When starting off new players who have no idea where to start with roleplaying, I usually suggest starting with a Fighter. I mean, it’s a simple ‘point and click’ type of character. What could be harder, right? Give the guy a weapon and point him in the right direction. The only problem is that, if left off there, the fighter can become dull and drab and boring real fast.
Now, I’m not here to serve the optimizers. Sorry. There’s plenty of articles out there for the super-soldier tank. To me, although in a rounded-out team a sturdy fighter is essential, the focus of D&D shouldn’t be on how many creatures you can kill, how fast and efficiently but on building an amazing character and telling a story. (Don’t get me wrong. The fighter does need to be the muscle. The fighter just doesn’t need to be optimized at the detriment of all other points of flavor, story and character.)
So, how do we keep the Fighter from being one dimensional? Although harder to flavor than the BARD (See our Article HERE), there is a myriad of places in the process of building your character to add dimension and flesh out a well thought out character.
With any character, the best place to start is a good background.
Now, the go-to backgrounds aren’t bad and bring a small bit of flavor of their own. Picking SOLDIER gives your character a past that will influence those who respect the rank or the army he was in along with those who still serve. Just watch flaunting this in the face of former enemies. It also helps to be an old soldier in winning war although playing the opposite has great flavor.
KNIGHT brings a different take on a burgeoning fighter. The fighter sporting this background carries a bit more prestige along with a banner sporting his coat of arms and usually a trinket from his Lady. One bonus may be having a sidekick in the form of a squire who is learning how to become a knight from yours truly.
Take the background of NOBLE and you take another step up on prestige. You carry all of the implements of your place in life (rings, paper, etc). And you find yourself welcome in many of the other courts. Your bloodline will open doors that the soldier and the knight could not. Your station in life comes with courtly intrigue, love entanglements and possible political alliances. As a fighter, you were taught by the best, but maybe your running from something that will soon catch up to you.
These are the usual suspects. But many of the other backgrounds will add even more flavor, if not as optimizing as the formerly mentioned. PIRATE will give you an unconventional build for your fighter. A decent Charisma would be a plus here as it aids the deception and intimidation of the fighter. You learn THEIVES CANT, gain proficiency with navigation tools and ability with a vessel. You can define your character’s role on the pirate ship as well as gaining insight with people that none of the other backgrounds have. Now, this along with the Swashbuckler Rogue Sub-type seems to be pushing this build toward the Rogue. I would like to see a swashbuckling sub-type for Fighter to tell the truth cause I think of them more as a roguey fighter than a fighting rogue.
If you want something a bit different, check out Acquisitions INC’s CELEBRITY ADVENTURER’S SCION. I want to play this myself. This option assumes that the character is struggling with living in the very big shadow of a parent that they cannot overcome. This feeling of inadequacy defines the character. But to make up for this or, better yet, to cover them, the background adds proficiency in perception and performance along with a disguise kit and a couple of extra languages. This makes the fighter quick to read the room, play the room and keep alert. The Name Dropping feature can score the group a patron or get them into places they would normally never get into. A fighter as a Celebrity Adventure’s Scion can either be child who aspires to the greatness their parent or a Rusty Venture who is a train-wreck caused by this struggle.
From another adventure setting, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, check out CITY WATCH. You learned your way with the sword working for a particular city keeping the peace. You can plug this background into any city much like the soldier, knight and noble can be set in any army, kingdom or noble’s family. But the city watch is probably the lowest on this list. But working in this mundane outpost gives you proficiencies in athletics and Insight, a couple of languages, an old uniform and some awesome manacles. The Watcher’s Eye feature would come in might handy in weeding out all of those ‘dens of scum and villainy’. Your insight picks the good guys from the bad guys and aids you and your team in bringing them to justice.
Another interesting background in SCAG is the INHERITOR. I can’t help but read into this a fighter who has inherited a special weapon; magical, of course. I think, in this situation, maybe a leveled weapon or a special situation determined fully and/or partially by the player and DM. This type of owned mcguffin can lead to some real interesting roleplay. It has a King Arthur kind of feel. There may be a part of the fighter’s journey where they just think it’s a +1 magical weapon and, then, as they progress, the pluses are increased and the greatness of the weapon is revealed. Maybe either apocalyptic or a save the kingdom kind of thing.
There also are two backgrounds which are slightly similar. Once again, from SCAG, the MERCENARY VETERAN creates a character who has been a sword for hire. Your character will know the mercenary groups in your setting and how to get work between adventures. The other is from the PHB. OUTLANDER and more specifically, the BOUNTY HUNTER option creates a fighter who knows the wild and maps, is hard pressed to get lost and can find food and water giving him a taste of a Ranger type. Either of these types remind me of the rough anti-hero or Batman type who doesn’t play well with others. Either of these could be extremely useful to a party.
One other of the original backgrounds that would be fun to play would be FOLK HERO. Something happened in your past that took you from zero to hero overnight. Did you shake your fist in the face of tyranny? Or maybe you rescued the prince or princess? Most of the suggestions also suggest a tyrant. But maybe you took up the sword in a time of invasion or against some monster and made a name for yourself among the common folk. This will make you a hero to the commoners, but not so much to nobles and the ruling class. You may be just as hated among enemy or monster armies, clans or criminal agencies. I mean, the more popular you are and the more you stick your head above the crowd, the more friends and enemies you make.
This gets us started. But when finding those tidbits of flavor, the other factors of race, fighting style, creative subclasses and even the choice of weapon, shield, armor or, possibly, magic item will continue to flesh out your character into something living and ready to play its story out in the roleplay to come.
What are your thoughts on the backgrounds? Do you have any cool homebrew backgrounds that could be of use to the Fighter? Let us know in the comments below what we missed or what you have to add to fleshing out the Fighter.
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