Hello everyone and welcome to a brand new edition of Pathology, and today I am bringing you what I would personally consider the easiest and most simplistic class and path combination in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the Champion Fighter. Now, make no mistake, while this class is simple and easy to play mechanically, they are still very VERY good at what they do.
What they do, by the way, is pick a target and murderize it. They do this very well indeed.
The Champion Fighter is possibly the best new player class in the game. They have no spells, no real special abilities to remember outside of what every fighter gets, and are brutally effective in combat with their heavy armor, high hit points, and multiple attacks. Put simply, if all you want to do is hit a thing till it stops moving in the most simple way possible, then be a Champion Fighter.
Normally I don’t bring up the base line class abilities in these articles, however for the Champion Fighter the base line fighter abilities all play a role in the path’s usage. Fighters are proficient with all armor and shields, as well as simple and martial weapons. You can wield a rapier in full plate, or a great sword in leather armor, it’s all the same to the Fighter. Right at first level you gain a Fighting Style as well as Second Wind, both of which play a big part in how you play your Champion Fighter.
The Fighting Style gives you a bonus based on the sort of weapon you wield, while Second Wind grants you the ability, as a bonus action and once per short/long rest, to regain some hit points during a fight. Both of these are staple abilities of all fighters, and the Champion is no different. At level 3 you gain your Champion path as well.
Also at 2nd level you gain Action Surge, an amazingly powerful ability for a Fighter, and the reason many people take 2 levels of fighter as other classes. This singular ability allows you, the Fighter, to take a single full additional action on your turn once per long or short rest. At level 17 you can do this TWICE per long/short rest, but not on the same turn. This is massive. This allows you, at level 20, to attack a full 8 times in a single turn on two different turns, for example.
Also, just as a note, the Fighter class gains a total of 7 Ability Score Increases as they level up. This is a huge amount of power gain, an effective +14 Ability Points. Also, by level 20 you will have the ability to make a total of 4 attacks when taking the Attack action, more than any other single class. You also gain Indomitable which lets you reroll a failed saved once per long rest at level 11.
Now, as far as Champion specific abilities they are all very basic, no flash to em, but every single one of them increases your ability to punish the enemy and crush them under the heel of your boots. First, you gain Improved Critical at levels 3 and 15. At first, this increases your critical range to 19-20 (level 3), and then 18-20 (level 15). Most only have a 5% chance on a D20 roll (a 20) to gain a critical strike, but the Champion eventually has a 15% chance to get a Critical. This is a huge damage boost, especially over your 4 normal attacks or 8 Action Surged attacks. You also gain another Fighting Style at level 10 to complement your first one, Remarkable Athlete which lets you add half your proficiency bonus to STR, DEX, and CON checks that you don’t have your Proficiency Bonus added to already (such as Untrained Acrobatics checks, for example). Your capstone power as a Champion at level 18 is the ability Survivor, which causes you to regain 5 + Con Modifier HP per turn if you are at less than half HP and not at zero HP. This means that taking a Champion down can be very difficult given they start with a d10 Hit Die.
Reading all that, you can again see the Champion is super simple mechanically. You gain a bunch of attacks, only a few activated powers, and boosted critical chance. In essence, as I said, the Champion is all about picking a single target and hitting them till they stop moving.
Now for this article what I am going to do is break down how I would build an Adventure League legal Champion Fighter, and what I would do at each level. Normally I don’t do full character builds, but I wanted to give an example of how, despite the simplistic nature of the path, you can build something that is still fun to play and powerful feeling. We will be using the Adventurer League stat array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for this build. As a note I am not including feats, as they are an optional rule and are up to your GM/DM as to whether or not they are allowed.
I would select either Half Orc, Human, or Dwarf as the race. Their racial bonuses all work well here and all three races have a tendency to birth great fighters. Half Orc in particular gives you +2 Strength and +1 Constitution, which fits very well for a offensive oriented fighter like the Champion.
So with a Half Orc as our race we are looking at the following for stats at level 1:
- Str 16 (14 +2 for Race)
- Con 16 (15 +1 for Race)
- Dex 13
- Int 10
- Wis 12
- Cha 8
Having a Wisdom bonus is a good idea as many of the spells that can lock a character down are Wisdom based. Cha and Int are the least useful attributes for this class. Given that you will be getting a total of 14 Ability Points as we level, you can easily get your Str and Con both to 20 (the maximums) and then still have 6 points left over to play with.
Now before we choose our Class skills I always like to select a background. This is because our Background will automatically give us training in 2 skills along with some other perks. For me, and this build, I would choose Soldier. I like the idea of an ex-soldier turned mercenary who adventures because they are good at fighting, they didn’t like military life, and the money is a whole lot better as a mercenary. Make them Chaotic Good, so they have some ethics on who they work for and how much they charge them. As a soldier we get Athletics & Intimidation as trained skills, and then we get two more from the Fighter List. Let’s take Survival and Perception. We won’t be the best at these as they are Wisdom based, however it makes sense for an Ex-Soldier turned Merc to know how to spot danger and survival off the land and track. You also get proficiency in Str and Con saves.
Now at 1st level we get our Second Wind ability and our first Fighting Style. I see this character as a big bruiser type, using huge weapons, so I would take Great Weapon Fighting as my style here. Great Weapon allows you to reroll 1’s and 2’s on your damage dice each time you roll damage, taking the new results when using any weapon with 2 hands. This allows for much higher potential damage on average.
Since I can start my adventure with any Martial Weapon I want (And then either a spare weapon or shield) I can easily start with a Great Sword (Slashing Damage) and a Maul (Bludgeoning Damage) or Warhammer (Lighter, but still Bludgeoning and able to use both one handed AND two handed). You want to cover damage types so you can deal with things like Skeletons and Zombies early on. From here on leveling is pretty simple. Let’s take a look at the levels in detail and how I would build from here.
- Level 1: Great Weapon Fighting and Second Wind
- Level 2: Action Surge
- Level 3: Champion Path, gain Improved Critical (19-20 crit chance with all weapons)
- Level 4: Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 18 Str for +4 to Hit / Damage)
- Level 5: +1 Attacks (2) when using the Attack Action
- Level 6: Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 20 Str so +5 to Hit / Damage
- Level 7: Remarkable Athlete Champion Ability
- Level 8: Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 18 Con, for more HP)
- Level 9: Indomitable (1 use)
- Level 10: Second Fighting Style (Defense is good for a global +1 AC in Armor)
- Level 11: +1 Attacks (3) when using the Attack Action
- Level 12: Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 20 Con, for more HP)
- Level 13: Indomitable (2 use)
- Level 14: Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 14 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
- Level 15: Superior Critical from Champion (18-20 crit chance with all weapons)
- Level 16: Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 16 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
- Level 17: 2 uses of Action Surge, 3 of Indomitable now
- Level 18: Survivor from Champion Path
- Level 19: Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 18 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
- Level 20: +1 Attacks (4) when using the Attack Action
So at level 20 you have 20 Strength, 20 Constitution, 18 Wisdom, 4 base attacks per round, 2 uses of Action Surge per short/long rest, and an 18-20 Critical Range, rerolling 1’s and 2’s on damage (once) with your big 2 handed weapons. To put this in math terms, you will have a total of +11 (+6 Prof Bonus +5 Str Mod) Base to hit with your weapons, and on a hit deal 2d6+5 damage (average on 2d6+5 is (7+5) 12 damage) per swing, assuming no critical hits, 4 times in a single round, which is 48 damage (per hit). And you will most likely hit more often than not, as most enemies don’t have ACs higher than 24 or 25. The CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon, for example, has a 22 AC. This means you will hit nearly 50% of the time on each swing without any assistance.
In fact an Ancient Red Dragon has, on average, 546 HP. If the Champion hits all 4 times in a single round with no critical hits they are doing on average 192 damage alone. That’s with no help whatsoever. That Dragon will not be having a good day after a few rounds with the Champion, never mind a full party behind them adding their own damage and support to the fight.
Additionally, taking average HP Every level, you will have 224 HP at level 20 with an AC of around 19 without a shield wearing plate mail. If you use a 1 hander and shield you are looking at a 21 AC, which is nothing to sneeze at defensively (if you take Defense Style as I would)
Equipment wise you will want is Plate Mail and a Great Sword / Great Axe / Maul and then a 1 handed weapon of some sort with a shield. Magical if you can get them because that just makes everything better. Make sure that you try to get a short rest in anytime you use your Action Surge as well, as that will make sure you can fully utilize your big move every fight possible. Also you will want thrown weapons for ranged attacks, or a good bow.
Oh and if you are a Cleric (or Anyone with access to the spell Bless) and have a fighter of ANY type in your party? Consider using Bless more often. It adds 1d4 to EVERY Attack Roll and Save the targets make…including all 4 of the Fighters basic attacks. This is quite the boost to a fighters accuracy and honestly might be better than Haste in most cases unless the Fighter needs the boost to movement speed (i.e. a Dwarf and their 20ft movement a round vs most everyone else’s 30ft)
Simple. Effective. Brutal.
And honestly, possibly the character I use in future one shots and even maybe the next Campaign I get to play in. Already got a name for them too: Gunther, the Half Orc Soldier turned Merc with a heart of gold, and always willing to lend a hand, assuming the price is right. Price is of course dictated by social standing. Can’t charge peasants the same as a lord after all. We have a sliding scale around here.
Let me know in the comments if you ever played a Champion Fighter! If so, what was the build / setup and backstory? Why did you choose the Champion, and would you ever play one again?