting subclass with a lot to offer.

Where the Rune Knight suffers is damage output. Fire Rune can do somesingle-target damage, but the only other damage boost comes from Giant’sMight. Giant’s Might provides a +1d6 damage bonus, but only while Giant’sMight is running (two to six times per day; the uses per day equal yourProficiency Bonus), and only once per turn on your own turn. The die scales upto d10, but +1d10 damage per round at level 18 is an insultingly small amountof damage. The Rune Knight does a lot of cool stuff other than damage, butmake sure that the rest of your party can provide adequate damage on theirown. Having Strikers classes in your party like monks, rogues, rangers, andwarlocks is typically sufficient.

Despite being giant-themed, the Rune Knight is surprisingly appealing for a rogue-style character with high Dexterity and Charisma. Proficiency in Deception, Intimidation, and Thieves’ Tools can all benefit significantly from the passive effects of runes, and nothing about the Rune Knight’s features requires high Strength (unless you want to make Strength checks with Giant’s Might).

Rune Knight Fighter Handbook

  1. Bonus Proficiencies: Smith’s tools are apopular option for adventurers since so much of adventuring gear is made ofmetal, and if you get the Fire Rune you can apply Expertise with all tools(see Fire Rune, below, for more). One proficiency is not a driving reason toget good with tools, but it can add some non-combat utility to a class whichis all about fighting. You also learn to speak Giant, which is weirdly nicebecause runes can give you Advantage on Charisma (Deception) and Charisma(Intimidation) checks, allowing you to serve as a Face without muchinvestment in Charisma.
  2. Rune Carver: 2 runes at 3rd level, andeventually you get up to 5. Since there are just 6 runes, that means thatrather than choosing which runes to learn you get to choose one to ignore(Frost. Skip Frost. ). There are two runes with level requirements, butthanks to the built-in retraining rule you can drop a different rune whenyou hit level 7 to get both of the level-locked runes at the same time, thenpick up whichever rune you dropped the next time you learn a new rune.

    Each rune provides a passive effect and an activatable ability. The activeeffect can be used once per Short or Long Rest (that’s not a rule inherentto Rune Carver, but every rune works that way). Saves areConstitution-based, which is exciting because it makes it easy to justify20 Dex or Strength and 20 Constitution, which many fighter subclasses needto postpone or forgo due to their subclass’s dependence on a mentalability score or a severe need for feats.

    Every rune is tied to a type of giant, so don’t expect this list toexpand unless WotC brings back the weird extra giants that they introducedlate in 3.5 like Death Giants. Although a high-level Death Rune wouldprobably be really cool. Well shoot, now I want that.

    • Cloud Rune: Sleight of Hand andDeception are a weird combination of skills for your typical fightersince Charisma is frequently a dump stat and even Dexterity-basedfighters rarely take Sleight of Hand, so don’t expect to get much useout of those unless you’re building yourself with skills similar to atypical rogue.

      The active effect allows you to retarget a successful attack toanother creature within 30 feet of you. The expectation is that you’regoing to redirect and enemy’s attack to hit an enemy, and that’sprobably your best bet, but you can also use this to attack an allyand redirect the attack to an enemy which might be out of your reachotherwise. Keep in mind that transferring the attack doesn’tautomatically hit the new target; the attack roll must still becompared to the new target’s AC as normal.

      The difficulty with Cloud Rune is that it competes for space with RunicShield, which you get automatically.

    • Fire Rune: Expertise in every tool inwhich you’re proficient. The Rune Knight gets Smith’s Tools at level 3,but you should strongly consider getting other tools, especially crucialadventuring options like Thieves’ Tools.

      While most martial enemies will be big, Strength-based monsters withhigh Strength saves, there are many other types of enemies with badStrength saves. Spellcasters, nimble enemies, and most small enemieswill have poor Strength save bonuses. If you manage to keep the enemyrestrained, they’ll take an impressive 20d6 damage, which is prettygood even by the standards of many spells.

      But while that damage is exciting, the bigger benefit is that thetarget is Restrained. Restrained creatures have 0 speed, sufferDisadvantage on their attacks, grant Advantage on attacks againstthem, and suffer Disadvantage on Dexterity saves. That makes thetarget bait for every attack that your party can put out. Throw thison the highest-priority enemy in an encounter and focus on them untilthey drop. Consider using Action Surge the same turn in order tomaximize how much damage you can do before the target potentiallyescapes.

    • Frost Rune: Animal Handling is verysituational, but Intimidation is a popular face skill for fighters andother martial classes despite usually lacking Charisma.

      +2 to saves is nice, but Strength saves are extremely rare and +2 toConstitution saves for 10 minutes one to three times a day (remember:Adventuring Day rules encourage two short rests) isn’t worth a Rune.If you need better Constitution saves, put an ASI into Constitution.The bonus also applies to Strength checks, including important checkslike Athletics checks to Grapple or Shove. But remember that Giant’sMight gives you Advantage on both Strength Checks and Strength Saves,and since both Giant’s Might and Frost Rune are activated as a BonusAction, it’s hard to fit both into the same fight.

      If you’re really concerned enough about Athletics that you still wantFrost Rune, consider the Skill Expert feat. The additional bonus willbe larger than that provided by Frost Rune and it will applyconstantly without the need to activate Frost Rune. If, somehow, youhave Expertise in Athletics, high enough Strength that using Athleticsmakes sense, and Giant’s Might to get easy Advantage on Strengthchecks, but you still somehow can’t reliably succeed at Strength(Athletics) checks, it seems likely that an occasional +2 is not goingto solve whatever problem you’re facing. Consider new dice.

    • Stone Rune: Spectacular passiveeffects. When you’re building out your initial Ability Scores, you willtypically max out your Strength or your Dexterity (depending on yourbuild), then ideally you’ll raise your Constitution as much as makessense. After that, Wisdom is a great third-highest ability score bothfor skills and for saving throws. After that, Insight isn’t much of astretch. Perpetual Advantage on Wisdom (Insight) means a +5 bonus toyour Passive Insight, which is a boon for your whole party. You also get120 ft. Darkvision, which is great for races like the Dragonborn and theHuman which don’t get it naturally. Even races with Darkvision tend to only have 60 ft range.

      The active effect is a Wisdom-based save-or-suck charm effect used asa Reaction. It’s not quite as good as Hold Monster, but it’s close,and like Hold Monster the target can repeat their save at the end ofeach of their turns. If you pair this with Fire Rune, you have onepowerful single-target crowd control effect which can affect big dumbenemies (Stone Rune) and one for smart, frail enemies (Fire Rune).

    • Hill Rune (7th level): Poison iscommon across the full level range, and resistance to it is excellent.Many races like dwarves already have this, so this rune does lose some of its appeal forthem, but the active effect is still very good.

      The active effect is a powerful defensive buff that you shouldabsolutely employ when facing the prospect of significant weapondamage. It’s one of those abilities where you’ll always wonder if youmight need it more later, but if a fight looks like any significantthreat and your enemies are relying on weapon damage types, use thisas soon as attacks come your way. Resistance to weapon damage alsomakes it easier to justify using two-handed weapons since your AC isless important.

    • Storm Rune (7th level): Arcana isn’t askill that you’ll be good at (you likely dumped Intelligence since youhave no other usage for it built into the class), but never beingsurprised is great on any character.

      The active effect turns your Reaction into a reroll on any d20 rollwhich happens within 60 feet of you. You do need to use the Reactionbefore the roll happens, but that’s probably fine. Use this to supportsave-or-suck effects (yours or someone else’s), to protect your alliesfrom save-or-suck effects, and potentially to grant Advantage onhigh-damage attacks from you or your allies. Keep in mind you can takereactions on your own turn and consider imposing Disadvantage on atarget’s save or check, such as the save against Fire Rune’s activeeffect.

  3. Giant’s Might: Similar to castingEnlarge/Reduce as a Bonus Action, though the damage bonus isn’t as good.Being large makes it harder for enemies to get around you since you take upmore space, and Advantage on Strength checks makes it very easy to useAthletics to Shove and Grapple your enemies.

    The bonus damage only applies once per turn on your own turn, whichconsidering the Fighter’s famously high number of attacks feels totallyout of place and unremarkable. Weirdly, the d6 grows to a d10 over timebut never becomes a significant part of your damage output since it’sstill just once on each of your own turns.

    The precise wording in the feature is important. If you are not Large or larger, your size becomes Large. This is important because Enlarge/Reduce cast upon the Rune Knight after using Giant’s Might further increases the knight to Huge size, but not if Enlarge/Reduce is cast beforehand.

  4. Runic Shield: This is a great way tonegate critical hits. You force the attacker to reroll the specific d20 usedand use that result, so even if they have Advantage they still just roll oned20 and use whatever comes up. The number of uses per day is plenty if youdon’t try to negate every hit that comes toward your party; save it forcritical hits or for allies who have a passable chance of a reroll missing.If an enemy is attacking your 12 AC wizard with a +10 attack bonus, don’twaste the effort.
  5. Great Stature: The 3d4 inches is amusing,especially if you’re a small race, but it has absolutely no mechanicaleffect on the game. Height is a purely cosmetic portion of your character.Upgrading the damage die on Giant’s Might from 1d6 to 1d8 is such a minorimprovement that if you forgot to make the adjustment you would probablynever notice. On average, that’s 1 point of damage per round. At level 10when you and your enemies can easily have 200 hit points, 1 damage is notnoteworthy.
  6. Master of Runes: Double how often you canuse all of your rune’s active effects. You also gain your fifth and finalrune at this level, so this is just a really fantastic level. With 10 activeeffects to use between short rests, you can afford to use two or more activerune effects in each combat and you may find that you have runes to sparewhen you make it to your next Short Rest.
  7. Runic Juggernaut: The extra damage isnot significant, especially at this level. But the ability to become Hugeand get a little more reach can be helpful in some cases. Being Huge notablymeans that you can grapple gargantuan creatures, making you big enough to grapple any creaturein the game.

Samurai (XGtE)

An offensively focused archetype, the Samurai is a Striker, focusing on damage output almost exclusively. I expect most samurai to rely on two-handed weapons and to pick up feats like Great Weapon Master and Sharpshoot to capitalize on Fighting Spirit’s ability to grant Advantage easily. Elegant Courtier and the Samurai’s Bonus Proficiency also make it possible for the Samurai to serve as a Face. However, Samurai offers no mechanisms to protect or support your allies, making the Samurai somewhat of a loner in combat.

Samurai Fighter Handbook

  1. Bonus Proficiency: A free skill orlanguage proficiency. Pick the skill. Languages can be solved magically.
  2. Fighting Spirit: Making this require abonus action means that you can’t use two-weapon fighting in the same round,so building around two-handed weapons is your best bet. Guaranteed Advantageon all of your attacks means that feats like Great Weapon Master andSharpshooter become extremely tempting. The temporary HP also makes it easierto go without a shield. However, at just three uses per day you can’t expectto use this in every fight until you get Tireless Spirit at level 10.

    If your table is using the optional flanking rules, this is less important for meleebuilds because it’s so much easier to get Advantage, but it remains excellent for fightingat range.

  3. Elegant Courtier: Allowing you to useWisdom in addition to Charisma on Charisma (persuasion) checks means thatyou can function as a face without having high Charisma. An additionalsaving throw proficiency is even better, as most characters never get morethan two saving throw proficiencies.
  4. Tireless Spirit: Once you have this, youshould plan to begin every fight with Fighting Spirit. Come out swinging,and do a lot of damage up front.
  5. Rapid Strike: Advantage is nice becauseyou get to roll twice and keep the higher. Rapid Strike lets you keepboth, so if you get lucky and both rolls are high you can hittwice. You only get to do this once per turn, but this means that you canget four attacks in a single turn (5 once you hit 20th level, more if youhave Haste, use Two-Weapon Fighting, activate Action Surge, etc.).

    Fighting Spirit’s guarantee Advantage is an easy way to trigger RapidStrike, but remember that Fighting Spirit only works three times per day.A more reliable tactic is to Shove your opponent prone before attackingthem, or if an ally can land Hold Person/Monster then all attacks have advantage and all melee attacks are automatic critical hits.

  6. Strength before Death: An entire turn.An entire turn.. Drink a potion, use Second Wind. Anything to getyou some hit points and keep you conscious. Otherwise, take the Attackaction and get revenge! If you’re close to 0 on your own turn and have some way to give yourself enough falling damage to trigger this with just your movement you could in theory take a full turn with action surge and Fighting Spirit fueled Rapid Strike, fall to trigger Strength Before Death, and then do it all again, in the same round. And fun fact, if we do this during our own turn and we’ve already used Fighting Spirit then Fighting Spirit is still active (it says “interrupting the current turn”) because the turn that we used it on hasn’t ended yet. Even crazier, you could activate Action Surge again during this mid-turn bonus turn. If you can’t find a way to fall you can always use your last attack on yourself if you’re close enough to 0.
DnD 5e Fighter Subclass Breakdown – RPGBOT (2024)


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