I Am A Fighter – I Fight Really Well

Grant braced himself against the archway and stole a glance over his shoulder to see if his companions had caught up. With Lils’ help, they had managed to vanquish the skeletons, but they had yet to win through to their goal. The archway gave passage to a large sea cave, within which, was docked the necromancer’s ship. Hearing the echoing sound of a klaxon, it was clear the alarm had been raised. Drawing his sword and bracing himself, Grant pointed to nearby rocks and broken stalagmites that could serve as cover for his companions. As the rest of the party hid themselves, Grant shouted. The horde of pirates pouring out of the ship made a beeline for Grant, an obvious target. Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Grant focused and waited for the battle to begin.

Knee-deep in the bodies and parts of bodies of pirates, Grant was finally getting tired. Still surrounded by insane foes, Grant’s sword remained a constant blur. A head or arm would separate from a pirate, and Grant would use his shield to shove the dying body out of the way and tried not to think about it. After all, the gurgled screams from slit throats or the wet sounds of spilled insides were only indications that his training was still effective. Grant had barely moved from his spot, because when it came down to it, he didn’t have to. Swinging a sword required practice, but it was hardly the complicated science of magic or the fine detailed-oriented skills of the thief. Lift sword, bash with shield, stab with sword, dodge blow, and repeat — basic and uncomplicated. He made a mental note that he had suffered a couple of wounds Lils might have to heal; but his armor was still in good shape, and his training helped him deflect the rest of his blows.  With the final standing enemy defeated, Grant wiped his bloodied sword on the back of one of the dead pirates. His companions, who had dealt with a few stray pirates, were grateful for his sword arm. Without his stamina, they would have easily been overrun. 

Soldiers. Warriors. Fighters. These are the names for those men and women that sheath themselves in steel & leather, strap on portable walls, and lift heavy sharp objects in order to overcome their enemies. They are Fighters and they fight really well. Fighters have always been one of the four basic (or three basic, if you go back to OD&D) classes found in Dungeons and Dragons. They care not for magic, finesse, or faith. Instead, the fighter relies on the tools he has been trained with – stout armor, hardened shields, and a variety of useful and deadly weapons. For the most part, OD&D and AD&D stuck with this simple formula. Fighters didn’t really have a lot of fancy tools in their toolbox. However, one of the most important things a Fighter did have access too was EVERY WEAPON. Until 3rd Edition, a Fighter could pick up any weapon and use it, without penalty. Later editions allowed Fighters to specialize in specific weapons and to choose from a bewildering array of special moves in order for the Fighter to shine on the battlefield. With the 4th Edition of DnD, this idea came fully into its own. The Fighter now had powers, reflective of these special abilities. The only difference (with say, a Wizard’s powers), was that a Fighter used a weapon to accomplish his attack. However, by setting things up in this fashion, I think a little bit of the Fighter’s gritty truth has been stolen. I think the Fighter needs to get back to what he was designed to do – fight – a lot.

Designed to Fight - I think I’d like to see the next version of the Fighter get back to basics. A Fighter should be able to use any weapon he or she picks up. They’ve spent years handling every killing tool they can get their hands on. Also, let’s forget about some of the “complications” in certain weapons. Does your Fighter want to use a Halberd in the corridor? Let her! In addition, let Fighters take on multiple opponents without penalty. Now, I’m not saying a Fighter should be able to dance about the room like a whirling dervish, but the Fighter should be able to stand her ground and fight many adjacent foes at once. This is probably a mechanic that would be handled well by leveling. The higher the level, the more opponents the Fighter can face. High level Fighters should always have piles of dead enemies at their feet.

Built for Punishment - If a Fighter is designed to do damage and take on many foes, then it’s clear that she also needs to be able to take a boat load of punishment. While I’m not really sure that means the Fighter needs more hit points (although hit dice are a sacred cow still not entirely done away with), I do believe it means the Fighter should have some way to mitigate that damage. I think the best way the Fighter can do that, is by being able to use her armor for damage reduction. Think of it this way. While other characters might be able to strap on some armor for some basic protection, only the Fighter has the training to use that armor to reduce the amount of damage she’s taking in combat. Dodging blows so direct hits become glancing ones, or utilizing a shield to stop an attack should be some of the basic tools the Fighter has in her toolbox. Again, because of the nature of these articles, I don’t intend to crunch any numbers here. However, if some kind of basic damage reduction came with Fighters that wear armor, I think they could really shine on the battlefield.

Fighters Should Be Simple (And There’s No Shame In That) - There are a number of arguments that proclaim the Fighter is boring, or too simple for experienced players. This argument maintains that each class should have the same level of difficulty, with Fighters being given just as many interesting options as Clerics or Wizards.  I call bulls**t on that argument. There’s no reason Fighters need to be just as complicated. Classes should be what they are. Trying to pigeon-hole them into the same “playing difficulty” is unnecessary. Want to make Fighters as complicated as Wizards? Make the Fighter keep track of damage to her armor (remember, that armor used for damage reduction)? That punishment can’t go on forever, and the Fighter will need to bring her armor in for repair from time to time, making sure she has the best armor around. In fact, you can even build a skill into that and allow Fighters to repair their own armor given time and resources.  Otherwise? Keep the Fighter simple. Take pride in being able to withstand those opponents in a fight and exclaim with pride, “I Fight Really Well”.

My name is Randall Walker  and This Is My Game.

 


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.


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About DeadOrcs

R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.
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10 Responses

  1. bleh at fighters being simple

  2. Nice article. I remember once upon a time, a fighter facing a horde of charging orcs would feather them with with arrows, throw a few javelins, a hand axe and then pull out the sword and board to take care of whoever kept running up to them. In 4E, I missed having the option to be effective at long range and close range. Hear, hear to the idea of using all weapons.

    Fighters used to be considered the tank. It’s not a question of can they do more damage than everyone else or can they live longer, it’s how they accomplished this. They did it with big armor, lots of weapons and spitting in the face of whatever stood in front of them. Wizards did it with spells and preparation, rogues did it with guile and skills.

    Thanks for giving us your thoughts. I enjoyed it.

  3. After reading this, now I want to make a fighter that specializes in shovels. :)

  4. The other issue around fighters, especially their specialization and ultimately being pigeon-holed, is that the call for min-maxing abilities forces them to sacrifice a certain amount of breadth in order to keep up with the progression of difficulty. I personally like playing fighters who are well-rounded, being strong, dexterous, intelligent, aware, tough and occasionally charming. But then they can’t hit anything, ever, and are outshone by every other PC who has sunk all their progression into their one key ability, rather than making a well-rounded PC. It seems like the choice always comes down to either strength or something else, which is part of why the long range option has disappeared as well.

  5. I think ALL classes should be simple at first. And then if a player wants to add an option to hit enemies when they hit allies, they should have that option and if another character wants to have a way to heal they should have that option and if another character wants to buff allies or debuff enemies, they should have that option. All these should be possible with the same base class and each option should have good flavor both thematically and mechanically for that class.

  6. Excellent post.

    I agree that Fighters at their core should be simple to play, with the option of being able to complicate them if the player so chooses. Ideally, I would like that simplicity to carry across to ALL classes (an easy to play Wizard? Perish the thought!) but there’s a certain charm and appeal to being the guy who walks up and hits things.

    Regardless of how D&D Next approach the other classes, the Fighter class will always be the gateway drug of choice for countless new players. And that is exactly as it should be.

    • A simple spellcaster? I can think of a couple of ways to do this. The 3.5 Warlock was one. They got a small number of spells that they could use at-will. You only needed to learn a handful of abilities and you didn’t need to worry about managing how many you had left.

      • I could see this working off the existing spell system in whatever edition. They could learn spells of certain levels at-will, but perhaps would not get as much damage from them as a normal fire-and-forget wizard.

        So a wizard that can learn Fireball as a daily power that they forget after use gets massive damage from it once.

        The wizard that learns it as an at-will gets pretty good damage but nowhere near the daily use version, but gets to use it repeatedly.

        The problem is when you look at spells that are not just about damage. Not sure how to handle that.

        They would also learn less spells overall.

        • …or you could just use levels. A daily spell is at level. An encounter spell that is the same is one level higher and an at will spell is one level higher than that.

          It will lead to some interesting choices. One fireball or unlimited magic missiles?

          • I’ll be honest, I’m the opposite of a grognard. I’ve only played 4th so I haven’t had exposure to spell levels versus character levels.

            That seems quite elegant. I like it.

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