Dungeons & Dragons 4e Fighter Guide
Dungeons & Dragons 4e Fighter Guide by aandrethegiant
If you’ve ever played any form of Dungeons and Dragons before, coming to the 4th Edition and looking at the class may seem somewhat daunting.
Assuming you can get your head round the idea of powers and how classes are generated, this guide will focus on using the character and getting accustomed to playing as a Fighter in D&D 4e.
This guide will focus on the PHB1 with side notes on material from other sources.
The first thing to appraise are your stats. Fighters depend primarily on Str. You will want a Str of 16 post racial modifiers as a minimum, having more is usually good though it is unlikely you will want to make it higher than 18 post racial.
What comes after Str, is entirely dependent on your build. 4e Fighters draw benefits from Con, Dex and Wis primarily.
Constitution helps with HP and surges along with your general sturdiness, not to mention that certain builds and powers will benefit from a high constitution. If you want to make use of Hammers, Axes and Picks you will probably want a good Con to go alongside your other stats. For most Fighters a bonus to Constitution is a good thing and you will not want a Constitution in the negative. Oddly, light armor feats often require Con.
Dexterity helps with Reflex defense, Initiative and some powers and feats. If you want to use a light blade, heavy blade, flail or spear then Dexterity will be important. Oddly again, heavy armor feats and shield feats relate to Dex. Dexterity can be a very useful statistic for Fighters and is often best invested in to a degree as it will help offset your reflex defense and give you access to some useful feats.
Wisdom powers the Combat Superiority class feature and provides a bonus to your Will defense. It also supports Polearm weapons so if you intend to use those, it is very useful. Combat Superiority will be covered in more depth later, but it is fair to say that it is a very important part of your role as a Defender and every Fighter will benefit from having a bonus from Wis.
All in all, the straightforward Fighter only needs a high Strength with three other stats being useful to a degree. Having at least +1 bonus (12-13 stat) in Con, Dex and Wis will likely benefit your build. As you go up in level, your stats will improve and you will gain the option to improve your stats at 4th, 8th, 14th, 18th, 24th and 28th level. You will have the option of improving two stats by 1 point (you can only put one point into a stat but will have 2 points to invest across all your stats). At each opportunity you should invest 1 point into Str but the other is fairly free and depends on your build choice.
Compared to many other classes, you are fairly free in terms of what to invest in when it comes to secondary stats. Note that if you decide to wear light armor you will want to invest heavily in Dexterity to keep your armor class competitive. If you do not have a high Dexterity or Intelligence, you will want to wear Heavy armor.
It will be a good idea to look through the selection of powers available and the benefits they receive from statistics once Cryptic releases information. Then check the requirements of feats you might like to see how you want to invest in your stats. If you are unsure of how you want to build your Fighter then a Final score of 12-14 in Con, Dex and Wis is recommended with a 16 in Str pre-racial. As you level, it will become more apparent which feats and powers suit you and how you can go about gaining those feats. If you stick with moderate amounts in all three secondary stats most feats will become acquirable at some point.
The next step will be to look at your class features and see how they help you perform as a Defender.
The first feature is Combat Challenge. This is a basic ability that lets you mark anything you attack, you don’t even need to hit with the power, you just mark anything you attack until the end of your next turn. In addition, any creature you mark that is adjacent to you and shifts or makes an attack that does not include you as a target can be attacked by you as an Immediate Interupt.
This is your main punishment mechanic as a Defender. All defender classes mark a target with an additional feature that further punishes a marked target if they act against your wishes. For the Fighter, this is being adjacent to you and either shifting or making an attack that does not include you as a target (i.e. they attack people other than yourself). All of these factors combine to compel a marked target to attack you rather than your allies.
If an enemy you have marked attacks someone other than you, they have to contend with the -2 penalty to attacks from the marked condition whilst also risking being attacked by you. This can be a significant deterrent to anyone, what’s worse is your punishment for shifting combined with Combat Superiority.
Combat Superiority provides a bonus to your Opportunity Attacks equal to your Wisdom modifier. Not only that, but if a move provoked your Opportunity Attacks and your OA hit – they loose that movement. This means that anyone who tries to move away from you runs the risk of loosing that movement alongside taking damage. The best way to avoid those OA’s is to shift, but if the opponent is marked by you: They provoke Combat Challenge.
This is a deadly combination and it’s why Fighters are such a threat and can force people to attack them rather than their allies. Once a Fighter has marked you, it becomes hard to move away from them without severe consequences. This is also why Fighters have high defenses and HP’s, people end up wanting to attack them and that only leads to trouble for the Fighter. The Fighter needs to be able to handle whatever comes his way or else he is dead.
So the basic idea of the Fighter is to mark enemies with your attacks and then continue to hound and hurt them. The Fighter’s mark needs to be re-applied lest the enemy escape your wrath. This means you will have to constantly find ways to attack any enemy you want to defend your allies from.
There is a problem with this, however. What if you need to defend your allies against more than one enemy. For that you not only need attacks which can target multiple enemies and thus mark them, but you also need to keep attacking and hopefully hurting them. What’s more, although you can make an OA for each enemy that provokes an OA from you, you’re limited to only one Immediate Action per turn. This means that even if you mark multiple targets, you will only be able to punish one with Combat Challenge and will need to be wary of who you spend your Immediate Action on.
Thankfully your powers go a long way in helping you with this. Looking over Fighter powers you will find a selection of powers that let you attack multiple targets, punish people, keep enemies focused or adjacent to you or help you hurt your foes. A power that immobilizes or knocks an enemy prone will stop them from moving away from you outright or otherwise keep them pinned down where they are. Powers that push, pull or slide your enemies will help you move them away from places you don’t want them to be (e.g. adjacent to your allies) whilst other powers can do a variety of things, including punishing people for being around you, hurting enemies who hurt you, help with your own health or otherwise just hit very hard.
Power selection is quite easy for the Fighter, there are few pitfalls and you will be able to use them in combat in a fairly straightforward manor. This all makes Fighters one of the most potent and easiest of the Defender classes to play in D&D 4e. The only place Fighters lack is ranged attacks.
Fighters lack ranged powers and ways to enforce their marks when they are not adjacent to a target. Generally speaking if a Fighter is not adjacent to an enemy he is of limited use and lacks responses. At most he can use ranged attacks and mark with those, but he will not be able to punish any attacks those people make. There isn’t much a Fighter can do to get around this issue except make Ranged Basic Attacks (probably with a Heavy Thrown weapon) or find a way to get close to the enemies he wants to mark.
This is rarely a major downfall, though it does mean a good ranged weapon should be taken at all times, just in case. Unless you have a good dexterity score, heavy thrown weapons are the best option as they rely on Strength for attack purposes. Otherwise, Bows and Crossbows make much better options due to their higher damage. Given this advice, if possible for your Fighter, make sure you spend some gold on some ranged weaponry. A magical heavy thrown weapon is a nice item to have at higher levels, though it shouldn’t be a priority at lower levels unless you want to focus on using one (for whatever reason).
The final class feature for Fighters is the Weapon Training feature. In the PHB this provides a +1 to attacks with either 1 handed or 2 handed weapons. Players should pick the weapon type they prefer and stick with those when possible.
Other books provides alternatives for all the above features with the exception of Combat Challenge. Martial Power provides the Tempest and Battlerager techniques. The former being an option for Fighters who want to use twin offhand weapons whilst the later being an option for those who just want to hit things with a big Axe, Hammer or Pick and survive on temporary hit points rather than solid defenses. Martial Power 2 offers grappling Fighters for those who want to throw in the odd unarmed attack with grapply techniques and also the Combat Agility feature which replaces Combat Superiority and aids more mobility focused Fighters.
In summary, Fighters in D&D 4th Edition primarily focus on moving adjacent and attacking foes with a mind to protect their allies from the parties enemies. Using a variety of martial techniques to further impede their foes. The addition of powers to their repertoire provides a distinctive difference to past incarnations and the focus on being a Defender may put off some but a Fighter with a big 2-handed weapon is still something of a monster who focuses on hurting his enemies more than protecting his allies.
Interested in hearing from all those who’ve played fighter in 4e…