© Wizards of the Coast by Matt Stewart

Purple Dragon Knight 5e: Can You Make This Work? Try This First!

Words to the Wise

The banneret, also known as the Purple Dragon Knight, is an awful subclass of fighter, and you should not take it. I mean it.

That’s the harshest review I will likely ever give anything, and it doesn’t come without a great deal of forethought.

This martial archetype is intended to be an elite commander who leads their allies into battle with deeds rather than words. As a concept, I absolutely love the “lead from the front” fighter, and it’s unfortunate that this doesn’t live up to its promises.

I’ll take you through this class as normal, outlining how it works and taking you through the in-game lore of the Purple Dragon Knight, but then we’ll take a detour.

IMPROVED PURPLE KNIGHT: I think you deserve to know how to play a fearless commanding knight, so at the end of this article I’ll discuss much better options at your disposal to play the character in both homebrew and RAW.

Before we go any further, DO NOT PLAY THIS CHARACTER IF YOU ARE NEW. 

Okay, now that anybody still reading knows this class as written would rob them of a fulfilling 5e experience, let’s get to it.

Purple Dragon Knight Fighter (Banneret)

It’s rare for a subclass to have two names, let alone a name as cool as Purple Dragon Knight. Sure, rune knights and echo knights are fun, but purple dragons? There must be something going on there.

The name of the class is actually a title for a specific group of banneret fighters that serve in the Cormyrian army. In Cormyr, a country of Faerun, these knights were the elite warriors and officers that fearlessly led their soldiers into battle.

The exciting name of “purple dragon” comes from an black dragon that once ruled over the land, whose black scales eventually faded to the namesake’s violet hue. 

The general term banneret is used for the subclass as a whole. It’s strongly encouraged that you choose a faction to be a part of that makes sense with the campaign you’re playing.

Of course, you could always be a leader with a different background than the military.

The entire creed of a banneret of any variety is that they lead by deeds not words. Their actions inspire those around them, awakening hidden reverses of courage in their allies.

More than just a skilled warrior, they are elite commanders who charge headfirst into battle.

Class-Defining Abilities

  • Support Allies
  • Persuasion

There are essentially only two abilities that this subclass gets. Three of the four features allow you to spread your main class fighter abilities to your allies. The fourth increases your persuasive abilities.

Each support ability triggers when you use one of the limited use fighter abilities: Second Wind, Action Surge, and Indomitable. This is where leading by actions rather than words comes into play. 

They each allow you to provide a smaller version of the effect you receive to a specified number of allies within 50 feet.

Our other ability gives us proficiency in the Persuasion skill and then lets us use double our proficiency bonuses for any of the respective ability checks we make. Yippee.

Limitations

When we pick a subclass we’re looking for something exciting that makes our character stand out from the main class itself. We want powerful abilities and a solid theme that makes us confident on and off the battlefield.

This subclass does none of those things. For starters, the intent of the abilities seems to be to make the fighter into a support class. The fighter is one of the most efficient martial classes in the whole game.

In fact, they’re the main martial class, with everything else being an off-shoot that developed over time.

If you’re looking for a fighter that can heal your allies and boost their defenses, go for the paladin class. They have everything built in that you need for 2 out of the four abilities this subclass offers.

Plus, charisma is one of their main stats, so they’ve got the whole persuasion thing down. 

The Inspiring Surge feature is all we have left; it’s the one that lets your allies make a weapon attack when you take an Action Surge. Essentially, this is the commander aspect, which plenty of other characters, including other martial archetypes, can do.

If the fighter is the class that allows us to be excellent martial combatants and wise tacticians, this class does absolutely nothing to improve upon that. It also does nothing to set itself apart from the existing options. 

I’m not done yet. Let’s get a bit specific. The first ability we get, Rallying Cry, lets us heal our allies an amount equal to our fighter level whenever we use Second Wind. Fighters get only one use of Second Wind until they take a short or long rest.

That means that once a day, roughly, you get to heal a maximum of 20 hp to your allies. Meanwhile, you’re likely using Second Wind to heal yourself with an extra 1d10 of hp on top of your level. 

As a level three ability, it’s not the worst thing in the world, although it’s close. What gets me is that this is the only ability you get at third level! You’d think this is when that proficiency bonus would come in or something. 

All of the features are underwhelming for their level, limited by their very nature, and barely synergistic at all. It’s truly a very sad class, and I hope this is enough to dissuade you.

Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System

Color and Tier ranking is very helpful when you’re trying to digest a lot of information.  In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:

  • RedC Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful, and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but are largely less effective than other tiers.
  • GreenB Tier. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.  
  • BlueA Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • PurpleS Tier. The top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way.  No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are worth strongly considering when you create your character.

I should note that I cannot in good conscience rate any option for this class above B tier.

Our goal here is to provide scannable, but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.

While we might sometimes make reference to unofficial or homebrew content to illustrate a point (or just because it’s too cool not to talk about) every option we suggest is legal in the official rules for D&D 5e as published by Wizards of the Coast.

Race Choices

Are you sure? Do you really want to pick a race for this class? Fine, your funeral. You want for this class what you would want for any fighter, high strength and high constitution.

You can throw anything else you have in charisma if you want, giving you an extra reason to actually use your persuasion. 

TritonCHA +1, CON + 1, STR +1. This race will give you some spells to use, since you’ll need all the help you can get. 

Mountain Dwarf STR +2, CON +2. Great set of bonuses. The dwarf also gives you some good resilience.

Skill Choices

We tend to choose these based on our highest stats, but choosing a different route based on how you want to roleplay isn’t a bad idea, especially since adding your proficiency bonus might compensate for a not-so-good ability modifier.

The fighter class is given the ability to choose two skills from: Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival.

  • Acrobatics (DEX) – If you decide to do a dexterity build this is an option.
  • Animal Handling (WIS) – No.
  • Athletics (STR) – Great for any fighter, might as well.
  • History (INT) – No.
  • Insight (WIS) – Nope.
  • Intimidation (CHA) – If you’re focusing on charisma you might as well.
  • Perception (WIS) – Great for any class. If you want it, grab it up.
  • Survival (WIS) – Pass on this one.

Background Choices

When we look for a background we want to find some skills that synergize well with our ability scores, but that’s not all. 

You basically only want to go with the soldier background for this. The proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation will serve you as well as anything else could.

Banneret Fighter Progression

Features that you automatically obtain through the Fighter class will appear in BLACK and features that you gain through the Banneret subclass will appear in Pink

Filling out the Character Sheet (Level 0)

Hit Dice: 1d10 per Fighter level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per fighter level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: All armor, shields

Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons

Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution

Skills: Choose two skills from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival

Equipment:

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) chain mail or (b) leather, longbow, and 20 arrows
  • (a) a martial weapon and a shield or (b) two martial weapons
  • (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) two handaxes
  • (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack

1st Level

Fighting Style:

Choose from among a list of fighting styles. If you are for some reason choosing this subclass, please choose the superior technique style so you can at least use battle maneuvers. 

While you’re at it, take the battlemaster subclass instead. 

The other fighting style options are as follows:

  • Archery
  • Blind Fighting
  • Defense
  • Dueling
  • Great Weapon Fighting
  • Interception
  • Protection
  • Superior Technique
  • Thrown Weapon Fighting
  • Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Unarmed Fighting

Second Wind:

You can use a bonus action on your turn to heal 1d10 + your fighter level hp. Once you use this action you have to take a short or long rest before using it again.

2nd Level

Action Surge:

This lets fighters take an additional action once per short or long rest. Note that you get boosted up to two uses at 17th level.

3rd Level

Rallying Cry

Whenever you use your Second Wind, you can choose up to three allies within 60 feet of you to regain hit points up to your fighter level.

4th Level

ASI

You can either increase one ability by 2 points or two abilities by 1. Alternatively, you can choose a feature, if you already have great stats this is a great choice.

5th Level

Extra Attack:

This allows us to make two attacks in an attack action. That can be confusing, but we need to recognize the difference between the two terms. An attack action is one of the actions we can take on our turn. As a part of the attack action, we can typically make one melee or ranged attack. 

The extra attack feature allows us to make not one, but two attacks as a part of one action.

There is also no limit on how often we can use this feature, so you’ll likely use it every time you take the attack action.

At 11th level this goes up to three attacks, and at 20th it goes up to four. 

6th Level

ASI

7th Level

Royal Envoy

You gain proficiency in Persuasion, and your proficiency bonus is doubled for Persuasion checks.

If you already have proficiency in Persuasion, choose another ability from this list: Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, or Performance.

That’s right, when other fighter subclasses are cool echo attacks, tactical information and more, you’re just getting a bit more persuasive. 

8th Level

ASI

9th Level

Indomitable:

If you fail a saving throw you can reroll the save. You must take the new roll. 

You can use this feature once per long rest. At 13th level this goes up to twice, and at 17th it goes up to three times.

10th Level

Inspiring Surge

When you use your Action Surge, you can choose one creature within 60 feet of you to make a ranged or melee weapon attack as a reaction.

You can choose two creatures with this ability at level 18.

12th Level

ASI

14th Level

ASI

15th Level

Bulwark

When you use the Indomitable feature to reroll an Intelligence, a Wisdom, or a Charisma saving throw and you aren’t incapacitated, you can choose one ally within 60 feet of you that also failed its saving throw against the same effect.

16th Level

ASI

19th Level

ASI

Building a Better Banneret

I love the idea of a fearless commander. Charging into battle and using your actions to inspire your allies, it seems like what the fighter was meant to do. 

If we’re going to seriously look at options then we should talk about how another class already does this. The battle master class is built on the concept of being an elite warrior, but some of it’s maneuvers capture the spirit of a banneret well.

Was I to build a battle master with the intention of playing them like a leader, I would choose the following maneuvers (plus two more)Commander’s Strike; Commanding Presence; Distracting Strike; Goading Attack; Maneuvering Attack; Rally; and Tactical Assessment.

With the exception of Tactical Assessment and Commanding Presence, each of those maneuvers would allow me to move, protect, heal, or otherwise aid an ally of mine. The other two allow improved ability checks to capture the wisdom of a leader.

Our work could be done here, but the battle master already exists. We want to play our own subclass. 

Let’s call this new class the Commander martial archetype. Fighter classes tend to get one or two abilities at 3rd level, and then a feature or improvement upon an existing feature at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th levels.

With that in mind, here is my proposal for a Commander subclass of fighter

Commander Archetype Fighter 

3rd Level

Authoritative:

Your time as a commanding officer has taught you how to convince others to follow orders.

You gain proficiency in Persuasion or Intimidation if you do not already. If you already have proficiency in both, you gain expertise in one.

Aura of Inspiration:

Starting at 3rd level, your supremacy in battle inspires your allies. 

Allies within 5 ft of you that can see or hear you gain advantage on their attack rolls if you are not incapacitated. 

The range of this ability increases to 10 feet at 10th level and 15 feet at 18th level.

7th Level

Commander’s Orders:

At 7th level you can bark orders to your allies. As a bonus action on your turn, you can command an ally to move up to half their speed (rounded up) or take one of the following actions: Attack, Hide, Disengage, Use an Object, Cast a Spell. A spell cast this way must have the casting time of one bonus action.

You can use this ability a number of times equal to your charisma modifier (minimum one use). You regain all expended uses on a short or long rest.

10th Level

Greater Inspiration:

Allies within your aura of inspiration now have advantage on all strength and dexterity saving throws.

15th Level

Phalanx Fighting:

At 10th level, your battalion fights strongest when it is together. 

As an action you can make a phalanx that lasts up to a minute, until you are incapacitated, or until you dismiss it. Your phalanx is made up of you and any allies within 20 feet of you. The number of allies in this radius is your phalanx value (minimum of 1). 

When you take this action, choose a phalanx style, offensive or defensive:

  • Offensive – You and your allies within the phalanx add a bonus damage to weapon attacks equal to your phalanx value + your charisma modifier. 
  • Defensive – You and your allies within the phalanx add a bonus to your AC equal to your phalanx value + your charisma modifier. 

You have a number of uses of this ability equal to your charisma modifier. You regain all expended uses on a short or long rest.

18th Level

Improved Phalanx:

Your phalanx now includes all allies with 30 feet of you. 

When you create the phalanx as an action you may also choose to strike or fortify. 

  • Strike – A number of allies equal to your charisma modifier within the phalanx can take a reaction to make a melee weapon attack if available.
  • Fortify – A number of allies equal to your charisma modifier within the phalanx can gain temporary hit points equal to 1d12 plus the phalanx value.

My proposed Commander subclass takes the charismatic leader theme and leans into the theme of inspiring others. Instead of tying the abilities to limited use fighter abilities, I’ve added an aura and two abilities that have their own limited uses. 

The aura provides advantage on attack rolls, and later on, combat-related saving throws. The phalanx is focused on providing bonuses for having more allies fighting close by each other. This style supports a close battalion, with the Commander at the helm.

You can have a fighter that benefits from a high charisma without having to turn them into a sad version of a paladin, and it’s through abilities that actually allow your allies to benefit from your elite combat.

So, just in case I wasn’t clear, don’t take the banneret class. You can easily play to all the same thematic elements in other fighter subclasses without having to sacrifice a good list of features.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, please consider some homebrew options. I just want you to get the most out of this game and that won’t happen with the Purple Dragon Knight.

As always, happy adventuring.