Playing with DnD5 Characters – 6th level Battle Master Fighter

This build is supposed to be identical to the Champion from yesterday, but with the Battle Master variant of the fighter instead of the Champion. The Battle Master’s schtick is “superiority dice,” of which you get four at 6th level, that can be spent on combat maneuvers.

Many of these maneuvers are badass. Most of them are things I think would be suitable, with the right balancing mechanism, as something anyone can do, rather than only fighters with the right build.

But more on that later. For now, the battlemaster.

Most of the maneuvers are either explicitly or implicitly melee focused, and only a few suitable for a bowman. So this build will be solely focused on melee. I liked the variant human archery build from yesterday as well, and I’ve kept that this time, because of the Feat and skill you get in lieu of the other bonuses, and Fighters in general get a lot of stat increases. So eventually this guy can be STR 20 CON 18-20 if he wants to.

I’ll use some shorthand here as with the Archery build, but I will explain some of my choices.


Stats

If you’re a melee fighter you want STR. If you’re any sort of front-line guy you want HP. If you will consider heavy armor DEX is less valuable in combat (though it does influence saves and initiative, which is no small thing). 

STR 20 (+5); DEX 14 (+2); CON 16 (+3); INT 11 (+0); WIS 13 (+1); CHA 14 (+0)


I chose the Knight background for the Battle Master, since his thing seems to be leadership in battle. As such, I chose to boost his CHA and WIS over INT. I always, always have WIS as one of my higher stats once I take care of my primary needs, because “roll for Perception” is a constant refrain in games I’ve played.

This also gives him a +8 STR and +6 CON save, but only +2 to DEX and CHA, +1 WIS, and a flat roll for INT. Given how many spells use DEX saves, this can only be considered a weakness.

Skills

If we say that +9-10 is fantastic, +6-8 is superior, +4-5 is good, and +1-3 is meh, then our Battle Master is has a superior Athletics check (grappling!), good Animal Handling, Perception, and Persuasion, and meh for everything else.

Combat

I went with dual-weapon fighting again, though a commenter on the previous post pointed out the other interesting high-damage option, Great Weapon Fighting combined with Great Weapon Master. I’ll have to run the numbers on those in a separate post.

But again, I chose dual-weapon fighting with Dual Wielder for the weapons, using two longswords.

He’s rocking two normal attacks plus his bonus action attack, all of which are 1d20+8 to hit and 1d8+5 slashing damage. He can also throw handaxes to 20′ at 1d6+5.

That might not seem like much, but his 4d8 superiority dice can, in the right circumstances, boost that by a bit. These dice, unlike spells, recover on a short rest, so they should be available every combat unless you’re being harried.
For maneuvers, the STR at +5 plus proficiency means where a save is called for, the DC of that save is 16, which is pretty spankin’.
The maneuvers I chose (and this is subject to taste) were:
  • Riposte: When a creature misses you with a melee attack, use your reaction and expend one superiority die to makea melee weapon attack against the creature. If you hit, add the superiority die to the damage roll 
  • Feinting Attack: Expend one superiority die and use a bonus action on your turn to feint, choose one creature within 5 ft of you as your target. You have advantage on your next attack roll against it. If that attack hits, add the superiority die to the damage roll. The advantage is lost if not used on the turn you gain it 
  • Parry: When another creature damages you with a melee attack, use your reaction and expend one superiority die to reduce the damage by the number you roll on your superiority die +2
Both of the first two are ways of boosting personal damage; the third is a way of avoiding it. Some of the other abilities are also quite awesome – Commander’s strike transfers a superiority die to a friend for damage. Disarming is going to be cool vs. critters that can be disarmed (duh). Evasive Footwork can add +1-8 to your AC until you stop moving, which in a lot of the fights I’ve been in, would not be hard to arrange that as a nearly-every-turn thing. Extra Reach, knocking foes prone, and hitting two foes in one blow? All possible.

You don’t get the boost to Critical Hits that Champions get – and that can be a big deal. If you normally only crit on a 20, your odds of doing so are 5%, or 9.8% with advantage. With crits on 19-20, this boosts to 10%, or 19% with advantage. This goes to 15% and 27.75% for the Champion at 15th level, about 3x more likely. 

Overall, the usual melee attack here will be three attacks for 1d8+5 each if you can hit, and using Riposte, if you get missed by a blow you use your reaction to attack (you still have to hit) for 2d8+5 (normal damage plus 1d8 superiority die). And you still get your once-per-short-rest Action Surge to do another action/bonus action.

So the usual is a potential 3d8+15 with a good chance to hit (1d20+8 being nothing to sneeze at). Four times per short rest you can eke out 4d8+20, and once per short rest you could conceivably wind up throwing three regular-hand attacks, one off-hand attack, and one riposte, for a total of up to 6d8+25 damage – and that’s not including any crits that are rolled. Granted, it’s a one-time alpha strike sort of thing, but 31-73 damage if you hit at every opportunity is a very big deal. And at high levels, the superiority dice turn into d10s or even d12s. 

The Full Monte

RACE: Human
• Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1
• Gain proficiency in one skill of your choice
• Gain one feat of your choice
• Size: Medium
• Speed: 30ft
• Languages: Common, one additional language

BACKGROUND: Knight
• Feature: Retainers You have the service of three retainers loyal to your family. These retainers can be attendants or messengers, and one might be a majordomo. Your retainers are commoners who can perform mundane tasks for you, but they do not fight for you, will not follow you into obviously dangerous areas (such as dungeons), and will leave if they are frequently endangered or abused.
• Skills: History, Persuasion
• Tools: One type of gaming set
• Languages: One of your choice

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, total, bonus action).
• Martial Archetype (Battle Master)
• Martial Archetype Feature (Student of War) Gain proficiency with one type of artisan’s tools of your choice
• Martial Archetype Feature (Combat Superiority) – Superiority Dice – 4d8 – 3 Maneuvers – use only one maneuver per attack (DC 16) 

• Riposte When a creature misses you with a melee attack, use your reaction and expend one superiority die to makea melee weapon attack against the creature. If you hit, add the superiority die to the damage roll  

• Feinting Attack Expend one superiority die and use a bonus action on your turn to feint, choose one creature within 5 ft of you as your target. You have advantage on your next attack roll against it. If that attack hits, add the superiority die to the damage roll. The advantage is lost if not used on the turn you gain it  

• Parry When another creature damages you with a melee attack, use your reaction and expend one superiority die to reduce the damage by the number you roll on your superiority die +2

• Extra Attack

ABILITY SCORE IMPROVEMENT & FEATS
• Dual Wielder – Human – Level 1 – 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

• Ability Score Improvement x 2 – Level 4, 6 – Increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1

Parting Shot

The Battle Master just seems like a really interesting character type to play. All the different combat maneuvers hit me right in my GURPS, which I like. The basic two-weapon fighter is a potent damage-dealing machine at 6th level with the right rolls (you need to start with a 16 raw die roll in STR to get there solidly, which the standard array does not give you).

I’d love to have nearly-identical characters, one with Battle Master, the other with Champion, as I’ve outlined, played by two different players in one campaign, just to see how that shook out over the long haul.

5 thoughts on “Playing with DnD5 Characters – 6th level Battle Master Fighter

  1. Our battle master went the Dex route (Human, Archer fighting style and sharpshooter feat) and it is a joy to watch in action (where by "joy" I mean "kills my monsters so much").

    1. I would love to see what his maneuvers were. Looking VERY briefly at them, most of them are melee-based . . . but not all. The archer build (discussed as a variant of the Champion on the previous post) is strong with any fighter, and the DEX-centric build makes him likely to go first due to initiative boosts. So yay, archery . . . but the maneuver question remains.

      If it's a longish reply, I'd love to feature the response as a guest post…

  2. For fun, look at a Dex-based Hobgoblin Fighter (Battle Master) 3 / Rogue (Assassin) 3 as a fun multi-class build that also has a lot of damage output potential so long as he has a friend engaged with an enemy…martial advantage + sneak attack is pretty deadly.

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