Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Fighters
Huzzah! The great lord of crime has bestowed upon us immense knowledge and research! Behold, his great treatise on the role of the common fighter!
The beginning of this article gives us some roleplaying tables for a fighter to help develop their character. They include heraldic signs and a signature fighting style for roleplay purposes. While these are nice and all the tables are only 6 long so not a lot of options here. I guess if you want to add a little flair you can do so, but I think the average player can probably think of something to add.
The meat and potatoes of this entry is that it adds three more archetypes for fighters to choose from once they reach level 3: arcane archer, cavalier, and samurai. As I have said before, adding more options to classes is something that UA does really well and XGE continues that tradition.
The arcane archer relies upon ancient Elven techniques of infusing their arrows with magical energy and they benefit from several abilities in the archetype that are based on this. The archer receives “arcane shot” which allows the fighter to select different magical effects to apply to their arrows, gaining more options to choose from as they level up. For example banishing arrow gives a chance that the target will be temporarily banished to the feywild, grasping arrows tangles the target with thorns and they instantly take 2d6 poison damage, receive -10 movement speed and take 2d6 slashing damage if they attempt to move, and bursting arrow which deals 2d6 force damage to all creatures within 10 feet of your target. Lastly for level 3 the player receives “archer’s lore” which offers proficiency for either arcana or nature and a choice between prestidigitation or druidcraft cantrips to learn.
As the fighter levels up they gain an ability where they can turn a normal arrow attack into a magical one (for the purpose of mitigating resistances and immunity to non-magical attacks) as well as “curving shot” where a miss on a target can be rerolled against another target within range.
This is a very solid class option for fighters who want to specialize into ranged combat and for those players who want strong ranged options and don’t want to play a ranger. I especially like the arcane shot options, it’s almost like casting spells for a fighter.
Next up is the Knight archetype, uh I mean Cavalier. Heavily armored and specializing in mounted combat, the cavalier is something right out of the old fairy tales and easily recognizable on the battlefield. At level 3 they get “born to the saddle” which reduces the penalties for mounting and dismounting creatures, and they get “unwavering mark” where after a successful hit the fighter can impose disadvantage on his target’s attacks if they attempt to hit anyone other than him.
The final bonus at level 3 is some skill proficiencies much like the arcane archers. But you choose between two of either animal handling, history, insight, performance or persuasion. With level 7 comes “warding maneuver” where the fighter can add a 1d8 to an ally’s AC after they suffer an attack and if they are within 5 feet.
Then at 10 you get “hold the line” where enemy movement within 5 feet of you provokes a reaction attack and reduces the target’s movement speed to 0. This reminds me of the sentinel feat which is one of my favorite offensive feats to take if I am playing a melee heavy character.
At higher levels the melee bonus just keep coming. At 15 you get “ferocious charger” where you can knock enemies prone with a straight 10ft move into them if they fail a strength saving throw of DC8 + proficiency bonus + strength modifier. You can do this with or without a mount, and I find the mental image of that pretty hilarious. And finally at 18th level the cavalier receives “vigilant defender” where you get a special reaction to use on every creature’s turn (even allies!) to make an opportunity attack. This ability is astonishingly good. A single cavalier can shut down an entire regiment of enemy troops just hacking away at them every turn.
This is one of the strongest fighter archetypes I have seen. I could do without the mount stuff as I have never really played a game where cavalry made too much of a difference, but the attack bonuses, especially the reactions, are very juicy.
Up next we have the samurai archetype (along with a blurb about drawing inspiration from popular culture and not history for both the cavalier and samurai) and this archetype focuses mainly and the fighter’s indomitable spirit and skill with a sword. At level 3 they receive three charges of “fighting spirit” which grants advantage on attack rolls that turn and 5 temporary hit points, which increases at levels 10 and 15. Also at level 3 they choose 1 skill proficiency from either history, insight, performance, persuasion, or one language of your choice.
At 7 they get “elegant courtier” which lets you add your Wis modifier to Charisma checks regarding persuading nobility in social situations. This is a pretty fun ability and it’s nice to see a fighter get some sort of bonus to non-fighting skills. At later levels they get “tireless spirit” which grants an extra fighting spirit use if the samurai rolls initiative while currently at 0 uses, and then, one of my favorite abilities, at level 15 they gain “rapid strike”. This allows the samurai to trade his advantage on an attack roll if they have it and gain an extra attack. This ability is short and to the point and it feels right for a samurai.
And finally the samurai achieves apotheosis at level 18 with “strength before death”, an amazing ability that allows the fighter to keep on fighting even when practically dead. If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points but doesn’t kill you outright you can use your reaction to instantly take an extra turn, interrupting the current turn no matter whose turn it is.
The catch is though if you happen take damage during this it is an instant failed death saving throw, and when you reach 3 you’re off to the big tea-ceremony in the sky, so be mindful of your adversaries!
These are all extremely strong additions to the 5e fighter archetypes and honestly I think they are better than the vanilla ones in the PHB! It makes for some really interesting character creation choices and the amount of attack bonuses just don’t stop with these guys.
XGE is one of the best add-ons for any RPG I have ever seen, and players and DMs alike will be very pleased with WotC’s hard work. It’s an amazing resource and it adds so much depth to the DnD world.