Welcome to our guide to the Champion Fighter subclass for Dungeons & Dragons 5e — the subclass that perhaps most perfectly distills the experience of getting together with your buddies around the kitchen table for a relaxing evening of murdering giant fire-breathing lizards and stealing all of their gold.
Despite its ability to tell sweeping stories of epic scope and complexity, introduce people to strange new worlds, and provide the vehicle for such outlandish modern fantasies as regularly getting eight hours of sleep a night and eventually owning property, Dungeons & Dragons always comes back to one thing: kicking monsters in the head until they’re no longer able to stop you walking out with the gold, the silverware, and any nice mid-century furniture they have left that wasn’t turned to matchsticks during the fight.
Sure, some games are more combat heavy than others. Some barely feature any fighting at all — hardly a dungeon and nary a dragon. However, if you look at the supposedly three equal “pillars of D&D,” exploration, social interaction, and combat, a super-quick glance at any character class is enough to see which of the three pillars is holding up most of the metaphorical roof.
D&D is a game about combat. I don’t think this is a bad thing (if you don’t want to fight stuff, go play Wanderhome) by any means; very little compares to the thrill of wading into battle and betting your life on the roll of a few shiny plastic math rocks.
What I’m trying to say is that the only thing better than hitting a goblin with your sword is if that hit is a crit. And if you like to hit stuff and crit up to three times as much as everyone else, well, the Champion fighter might be for you.
The Champion Fighter is probably the simplest subclass in the game with no resources to manage, no spells to prepare — hardly any frills at all to be honest. You’re just a freaking crit machine. As a result, the Champion is a great class for newer players who want to read slightly less than an average Jane Austen novel in order to feel like they have a grip on their character. Still, for more experienced players, it’s easy enough to customize the Champion with the right feats (of which the fighter gets plenty), multiclass dips, and magic items.
In this guide, we’re going to be giving you the full rundown on everything you need to know to decide whether to play a Champion fighter in your next D&D 5e campaign.
We’re going to break down this subclass’s strengths, weaknesses, and features and how your choice of character race, background, ability score distribution, feats, and more can help you be as effective as possible on the battlefield.
Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System
In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color-rating scheme:
- Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful and might make for an interesting narrative choice but are largely less effective than other tiers.
- Green – B Tier. A solid choice but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or it can be very good but only situationally.
- Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective.
- Purple – S Tier. The best of the best. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are definitely worth considering when you create your character.
Our goal here is to provide scannable but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.
What Is a Champion Fighter in D&D 5e?
The Champion fighter is a martial archetype who focuses on powerful passive benefits and a higher chance of landing critical hits in combat. The subclass’s simplicity makes it a great starting point for new players to get to grips with the game.
This subclass grants you special features at 4rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 18th level.
By the time you reach high-tier play, Champions land critical hits more frequently than any other subclass in the game and can soak up huge amounts of damage thanks to their hit-point-regeneration feature at 18th level.
While the Champion can be a great starting point for players who aren’t familiar with the game and don’t want to worry about managing resources and pools of spell slots, more experienced players might find the subclass overly simple with its complete lack of active abilities. This means the Champion can be a little over-reliant on feats, magic items, and multiclassing to feel like they have more options available than just “attack.”
The Champion Fighter’s Strengths
Whether you’re a Battle Master who wants to control the fight through their maneuvers, a spell-slinging Eldritch Knight, or any other flavor of fighter, sooner or later, everything this class is about boils down to “hit ‘em with the big stick.”
Fighters — with their frequent ability score increases, extra attacks, and powerful combat oriented abilities like Action Surge and Second Wind — are better suited than just about any other class at going toe to toe with the biggest, nastiest monster in the dungeon and taking it down. And if it’s weapon attack-based prowess that you want out of your next character, Champions are better than just about any other type of fighter.
I would also argue that Champions are a great class to play if you’re learning how to play D&D. The martial archetype is all about buffing up your chances to be good at physical stuff and combat, whether that’s tackling the enemy head on, soaking up damage for your teammates, or performing feats of athletic prowess.
Granted, you’re probably not going to learn anything necessarily to do with how characters work (if you want a character who does all the things plus a few unique tricks, play a paladin) because when you play a Champion, the bus more or less drives itself. However, you get to focus on getting good at all the stuff that’s not on your character sheet, which I think can be much more valuable.
Playing a Champion forces you to get creative and gives you the space to learn. Spellcasters are forever flipping through their lists of magical effects to find the right tool for the job; a Champion fighter has no tools of their own, so they need to use the world around them as a tool. Use your environment, get in cover, turn light and shadow to your advantage — anything and everything you can to get the edge on your opponents. The skills you learn playing a Champion fighter are carried on into every other character you create down the line.
Ever make it to the end of a campaign only to look back on a bag of holding full of magic items you never used because you forgot about them?
I certainly have. When you’re playing a Champion fighter, those items almost become your class abilities because pretty much everything else happens passively. Therefore, you’re way more likely to come up with cool, effective uses for portable holes, immovable rods, and any other interesting magic item you come across.
Also, just because you don’t have a lot of buttons to push doesn’t mean you can’t add complexity to the Champion fighter as you level up. You have a really strong foundation, so using feats like Polearm Master, Sentinel, Magic Initiate, Shield Master, Sharpshooter, and Great Weapon Master are all great ways to add a little more flavor to the subclass. Or, if you want to go even further off-piste as you level up, a multiclass dip is always on the cards.
The Champion Fighter’s Weaknesses
The Champion fighter might be a great option for a brand-new player looking for a simple character for their first campaign, but for anyone who wants a little more crunch (any at all, really), they run the risk of getting really bored, really quickly.
The Champion has — no exaggeration — exactly no buttons to push. Every ability, from the improved critical hit chance to its extra fighting style and remarkable athletics, gives you benefits passively. This is great for helping new players feel like they have a handle on things, but it’s really bad if you want to actually have some decisions to make to do with your abilities. There’s a reason I only played a Champion fighter for three sessions before I asked my old DM to switch to Battle Master.
Also, the Champion’s 7th-level ability can be kind of a dud, and while its 18th-level feature is genuinely fantastic, it can feel like too little too late when spellcasters are throwing around Wish and Meteor Shower, and the Samurai fighter’s ability at the same level is genuinely one of the most kickass abilities in the game.
Champion Fighter Subclass Features — Analyzed
Let’s break down the features that Champions get access to at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level.
Note that we will not be going into detail concerning the other features (like Second Wind or Extra Attack) shared by all Fighters. If you want a full-length rundown of the Fighter class, you can check out our guide here.
Improved Critical (3rd Level)
When you choose this martial archetype at 3rd level, your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20.
Increasing your chances of a critical hit from 5% to 10% provides a meaningful (if unpredictable) boost to your damage output. I really wish there were some way this class could do something to apply extra effects with critical hits, save them up for later, or just let you do something other than just roll and hope. But hey ho.
Mechanically, this is a really strong bonus, especially as you get an extra attack in a couple of levels.
Remarkable Athlete (7th Level)
Starting at 7th level, you can add half your proficiency bonus (round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make that doesn’t already use your proficiency bonus.
In addition, when you make a running long jump, the distance you can cover increases by a number of feet equal to your Strength modifier.
This is basically the bard’s Jack of All Trades ability but restricted to physical stats. Honestly, seeing as you probably won’t have proficiency in all the physical skills (especially the non-fighter ones that use Dexterity like Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Acrobatics), not to mention you get a nice little bonus to stave off the effects of exhaustion, it’s a pretty solid feature. The extra jump distance is so completely pointless I don’t know why it’s here.
Extra Fighting Style (10th Level)
At 10th level, you can choose a second option from the Fighting Style class feature.
It’s nice to have on paper, but because very few fighting styles actually complement one another (they’re all about enhancing different ways of fighting after all), you have about a 90% chance of just picking Defense.
However, some of the newer fighting style options from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are particularly powerful and definitely make this decision less clear cut than it was before their release.
Superior Critical (15th Level)
At 15th level, your weapon attacks score a critical hit on an 18, 19, or 20.
A 15% chance of scoring a critical hit every attack when you’re making three or more attacks per round is a huge, huge benefit. Combine this with a reliable way to get advantage on your attacks (like grappling and shoving enemies or getting a familiar or ally to take the help action), and your chance of critting is more than one in four.
Survivor (18th Level)
At the beginning of every turn when your current hit points are below half of your hit-point maximum, you regain hit points equal to 5 + your Constitution modifier. You don’t gain this benefit if you have 0 hit points.
This is an outrageously good capstone ability that serves to make you ridiculously tanky — able to soak up tons and tons of damage with ease. You basically have the regeneration abilities of a Troll, although your limbs and extremities won’t grow back.
It’s just a shame this ability arrives so late for this subclass when regenerating 10 hp per round isn’t actually as good as it sounds.
Multiclassing a Champion Fighter
As well as giving you new, diverse ways to create interesting character concepts, multiclassing can be a great way to either emphasize a particular class’s strengths or compensate for its weaknesses.
For a martial archetype that struggles with giving the player enough shiny toys to play with in favor of being solid and dependable, like a nice hot bowl of unseasoned porridge, multiclassing can provide the heaped spoonful of sugar that the subclass needs to feel like an exciting option.
As with all multiclass pairings, we’re looking for options that not only give the Champion fighter new dimensions and depth but also don’t stretch the class’s resources too thin. Thankfully, the Champion really only needs either Strength or Dexterity and Constitution to be effective, which means we have some space to play around with introducing a third important ability score.
For Dexterity-based fighters, the rogue’s additional damage from Sneak Attack (which you get to roll twice if you crit) and the added versatility from Cunning Action are great ways to add a little depth to this character if you want to focus more on dealing damage than being an unstoppably tanky sponge.
Rogue’s also get expertise (double proficiency bonus on two skills) at 1st level, so even a quick dip can boost your Athletics check bonuses if you want to go down the grappler route.
Because you probably don’t want to complicate things too much while maximizing your damage output, the Assassin is probably the roguish archetype that works best with the Champion fighter.
Strong overlap on stats makes the barbarian an obvious choice for a Champion fighter multiclass, especially since the biggest drawback of a barbarian multiclass (raging makes the other class’s active abilities unusable) isn’t an issue here.
Also, if you put enough levels into barbarian (9 or 13, although at that point you’re just playing a barbarian) to unlock Brutal Critical, you get to add even more damage dice to your fistful of death rocks when you roll a crit.
If you want some added mobility, spellcasting, expertise (for that added grapple bonus), and yet more fighting styles, the Ranger can be a great complementary choice for the Champion Fighter.
You can check out our more in-depth guide to multiclassing fighters here.
Character Creation: Building a Champion Fighter
While fighters don’t pick their subclasses until level 3, decisions you make at character creation can easily set you up for success or a tough campaign. Let’s take a look at the decisions you’ll be making at 1st level that can help you build an effective Champion fighter all the way to 20th.
- Primary: Dexterity/Strength
- Tier II: Constitution
- Tier III: Wisdom
- Absolute Dump Tier: Charisma, Intelligence
Regardless of whether you use Standard Array, Point Buy, Roll 4-drop-1, or some other method to generate your ability scores, a Champion fighter will be most effective with their highest ability scores in the stats that complement their playstyle the best — which is to say, hitting stuff.
Whichever style of fighting you choose (i.e, whether you want a big two-handed sword, a one-handed weapon and shield, or to fight from range) will inform whether you want to prioritize Strength or Dexterity.
While Dexterity is good for saving throws and initiative rolls either way, you can probably safely throw whichever stat doesn’t form the core of your build down into the lower priority ability scores along with Wisdom.
Constitution means more hit points, and that’s never a bad thing, especially on a frontline melee-focused character. Also, at 18th level, you’re going to regenerate your Constitution modifier + 5 hit points every round, so there is no reason you shouldn’t have maxed this stat by then. A ranged build that favors Dexterity might have more leeway here, but it should still be your second highest ability score.
Wisdom sits above Intelligence and Charisma purely because it’s the ability score that drives your Perception checks, which are vital to making sure you don’t get ambushed, spot clues, and generally don’t just wander around dungeons in your own little world until a pit trap drops you into a gelatinous cube.
Beyond that, unless it’s important for your character’s backstory, all other ability scores are more or less irrelevant.
Since the launch of custom lineages in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the overhauled exotic lineages in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, and the direction hinted at by the new OneD&D playtest material, we’re headed for a world where playable races no longer have inherent ability scores attached and picking a race-class combination has become a much more fluid, fun prospect.
Hunting through all the playable races in D&D 5e for an option with the right combination of ability score bonuses to suit our class may be a thing of the past. Of course, you can still do that with the races in the Player’s Handbook for now, but beyond the core rules, you can look at more fun stuff like innate spellcasting and natural abilities — not to mention just what you think is cool.
Now, all characters using this method of generation get to either increase one ability score by +2 and another by +1 or increase three different scores by +1. You still can’t increase a starting ability score above 20. It’s assumed that if you’re building a Champion fighter using the new generation method, you’re either putting +2 into Strength or Dexterity and +1 into Constitution. Your stat generation method can also play a role in how you prioritize your bonuses.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of our favorite playable races (some from Monsters of the Multiverse and some from the “classic” fantasy races) that make a great foundation for a Champion fighter.
Fearsome warriors born with a foot in both worlds, half-orcs are mechanically some of the best martial characters in D&D. Not only do you get a +2 Strength and +1 Constitution bonus but also proficiency in Intimidation (the only social skill a fighter really needs), relentless endurance (instead of dropping to 0 hp, once per long rest you just drop to 1 instead), and savage attacks, which give you an extra damage die to roll when you crit.
The only subrace in the game that gives a +2 to two abilities (Strength and Constitution), which pairs well with some poison damage resistance — Mountain Dwarves are an excellent foundation on which to build a Champion fighter.
Small, draconic, and most adventurer’s first combat encounter, kobolds are frequently underestimated by their foes — a foolish mistake that for many proves to be their last.
Kobolds not only have a versatile grab bag of ancestral traits to choose from tied to their draconic ancestry (which range from spellcasting to advantage on rolls against being frightened), but they can also emit a draconic roar that gives them and their allies advantage on attack rolls. Perfect for a class that wants to maximize its chances of a critical hit.
The only real drawback of kobolds is their small size, which means they can’t make use of two-handed weapons, which is a shame.
While their horn attack and inability to get lost in mazes are both thematic and rather charming (something the new MotM art, which looks more like a butter commercial than a depiction of the virgin-eating monster in the labyrinth beneath Crete), the real draw here is the Minotaur’s Hammering Horns ability, which lets them push a target 10 feet away with their horns after they hit it with a melee attack.
Pair that with the Sentinel feat and a reach weapon, and you can really make your enemies wish they’ve stayed out of your maze.
Backgrounds are a great way to help flesh out your character’s personal history as well as being your only real option for accumulating more skill proficiencies outside of your class’s starting selection.
Each background also has its own special feature – something that I maintain remains a woefully underused aspect of D&D. For example, the Criminal’s natural ability to draw upon a network of contacts for information, leads, and jobs or the fact that the Sage’s Researcher feature means that, even if they can’t recall a piece of lore, they know exactly where to go to get it.
These features can do a lot to help your character feel like a part of the world in which they live as well as just being useful — whether that means lore, quests, assistance from factions, or even some free retainers.
As a Champion fighter, picking something that gives you a skill or two that you can make use of is a good start, although something thematic could also be a good choice. The Soldier (athletics and intimidation) feels like an obvious fit for a Champion — someone who has honed their killing skills for years on the battlefield — as does the Knight (a variant of the Noble) and the Folk Hero.
Languages and Skills
Any race you choose is going to be able to speak Common, and beyond that, you should choose languages that fit with your background and the campaign you’re playing in. Talk to your DM about the game they’re planning to run, and pick something you think might be useful. Or just pick Deep Speech, and hope it never comes up.
In addition to skill proficiencies granted by your background (Stealth is probably the most glaring omission from the Fighter’s starting list), all Fighters get to choose two skills from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival.
Remember that grabbing all physical skills isn’t necessarily the best option as eventually, you’ll get to add half your proficiency bonus to the checks where you aren’t proficient. Still, if there’s a skill you’re going to be using a lot, like Athletics or Acrobatics (if you’re going Dexterity based), then just snap it up as quickly as possible.
Champions are some of the few characters in D&D 5e who get to pick more than one fighting style, which means that you’ve got some additional decision-making to do — even if we both know you’re going to pick Great Weapon Fighting first and then Defense later.
There are six fighting styles in the Player’s Handbook and a further five available through Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. You choose one fighting style at 1st level. While you will gain a second fighting style through your subclass and can gain additional fighting styles by multiclassing or taking the Fighting Initiate feat, you can never take the same style twice.
You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons. Great if you’re playing a Dexterity-based, ranged-focused build. If you’re going to be favoring melee, skip this.
While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC. This is perfect if you want to beef up your defensive capabilities and serve as your party’s tank. Paired with heavy armor and a shield, the Defense fighting style lets you have an AC of 19 at 1st level. Laugh in the faces of goblins and other low-CR monsters as their puny butter knives rattle off your impenetrable carapace. Mwahaha!
For a Champion, this is an easy and safe pick for your second fighting style as it works with just about every other style without forcing you to change the way you fight.
When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. This combines really well with a sword-and-shield setup, allowing you to get the +2 AC and statistically better damage output than if you had a d10 two-handed weapon.
Normally this is what I would go for on any fighter, but your improved critical does bigger damage when you roll bigger dice (that’s math, baby), so make the bold choice and pick…
Great Weapon Fighting
When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the two-handed or versatile property for you to gain this benefit.
Normally, dueling is the superior pick, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of gritting with a Greatsword and smugly asking the DM if you can borrow some of their six-sided dice. A great offensively focused damage option, especially for the Champion. Use with a greatsword (which uses 2d6 for damage) for maximum opportunities to reroll 1s and 2s.
When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.
This is better on paper than in practice as it requires your squishy allies to stay on the front line with you rather than a full 15 feet behind you where they belong.
It’s barely good on a defense-focused fighter like the Cavalier and belongs nowhere near you, you goddamn crit-machine. How does the Champion protect their wizard? They go out there and crit the enemy into a thin greasy stain on the flagstone floor before the wizard gets hit.
When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.
Great if you’re not playing a subclass that makes use of its bonus action (like the Samurai), so a solid choice for the Champion — and basically gives you another chance to crit. This is a fantastic way to make the most of taking as many attacks as possible per turn. Pair with the Dual Wielder feat to swing around two longswords like a champ.
You have blindsight with a range of 10 feet. Within that range, you can effectively see anything that isn’t behind total cover, even if you’re blinded or in darkness. Moreover, you can see an invisible creature within that range, unless the creature successfully hides from you.
As thematically cool as a blind fighter sounds, this is still a very niche option. Maybe consider it for an Underdark campaign. Situationally, however, this can turn you into an invisibility detector.
When a creature you can see hits a target other than you within 5 feet of you with an attack, you can use your reaction to reduce the damage the target takes by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus (to a minimum of 0 damage). You must be wielding a shield or a simple or martial weapon to use this reaction.
Better than protection but doesn’t synergize with the core competencies of your subclass. I suppose if you’ve reached level 10 and you’re the only surviving original member of your party, it’s something to consider.
You learn one maneuver of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype and gain superiority die, which is a d6.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend this fighting style, but one d6 superiority die and a single maneuver per short rest feel kind of underpowered. Still, the extra versatility of a maneuver like Bait and Switch or Riposte makes for a good use of your reaction. The Martial Adept Feat is still probably a better option. Overall, it’s still not a bad way to add a little active decision-making to the very passive Champion experience.
Thrown Weapon Fighting
You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with the weapon. In addition, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll.
This makes thrown weapons a viable choice, so whether you want to hurl knives, spears, or hand axes, you can do it as many times per round as you have attacks.
Your unarmed strikes can deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier on a hit. If you aren’t wielding any weapons or a shield when you make the attack roll, the d6 becomes a d8.
At the start of each of your turns, you can deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage to one creature grappled by you.
This is an unbelievably powerful fighting style if you’re willing to commit to the character concept. Legitimately, sacrificing a shield for the ability to punch with the power of a longsword is not bad at all, and it works really well with the grappling-centric build that the Champion naturally gravitates toward.
Feats are an optional rule that allows you to forgo an Ability Score Increase in favor of a special ability or bonus that can (in some cases, radically) alter the way your character works. Fighters get a ton of Ability Score Increases, which means they also have a bunch of opportunities for feats.
For a subclass like the Champion, which sorely struggles with how passive all its abilities are, feats are a great way to add complexity, nuance, and some interesting abilities to your character. So, assuming you’re happy with your ability scores, think about grabbing one of the feats below as they can completely redefine your playstyle.
When you wield a glaive, polearm, or other such weapon, you can use the haft end to make an extra attack with a bonus action. However, the real kicker here is that you can also make opportunity attacks against enemies who enter the range of your weapon. Pair that with Sentinel below and you are on your way to having an outrageous amount of battlefield control. You can read more here.
This is the quintessential (and, I might argue, essential) pairing for the Polearm Master Feat. Sentinel means any creature you hit with an opportunity attack has its speed reduced to 0 for the remainder of its turn.
Combine this with the 10-foot reach of a polearm, and you can hit a creature with an opportunity attack as it tries to close with you, stopping it dead in its tracks before it can get into melee range. What’s not fun about beating your enemies to death with a big stick without them ever getting close enough to land a single blow?
Great Weapon Master
You’re already swinging a great big sword around, so why not double down on the chance to do some crazy damage and make even more use of your improved critical chances in the process?
The Great Weapon Master Feat lets you…
- On your turn, when you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with one, you can make one melee weapon attack as a bonus action.
- Before you make a melee attack with a heavy weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.
It’s basically a must-have for a subclass that crits 2-3 times more than everyone else.
Since Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything dramatically expanded the list of Battle Master Maneuvers, the Martial Adept Feat has become a fantastic pickup for a bit of extra damage and battlefield control.
When you pick up this feat, you learn two maneuvers of your choice from the Battle Master archetype, and you gain a d6 superiority die that resets on a short rest. There are a bunch of maneuvers that can enhance your abilities in combat, but the one we’d recommend is Brace. When an enemy you can see moves within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to expend one superiority die and make one weapon attack against that creature. If the attack hits, add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll.
It’s great stuff all around and feels especially welcome on the Champion, which lacks active abilities.
The biggest issue with two-weapon fighting on a Champion is that your crits will only be as big as your regular hits with a bigger weapon. Dual Wielder lets you change that by putting a longsword in each hand. Come on. Do it. It’s not like you were using your bonus action for anything any way, you big lug.
The biggest and most obvious drawback to rolling a dice that can deal 1-12 damage is that sometimes you roll a 1, and that sucks, especially if it was part of a crit. Savage Attacker lets you reroll the damage from one weapon attack and choose either result.
It’s incremental, but you’re always going to do a little bit more damage, and the occasions when you turn a roll of 1 into a 12 are going to be freaking great.
Final Thoughts: Should I Play a Champion Fighter?
If I were allowed to go back to the drawing board, there’s a fair amount I’d change about the Champion fighter. It’s too passive, its mid-game abilities are seriously underwhelming, and even though Survivor is a great ability, by the time it’s active at 18th level, everything else in the game is so ridiculously overpowered that it ends up feeling seriously meh.
If I were sent back to design a simple core fighter subclass that revolves around critical hits, I wouldn’t have made this. I’d have special effects that the Champion could apply when they crit or let their critical range get bigger the closer they are to death so playing the character is a nail-biting balancing act. But that’s neither here nor there.
I came into this article ready to hate the Champion even more than I thought I did, but in retrospect, what’s to hate? Seriously, though. There’s nothing here to hate. There’s hardly anything here at all.
Playing a Champion fighter is as close as you can get to opting out of the subclass experience altogether.
“I want to play a fighter.”
The passive bonuses, the random extra damage — this subclass feels like it’s the TTRPG equivalent of something built for button mashing. And I kind of love it?
Sure, there aren’t any spells to cast, maneuvers to make, or fun one-off abilities that let you control the battlefield… but there can be. The Champion Fighter is as close as you can get to a blank canvas in D&D. With the right feats, magic items, and multiclass dips… anything’s possible. It’s a subclass that a first-time player can master by 5th level and then tweak and evolve into something more complex as they go without worrying about learning a whole new subset of the rules.
It’s simple. It’s elegant. It’s surprisingly likable. I encourage you to give it a try.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.