OK, just let’s get over this. To be fair, I should say beforehand, that fighter might be my least favorite class. It’s neither the basic idea nor the rules themselves, I’m just missing the 4e fighter. While I do know, that the Battle Master gives something like all these cool and controlling powers, these are still a shadow of what the fighter could do back then, even when counting in feats. And of course the warlord-type options are nice, but I wanted a real warlord class, which could at least grant enough temporary hit points to be a healer substitute… but, oh well. I could write more about it, but now is not the time!
This attitude might warp my overview, even though I try to be fair and impartial. Well, let’s just get over this.
This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.
Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in the fighter’s case CH for Champion, BM for Battle Master and EK for Eldritch Knight). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.
- Fighting Style is the winner of 1st level, since Second Wind is stuck on the fighter level (and won’t be as good as the level and especially hit points rise)
- 2nd and 3rd level are huge bonuses, Action Surge and Martial Archetype features are generally great, even though the EK is more about combining spell casters with fighters (to get your spell slots as high as possible). You might get 4th level for ability score improve and if you don’t get it otherwise 5th level for extra attack… and maybe 6th level for another improvement…
- As long as you aren’t planning on playing a weapon-using spellcaster (like a Warlock/Fighter with a blade or perhaps a bow) you can most likely take a rest at 7th level, but one attack when using cantrips of the EK seems interesting here and then you can get up to 9th level, too
- If you plan to have more fighter levels, the fighter is a pretty stable choice, 3 attacks at 11th level sounds good
- afterwards it starts lacking a bit, since you simply get more of what you already have, until you hit 15th level with the Champion
- Cap stone is nice in terms of damage output, but overall just that
- Overall it might have even too many great features to multiclass in
- Weapon Proficiency: Since martial weapons tends to hurt more.
- Fighting Style (Archery, Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting): Increases the chance to hit, the amount of damage or even both in case of two weapons.
- Extra Attacks: The only class that gets more than 2 inherit weapon attacks. The third attack will be standard for a while, but the fourth attack will be only important when playing at or above 20th level.
- Improved Critical (CH): More critical hits means more damage.
- Superior Critical (CH): Same as above.
- Combat Superiority (BM): In most maneuvers the Superiority Die adds to the damage. And have sometimes another bonus there (like tripping, which enhances further attacks or damaging a target due Sweeping Attack).
- Spellcasting (EK): Lot of evocation there.
- War Magic (EK): Attack while cantriping. Attack cantrip and ranged attack together might be better than only attacking for a while.
- Eldritch Strike (EK): Enemies getting disadvantage on saves for your damage spells is great, especially you’re not blessed with the great ones.
- Arcane Charge (EK): When the enemy is far away or behind a minion-screen, what could be better than teleport right next to it and uses two actions to make that poor guy suffer?
- Improved War Magic (EK): Casting your greatest damage spells and kill someone half-dead afterwards? Nice.
- Second Wind: Self-Heal after every short rest.
- Action Surge: Less time needed to do the things you want.
- Indomitable: You need to fail to use it. Means that this feature manages itself.
- Survivor (CH): Self-Heal that makes post-combat healing more effective, since it do a part of the job.
- Combat Superiority (BM): Often you can make a maneuver after hitting the target, so you won’t waste Superiority Dice. And you regain those after a short rest, at least.
- Relentless (BM): Now you can actually use a maneuver at least once per encounter.
- War Magic (EK): When you’re forced to use a cantrip, you still get an attack out of it.
- Eldritch Strike (EK): Waste less spell slots when casting a non-damaging spell with save, since often they have no effect when succeeding said save at all.
- Improved War Magic (EK): Saves the time between buffing and attacking (even though once). You can do now both at once.
- Combat Superiority (BM): Greatest subclass feature needs short rests, so you might not use it as often as you like.
- Fighting Style (Protection): Protect those near you and better keep your friends close.
- Combat Superiority (BM): A lot of maneuvers are actually supporting somehow, especially those who does nothing but support.
- Spellcasting (EK): Abjuration and a few other schools are available.
- Arcane Charge (EK): Be were you need to be.
- Hit Die: Since most classes have d8, d10 is an improvement.
- Armor Proficiency: Every armor and even shields sounds like a good chunk of metal to keep even low-dex fighters alive.
- Fighting Style (Defense): Get hit 5% less of the time due bounded accuracy, which will even works with monsters with CR 30, as long your AC wasn’t too poor before.
- Second Wind: At the beginning this will be a good way to heal yourself. At some point it’s only a drop in the bucket, but might negate at least one hit. And bonus action.
- Indomitable: Improves the chance to save by a great deal. Especially important to save or suck/die elements.
- Survivor (CH): Conditional Self-Heal, even though if you get it, you’re already somehow troubled.
- Combat Superiority (BM): There are maneuvers which actually defends you.
- Know Your Enemy (BM): You learn who not to piss off.
- Spellcasting (EK): Abjuration mainly.
- Arcane Charge (EK): When facing crisis, use all attacks and teleport yourself away afterwards. Or teleport and use actions to get yourself in better condition.
- Action Surge: Might be anything you desire, offense, survivability or even support. Depending on usage.
- Ability Score Improvement: Two more than most classes, depending on attribute or feat you choose, the real category differs.
- Remarkable Athlete (CH): Half proficiency rounded up instead of no proficiency. The funny thing is, initiative rolls are ability checks as well, so you’ll improve those, too. Developers found out after (due bard’s Jack of all Trades), but didn’t mind, so Remarkable Athlete to initiative is fair as well. And jumping a greater distance might come in handy sometimes.
- Additional Fighting Style (CH): Depends on Fighting Style and these are already included.
- Student of War (BM): Any proficiency adds to your utility!
- Know Your Enemy (BM): Knowledge is power and here you might get a hint of what you have to do.
- Improved Combat Superiority (BM): Depending on the maneuver, it boosts either damage, defense or support. Mostly damage.
- Spellcasting (EK): The few spells outside evocation and abjuration (and the few within) helps a bit.
- Weapon Bond (EK): Opens some uses by being able to act without weapon (because sneaking into a mansion is that much harder with the halberd which is always getting in the way and makes it easier to spot and more difficult to find a hiding spot), while having your weapon ready when you need. Was about to put it as a support feature, since it can be the main financial support a character can get. Sell weapon, call it later, keep the money. EVIL!
Offense: Great to Fantastic (CH)
Resource Management: Good
Support: Bad to Decent (BM, EK)
Overall: Decent (read below)
Don’t misunderstand, the bad doesn’t mean that the fighter is actually a bad class. It’s only decent overall, since it excels in combat so much, while having serious problems to cover everything else. For combat, there is no better class, but when giving an overall grading, it seems just difficult to say: Hey, this class is overall good!
You can actually improve about anything with the additional ability score improvements used as feats, especially covering up some sore spots. But these aren’t strictly speaking fighter class options, so I didn’t count them in. And even though maneuvers do a lot of things, these are (of course) only combat and in terms of supporting, there are just so much better options from other classes. I think I’ll make a post about combat maneuvers someday, because they’re so diverse.
The utility department only got so many entries, because there are so many variety in fighters, but almost no real utility feature, which would get the utility grade (imo) higher. And even though the fighter is supposed to stand at the front and such, there is simple one optional feature which enhances it in the general class and a few more in the subclass, which is simply much less support value than the paladin or the barbarian. A BM might turn things around, but lacks the superiority dice to do so constantly.
So play a fighter, if you want to have a heck of a combat specialist, but the class itself lacks in other departments.