The Fighter class is the consummate warrior. Familiar with the use of the tools of war, their strength, speed, and martial skill are unmatched. By honing body and mind, the Fighter seeks to achieve physical perfection and supremacy in all forms of combat.

Follow this guide to discover how to best optimize the skills, weapons, features, and abilities for a D&D 5e Fighter class character build. While the options presented here may be the optimal build for a fighter (in my opinion), the beauty of D&D character creation is that the only limit is your imagination so feel free to build your character whichever way you want to.

The guide that follows uses a color-coding system to rank the abilities granted.
Blue
= An essential, class-defining ability you would be remiss to overlook.
Green = A strong choice for your class.
Orange = Average option, useful in specific circumstances
Red = Below average, extremely situational, or otherwise just bad.

All features and abilities are from the core rulebook set (Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide) unless otherwise attributed.

Party Role

The Fighter class is a powerful and complex class that can serve several party roles. The Fighter can stand in front of a powerful foe and tank massive amounts of damage. Likewise, Fighters can deal large amounts of damage both in melee and at ranged. The various Martial Archetypes grant fighters combat tricks and spellcasting abilities that can be used to bolster their offensive and defensive abilities. Some Fighter archetypes introduce a degree of battlefield control which allows them to serve as a secondary support character.

Strengths:

  • Proficiency with all weapons and armor mean Fighters are well equipped for almost any combat situation.
  • High armor class and hit points make fighter resilient enough to tank most threats. Their Second Wind ability grants them additional bulk and reduces reliance on support characters in a pinch.
  • Consistent damage output, and access to additional damage sources. Extra Attacks, Action Surge and proficiency with two-handed weapons means fighters are able to dish out damage quickly, consistently, and reliably.
  • Versatile build options. Fighters can specialize in melee combat, ranged combat, combat-oriented spellcasting, or battlefield control.

Weaknesses:

  • Limited skill utility. If the problem doesn’t require a strength-based solution, Fighters are basically useless. Fighters rely on other classes for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma-based skill tests.
  • Short Rest Reliance. Fighters operate off of several class abilities that recharge after a short rest. Fighters excel at combat encounters, but too many in a row will prove taxing on their abilities and cause them to wear down to middling baseline attacks rather than their more useful abilities.
  • Magic Vulnerability. Fighters (with the exception of the Eldritch Knight Martial Archetype) have no magic to their name. As such, they are particularly vulnerable to magic assault by their enemies and rely on allied casters for magical support.

Ability Scores

Strength: This is your bread and butter. The main event. You pick things up and put them down. Your first priority as a fighter is to get your strength to 20. In any build style, standard array, point buy, or traditional roll, you should put your highest ability score into strength. Strength dictates your attack and damage with melee weapons, which have the highest damage output potential. Most of the fighter weapon combat options benefit from having a high strength. Whether you’re going sword-and-board, two-handed weapons or dual-wielding, strength is the most important ability score for you.

Dexterity: Dexterity should not be ignored. Heavy armor does not allow you to add your Dexterity modifier to your armor class, which is a drawback of heavy armor. However, a Fighter’s utility comes from the multitude of combat options available to them. Having a good Dexterity score allows a Fighter to be effective at both melee and ranged combat options.

Constitution: As a primary melee combatant, having a bulk of hit points is crucial to weathering the onslaught of attacks you are no doubt going to face. Also, Constitution saves are arguably the most important saves. With your base proficiency with them, having a high Constitution ability score will ensure your resistance to Constitution-based attack.

Intelligence: Unless you are creating an Eldritch Knight or Arcane Archer Martial Archetype Fighter, Intelligence is not relevant to your build. Even so, by choosing combat-augmentation spells that do not need your Intelligence modifier you can remove the necessity for any investment in this ability score.

“As a primary melee combatant, having a bulk of hit points is crucial to weathering the onslaught of attacks you are no doubt going to face. “

Wisdom: For a Fighter, Perception is the only Wisdom-based skill of any value.

Charisma: Generally useless for a fighter beyond Intimidate. Let your actions do the talking.

Races

Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms Races

AarakocraEEPC: A Dexterity boost and flight are perfect for a Dexterity-based Fighter build who wishes to focus on ranged combat.

AasimarVGtM: Bonus Charisma helps with what Fighter lacks in proficiencies. Darkvision comes in handy keeping track of your enemies. Each subrace offers a different boon, some more helpful than others.

Fallen: Bonus Strength makes a melee Fighter stronger, and the bonus damage from Necrotic Shroud is great.

Protector: Wisdom doesn’t do much for a fighter, but the flight and extra damage from Radiant Soul combo very well with your Action Surge.

Scourge: The Constitution increase can offset the damage from Radiant Consumption but be careful not to burn yourself out.

BugbearVGtM: A very strong option for most Fighter builds. Strength and Dexterity increases and most importantly reach on your melee attacks.

Dragonborn: Between the Strength bonus and breath weapon, it adds a lot to a Fighter build. Compared to other classes it’s lacking things like Darkvision or skill and tool proficiencies.

Dwarf: Dwarves gain bonus Constitution which is great for Fighters. Coupled with their default darkvision and resistance to poison, they make for a tough Fighter.

Hill Dwarf: Wisdom doesn’t do much for Fighters, but the extra hit points go a long way.

Mountain Dwarf: The Strength bonus makes this the ideal choice of Dwarven subrace.

DuergarSCAG: In a dungeon-crawl or underground campaign, this is a strong choice. Otherwise the sunlight sensitivity is a huge drawback.

“The Dexterity bonus makes Elves a no brainer for archery builds”

Elf: The Dexterity bonus makes Elves a no brainer for archery builds. Perception and Darkvision only strengthen the argument for that choice.

Drow: There’s nothing a Drow can do that other elf subraces can’t do better. Additionally, the sunlight sensitivity is a huge drawback.

EladrinMToF: Shadar Kai does most of what this subrace does better.

High Elf: An Intelligence boost and the free Cantrip make for a strong choice for Eldritch Knight.

Shadar-KaiMToF: A Constitution bonus, damage resistance, and the ability to teleport make this a dangerous combination for Fighters.

Wood Elf: Dexterity-focused fighters need look no further. Coupled with the extra movement, this subrace ensures you will be in range to dish it out anywhere.

FirbolgVGtM: Apart from the strength increase, this race doesn’t offer much for Fighter.

GenasiEEPC:

Air: The Dexterity boost is good for a ranged build, and limited flight helps you make it to a sniper’s perch at lower levels than flight would normally be available to you.

Earth: Strength, Constitution, and the ability to ignore difficult terrain. An excellent choice.

Fire: Intelligence, a cantrip, and a spell make this a great lead-in to an Eldritch Knight.

Water: Wisdom doesn’t do much for a Fighter, and the resistance to acid is situational at best.

GithMToF: The two Gith races are polar opposite in terms of their usefulness for a Fighter.

Githyanki: Intelligence, Strength, and bonus spells make this a great lead in for the Eldritch Knight.

Githzerai: Nothing useful for Fighters with this race.

Gnome: Gnomes don’t make particularly good fighters. All their racial abilities are geared towards Wisdom and Charisma, which aren’t important stats for a Fighter.

Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC/SCAG: Forest Gnomes are typically a better choice here.

Forest: These Gnomes make good Dexterity-based Eldritch Knights.

Rock: This race offers very little to the Fighter.

GoblinVGtM: Dexterity, Nimble Escape, and Fury of the Small add a lot to a melee fighter build.

GoliathVGtM/EEPC: This race was made to be a Fighter. Strength, Constitution, free Athletics proficiency, and Stone’s Endurance all lend themselves to a powerful Fighter.

Half-Elf: Choosing which stats to increase allow you to prioritize the correct build for whatever flavor you’re going for. The subraces add helpful abilities as well but are generally outshone by full-elves or humans.

Standard: This race gives you all the skills you need to be the face of the party, or to fill out the class skill list.

AquaticSACG: Only useful in an aquatic campaign.

DrowSCAG: The bonus spells are nice, but otherwise this race doesn’t offer much.

Moon/SunSCAG: Losing a skill for a cantrip is situationally worth it. And the weapon proficiencies are redundant considering you’re proficient with all the weapons already.

WoodSCAG: The bonus speed helps, but otherwise this race doesn’t offer much.

Half-Orc: Strength, Relentless Endurance, and Savage Attack make you a dangerous berserker, especially combined with the Champion’s increased critical hit range.

Halfling: Dexterity increase makes for a good finesse-weapon or Dexterity-based Fighter. The Lucky ability also lends itself to Fighter’s spread of attacks.

Lightfoot: Not a good choice for a Fighter.

GhostwiseSCAG: Not a good choice for a Fighter.

Stout: Dexterity, Constitution, and resistance to poison make this a strong choice for a Dexterity-based Fighter build.

HobgoblinVGtM: Saving Face will give you a second chance to hit with a missed attack. The Constitution and Intelligence lend itself to Eldritch Knight.

Human: Humans are a versatile race and fit into any class well.

Standard: gaining +1 to all your stats makes you all-around stronger than average. This is helpful if you’re doing character creation with a point-buy system and can land on all odd scores.

Variant: Two main-stat enhancements and a feat give you endless possibilities. Feats are great for fighters because it accelerates the timeframe to becoming an above-average damage dealer.

Try telling her human fighters are boring.

KenkuVGtM: If you can manage to get proficiency with Thieves’ tools from your background and spec a finesse/Dexterity Fighter, this could be a powerful character.

KoboldVGtM: Kobolds in a party phalanx can gain advantage easily, which pairs well with multiple attacks or feats like Sharpshooter or Savage Attacker.

LizardfolkVGtM: The natural armor ability allows a Dexterity-based build to succeed without spending money or resources on armor. In addition, the proficiencies and Hold Breath ability grant this race several useful abilities that compliment the Fighter’s stable of strong options.

OrcVGtM: Everything about Orc screams Fighter. Strength and Constitution, Aggressive and Menacing, all the abilities compliment the Fighter class well. However, the Half-Orc is a slightly better choice.

TabaxiVGtM: Makes a great rogue-like Fighter. The speed bonus and Dexterity increases are great.

Tiefling: Darkvision and fire resistance to start, plus the bonus cantrip and spells as you level up. The stat increases aren’t in scope for a Fighter, however.

Devil’s TongueSCAG: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

HellfireSCAG: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

WingedSCAG: Flight is useful, but otherwise the stat spread is poor.

AsmodeusMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

BaalzebulMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

DispaterMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

FiernaMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

GlasyaMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

LevistusMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

MammonMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

MephistophlesMToF: Poor stat spread for Fighter.

ZarielMToF: A strength increase, Searing Smite and Branding Smite are great additions to your attack suite.

TortleXGE/TP: The Strength increase and the natural armor bonus are great at low levels, but Full Plate armor outclasses the Tortle’s natural armor at higher levels.

TritonVGtM: In an aquatic campaign, this is one of the best choices. Good stat spread and underwater abilities and a swim speed.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM: This class doesn’t offer much useful for Fighters.

Eberron Races

Changeling: Poor stat spread and abilities for Fighter.

KalashtarERLW: Poor stat spread and abilities for Fighter.

OrcERLW: The Eberron version of the Orc race is slightly better than the Volo’s guide version with extra skill proficiency from a short list that makes sense to combo with Fighter.

Warforged Fighters: strong Ironman vibes

ShifterERLW: Darkvision and shifting to regain hit points give you a great edge.

Beasthide: Good ability increases and skill options, and a bonus to armor class

Longtooth: Strength and Dexterity increases and a natural attack, plus Intimidation proficiency.

Swiftstride: Dexterity increase, speed increase while shifting, and Acrobatics.

Wildhunt: Dexterity increase works well with Fighter, but the rest of the abilities are sub par compared to other options.

WarforgedERLW: Constitution and one other stat of your choice, an armor class bonus, advantage on saves against poison, and no need to eat, drink, sleep, or breathe.

Ravnica Races

CentaurGGTR: Increased Strength and Speed, but you can’t climb up ladders without help. The natural attacks and skill proficiencies make this a great choice.

LoxodonGGTR: Constitution and natural armor make you very resilient, but the rest of the abilities are less than optimal.

MinotaurGGTR: The perfect Melee Fighter. Minotaurs excel at charging in and smashing.

Simic HybridGGTR: Extremely versatile with a solid stat enhancement. Bonus ability at 5th level for even more customizability.

VedalkenGGTR: Not useful for Fighters.

Class Features

Hit Dice: Fighter affords you a d10 hit die, which is surpassed only by Barbarians. You’re in the same class as Rangers and Paladins in terms of hit points, which gives you resilience in combat.

Weapon Proficiencies: Fighters can take their pick from all available weapons. This is one of the main benefits of playing this class. Disarmed in the middle of a fight? Pick up a weapon from any fallen creature (friend or foe) and you’re back in action.

Armor Proficiencies: Fighters are proficient in all armor types, and with shields. Your AC will max out higher than most other classes.

Tool Proficiencies: Fighters do not get any tool proficiencies. If you’re looking for crafting abilities, consider taking a background with some tools available. This won’t really hinder your usefulness in combat, so don’t stress about it.

Saving Throws: Strength saves don’t come up very often, but when they do, they’re usually life-or-death. Constitution saves, on the other hand, are equally life-or-death and come up more frequently than you’d probably like them to. This provides you a very good resistance against effects that typically deal poison, cold, or necrotic damage. And it lets you out-drink most other characters.

Fighting Style: This is one of the Fighter’s iconic abilities, and a great perk of multiclassing into Fighter.

Archery: This is a great option for a Dexterity-based ranged build, or to supplement a high strength melee build with the option to deal high damage at range as a secondary mode of attack.

Defense: You’re better served using an attack-oriented option from this list in general, but if you’re looking to be the stalwart tank or going the Champion Martial Archetype route, this option may be worth it.

Dueling: This is the strongest melee-oriented option for Fighter. This option specifies that you hold “no other weapon” so it still functions when you use a shield. With your Extra Attack class feature, this will net you a huge amount of extra damage over the lifetime of your character.

Great Weapon Fighting: This option is good for consistency when rolling with two-handed weapons, but it adds an average of just over 1 damage per attack. If you want to use two-handed weapons, choosing Defense instead will compensate for not being able to use a shield.

Protection: This only functions for allies adjacent to you. Anyone who would need this protection shouldn’t be adjacent to the front-line Fighter in the first place.

Two-Weapon Fighting: This option is less than ideal compared to Archery and Dueling but will become worth it only after investing feats and items into it. On the pro side, two-weapon fighting grants you more attacks per round, which will grant you extra damage from any abilities that grant on-hit damage. However, Fighters do not have native access to such abilities (Hex, Hunter’s Mark, etc.). Fighters already have the most attacks per round of any class and using your bonus action to make an off-hand attack prevents you from using any of your other bonus action class abilities like Battlemaster Abilities, Second Wind or Action Surge.

Second Wind: Not your most useful ability, but it does provide a bit of on-demand healing that spares your group’s healer a precious action.

Action Surge: An extra action allows you to do a LOT. Considering you’re going to have more attacks than any other class to begin with, this doubles your damage output. This is another great reason to multiclass into fighter.

Extra Attack: Fighters attack the most out of any class.

Indomitable: This ability gives you the opportunity to reroll a failed save. This could make or break an entire combat encounter. Never underestimate the power of a timely reroll.

Martial Archetypes

Arcane Archer

The Arcane Archer is a similar Martial Archetype to the Battle Master, but all of its Arcane Shot abilities are ranged attack focused. The options in this Martial Archetype are diverse and powerful. A Dexterity and Intelligence-based build can benefit from timely use of special arrows.

Arcane Archer Lore: You gain two knowledge spells and two spells ineffective in combat.

Arcane Shot: This is a ranged-only version of the Battle Master maneuvers.

Curving Shot: This is a janky way to gain advantage, but it’s a reliable ability that you can use without a rest recharge.

Magic Arrow: As a Dexterity-based Fighter you’re more than likely going to invest in magical weapons and ammunition, but this is the budget option. Turning all your mundane ammunition magical is a handy way to save your gold.

Ever-Ready Shot: You regain one use of your Arcane Shot each time you roll initiative while having no uses remaining. It keeps you in the fight, but hopefully you’re managing your short rest abilities and rest opportunities better.

Arcane Shot Options

Banishing Arrow: A creature hit by this arrow must succeed on a Charisma save or be taken out of combat for the next round. This can effectively end an encounter, allowing your party to either escape, or set up to surround-and-pound whatever you’re fighting when it returns.

Beguiling Arrow: This option deals bonus damage to a single target, and also charms them to one of your allies. It’s an interesting feature that it uses one of your allies as the focus, but it allows you to keep pummeling the enemy while protecting your ally.

Bursting Arrow: This arrow deals a relatively low amount of damage in a medium burst area. It is force damage, so there’s a good chance it won’t be resisted, but it won’t light anything on fire and has no other secondary effects.

Enfeebling Arrow: Extra damage and a chance to nerf an enemy’s weapon for one round. Very situationally useful.

Grasping Arrow: the most powerful of your arrows, it deals 2d6 now and 2d6 each time the target moves. It also reduces their speed. The secondary effect lasts for a minute and requires an action and a save to end early.  This is the strongest battlefield control and damage option available to this Martial Archetype, and to the Fighter class in general.

Piercing Arrow: A sniper shot that ignores cover. It forces anything in the line of effect to make a dexterity save or suffer your normal damage plus bonus damage. The only (but still major) drawback is the short range.

Seeking Arrow: Replacing the attack roll with a Dexterity save, this arrow can find a hidden creature, but only if you know to shoot at it. This arrow is situationally useful, but powerful when it comes into play.

Shadow Arrow: The second-most-powerful of your arrows, this attack deals bonus damage and causes the target to be blinded beyond 5 ft. This will grant disadvantage on outgoing ranged attacks, and advantage on incoming ranged attacks. This can also effectively end an encounter against a single opponent, making them unable to find you and giving you the opportunity to set up a kill box or escape.

Battle Master

This Martial Archetype is the epitome of the Fighter class. It provides you with numerous options for combat maneuvers that grant you extra damage, protection, utility, and battlefield control. This option is the culmination of the Fighter class evolution from the previous four iterations of Dungeons and Dragons, seeing Fighter grow from a simple bruiser to a weapons specialist to a feat-savvy combatant, to the true master of the martial art of combat it is today. Battle Master Fighters are extremely tactical and can often set the tempo of a battle. A Strength and Constitution-based build works best with this Martial Archetype.

Combat Superiority: This is the feature you will be focusing on. Your superiority dice and your maneuvers are the reason to choose this Martial Archetype. You start with three maneuvers at 3rd level and four superiority dice. The superiority dice power your maneuvers, and they recharge after a short rest. Your hardest decisions will revolve around managing your short rests. Your effectiveness depends on your ability to efficiently use your maneuvers to end combats decisively. If you cannot win decisively, you need to try to win with minimal casualties.

Maneuvers give you options for melee and ranged combat, and some are reactions. Managing your action economy is going to come down to knowing when to use your superiority dice and when to save them.

Student of War: This is flavorful, but mostly useless. Tool proficiency is one thing the Fighter class lacks, but it isn’t something it desperately needs.

Know your Enemy: Gaining insight into your opponents comes in handy when you’re unsure what you’re dealing with to begin with. You can’t use this ability if you’re ambushed, or if you rush headlong into combat, so it forces you to strategize beforehand. Can you trick your foe into monologuing long enough to study him and discern his weaknesses? Can you stalk your prey before pouncing on them to strike?

This ability only tells you the relative strength of an opponent with your own skills as a benchmark. Use this information with caution, as you won’t know just how strong or weak they are overall, only in relation to yourself.

Improved Combat Superiority: As you increase in level, your superiority dice will increase in value. They start as d6’s and will eventually grow into d10s, increasing your damage output.

Relentless: Starting a battle with one superiority die is important in case you are stuck in a tough situation and unable to short rest. This ability also incentivizes you to use all your available superiority dice during an encounter. However, good management of your superiority dice and short rest opportunities will see you with more available maneuvers each combat.

Battle Master Maneuvers

Commander’s Strike: This is very situationally useful. You are sacrificing your attack and your bonus action to allow an ally to make a single attack. This is mainly useful if you’re out of range or only one person in the party has a specific necessary damage type.

Disarming Attack: Fighters are proficient with all weapons. Most enemies use weapons. Take their weapons from them and beat them to death with them. It’s flavorful, it’s powerful, and above all, it’s fun.

Distracting Strike: If you have a rogue in your party, this is a must. You provide advantage on the next attack against a target you hit with an attack, granting that rogue hiding in the shadows a sneak attack opportunity.

Evasive Footwork: If you do your job as a tank too well and get surrounded by more enemies than you can handle, this will help you get out of trouble. Rolling your superiority die and adding the result to your AC allows you to skirt through multiple enemies at a decreased chance of taking damage. This is superior to disengage because it doesn’t use up your action. You can retreat while still being offensive.

Feinting Attack: You should be using positioning in conjunction with your party members for advantage through use of your other maneuvers and weapon selection. Additionally, it only grants advantage on a single attack. Considering you have many attacks per round, it is less impactful than you would think.

Goading Attack: This maneuver pulls aggro from the creature you attack. It’s a glorified Intimidate check that doesn’t guarantee a taunt.

Lunging Attack: This is very situational. Typically, you’re going to have enough movement to approach an enemy, use a reach weapon, or make a ranged attack. For only 5 extra feet of reach it isn’t really worth it.

Maneuvering Attack: The ultimate battlefield control maneuver, Maneuvering Attack allows you to deal extra damage to a target and move an ally at the cost of their reaction. Their movement doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, so you can effectively save an ally’s life by disengaging them off their turn.

Menacing Attack: This maneuver allows you to attempt to frighten a creature in addition to dealing extra damage. A frightened creature has disadvantage on attacks and ability checks and can’t approach you. This is potent battlefield control if you can maintain line of sight. You could trap a frightened creature in a dead end and effectively remove it from combat.

Parry: Normally opting for an aggressive build benefits the fighter, so Riposte is a better option. However, for a Dexterity-based build this is a strong maneuver.

Precision Attack: Adding your superiority die to an attack roll allows you to hit extremely evasive opponents, overcome disadvantage, and more reliably deal damage. Keep in mind that this stacks with both bless and Bardic Inspiration.

Pushing Attack: When you strike a creature with a melee attack you can push them backwards up to 15 feet. This maneuver makes a polearm master Fighter a powerful opponent, and nearly impossible to get past, granting them a huge threatened area, and a means to make extra attacks against opponents.

Rally: Unless you have a high Charisma, this maneuver is not particularly effective

Riposte: Keep in mind this only works in melee. That said, using your reaction and a superiority die to make an attack against a foe that misses you with a melee attack is a great option for you.

Sweeping Attack: Unless you’re fighting groups of enemies with very low hit points, this maneuver is less than impressive.

Trip Attack: knocking an enemy prone grants advantage to any allies who would be able to attack that opponent before they stand back up. This allows Rogues to deal massive damage to a target with your help.

Cavalier

This Martial Archetype excels at mounted combat. It grants abilities that give you strong battlefield control even when unmounted, but really excel when you have the advantage of height, reach, and speed. This Martial Archetype works very well on a Strength and Constitution build.

Bonus Proficiency: Choice of an additional skill or language. If you don’t already have Animal Handling, this is your chance to pick it up. It will come into play more often than you realize while mounted.

Born to the Saddle: Get back on the horse! This feature makes it easier to mount and dismount, giving you more flexibility in your movements.

Unwavering Mark: Each time you hit a creature you can impose disadvantage on it when it attacks anyone other than you, and make a bonus attack against it on your next turn if it hits you. The only downside of this ability is that it’s a long rest recharge, so you need to be selective in your uses of it.

Warding Maneuver: Adding 1d8 to an adjacent ally’s armor class is handy, but if you’re mounted chances are you’re going to be riding out on your own with your superior speed and mobility. If you spend a lot of time mounted, you’re going to see fewer occasions to use this ability than your other class features.

Hold the Line: This feature makes you a bulwark. Enemies can’t move past you if you hit them with an opportunity attack. Combine this with a reach weapon and you can lock down a large area of the battlefield.

Ferocious Charger: Once per round, if you move at least 10 feet before attacking, you can attempt to knock an enemy prone. This decreases their movement and grants advantage on attacks, making this a powerful option.

Vigilant Defender: When you reach 18th level, you can make an opportunity attack against each creature on its turn. Combined with your previous class abilities, you have the potential to wipe out enemy forces off your own initiative just by being positioned well.

Champion

The Champion is a great option for a player who is looking to attack round after round and deal massive damage. It grants you more frequent critical hits, some skill bonuses, and an additional fighting style. The capstone ability grants you more survivability allowing you to be a self-sufficient wrecking ball of a character. This is a strong choice for a Strength and Constitution-based build.

Improved Critical: Landing a critical hit on rolls of 19-20 will increase your damage output dramatically. Making use of battlefield control abilities, flanking to gain advantage, and first-strike opportunities will increase your chance of critical hits.

Remarkable Athlete: Initiative is a Dexterity-based check. This allows you to act faster in combat, which provides battlefield positioning advantage. Half-proficiency on any Strength- Dexterity- and Constitution-based skill checks is nice, but chances are you’re already proficient with the ones you use frequently.

Additional Fighting Style: Here’s an opportunity to pick up a second fighting style if you make it this far and haven’t already dipped into Ranger or Paladin to pick up a complimentary fighting style to your primary one. You’ve made it this far without it, but it’s good to have it now.

Superior Critical: Another increase in your critical range grants you even higher damage output. Fishing for critical hits becomes more important now, so use your advantage attacks and inspiration wisely. If you haven’t picked up the Lucky feat, now is your best chance.

Survivor: Regaining hit points every turn you are below half your max takes the burden off the healer to keep you alive, and instead relies only on them to keep you healthy. If you find yourself in a lot of one-on-one combat scenarios, this increases your survivability several times over.

Eldritch Knight

For the Fighter who wants to be a spell slinger, this Martial Archetype gives you access to some interesting cantrips and 1st through 4th level spells.

Spellcasting: Fighter specializes in dealing tons of physical damage. Access to spells gives you a fighting chance against opponents who can fly, have physical resistances, or use magic themselves.

Cantrips: The Strength and Constitution-based build will have a good time with augmenting their attack damage with powerful Cantrips like booming blade, green flame blade, and lightning lure. Alternatively, a Dexterity and Intelligence-based build makes use of ranged attack cantrips like fire bolt and toll the dead.

Spells of 1st-level and higher: While it’s tempting to pick all powerful evocation spells, the abjuration list is where this class really shines. With access to all manner of utility spells, your Fighter goes from a beat stick to a reliable solution to many dungeon problems. Once you gain access to 3rd level spells and can use dispel magic and counterspell you will fear no enemy spellcasters, which are usually the bane of a melee mundane character. You will have the opportunity to learn up to three spells outside the evocation and abjuration lists.

Weapon Bond: Unless your game is extremely nitty-gritty about possession of items, it’s usually assumed you have weapons on you. However, this assures that you’ll never be truly unarmed, and can resist being disarmed in combat at the cost of a bonus action.

War Magic: Combining this feature with the cantrips in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide grant you multiple attacks plus bonus damage. There are all sorts of interesting combinations of fire, lightning, and battlefield control combined with attacks you can make using this feature.

Eldritch Strike: Useful combined with War Magic, but it really shines if you use a high-intelligence build and chose spells that require saves.

Arcane Charge: Free teleportation with your action surge increases your range and ensures you’ll never miss an opportunity to either advance or retreat while remaining offensive.

Improved War Magic: The capstone of this Martial Archetype allows you to make the best use of your due magical and martial powers.

Psi WarriorTCoE

This martial-focused psionic warrior is reminiscent of the Psychic Warrior from 3.5 Edition. It shares that class’ same downfall in the lack of overall power and customization compared to any other Fighter subclass variant or psionic class. However, it offers a refreshing perspective on the mind-body connection martial arts often focuses on as a central tenant.

Psionic Power: Your primary class ability, your pool of Psionic Energy Dice are used to power your other abilities. You have multiple options on how to recover your dice, but once they’re gone for the day you’re out of luck.

Protective Field. Roll a die to reduce damage in a radius.

Psionic Strike. Deal extra damage on a successful attack.

Telekinetic Movement. You get one free use of this before you need to spend a die on it, so that’s neat. Exactly as advertised, move an object with your mind.

Telekinetic Adept: At 7th level you get a few more options for your dice, but no more dice.

Psi-Power Leap. You get one free use of double-speed flight before you have to use a die.

Telekinetic Thrust. An add-on to psionic strike.

Guarded Mind: Expend a die to shake off an enchantment. This is super useful for the Fighter, who is generally a prime mind control target.

Bulwark Force: Team buff to AC activated as a bonus action. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Telekinetic Master: If you have maxed out your Intelligence, which is very doable as a fighter, this power is very strong. If that is the case, you might as well spend you dice on repeatedly casting telekinesis in encounters, because its flexibility gives you more effectiveness than just swinging a sword around.

Purple Dragon Knight (Banneret)

For the Fighter who always wanted be a Paladin, this option is the classical knight pledged to a cause. The features of this Martial Archetype are mostly morale-boosting and support skills rather than the Fighter’s typical damage boosting abilities from other paths.

Rallying Cry: When you use your Second Wind ability, you can choose up to three allies within range to regain hit points equal to your fighter level. This is almost negligible at low levels, but as you go deeper into the fighter class it becomes more relevant, especially since Second Wind is a short rest ability.

Royal Envoy: Gaining proficiency and adding double proficiency to persuasion will help you out in social situations, something that the Fighter is clearly lacking in otherwise.

Inspiring Surge: When you use your Action Surge, an ally within range can use its reaction to make an attack, adding to your combat efficiency.

Bulwark: Allowing an ally to roll a failed save is a very useful feature, however, this ability only functions if both you and the ally fail the save initially.

Rune KnightTCoE

Rune Knight is an interesting class. It combines the fighter’s natural propensity for combat with magic in the form of stacked enchantments. As a new class, the selection of runes is heavily limited. This class will hopefully be expanded in future installments and is a great target for a homebrew.

Bonus Proficiencies: Aside from the flavor of your class, the proficiencies you gain don’t really do much.

Rune Carver: Your main ability. You can apply runes to your and your ally’s equipment. As you level up you can apply more runes and will eventually learn 5 of the 6 available runes. You can swap runes each time you level up, so there are really no bad choices here considering there are so few available.

Cloud Rune. You get sneakier and can redirect an attack once per short rest.

Fire Rune. Expertise with tools, so if you’ve got a bunch of proficiencies, specifically with thieves’ tools, this is a solid choice. The Fiery Shackles are great. The extra damage is so-so, but being able to magically restrain a target is the real prize.

Frost Rune. Animal handling is very situational, but Intimidation is great for you if you’re the rough and tumble type of fighter. The bonus to saves is useful, but you’ve got enough ability score increases as you move up that this will diminish in usefulness over time. When the time comes, this is the one to cut.

Stone Rune. Darkvision if you don’t have it and advantage on Insight, and the ability to drop a charm on an approaching enemy make this worth taking.

Hill Rune. Available after seventh level, damage resistances are great. It doesn’t specify non-magical, so this really holds up over time.

Storm Rune. Arcana is not something you need, but no surprises is great, and advantage on demand for anyone you choose is invaluable.

Giant’s Might: Bonus damage, size increase, and save advantage on demand a few times per day.

Runic Shield: This basically lets you impose disadvantage on a roll after seeing the first half of it.

Great Stature: You get taller. Great. And your bonus damage increases to stay on par with other classes who have a similar feature.

Master of Runes: Double rune activation! This makes you really useful, especially when you imprint the runes on your ally’s equipment, giving them more oomph.

Runic Juggernaut: You get taller again, your damage increases slightly, and you get reach.

Samurai

The path of the samurai fills in many gaps in the base fighter class, introducing options for extra attacks and granting proficiencies and saves in the three ability scores most fighter builds ignore. Samurai starts with an underwhelming feature but gets better as it ages.

Bonus Proficiency: You gain a new language or skill proficiency. Insight or Persuasion work well here.

Fighting Spirit: As a bonus action you gain advantage on all attacks you make this round. Coupled with Fighter’s Extra Attacks and your Rapid Strike feature you gain at 15th level, you gain a huge boost in damage output. You start out with three uses of this per long rest, and the magnitude of it increases when you reach 10th level and again at 15th level.

Elegant Courtier: Proficiency with Wisdom saves will get you out of a number of dangerous situations from mind-affecting spells and abilities. This also allows you to add your Wisdom modifier to persuasion checks, making up for a lack of Charisma if you used that as your dump slot.

Tireless Spirit: Whenever you enter combat without a use of your Fighting Spirit you regain one use of it. This ability keeps you dangerous between long rests.

Rapid Strike: Once you get Raid Strike you effectively gain an extra attack every time you use your Fighting Spirit ability. Forgoing advantage to instead make two attacks is a neutral more statistically on the “to hit” front but a monumental gain on the damage front.

Strength before Death: The Samurai capstone ability is the most cinematic feature of any class in the game. As soon as you are reduced to zero hit points, you immediately get to take a whole turn interrupting the current turn. This means that if an enemy with multiple attacks fells you with the first one, you get to act before they make their second attack. You can benefit from uses of your other abilities, such as Second Wind, Action Surge, or Fighting Spirit during this bonus turn. An effective use of this ability can turn the tide of a fight and deliver you from death’s door back to a dominant position on the field.

Skills

Acrobatics: A tough guy wearing armor does not a graceful ballerina make. Stay away from the gymnastics and focus on more athletic challenges.

Animal Handling: You aren’t a Ranger, so don’t try to be. This has no bearing on your function in combat unless you’re mounted.

Arcana: Situationally useful for Eldritch Knights. Leave the heavy lifting to the Wizard in terms of all things magic.

Athletics: Now that’s what I’m talking about! Running, Jumping, and Climbing are more in your wheelhouse than any other physical challenge.

Deception: Useful to feint, but not for much else. Charisma skills are better left to others.

History: Read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Wholly irrelevant otherwise.

Insight: Helpful to read an opponent, but you’ll likely be lacking the Wisdom score to make it worthwhile.

Intimidation: The only Charisma-based skill that’s useful for you. But as previously stated, let your actions speak for you.

Investigation: Fighters are more the Muscle than the Brains, so leave this to the Rogue or Wizard.

Medicine: A spear is just a big needle, right? Wrong. Leave this to the Cleric.

Nature: Again, you’re not a Ranger, so don’t pretend to be.

Perception: It’s always beneficial to see your opponent coming. Don’t be caught unaware!

Performance: Fighters are less show and more tell.

Persuasion: You’re not going to be terribly charming covered in scars now are you?

Religion: Fighters believe in one god- force. This is a Cleric’s domain (pun intended).

Sleight of Hand: unless you’re a Dexterity-based build Fighter, this isn’t your forte either.

Stealth: Your armor isn’t doing you any favors here. Stay out of infiltration situations until you know the coast is clear.

Survival: Learn to follow a blood trail, tracks, or a bounty.

Backgrounds

Acolyte: While Religion and Knowledge skills fill in gaps in the Fighter class’ skill list, they aren’t very useful in the combat role. Extra languages don’t benefit the Fighter either, unless they’re trying to function as the face of the party.

Charlatan: Not useful for Fighters.

City WatchSCAG: Athletics and Insight are worthwhile skills, but the extra languages fall flat.

Clan CrafterSCAG: History and Insight are wasted skills on a Fighter for the most part, and the tool proficiencies and friendship with the Dwarves aren’t relevant either.

Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Extra knowledge skills fill in gaps in the Fighter’s skill list

CourtierSCAG: You’re better off taking Noble if you’re going to the royal flair, as it has better skill proficiencies.

Criminal: An interesting choice for a Fighter, but Smuggler from Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a similar flavor with more useful skills. Thieves’ tools are generally not as useful in your hands as vehicles.

Entertainer: Not useful for Fighter.

Faction AgentSCAG: Insight isn’t terribly useful, but the free pick of an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma-based skill in conjunction with the choice of faction gives this option a lot of flavor, a lot of flexibility, and a lot of customization potential for your character.

Far TravelerSCAG: This is a very flavorful option that comes with bonus languages and Perception, which is a valuable skill.

FisherGoS: Survival is useful, and History peripherally so. The rest of this Background’s benefits are irrelevant.

Folk Hero: Overlapping skills with the Fighter list diminish the utility of this background. Tool proficiency isn’t important.

Guild Artisan: Criminal is more useful in terms of skills, and tools are irrelevant for a Fighter.

Hermit: The Herbalism kit is the most worthwhile part of this background as there are better choices for the skills it provides.

InheritorSCAG: If you’re playing an Eldritch Knight, this is a very strong choice. Between the skills, the languages, and the tool proficiency, it adds a lot to the build.

Knight of the OrderSCAG: Another strong choice for Eldritch Knight. Several strong skill options, a language, and tool proficiencies.

MarineGoS: Athletics, Survival, and proficiency with Vehicles makes this an ideal choice. Add in the travel distance bonus, and this makes for a great commander character, especially in an aquatic or world-hopping campaign.

Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Athletics is a strong option, but persuasion is lost on the Fighter.

Noble: Perception is nice, but Smuggler grants more useful abilities overall.

“Soldier: your all-around best option”

Outlander: This background provides two good skills from the Fighter list, but the instrument is useless. A good pick if you’re trying to max out your Fighter class skills.

Sage: Arcana and History are useful for Eldritch Knights, but that’s about it.

Sailor: An ideal choice for aquatic campaigns, as it grants two skills on the Fighter list and proficiency with boats.

ShipwrightGoS: Perception is a very useful skill, and History is situationally useful. Sea vehicle proficiency, and the ability to repair them are handy for aquatic campaigns.

SmugglerGoS: Athletics and Deception are two skills that don’t work together, but for character flavor and usefulness, this Background works in an evil or anti-hero build.

Soldier: Here’s your all-around best option. Fighter class skills and tool proficiencies that your class is missing. Your status and rank afford you in-game clout that may make up for your lack of Charisma-based skills.

Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: This background is geared more towards a Rogue or Ranger, but a Dexterity-focused Fighter may make good use of the abilities it affords.

Urchin: Another good option for Dexterity-based fighters.

Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: Athletics is useful, but the rest of this background’s features are difficult to use well.

Waterdhavian NobleSCAG: Not useful for Fighter.

Feats

Alert: Going first means getting better positioning. As they say, location, location, location! Fighters are the keystone to any melee combat strategy, so obtaining a favorable position at the outset of battle is of paramount importance.

Athlete: A great feat to take if your Dexterity or Strength score is odd. Increase your modifier and gain some movement perks that are situationally useful.

Actor: Really only useful for the Purple Dragon Knight, where Charisma is somewhat important.

Charger: This feat is extremely powerful for a mounted character, and lackluster otherwise. You’re better served using your action to make multiple attacks than one with extra damage.

Crossbow Expert: Mandatory for a Dexterity-based, two-weapon-fighting combat style hand-crossbow user, and useless otherwise.

Defensive Duelist: This will get you out of one attack per round, but at the cost of your reaction. It also only works when you’re equipped with a finesse weapon, so two-weapon fighting and duelist combat style users only.

Dual Wielder: A strong option for two-weapon fighting combat style Fighters as it allows the use of two longswords for higher damage output, but as previously covered, two-weapon fighting is one of the weaker combat style options for Fighters.

Dungeon Delver: This is only worthwhile if your campaign is heavy on the deep delves into dungeons rife with danger, or your party lacks a primary trap springer.

Duel Wielding: 2 sharp things are always better than 1

Durable: If you have an odd constitution score, this is worthwhile, otherwise skip it.

Elemental Adept: Wholly useless unless you are an Eldritch Knight, and even then there are stronger options available.

Grappler: Let’s face it, you’re not going to fight with kid gloves on, and you’re not going to take them alive. Go for the throat. Use weapons, don’t wrestle.

Great Weapon Master: This feat grants you two abilities that will drastically increase your damage output.

Healer: Healing is not in your primary skill set.

Heavily Armored: Irrelevant. You’re already proficient with heavy armor. This is only useable if you didn’t take your first level in Fighter.

Heavy Armor Master: If you have an odd strength score, this is a no-brainer. At low levels, this will make you very hard to kill. At higher levels, it will protect you from mobs of non-magical goons.

Inspiring Leader: Purple Dragon Knights would benefit from having this feat, otherwise it isn’t very strong.

Keen Mind: Intelligence isn’t important for a fighter. If you’re an Eldritch Knight this may be worthwhile if your Intelligence score is odd.

Lightly Armored: Irrelevant.

Linguist: Another odd Intelligence increase, useful in very specific circumstances only.

Lucky: This is a good feat for any character. It helps when fishing for critical hits, or to ensure you succeed on important saves and skill checks.

Mage Slayer: This spell on an Eldritch Knight with access to dispel magic and counterspell can render enemy spellcasters completely useless.

Magic Initiate: This is a good way for a non-Eldritch Knight Fighter to gain access to magic.

Martial Adept: A great option for a Battle Master Fighter to gain more tactical versatility and an additional superiority die.

Medium Armor Master: This feat is important for a Fighter trying to play at being a Rogue. Losing the disadvantage on stealth is a major shift in your paradigm. Otherwise, it can be overlooked.

Mobile: Extra speed and disengage for free are solid bonuses, but there are better feats to consider.

Moderately Armored: You don’t need this.

For Polearm Masters: big stick = big hits

Mounted Combat: If you’re planning on taking the Cavalier Martial Archetype and riding a large mount, this is an interesting addition to your abilities.

Observant: Hopefully someone in your party has this, or a very high natural perception.

Polearm Master: this feat makes you truly terrifying. In combination with a Battle Master’s Pushing attack you can defend a large area by yourself. Also, the bonus action attack action grants you even more damage output.

Resilient: Useful to fill in gaps in your saves. Wisdom and Dexterity most of all.

Ritual Caster: Only useful if you don’t have any other casters around.

Savage Attacker: With so many attacks per round, the limited usability of this will diminish its effectiveness.

Sentinel: Melee-focused Fighters need this feat. Period. It prevents enemies from getting out of your reach, lets you tie up spellcasters and rogues, and otherwise limit the mobility of enemies. Combines with Polearm Master, your threatened area becomes nearly inescapable.

Sharpshooter: A Dexterity-based or otherwise frequent ranged attacker’s best friend. The extra damage goes a long way, especially when your enemies can’t strike back at you from range.

Shield Master: The dexterity save bonus alone is worth it, since you don’t have a natural proficiency with the save. Shove as a bonus action grants you more battlefield control.

Skilled: Skills aren’t really your responsibility.

Skulker: Useful for a Dexterity-based build, but there are better options available.

Spell Sniper: You don’t have enough spells for this to be worth it.

Tavern Brawler: Only worth it if you have an odd Strength of Constitution score and are looking for some more combat options.

Tough: Not bad, but you’re better off just increasing your constitution score by 2 if given the opportunity. Worthwhile if you Constitution score is already 20.

War Caster: Mandatory for Eldritch Knights, useless otherwise.

Weapon Master: You are already proficient with all the weapons.

Weapons and Armor

Fighters are proficient with all weapons. Your best weapon sets are:

Longsword and Shield: if you took the Dueling Fighting Style, this “sword and board” package provide the highest damage output and defense combination. Plus, if you’re truly desperate you can cast the shield aside and wield the longsword two-handed for 1d10 damage due to its versatile property.

Greatsword: A Great Weapon Fighting style Fighter benefits from a 2d6 weapon over a 1d10 or 1d12 weapon for consistency in damage. Also, with two dice, your rerolls come into play more frequently.

Longbow: Archery style default weapon, and a great secondary choice for all other options.

Two rapiers/shortswords: Two-weapon Fighting style looks good with a matched set of light weaponsIf you take the Dual Wielding feat, two Longswords will outshine this set.

Glaive: if you’re taking the mounted combat or polearm master route, a Glaive is your best friend. High damage dice and reach grant you the advantage over most foes you’re looking for.

“Fighters are proficient with all weapons”

Fighters are also proficient with all armor and shields. If you’re looking to go full tank, full plate is the end-all. For Dexterity builds, you’ll probably want to stop at studded leather. For Dexterity of 14, half plate is your best bet.

Multiclassing

Barbarian: An excellent choice for a 1- or 2-level dip. Rage resistances and damage is huge, while reckless attack and fast movement add a lot to your combat utility.

Bard: You likely won’t have the Charisma prerequisite to dip into Bard, but if you do Cutting Words is the most worthwhile trait, but it will take a while for you to get there, time better spent leveling up in another class.

Cleric: Depending on which domain you select this might be worthwhile. You won’t gain any additional proficiencies, but access to divine spells like Cure Wounds and Bless could help if your party is otherwise lacking.

Druid: A Wisdom-based class which doesn’t add much Fighter can’t already do.

Monk: Nothing good comes of dipping Monk, as most of your class abilities require you to be unarmored.

Paladin: a 2-level dip nets you an additional fighting style, a small amount of healing with Lay on Hands, and some spellcasting.

Ranger: A prime choice to maximize your combat style effectiveness. A 2-level dip grants you a combat style and hunter’s mark which combo well with the Fighter’s Extra Attack.

Rogue: Sneak attack damage pairs well with the Fighter’s many attacks. If you’re a Dexterity-build fighter this is a must.

Sorcerer: Eldritch Knights would be remiss to not take a 2-level dip into sorcerer in order to get access to metamagic. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Warlock: As a short-rest reliant class, Fighter pairs well with Warlock. Spell slots and access to Eldritch Blast grant additional flexibility.

Wizard: For the Eldritch Knight looking to get a few extra spells, Wizard makes a good addition to their repertoire.

References

DMG     Dungeon Master’s Guide
EGtW    Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
ERLW     Eberron: Rising from the Last War
EEPC      Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
GGtR     Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica
MM       Monster Manual
MToF    Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
PHB        Players Handbook
SCAG     Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
TP           Tortle Package
VGtM    Volo’s Guide to Monsters
XGtE      Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Is the D&D fighter class not your thing?
Check out our comprehensive guide to all the D&D 5E classes and how to choose one that best suits the character you’d like to play.