An Introduction to the Fighter Class for Players New to Dungeons and Dragons 5e
The fighter class encompasses a number of different play-styles depending on your choice of fighting style, equipment, and subclass. This class serves as something of a catch-all for any martial weapon master. Their ranks include heavily armored juggernauts with full plate and shield, lightly armored and agile duelists, expert archers, and everything in between.
Side note: This guide assumes you have the Player’s Handbook for more detailed information, and is more intended to give you an idea of what this class can do. If you also need help with the process of creating your first character, click here first for my character rolling guide for new players.
Overview: The Walking Arsenal
Fighters are often seen within the community as being the generic or beginner’s choice of class, and there is some merit to the latter. Fighters are great for new players as they require very little skill to be effective in combat. You can spend every turn moving towards the enemy, attacking, and repeating. It isn’t terribly exciting to play a fighter like this, but when you’re still getting used to the rules it can be a relief. They also have access to all varieties of armor and martial weapons, meaning you can equip your fighter however you please as fits your particular build.
Fighters can be adapted into almost any combat role you like, and they will excel at whatever situation you tailor them for. Once you get a stronger grasp of combat mechanics, you can really start taking advantage of your Action Surge feature (which grants you an extra action the turn you use it) to pull off incredible, normally impossible turns. This ability refreshes over just a short rest, meaning you don’t have to shy away from using it in fights.
With the extra ability score increases (or ASI) you receive as a fighter compared to other classes, you can boost your ability scores to their maximum early. This is good, since you will be relying on those strong stats in combat. If your Dungeon Master allows the optional feats rule, these extra ASI can also be utilized to further customize your fighter with specialized feats such as sentinel, polearm expert, sharpshooter, and more.
Role in the Party
Out of all the classes in the game, the fighter has the most sustained power in a fight. They are good at getting into the fight and staying there, with their high hit die and access to heavy armor and shields. Fighters make an excellent candidate for either Damage Dealer or Tank.
Your Fighting Style choice at first level is your chance to start defining how you want your fighter to operate. You could be a melee damage powerhouse, in which case two-weapon fighting or great weapon fighting might be appealing to you. You could focus more on the tank role, in which case you should check out the protection and defense styles. If you want to split the difference and be a tough front-liner that can both take and deal damage somewhat effectively, I recommend dueling (and not just because it’s my personal favorite).
You can avoid melee combat entirely and take the archery fighting style, focusing on dealing damage from the back-line. These fighters can still switch to melee at the drop of a hat if the front-line is broken, making them an asset for defending more vulnerable ranged characters (I’m looking at you, wizard).
Looking Ahead: High Level Fighters
At higher levels, you will gain the ability to attack multiple times per turn. Fighter is not the only martial class that gains these extra attacks, but they get more of them than anyone else with four attacks every round at level twenty. This means if you take the attack action when you use your Action Surge, you could be attacking eight (!!!) times in a single turn, which is absolutely bonkers.
You have three subclass options offered in the Player’s Handbook when you reach level three. The first, Champion, will increase your physical prowess and critical threat range (meaning you will land a critical hits more often), as well as offering a second fighting style choice. Battlemaster gives you choices from a list of combat maneuvers your character can learn, which offer a wider range of options in a fight such as the ability to trip an enemy as you strike or parry an incoming attack. Finally, if you want to play more of a hybrid character, you could supplement your martial abilities with magic as an Eldritch Knight.
Whatever kind of fighter you choose to play, you will be the master of your domain on the battlefield. You may only be good at one thing (fighting, go figure), but you’ll be very good at it!