Fighting Styles in DnD 5e: These Are Your Best Options

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

A fighting style is one of the key features that sets a battle-hardened martial character like a Fighter, Ranger, or Paladin apart from other classes that might focus more closely on spellcasting or stealth. Whether you’re looking to increase your survivability, protect your allies, or simply boost your damage output in a way that suits your chosen build, choosing the right fighting style is often the first step.  

In this guide, we’re going to help players building a martial character choose the fighting style that’s right for them, as well as look into ways that other classes can get their hands on these powerful features. 

We’ll do our best to break down what makes each fighting style unique and powerful in its own way. We’ll also touch on how to lean into the different fighting styles with various feats and subclasses.

Fighting Styles Table

What Are Fighting Styles in 5e?

Fighting styles are abilities that give martial combatants an edge in battle. Much like a subclass, they represent a character’s focused study in a particular form of combat. 

There are 13 fighting styles that give bonuses to a character’s attacks or defensive abilities. Some also grant access to spells, cantrips, and other abilities. You learn a fighting style as part of your character’s class or subclass progression, or by choosing the Fighting Initiate Feat.  Fighters have access to 11 styles, Rangers and Paladins have access to 7 each.

In the past, choosing a fighting style would lock you into one form of combat for the entire campaign. Recently, however, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has introduced us to a series of options that allow characters to be more fluid as they progress from level to level. One of those options is the Martial Versatility feature, which allows a fighter to switch out a fighting style they know with a new one whenever their character reaches a level that grants an Ability Score Improvement. 

While martial versatility gives us the ability to explore different types of combat, it’s a good idea to plan on one fighting style anyways. Your chosen fighting style can affect other character choices we make along the way, so knowing which one we want is a good idea.

Fighting Style Breakdown

There are 13 fighting styles 5e in total, although no class gets access to all 13 options. Fighters, as the most versatile combatants, have access to 11 styles, whereas rangers and paladins each have access to 7. 

Archery F R

  • You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

There is no better style for someone fighting with any form of bow or crossbow. This is pretty straightforward, but it should be noted that the +2 only goes towards your attack rolls, not damage rolls

If you’re choosing from fighting styles 5e you will probably also want to pick up the sharpshooter feat, which vastly changes an archer’s combat prowess, by negating cover and allowing you to take a moderate penalty on an attack roll in exchange for a healthy boost in damage. Alternatively, you can choose to take the crossbow expert feat to ignore disadvantage on ranged attacks made within 5 feet, although admittedly this makes the most sense for someone who decides to use a crossbow.

Blessed Warrior P

  • You learn two cantrips of your choice from the cleric spell list. They count as paladin spells for you, and Charisma is your spellcasting ability for them. Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of these cantrips with another cantrip from the cleric spell list.

This paladin-exclusive fighting style is rather interesting in that it gives no benefit to martial combat. It does, however, give the paladin class access to cantrips, which it would not otherwise receive. 

Ironically, this fighting style makes the paladin a more viable caster. I would suggest picking up an offensive cantrip such as Sacred Flame or Toll the Dead, and a supportive cantrip like Spare the Dying. It probably makes more sense to avoid utility spells, since the goal here is to improve your combat supremacy, but depending on your party’s overall composition, picking up something like Thaumaturgy or Mending can still be the right choice.  

Blind Fighting FP R

  • 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.

Blind fighting is an interesting new option made available by TCoE. The rules for blindsight simply state that you can perceive your surroundings without sight, which can potentially open up a lot of opportunities within combat. Obscuring fog or smoke, magical darkness, or magical blindness are all negated, and you can move around much more stealthily in absolute darkness, making you considerably stealthier in a dungeon setting. .

Keep in mind that being able to “perceive” your surroundings is not the same as seeing them. Being able to detect colors or other detailed writing in the darkness is impossible, and certain spells that rely on sight may now be off the table—although this is something that’s ultimately up to your DM. 

Putting this style together with the alert, sentinel, and polearm master feats makes the 10ft around you a death trap for any foe, visible or not. 

Defense F P R

  • While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

While a +1 AC might seem like a relatively incremental benefit, it’s a pivotal piece of the jigsaw puzzle if you want to make survivability a cornerstone of your build. Even if defense isn’t a high priority for you, this fighting style is a great way to add a little much needed survivability to a character wearing medium armor or forgoing a shield. 

Druidic Warrior R

  • You learn two cantrips of your choice from the Druid spell list. They count as ranger spells for you, and Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for them. Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of these cantrips with another cantrip from the Druid spell list.

A druidic version of the paladin’s blessed warrior fighting style, giving rangers access to cantrips they wouldn’t normally be able to use. Like the blessed warrior, you’ll see best results if you go with a balanced selection of cantrips that provide you additional damage options and support, like Primal Savagery and Guidance or Thornwhip and Resistance.

Dueling FP R

  • 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 is a great bonus for one-handed weapons, which tend to be a bit weaker than larger two-handed weapons, and need some form of advantage to be a worthy choice. This bonus to damage bridges the gap that we see in versatile weapons like the longsword, which deal 1d8 when wielded with one hand and 1d10 when wielded with two. 

You can still hold things in your off hand, so long as they don’t count as a weapon. Potions, shields, and other various combat tools make this an excellent option for anyone looking for a character that isn’t too complicated.
As for feats, you may want to pick up the damage feat that matches your weapon of choice’s damage type; slasher, piercer, or crusher. If your one handed weapon also has the finesse property, you might want to take the defensive duelist feat as well to give yourself an excellent bonus to your AC.

Great Weapon Fighting FP

  • 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.

This is going to mean pretty often dealing at least 3 damage before modifiers. While this isn’t the most astounding benefit at first glance, you’ll get your money’s worth out of this style after only your first couple of combats. 

Two-handed weapons often also have the heavy property, so you’re going to want to pick up the great weapon master feat as soon as you can. Throw in the savage attacker feat for an added opportunity to reroll your damage dice each turn and you’re basically golden. 

Interception FP

  • 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.

The Interception fighting style is a stronger version of the Protection fighting style and  works similarly to a Battle Master Maneuver from the Battle Master Fighter subclass. The prerequisite of wielding a shield or a simple or martial weapon basically is almost pointless, since there should be very few times you’re caught without one of the three.

If you find yourself in a party with a lot of low AC, low HP, or otherwise vulnerable allies who keep getting downed, being able to negate an incoming attack each round is a pretty strong ability — as long as you don’t have other things to do with your reaction in combat. 

Protection FP 

  • 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.

If you’re playing a traditional “sword and board” style character who wants to focus on keeping their allies in the fight, Protection style fighting is a solid way to impose consistent disadvantage on enemy attack. Also, the type of attacks this style can block isn’t specified, meaning it works on both weapon attacks and attacks that require spell attack rolls. 

This is an alright bonus and one of the most consistent ways to create disadvantage for your opponents within the game. However, it requires you to consistently make poor positioning decisions and doesn’t increase your own survivability. On balance, it makes more sense to take the Defense fighting style and just make sure you’re standing between your ally and the enemy trying to hit them.  

Picking up the shield master feat is going to make the shield more protective for you, giving you greater protection from spells and the ability to shove your opponents around, which is useful.

Superior Technique

  • You learn one maneuver of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype. If a maneuver you use requires your target to make a saving throw to resist the maneuver’s effects, the saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice.)

You gain one superiority die, which is a d6 (this die is added to any superiority dice you have from another source). This die is used to fuel your maneuvers. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.

This is an interesting fighting style, and you’ll notice it’s only available to fighters. While it can be tempting to improve another martial archetype by choosing this fighting style, this is actually best used by a fighter who intends on becoming a Battle Master. 

On its own, a single battle maneuver really isn’t as effective as most of the other options you have here. Sure, it might be really nice to parry or make a goading attack at the crucial moments, but it’s just too limited to make it a worthy option. 

Your best bet is to use this as a headstart on your battlemaster build, giving you access to an extra maneuver and an extra superiority die. 

Thrown Weapon Fighting F R

  • 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.

I’m not sure how many thrown weapon specialists are out there, but I love this style and I hope it draws out some more. It’s really just the same as archery or dueling, with the +2 to damage, but the kicker is how it improves thrown weapons enough to make them a mechanically viable choice for mechanically minded players. 

Normally, you can only interact with one object for free per turn, such as drawing an axe or extinguishing a torch. After that, you have to take an action to interact with anything else. This effectively means that a fighter can draw as many thrown weapons as they can attack with in a turn, which brings to mind a great picture of a bandolier full of daggers.

Two-Weapon Fighting F R ‘

  • When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.

I often see people confused about how fighting with two weapons works in 5e. Normally, you must be wielding two light melee weapons in order to make a bonus action attack with your off-hand weapon after you make a standard attack. That bonus attack doesn’t normally add your modifiers to damage, which this fighting style remedies!

The dual wielder feat is an essential add on to this style, eliminating the light property as a requisite for your weapons, giving you a bonus to AC, and allowing you to draw both of your weapons at the same time. 

Unarmed Fighting F

  • 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 a great fighting style that makes unarmed strikes a real option for anyone other than a monk. In fact, the monks unarmed strikes don’t do a d8 of damage until they are 11th level, giving you a wicked head start. 

You can also deal damage to creatures grappled by you at the beginning of your turn, which means putting some focus on being a good grappler. Tavern brawler makes grappling creatures easier (even if d4 damage is redundant), and grappler gives you advantage while you have a creature grappled.

A build centered on this fighting style doesn’t need a weapon to be feared. In fact, it might just be better than some weapon builds out there.

All of the styles above are good at what they do. The only real exception being Protection, which is a little lackluster, but has more or less been replaced by Interception anyway. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to think about how you want to perform in combat.

None of the fighting styles change the mechanics in such a groundbreaking way that they stand apart. The best way to choose is to decide which weapon or weapons calls to you, and then to decide whether you want to be more defensive or more offensive in your playstyle.

Fighting Initiate and Champion

The fighting initiate feat lets characters gain a fighting style from among the fighter’s list of 11 options, so long as they have proficiency with a martial weapon. Interestingly, there’s nothing to stop a ranger or paladin using this feat to get one of the fighting styles their classes can’t access. It also means that other martial classes like the rogue or barbarian can further augment their abilities. It also means that a class that gets a fighting style could pick up a second. 

Another way to pick up a second fighting style is through the Champion fighter subclass, which gains a second fighting style at level 10. While the Champion is mechanically powerful, its simplistic design revolves around improved passive bonuses rather than active abilities, and more experienced players may find the subclass’ lack of moving parts a little stifling.  

If you are a class that doesn’t typically receive a fighting style:

Full casters shouldn’t be looking into this as a serious option. If you are a full caster and you want to get a fighting style, multiclass into fighter. It’s not worth it to waste an ASI on a fighting style if this is your first foray into martial combat. Some spellcasting subclasses, like the Hexblade Warlock and the Bladedancer Wizard are the exception to the rule, and can both benefit from additional depth and breadth to their abilities in combat — especially from a fighting style like Defense, which is particularly effective on these traditionally lower AC, low HP subclasses. 

The only other exceptionthat I would make is blind fighting, since its bonus is only tangentially related to martial combat, and casters can still benefit from extra perception.

For the classes that are left, you probably already have some idea of what fighting style you want. Again, the right decision largely depends on which weapons you’re using. 

For rogues, this will probably be one-handed weapons that also have finesse, so dueling will go well, although an archery style might suit you if you’re more specialized at long range. Barbarians like to deal a whole lot of damage so they’re going for great weapon fighting. Monks might even want a headstart on extra powerful punches with unarmed fighting.

There is no perfect option for each class, but each character’s build will have a clear fighting style. A good rule is “If you don’t know which fighting style to choose, you shouldn’t take the fighting initiate feat.”

If you are looking to pick up a second fighting style:

For anyone who is looking to double down on fighting styles, you can indeed take multiple. Champion fighters, as mentioned, get a second style at 10th level, and any fighter, paladin, or ranger can pick up the feat to grab an additional style if they so choose.

Some styles synergize with each other well, and some create opportunities for a more diverse build. Very clearly, the archery and dueling fighting styles won’t be used at the same time, but you could be very good at both depending on what the situation calls for.

My suggestion is to focus on synergy, and choose ones that compliment each other. A few options are as follows:

  • Blindfighting pairs well with any melee focused style.
  • Any defensive style can pair with any offensive style, unless otherwise specified. 
    • Dueling and Interception is great.
    • Protection and Unarmed fighting don’t work because their shield clauses conflict.
  • Archery and Thrown-Weapon fighting works well since thrown weapons have both the thrown and ranged properties.

Fighting styles are a great way to make your martial character a more skilled combatant. If they seem daunting, don’t worry. Remember that you can always change your style whenever you get an ASI if you’re not feeling it. 

As always, happy adventuring!

2 thoughts on “Fighting Styles in DnD 5e: These Are Your Best Options”

  1. The information regarding the Archery fighting style on this page is incorrect.

    Archery. You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

    Attack roll defines your hit chance, not your damage. Have a good day.


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