Let's Play...A Low Armor Fighter
This one is going to be a bit different from the norm, as fighters can vary widely in what stats they use. While most classes have a stat that serves as the linchpin for their abilities, fighters can can use any of the physical stats and still perform just as well, so restricting Strength or Dexterity doesn't really make a difference. And if we were to inhibit Constitution, the article would become very short: take the Archery fighting style, focus on Dexterity, and just don't be the frontline fighter.
So instead we decided to go for the thing you really don't see: a low armor fighter who is easy to hit.
I. Character Concept: The Unarmored Fighter
When you think about fighters, you generally think about armored warriors with a sword and shield, or maybe a heavily armored warrior with a two-handed weapon. Or a fanatical savage warrior with a bare chest. Or a ninja. Or any number of other low armor warriors.
And the fighter is a good base for all of these - sure, you can build a ninja with a rogue, but your ninja will have 1, maybe 2 attacks (if you dual wield), whereas you could have 5 or more with a fighter (which sure sounds more like a ninja to me). Sure, you could use a barbarian for a bare chested warrior, but the fighter gives you not only more attacks, but also access to Second Wind and Action Surge, both of which will aid you immensely in being the savage warrior on the battlefield.
So the fighter doesn't need to be a heavily armored warrior. In fact, for our build here we're going to give you a host of ways to build an effective fighter that wears no armor at all.
II. Character Build
So there are several ways we can do this; we'll start by looking at a few options for multiclassing before looking at a pure fighter build.
Option 1: You can take 1-2 levels of barbarian for Unarmored Defense and then later Reckless Attack. The Rage ability is whatever, as we don't necessarily need it, and we won't get a lot of uses of it, but hey, it will be a good boon in a few fights each day to reduce the damage we suffer. I wouldn't even get the 3rd level for the subclass: useful as it could be, you won't use its effects all that often thanks to having few uses of Rage, and basically all 3rd level barbarian abilities require you to be raging.
Option 2: Take 1 level of monk for Unarmored Defense and to give you a bonus action unarmed attack to go with your two-handed weapon. It means you can't use a shield, but that's fine considering the parameters we have for the build: no armor.
Option 3: Take 1-3 levels of rogue to increase our damage through Sneak Attack, not get hit as often (through cunning action), and at 3rd level take our subclass, several of which can help you stay alive longer. I recommend Swashbuckler or Arcane Trickster for your subclass, as I think you'll get the most out of those.
Option 4: You can also run a fighter without multiclassing, and you'd do it like this. First, you'd pump up your Dexterity as high as you can, and take a longbow and a rapier as your primary weapons. Take the Archery or Duelist fighting style so that you can end fights faster, thereby saving you hit points. If you have reason to believe that you'll be in the dark a lot and want to play a variant human, consider taking the Blind Fighting style instead, as that will help you hit more often.
As you advance, your primary goal is to kill things as quickly as possible. Once you hit 3rd level you choose the eldritch knight subclass, and prepare Shield and Absorb Elements to improve your survivability against attacks. Since you have a good Dexterity score you can start at around an AC13 (on par with bards and rogues at 1st level, but with more hit points) with Shield taking you up to AC18 against a straight attack.
This is surprisingly not bad - a lot of creatures at early levels are only getting a +4 or less to their attacks, which means attacks will miss against an AC13 about half the time. Add onto this Shield against the stray high attack roll, and you should be fine. One level multiclass would take you even higher, so you can survive without armor, even if you're on the front lines.
So what do we gain by giving up armor? Several things. First, armor is expensive to upgrade, so you save a ton of money, and in some campaigns you hardly get any money at all, so relying on upgrading armor to increase your resilience is not a guarantee. This build relies on something you know you can trust: level progression.
Second, you are better at sneaking as you are not wearing heavy armor, which means other party members may enjoy that aspect of the game more as you aren't giving away their position. This also increases the chances to surprise an opponent, increasing your damage on the first turn.
Third, fighters make good archers, even though they are typically slotted into the "frontliner role" in a party, so you can double down on dealing damage even while wearing no armor. And of course, it gives you a whole different experience playing a fighter because you're not playing the stereotypical warrior.
Would I play this character? Probably, though I think I'd multiclass into barbarian just because Unarmored Defense + Reckless Attack is just so good for a fighter. But the concept is cool, and I enjoyed exploring this because I'd never thought to play this kind of character before. So if you want a different experience with a fighter, consider playing a low armor fighter.
Until next time,