How to Play a Fighter in DND 5e: Ultimate Guide

Fighters are the stalwarts of any D&D party, serving as the front line in battle and often taking the brunt of enemy attacks. These masters of weapons and combat are found in nearly every culture across the lands, known for their strength, discipline, and tactical acumen. Whether serving as a soldier, a mercenary, a knight, or a gladiator, the Fighter class offers players a chance to immerse themselves in the thrilling heart of melee combat.

In Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Fighters are celebrated for their versatility. Equipped with an array of weapons, armor, and fighting styles, they can be tailored to fulfill various roles in a party. From a heavily armored tank to a swift and precise duelist, Fighters offer a plethora of options for those eager to engage in close-quarters combat. Their simplicity and adaptability make them an appealing choice for both new and seasoned players.

The Fighter’s role goes beyond merely swinging a sword or launching an arrow. Strategic positioning, understanding enemy tactics, and collaboration with fellow party members are key components to playing a Fighter effectively. With features like Second Wind, Action Surge, and a variety of martial archetypes to choose from, a Fighter in D&D 5e is not just a brute force but a refined warrior with both the brains and brawn to succeed in battle.

Choosing to play a Fighter in D&D 5e is an exciting opportunity to explore the core essence of a warrior. It’s a commitment to understanding the art of combat, honing one’s skills, and standing tall in the face of danger. Whether you’re a battle-hardened veteran or just starting your adventure in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, the Fighter class offers a rich and rewarding gameplay experience that resonates with the timeless allure of the heroic warrior.

Understanding the Basics of the Fighter Class

The Fighter class in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is a beacon of physical prowess and martial expertise. Whether brandishing a sword, ax, bow, or any other weapon, a Fighter’s primary role is to engage in close-quarters combat, protecting allies and vanquishing foes.

Hit Points, Proficiencies, and Saving Throws:

Fighters are known for their resilience and ability to withstand damage. They start with a high number of hit points, and their proficiency in all types of armor and weapons allows them to adapt to various combat situations. Strength and Constitution saving throws are the Fighter’s forte, making them resistant to physical challenges and effects.

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Starting Equipment and Class Features:

A Fighter’s initial equipment often includes weapons, armor, and other essential items for battle. Features such as Second Wind, which allows a Fighter to regain hit points, and Action Surge, enabling an additional action in combat, set the Fighter apart as a formidable warrior. Understanding these basic features is key to effectively playing this class.

The Fighter’s Role in a Party:

Every Fighter serves as a guardian, damage dealer, or both, depending on the chosen fighting style and party’s needs. Coordination with fellow adventurers is vital, and a Fighter must be ready to adapt to different tactical scenarios, whether it means standing as the party’s shield or delivering devastating blows to enemies.

Inclusion in Various Game Settings:

Fighters are a versatile class found in numerous campaign settings, from high-fantasy realms to gritty war-torn landscapes. The basic structure of the Fighter class lends itself well to customization, allowing players to infuse their characters with unique flavors and cultural elements fitting the game world.

Understanding the basics of the Fighter class is the first step toward mastery. With a solid grasp of hit points, proficiencies, equipment, and the Fighter’s role in a party, players can build upon this foundation, further shaping their characters through fighting styles, subclasses, and feats as they progress in their adventure.

Choosing Your Fighting Style and Martial Archetype

The Fighter’s versatility in combat is largely attributed to the wide array of fighting styles and martial archetypes available to this class. These choices define a Fighter’s approach to battle and allow players to tailor their characters to fit specific roles or themes.

Fighting Styles:

In D&D 5e, Fighters have the unique opportunity to select a fighting style at an early level. This choice significantly influences their combat abilities and tactics. Options like Dueling grant a bonus to damage when wielding a single one-handed weapon, while Great Weapon Fighting allows rerolls of damage dice for two-handed weapons. Defense provides an armor class boost, and Archery improves ranged attack accuracy. These fighting styles can be aligned with character concepts and campaign themes, enhancing the Fighter’s effectiveness in their chosen combat role.

Martial Archetypes:

At 3rd level, Fighters choose a martial archetype, further defining their abilities and role within the party. Options like the Battle Master, who excels in tactical maneuvers, or the Champion, with improved critical hit capabilities, offer distinct playstyles. The Eldritch Knight combines martial prowess with spellcasting, while other archetypes like the Samurai or Cavalier cater to more specific themes and settings. These archetypes provide unique abilities and opportunities for growth, reflecting a Fighter’s training, background, or innate talents.

Synergy Between Style and Archetype:

An essential consideration when selecting a fighting style and martial archetype is their synergy. For example, the Dueling style may pair well with the Battle Master’s precise maneuvers, while the Great Weapon Fighting style complements the raw power of the Champion. Understanding the interplay between these choices helps create a cohesive and effective character build.

Alignment with Character Goals and Backstory:

Beyond mechanics, the chosen fighting style and martial archetype should resonate with a Fighter’s personality, goals, and backstory. A Fighter trained as a royal guard might lean toward the Defense style and Cavalier archetype, whereas a gladiator might choose the Great Weapon Fighting style and Champion archetype. Integrating these choices with the character’s narrative adds depth and authenticity to the roleplaying experience.

Choosing the right fighting style and martial archetype is central to shaping a Fighter’s identity in D&D 5e. By considering mechanics, synergy, and alignment with character concepts, players can create Fighters that are not only effective in combat but also rich and engaging characters within the story.

Tactics, Combat, and Strategy

The Fighter class is synonymous with combat excellence, but this prowess isn’t just about wielding a weapon. It’s about understanding the battlefield, recognizing opportunities, and executing strategies that turn the tide of battle. Playing a Fighter effectively requires both tactical acumen and adaptability.

Strategic Positioning:

Knowing where to be on the battlefield is vital for a Fighter. Whether holding a choke point as a tank, flanking enemies as a damage dealer, or protecting vulnerable allies, positioning determines a Fighter’s effectiveness in combat. Players must consider terrain, enemy types, and the overall battle plan, adapting as the fight unfolds.

Utilizing Class Features:

Features like Action Surge, which allows an additional action in a turn, or Second Wind, enabling a Fighter to heal mid-combat, are critical tools. Knowing when and how to use these features can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Mastering these abilities ensures that a Fighter can respond effectively to various combat situations.

Collaborating with Party Members:

A Fighter doesn’t fight alone. Collaborating with other party members, like coordinating attacks with a Rogue for Sneak Attack bonuses or setting up a protective line with another front-line class, enhances the Fighter’s impact. Effective communication and teamwork are paramount, turning individual strengths into collective advantages.

Adapting to Different Combat Scenarios:

No two battles are the same, and a Fighter must be prepared to adapt. Facing a horde of weak enemies requires different tactics than dueling a single, powerful foe. Recognizing the nature of the encounter and responding appropriately, whether through weapon choice, movement, or use of specific abilities, is a hallmark of a skilled Fighter.

Tactics, combat, and strategy form the core of playing a Fighter in D&D 5e. It’s not just about swinging a weapon; it’s about thinking like a warrior. Understanding the battlefield, utilizing class features effectively, working in tandem with allies, and adapting to ever-changing combat scenarios create a multifaceted and thrilling gameplay experience. The Fighter is more than a brute force; it’s a class that offers depth and excitement for those who embrace the art of battle.

Roleplaying a Fighter: Personality and Backstory

Playing a Fighter in Dungeons & Dragons is not just about combat prowess; it’s about creating a vivid and engaging character with depth, personality, and a compelling backstory. Roleplaying a Fighter provides an opportunity to explore the character’s motivations, relationships, and personal growth, adding richness to both the character and the overall game experience.

Creating a Unique Personality:

A Fighter can be as diverse in personality as they are in combat style. They might be a stoic and disciplined soldier, a boisterous and reckless mercenary, or a chivalrous and honorable knight. Developing a distinct personality helps bring the character to life, influencing how they speak, react to situations, and interact with others.

Developing a Backstory:

A Fighter’s backstory provides context for their skills, choices, and attitudes. Were they trained in a royal army? Did they grow up on the streets, fighting for survival? Or perhaps they were a gladiator, fighting for the crowd’s cheers? Crafting a rich backstory adds layers to the character, creating opportunities for plot hooks, character development, and personal quests.

Alignment, Bonds, Flaws, and Ideals:

These roleplaying elements further define a Fighter’s character. Choosing an alignment and identifying bonds, flaws, and ideals provide guidance for decision-making and behavior. These elements can create internal conflicts, ethical dilemmas, and strong connections with other characters or the game world, enhancing the roleplaying experience.

Incorporating Roleplaying into Combat:

Even in the heat of battle, a Fighter’s personality and backstory can shine through. How they fight, the choices they make, the way they communicate, and how they respond to victory or defeat can all reflect their character. Integrating roleplaying into combat keeps the character consistent and adds emotional weight to the encounters.

Roleplaying a Fighter in D&D 5e is about more than mechanics and combat; it’s about creating a memorable character with a soul. By investing in personality, backstory, alignment, and other roleplaying elements, players can transform their Fighter from a set of stats on a sheet into a living, breathing entity within the game world. The art of roleplaying adds dimension and enjoyment, turning the Fighter into a hero with a story to tell.

Fighting Styles

In D&D 5e, Fighters have access to a range of fighting styles that define their approach to combat. These fighting styles are more than mere techniques; they represent a Fighter’s philosophy, training, and unique flair. Each fighting style grants specific mechanical benefits, enhancing certain aspects of a Fighter’s abilities and providing diverse options to suit different character concepts.

  • Dueling: Perfect for the Fighter who favors precision and elegance, the Dueling style grants a damage bonus when wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons. This style suits characters aiming for finesse and control, like swashbucklers or duelists.
  • Great Weapon Fighting: For those who prefer raw power and crushing blows, the Great Weapon Fighting style allows rerolls of low damage dice when wielding two-handed or versatile weapons. This style is ideal for characters who want to deal significant damage with each swing, like a fearless barbarian warrior.
  • Defense: The Defense fighting style is all about protection and durability. By wearing armor, Fighters with this style gain an additional boost to their Armor Class, making them even harder to hit. This style suits characters who see themselves as guardians or tanks, holding the line against enemy attacks.
  • Archery: Not all Fighters engage in melee combat. The Archery style provides a substantial bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons, perfect for Fighters who prefer to attack from a distance, like skilled archers or crossbowmen.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: Wielding a weapon in each hand, Fighters with the Two-Weapon Fighting style can add their ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. This style is for the agile and aggressive Fighter who wants to maximize their offensive capabilities.
  • Protection: The Protection style emphasizes teamwork and defense of allies. When a creature attacks a target near the Fighter, they can use their reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. This style suits selfless characters who prioritize the safety of their companions.
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  • Other Fighting Styles: Some subclasses offer additional fighting styles that further specialize a Fighter’s approach to combat. These can include styles related to mounted combat, unarmed strikes, or specific weapon mastery, expanding the options and customization possibilities.

Fighting styles are at the core of a Fighter’s identity in D&D 5e. They influence not only the way a Fighter engages in battle but also how they perceive themselves as warriors. Whether focusing on power, defense, agility, or teamwork, the chosen fighting style shapes the character’s role in combat and adds flavor to their persona. By understanding and selecting the right fighting style, players can create a Fighter that resonates with their vision and contributes effectively to the party’s success.

What 5e Fighter Subclass to Pick

Subclasses, also referred to as martial archetypes for Fighters, provide a pathway for specialization within the class. This choice significantly impacts how the Fighter will play, what abilities they’ll gain, and how they can contribute to the party. Here’s an exploration of various Fighter subclasses in D&D 5e, helping players align their choice with their desired playstyle and character theme.

  • Battle Master: Masters of tactics and maneuvers, Battle Masters gain access to special combat abilities called “maneuvers” that allow them to control the battlefield, aid allies, and confound foes. Ideal for players who enjoy strategic play and wish to take on a leadership role in combat.
  • Champion: Simple yet effective, the Champion focuses on raw physical prowess. With improved critical hit chances and later additional fighting styles, this subclass is perfect for players who want a straightforward, powerful warrior who excels in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Eldritch Knight: Combining martial mastery with arcane magic, Eldritch Knights can cast spells and even summon a bonded weapon. For players looking to mix swordplay with spellcasting, this subclass offers an exciting and versatile option.
  • Cavalier: Specializing in mounted combat, Cavaliers excel in protecting others and controlling movement on the battlefield. This subclass suits players who envision their Fighter as a noble knight or skilled horseman.
  • Samurai: With a focus on honor, determination, and deadly precision, the Samurai gains unique abilities to temporarily boost attacks and resist various effects. Ideal for players drawn to a code of conduct or the way of the warrior.
  • Arcane Archer: For those interested in mystical archery, the Arcane Archer allows Fighters to infuse arrows with magical effects, creating various strategic options. A great choice for players who prefer ranged combat with a magical twist.
  • Other Subclasses: Depending on the source materials used in a campaign, there may be additional subclasses available, each with unique themes and abilities. Players should consult with their Dungeon Master and explore various options that align with the campaign setting and their character concept.

Selecting a subclass is one of the most defining decisions a Fighter makes in D&D 5e. It shapes the character’s growth, abilities, and role within the party, adding depth and individuality. By considering the mechanics, playstyle, and thematic resonance of each subclass, players can choose the path that best fulfills their vision for their Fighter, creating a character that is both effective in combat and engaging in the story.

What DND 5e Fighter Feats to Pick

Feats in D&D 5e provide specialized abilities and options that allow characters to further differentiate themselves and excel in particular areas. For Fighters, who often gain more ability score improvements (and thus opportunities to take feats) than other classes, these choices are especially significant. Here’s a guide to some feats that Fighters might consider, depending on their combat style and role within the party.

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  • Great Weapon Master: Ideal for Fighters who wield two-handed weapons, this feat allows for powerful, cleaving attacks and bonus strikes upon landing critical hits or reducing enemies to 0 hit points.
  • Sharpshooter: For ranged weapon specialists, Sharpshooter reduces the penalties for long-range shots and can add significant bonus damage, making it a favorite for archers.
  • Shield Master: If using a shield, this feat enhances both offense and defense, allowing Fighters to shove opponents as a bonus action and providing benefits to Dexterity saving throws.
  • Sentinel: A strong choice for those looking to control the battlefield and protect allies, Sentinel restricts enemy movement and provides opportunities for additional attacks.
  • Polearm Master: Fighters using polearms like halberds or glaives can benefit from this feat, gaining additional attacks and reactions to control space around them.
  • Lucky: A versatile feat for any Fighter, Lucky grants rerolls on attacks, ability checks, or saving throws, offering a second chance when it’s most needed.
  • Mobile: For agile Fighters who value mobility, this feat enhances movement speed and allows characters to avoid opportunity attacks when dashing or striking foes.
  • War Caster: If playing an Eldritch Knight or other spellcasting Fighter, War Caster helps maintain concentration on spells and enables spellcasting for opportunity attacks.
  • Other Feats: Depending on the character’s focus, background, or campaign setting, other feats might be appealing. Collaborating with the Dungeon Master and considering the Fighter’s role, style, and story can uncover additional fitting options.

Choosing the right feats for a Fighter in D&D 5e is an opportunity to specialize, enhance strengths, and compensate for weaknesses. Whether focusing on weapon mastery, tactical control, mobility, or magical ability, these choices add layers of strategy and customization. By considering the character’s combat style, role within the party, and overall character concept, players can select feats that create a distinctive and effective Fighter, fully integrated into the world and adventure. Feats are more than just mechanical bonuses; they’re a reflection of the Fighter’s training, experience, and unique approach to the challenges ahead.


Playing a Fighter in Dungeons & Dragons 5e is an engaging and versatile experience that offers opportunities for mastery in combat, strategic thinking, roleplaying depth, and character customization. From choosing the right fighting style and subclass to selecting feats that align with a unique combat approach, the Fighter class provides a rich landscape for players to explore and make their own.

Beyond the mechanics, playing a Fighter is also about embracing a warrior’s mindset and journey. The decisions made during character creation and progression not only define a Fighter’s abilities but also shape their personality, backstory, and place within the world. Whether a disciplined knight, a cunning mercenary, or a mystical warrior, Fighters can become vivid, memorable characters that resonate with players and contribute to the storytelling experience.

With the Fighter’s central role in combat, players have the opportunity to influence the flow of battle, protect allies, challenge foes, and adapt to ever-changing scenarios. The class’s emphasis on tactics, collaboration, and adaptability turns encounters into dynamic and thrilling parts of the game, where decisions matter and the Fighter’s skills shine.

The Fighter class in D&D 5e is a rewarding choice for players who seek a blend of combat effectiveness, strategic depth, and roleplaying potential. The array of options available allows for a personalized and fulfilling gameplay experience, catering to diverse playstyles and themes. Whether a veteran player or a newcomer to the game, taking on the role of a Fighter is an exciting adventure that combines the art of battle, the craft of storytelling, and the joy of collaborative gaming.

Playing a Fighter is not just about swinging a sword; it’s about creating a character that embodies strength, wisdom, courage, and complexity. It’s a class that invites players to delve into the heart of what makes a hero, to face challenges with skill and honor, and to become an integral part of a shared, imaginative world.

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Paul Bellow

LitRPG Author Paul Bellow

Paul Bellow is a LitRPG author, gamer, RPG game developer, and publisher of several online communities. In other words, an old school webmaster. He also developed and runs LitRPG Adventures, a set of advanced RPG generators powered by GPT-3 AI. Here at LitRPG Reads, he publishes articles about LitRPG books, tabletop RPG books, and all sorts of DND content that's free to use in your personal tabletop campaign - i.e. non-commercial use. Enjoy your stay and reach out on Twitter or Discord if you want to make contact.

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