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Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition): How to Build a Fighter – A Combat Guide

If you want to play a fighter, then get in here. Check out our detailed build guide down below.
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Dungeons and Dragons is bigger than ever. With that in mind, hoards and hoards of new players are flocking to the world’s greatest role-playing game every day. For fans looking to get in on the action, we have crafted a detailed build guide for one of D&D’s top tier classes.

Overview

Dungeons and Dragons is an incredibly complex game. Players generally get whatever they enter the game looking for. For some, D&D is all about playing a role and exploring foreign lands. For others, Dungeons and Dragons is about fighting monsters and creating epic stories of their own through their actions. For players of the latter group, we have concocted a build guide for how to make a fighter class character. Check it out below.

If you would rather play one of D&D’s other top tier classes, check out our guides down below.

Warlock

Barbarian

Paladin

Bard

Monk

Wizard

Fighter

Image credit to 5esrd.com

The fighter’s ability to deal damage is simply unmatched in Dungeons and Dragons. Consequently, this class build is going to be all about boosting your damage output to its absolute limits.

The fighter can be built into a tank. However, the barbarian class is just a little more well equipped for an optimal tank build. Meanwhile, the fighter gets twice as many attacks per turn as any other class. Consequently, the fighter’s damage output is completely unmatched.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Race: Half-Elf
This race offers a bonus +2 to charisma, but more importantly allows you to place +1 to two different abilities of your choice. The “Skill Versatility” ability will allow you to choose two different skills to be proficient in.
Martial Archetype:Battle MasterThe “Combat Superiority” ability granted by this archetype can boost your damage per attack by up to 1d12 for a short time. Beyond that, this archetype also grants the fighter some single target crowd control abilities.
Fighting Style:ArcheryThis grants a +2 to attack rolls made with ranged weapons.
Feat #1:Crossbow ExpertThis feat will make it possible to attack with crossbows from melee range without suffering any penalties. Consequently, you can deal damage from up close or from afar. Beyond that, you will no longer need to worry about loading your crossbow with a separate action.
Ability Score Improvement #1:+2 DexterityYou will want to boost your dexterity score so that you can afford the -5 attack you will receive from using the Sharpshooter feat later.
Feat #2:SharpshooterThis feat will greatly enhance your damage dealing with ranged weapons, making it paramount for this build.
Feat #3:DurableThis feat will allow you to place a bonus +1 into your constitution, which will come in handy. Beyond that, rolling hit die for healing will now be more advantageous.
Ability Score Improvement #2:+2 DexterityYou will want to boost your dexterity score so that you can afford the -5 attack you will receive from using the Sharpshooter feat later.
Feat #4:ToughThis feat will grant you an additional 40 maximum health by level 20.
Feat #5:LuckyThis feat is useful to almost any class for almost any build. With that in mind, “Lucky” will help you get out of hairy situations in combat from time to time.

This build is all about dealing damage. With that in mind, the list of feats above are working to improve your character’s sustain and damage output. If you do not feel like playing with crossbows, there is an unofficial fighter archetype that is quite interesting. As seen here, the gunslinger class allows for a fighter to wield firearms rather than crossbows. Simply change out the “Crossbow Expert” feat for the “Gunslinger” feat and the rest of the build will be the same. The archetype was created by Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer and has gained some serious attention over the years.

If you do not feel that your combat effectiveness needs any more improving by the time you make it to your final feat, then consider replacing “Lucky” with the “Skilled” feat. This can be a great way to boost your character’s utility out of combat.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Weapon:Crossbow, HeavyThis is the grandest of the ranged weapons. Thanks to your “Crossbow Expert” feat, this weapon can effectively be used in melee as well as at range.
Armor:Studded LeatherThis is the heartiest of light armors, making it perfect for a character with a high dexterity bonus.
Skill Proficiencies:Athletics, Intimidation, Stealth and Sleight of handThe athletics skill is a highly popular skill check, making it nice to have a bonus on hand for. As a persuasive skill, intimidation can really help flesh out your fighter out of combat. Meanwhile, stealth and sleight of and both have combat and out-of-combat benefits.

There is little downside to using a heavy crossbow over a melee weapon. Rather than cornering your character into only being able to do damage from up close, you can now choose to do damage from afar when the situation calls for it. This will help boost your sustain by allowing you to avoid aggro from afar. However, there is a wonderful build for any players determined to sacrifice that added sustain for more damage. Replace “Sharpshooter” with “Polearm Master” and replace “Crossbow Expert” with “Sentinel.” Lastly, replace “Lucky” with “Great Weapon Master.” It is important to note, however, that you will have have to focus your ability points on strength rather than dexterity in order to truly utilize the melee build. Consider trading out the Half-Elf race for Half-Orc for an additional +2 to strength.

By using this new selection of feats, you will be able to wield a polearm, quarterstaff or glaive and deal incredible damage in melee.

AbilityAbility Point AllocationDescription
Strength:13Strength is a dump stat for this build.
Dexterity:20 (15+5)Dexterity affects a great number of things. For this build, dexterity will dictate damage output, initiative, an important saving throw and armor class. Consequently, the fighter’s two additional ability score improvements at levels 6 and 14 will be used to boost this value. The Half-Elf’s racial bonus will account for another +1 to the ability.
Constitution:16 (14+2)Constitution is important for any character that wants to stay alive. The ability has one of the most important saving throws and can drastically improve your maximum health. This ability received a +1 from the Half-Elf racial bonus and another +1 from the “Durable” feat.
Intelligence:8Intelligence is a dump stat for this build.
Wisdom:12Wisdom is an important saving throw, so this ability is worth putting some points into.
Charisma:12 (10+2) Charisma is a dump stat for this build. This ability earned an additional +2 from the Half-Elf bonus.

Warning:Concerning your ability scores, the graph above is using the standard 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 ability allocation that players can use if they do not wish to roll their stats. That being said, your dungeon master will likely have you role for your stats rather than allocate your ability points manually.

The important thing to note is that dexterity is your most important ability. After that, constitution is your second most important ability. Wisdom is a distant third. Fighters earn a bonus +2 to any ability score of their choosing at levels 6 and 14. Rather than using the optional feats rule in these instances, pump your dexterity bonus up to 19. This will increase your damage output, initiative, armor class, attack bonus, a powerful saving throw and several important skill checks. Then, place an additional +1 into dexterity from your Half-Elf racial bonus to cap the ability out at 20. Another racial +1 bonus will go to constitution, as this is the second most important ability.

If you follow this guide, the end result should be a character capable of dealing optimal damage while simultaneously having enough sustain to not be overly vulnerable to attacks. By level 20, the fighter’s action surge will grant the character a massive total of eight attacks in a single turn. When you need to burst a threatening enemy down before they can harm your allies, this ability can be the difference between life and death.

For all your D&D needs, check out Dungeons and Dragons Guides Portal – Anything and Everything D&D.

Author

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.

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