Playing with DnD5 Characters – 6th level Champion Fighter

Ah, the fighter. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s when I sit down to play D&D I’m looking for some simplicity at times – but I love me some fighters. They get up in the thick of things, they’re not terribly complicated, and for me, at least, they’re fun to play.

I’ve commented in the past that fighters are played a bit oddly in the games I’ve seen, from S&W through D&D5, due to a fairly low damage output standing face-to-face with a foe, and being “forced” to play the HP soak guy. That’s sort of true, sort of not true. But let’s see what happens when we take my usual dice rolls for this exercise and apply it to all three fighter templates

I note that I started doing this for Druid and now Fighter . . . but I did not do it for the first three, Barbarian, Bard, and Cleric. I was looking for combat capability in this exercise, since it was the thing I was looking at for a common denominator in the games I’ve played (and D&D evolving from a miniatures game, combat capability is where it’s at. You can design a 500 point character in GURPS that fights no better than a  0-point Joe Average if you want. You can’t really do that in D&D – all the characters get a bit better with level at fighting. Also, I did it for Druid because I simply did not understand, nor had I ever played, that class – so it was not obvious which was the best battle hippie.

Melee Option

OK, back to the fighter. I’ll go Mountain Dwarf because it reinforces the STR and CON attributes hard, but we also want some DEX – maybe even a lot of it – if we’re gong to use a bow. I’m going to cheat a bit and realize that I’m making specifically a 6th level fighter for this exercise, and optimize for that endpoint. This means Mountain Dwarf (STR and CON, a mighty +2 to each!) and 16 in STR, 15 in DEX, 14 CON. I’ll leave CHA as my “dump” stat, and push my STR even higher with my ability score boost. I use my 4th level ability score boost to hit STR 20, and my 6th level boost to select the Dual-Wielder Feat. More on why in a moment.

That makes the final attribute array

STR 20 (+5); DEX 15 (+2); CON 16 (+3); INT 13 (+1); WIS 13 (+1); CHA 11 (+0)

This also leaves fertile ground for the next five ability score/feat improvements at later levels (another at 8th, then 12, 14, and 16th, and the final one at 19th level).


Feats of Awesome 

Talking future levels, the first boost is CON to 18, pushing my max HP at 8th level to 112 (!), and a more-typical max to 80. In the future, one could push the remaining low odd scores, DEX, INT, WIS, CHA up by one each, consuming two increases, and have DEX 16, INT/WIS 14, and CHA 12. That’s not bad, and it still leaves three slots open for Feats. But the Champion is probably the Feat specialist, and you can get the crucial DEX boost with Athlete, and the Perception-boosting WIS with Observant, which also gives you +5 to passive perception as well. So after the big boosts to STR and CON that are part of the template, it is probably wise to focus on Feats. In fact, it might be especially wise to look at Feats instead of the boost to STR I chose at 6th level, because several of the detailed Feats tie in very, very well with martial archetypes: Sharpshooter for Archery, Dual Wielder for Two-Weapon Fighting, and Great Weapon Master for Great Weapon Fighting, etc. Each of those makes the chosen archetype that much cooler.
Martial Archetype

The first decision one really makes as a fighter is the Martial Archetype, and the Champion gets the largest selection. Dueling gets you a damage bonus when using only one weapon (but I think sheilds are OK); Great Weapon Fighting lets you reroll 1s and 2s for damage (once), Two-Weapon Fighting gets you a bonus to hit and damage for a second weapon and make a second attack as a bonus action. That basically increases your attacks, and combined with the Dual-Wielder Feat, you can use full-sized weapons too. Then there’s Archery for the ranged-weapons guys.

In fact, that’s what I will do. Combining Dual Wielder with Two-Weapon Fighting, which loses me the boost for a shield (+2) but makes up half of that with a +1 to AC when using two weapons. For those weapons, I can use regular swords, so I’ll do two longswords just for fun. 

Limited Powers


Champions are the simplest of tactics and powers of the classes. They get Second Wind for 1d10+6 HP regained once per short rest. And Action Surge is another “once per short rest” ability, and lets you – basically once per fight – get another action and bonus action.

This doubles down on the extra attack provided by two-weapon fighting with Dual Wielder. You already get two regular attacks and a third attack by virtue of the feats, but once per fight you get five. Two regular attacks, your usual bonus attack, and the Action Surge gets you another action and bonus action, which you will almost certainly use for beat-downs.

You “double” your chances of a critical hit, too, to a 10% chance per blow. This doubles the dice of damage, on the average giving you about a half-point of extra damage per successful attack.

His dwarven nature gives him 

Combat Capability


Putting our fighter in plate armor as soon as he can hack it, and with the boost provided by Dual Wielder, he’s AC 19. Like most heavy fighters to push higher will require magic.

With two battleaxes (because dwarf; though you’ll be using a battleaxe and a throwable handaxe up until you get the Feat at 6th level), you’ll have three attacks per round, every round. 

Each attack is at 1d20+8 and does 1d8+5 damage. So 3d8+15 (18-39) potential damage per turn just by being his charming self. Add in the bonus damage for crits and you’re basically throwing down 20-40 per turn . . . unless you do an Action Surge, and for that turn you’re staring at 4d8+20. . . 24-52 points!

That upper damage total even on non-surge turns is the equivalent of about a 6d6 or 7d6 attack, and you can keep it up turn after turn. So unlike a wizard type that can maybe throw three mighty fireballs at 6th level per long rest, you can keep that up all day. 

The key there is the archetype and feat selection, though – I just stumbled on this myself, though I’m sure it’s an old trick for most.

For staying power, 40 HP due to die rolls, and +3 per level x 6 levels gives 58 HP. Not barbarian good (71 HP at the same level), but respectable. The AC 19 will help – fighting himself 1d20+8 >= 19 on an 11 or higher, so 50% of the time.

If he wants a stand-off capability, his reasonable DEX will give him 1d20+5 to hit with a longbow, twice, at 1d8+2 each. A mere +1 to DEX will push that to 1d20+6/1d8+3 along the way. A dedicated archery build (see below) would be quite different (and of course, Rangers make some pretty badass archers, by design, but that’s later).

Drawbacks


This build comes with some compromises, though. Dwarves are slower than humans, but their speed isn’t reduced when wearing Heavy Armor, so they’re 25′ move instead of the assumed 30′ move for most (the move reduction with heavy armor wouldn’t apply anyway due to the high STR of this build). His initiative bonus is only +2, so he won’t always get the drop on foes. 

The Full Skinny


Here are the full details from the character sheet.

RACE: Mountain Dwarf
• +2 Constitution, +2 Strength
• Size: Medium
• Speed: 25ft, speed not reduced when wearing heavy armor
Darkvision 60ft
• Dwarven Resilience: advantage on saving throws against
poison and resistance against poison damage
• Dwarven Combat Training: proficient with battleaxe,
handaxe
, light hammer and warhammer
• Tool Proficiency: gain proficiency with either smith’s
tools, brewer’s supplies or mason’s tools
• Stonecunning: add double proficiency bonus to Intelligence
(History) check on any stonework.
• Dwarven Armor Training: proficient with light and medium
armor
• Languages: Common, Dwarvish
BACKGROUND: Soldier
• Feature: Military Rank You have a military rank from your
career as a soldier. Soldiers loyal to your former military organization still
recognize your authority and influence, and they defer to you if they are of a
lower rank.
• Specialty: Infantry
• Skills: Athletics, Intimidation
• Tools: One type of gaming set, vehicles (land)
• Languages: none
CLASS: Fighter
• Armor: All armor, shields
• Weapons: Simple & martial weapons
• Tools: none
• Saves: Strength, Constitution
• Skills: Choose 2 from Acrobatics, Animal Handling,
Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception and Survival
Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting) When engaging in
two-weapon fighting, add your ability modifier to the second attack
• Second Wind On your turn, use a bonus action to regain
1d10+6 hit points, use again after a short or long rest
• Action Surge (One Use) On your turn, take 1 additional
action (and a possible bonus action), use again after a short or long rest

Note that you get one extra action, but not an extra bonus action.

• Martial Archetype (Champion)
Martial Archetype Feature (Improved Critical) Weapon
attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20
• Ability Score Improvement / Feat: Level 4, 6
Extra Attack
ABILITY SCORE IMPROVEMENT & FEATS
• Ability Score Improvement – Level 4 – Increase one ability
score of your choice by 2, or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1

Dual Wielder – Level 6 – Gain a +1 bonus to AC while wielding
a separate melee weapon in each hand – Use two-weapon fighting even when the
one-handed melee weapons you are wielding aren’t light – Draw or stow two
one-handed weapons when you would normally be able to draw or stow only one

Archery Option

If you want to specialized in archery rather than hand-to-hand combat, the build for the fighter is completely different. You want to favor DEX over STR (but still be good at both), and HP are a bit less important if you expect to be consistently off the front line. That makes your preference for high stats DEX, STR, and CON, possibly in that order.
As a result, you’ll be looking at races that boost DEX rather than STR. That’s an elf, half-elf, or human. The Sharpshooter feat is on your list of wants, since it gives huge stand-off distance and the ability to take -5 to hit in exchange for +10 damage.
I can’t quite get there if I take Sharpshooter and Elf – that only gives me DEX 19. So instead I’ll take Human – in fact, I’ll take the Variant Human and pick up the Sharpshooter as my starter feat, and take my +1s in DEX and CON. Ability score increases can push my DEX to 20 and STR to 15, enough to wear Plate without a movement penalty.
Stats

STR 15 (+2); DEX 20 (+5); CON 16 (+3); INT 13 (+1); WIS 13 (+1); CHA 11 (+0)

Skills

Nothing really great, a maximum of +5, but owing to the huge raw bonus for DEX he has a lot of +4 or +5 rolls: Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival.
Combat

The big difference here is throwing down 1d20+10, twice, for 1d8+5 piercing from as far away as 600′ without suffering disadvantage. He can use his Sharpshooter feat to instead roll 1d20+5 twice for 1d8+15. Especially if you can flank the foe from range, that’s dangerous, as damage will hit 32-46 points per turn if you hit twice – though you’ll hit twice less often than the melee guy. On the other hand, you can do it from far, far away.
In melee, you’re nothing special, but you could arm yourself with a longsword in two hands (1d20+5, 1d10+2 damage) or even a Great sword (same hit, 2d6+2) to provide that capability.
For protection, havning a +5 to AC by virtue of DEX means your choices become studded leather for AC 17, half-plate for AC 17 and disadvantage on Stealth, or Splint or Plate for disadvantage on Stealth and AC 17 or AC 18. Looks like Sudded Leather!
Your action surge can be used to hit another long-range archery attack once per combat, and that’s cool – don’t forget to do it – but because there’s no bonus action, it’s not quite as great as with two-weapon fighting.
The big DEX gives you a nice boost to initiative, too – +5. So you’ll go first with those ranged attacks more frequently than your lower-DEX peers. 
Future Growth 

A Feat that gives +1 to STR would be a good next choice, but so would +1 to both of STR and WIS, for the hand-to-hand boost as well as Perception. Feat choices such as Alert, Observant, Dungeon Delver get you more scouty abilities (we’ll have to see if Rangers and Rogues just stomp this build for that, though – they well might and probably do). Martial Adept gets you a low-level superiority die that refreshes in a short rest, borrowing from the Battle Master’s strength.
Parting Shot
D&D has always been a game that rewards system mastery, and while D&D5 has toned that down, it’s still present. If you’re looking for damage output from the Champion archetype, I had no idea that with careful selection of race, stats, etc you could be so bloody effective. In fact, the Variant Human is a very satisfactory choice for the Champion/Dual Wielder as well, though I think Darkvision in a dungeon is pretty spiffy, plus the racial resilience. Still, lots of options there.
I am very impressed by the pure damage output in combat of the AC 19 double-axe character. That’s a serious, serous threat there, more in line with what I expect to see from a fighter type. If you throw in my alternate concept for spending your own HP to do extra damage (tapping your own skill to deplete your foe’s) then high-level fighters can compete quite well with spellcasters and rogues when on the line of battle, where they should be the most dangerous.
The archery build is a fighter version of a scout, really. They get the benefits of two attacks from a fighter, but again, I suspect I can build an equivalent or much better Scout with a Ranger build, especially with Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer in the quiver.
It’s an effective build, though, and with Sharpshooter in the mix from moment one, potentially dangerous, but really doesn’t come into its own until 6th level when DEX hits 20. In fact, the armor chosen may well change from Medium to Light as the DEX bonus for the character goes from +3 to +5.

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