In previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons there wasn’t much for fighters to do in battle other than swing their weapon. Fighters in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons have been given new abilities in an effort to make them more than just a weapon with a lot of hit points.
Some of these abilities are welcome additions that every fighter should be using; however, there are a handful of abilities that have do not provide as good a benefit as advertised. This list will help those players new to 5th edition decide which abilities are worth using, and which abilities they should avoid.
10 Action Surge – Use
Fighters get the Action Surge ability at 2nd level, and it allows a fighter to take an additional action on their turn. This additional action does not prevent a fighter from having a bonus action. Having an extra action can be a life-saver; it might allow the fighter to deliver enough damage to kill an opponent before the opponent delivers a killing blow on a party member (the fighter included).
A fighter might also use this ability to drink a potion of healing if they are at death’s door and unable to retreat. The only drawback of this ability is that it can only be performed once (until 17th level) before resting is required to use it again.
9 Dueling - Avoid
When making a choice in fighting style for a fighter, the option of Duelist should be avoided; any of the other options are superior. Dueling gives a fighter a + 2 to damage rolls if they are only using one hand to wield a weapon. A fighter would do more damage on average if they simply use a two-handed weapon; plus the fighter could use the Great Weapon fighting style and also have the option to reroll a damage roll of a 1 or 2.
Granted, they player can use a shield and still benefit from the Dueling style, but overall it would be better to take the Protection style to be able to help party members with your shield.
8 Archetype: Eldritch Knight – Use
This is definitely one of the better archetypes for a fighter. Having a fighter become an Eldritch Knight is almost like getting the wizard class for free. The fighter keeps all of their original abilities, plus they get limited arcane spellcasting abilities and some really good archetype abilities. The spell selection is limited to abjuration and evocation spells, but those are perfect for a fighter class.
This allows the fighter to use damaging spells as her/his distance weapon, and the abjuration spells are great for boosting the fighter before melee – the shield spell is particularly useful.
7 Archetype: Sellsword - Avoid
The Sellsword archetype is really not worth it; a player would do better to pick pretty much any other archetype. The main benefit to having a fighter become a sellsword is a little extra gold after completing a mission. This is assuming the party’s tasks stem from a source that is paying them.
Most campaigns do not involve the party performing tasks for someone in exchange for gold (or whatever currency is being used). The Sellsword can substitute a fighter ability for an ability native to another class, like sneak attack, but these are always used as if the Sellsword is 1st level.
6 Indomitable – Use
Indomitable, which is gained at 9th level, is one of the more useful fighter abilities in 5th edition. This ability allows the fighter to reroll a failed saving throw, but is forced to use the new roll. This ability will almost certainly save the fighter’s life at least once; especially after the party gets around mid-level and NPCs/monsters start throwing around spells like disintegrate.
This is only usable once before resting until 13th level when it can be used twice, and then at 17th level a fighter gets three uses before resting. A player should never hesitate to use this ability since most DMs allow the party to rest whenever they want.
5 Archetype: Tactician – Avoid
The Tactician archetype is only slightly better than the Sellsword archetype, and like the Sellsword archetype it should never be selected. One of the worst aspects of the Tactician archetype is that it relies heavily on the character’s intelligence – which is usually the lowest ability score for a fighter.
This archetype does allow the fighter to give his/her bonus action to another person within 60’ at 10th level, and his/her Action Surge to another at 18th level. These are alright abilities, but compared to what other fighter archetypes get at similar levels they are severely lacking.
4 Archetype: Battle Master – Use
The Battle Master archetype is one of the most versatile a player can choose for their fighter. In fact, a Battle Master gets several abilities that could be considered overpowered. First, their trip attack is extremely useful; it leaves an opponent prone, and flying creatures hit by a trip attack fall to the ground (possibly taking significant damage when it impacts the ground).
Second, the riposte ability grants a Battle Master a free attack on an opponent that misses him/her, and adds a 1d8 to the damage of this free attack. Lastly, the disarming strike can be very useful against an opponent that is relying on a weapon or item that must be held.
3 Archetype: Brawler – Avoid
The Brawler’s main advantage is stronger than average bare-handed attacks. The Brawler’s bare-handed damage increases as the fighter gets higher level, but not to the extent of the monk class.
The biggest problem with this archetype is that the character will not be able to utilize any newfound magic weapons to their fullest since they are specialized with unarmed attacks. This is alright at lower levels, but it will not take long for magic weapons to out-strip unarmed attacks in damage. If a player wants to forgo using weapons they should just play a monk.
2 Second Wind – Use
Second Wind allows a fighter to heal 1d10 + the fighter’s level; making this ability invaluable for low-to-mid level fighters. Healing potions are expensive and not always available, and there are times when the party’s healer will not be able to reach a wounded party member in time to prevent them from taking lethal damage.
Second Wind should be used before any other healing since it is restored after a long rest. It would have been better if the amount healed scaled a little higher as the fighter went up in level, but it’s nice that the fighter class finally has the option to heal themselves if needed.
1 Archetype: Champion – Avoid
The Champion is one of the standard archetypes listed in the Player’s Handbook. The main benefit of the Champion is slightly improved chances to perform a critical hit. This sounds useful, but the increase is minimal – at 3rd level a critical occurs if the attack roll is a 19 or 20, and 18 – 20 after 15th level.
A player should only expect this to happen at most twice per gaming session. Being able to select another fighting style at 10th level is okay, but by 10th level the fighter will likely be able to find magical items that provide as good a bonus in battle as selecting a second fighting style.