New: D&D Fighter Bodyguard
Welcome back! We're continuing our series on new Dungeons & Dragons subclasses with a look at a fighter build that branches out into new territory for the class. While the fighter is arguably the best non-magic attacker in the game (four attacks per Attack action gives you a wide margin for error, let alone a chance at an offhand attack, added survivability, action surges, and hit point recovery all standard issue), there is a common literary trope that you don't see in the fighter subclasses: the ability to defend an ally from attack.
Enter the bodyguard. This is where this specialized form of fighter shines, giving a party that much more survivability and viability because of their sacrificial actions.
And as someone who finds great enjoyment and fulfillment from preserving allies in battle - even more so than dealing damage - the bodyguard is the ideal fighter that I could play, and I am very excited to share this build with you.
The Bodyguard: Theme and Inspiration
Whether it is the Roland to your Charlemagne, the Hama to your Theoden, or the Leofric to your Alfred, the bodyguard in literature appears everywhere. This man or woman is the last line of defense for a person they hold dear, and if they fail to guard them, their charge may die. So they devote their lives to taking care of their charge, insuring that they do not come to harm.
This is done in many ways. They watch for trouble, taste food to insure it is not poisoned, and interpose themselves between would-be assailants. This subclass is designed to illustrate all of these, giving you added mobility, bonuses to ability checks, and extra reactions to help you preserve allies from attack.
You don't gain the combat maneuvers of a battle master, enhanced critical chance of a champion, or the insane number of attacks of a samurai, but you do gain a wider range of reactions and access to more reactions each turn so that you can do the things that bodyguards do well: absorb damage, move closer to your allies that are in danger, wrestle would-be assassins to the ground, and protect them from threats both seen and unseen.
The Bodyguard: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. The subclass heavily relies on the use of reactions, and by the time you reach the highest levels you will have four reactions every turn. You can use these for opportunity attacks normally, or for other actions depending on your level (which is more likely how you will use them).
Your reactions will change based on the weapon you use. In its most basic form you can impose yourself (if you have a shield) between an ally within 5ft and an attacking enemy to become the target of the attack in their place. Since this happens before the GM rolls to attack, you can effectively shield a weaker ally with your AC, potentially reducing the amount of damage the party sustains in a given turn. Of course, if you get hit, you're the one getting hit, so be careful.
As you level up you can fend off opponents and parry attacks if you are using a two-handed weapon or two weapons. This allows you to switch to new fighting styles and still protect others as desired, though the core of the class centers around a guard with a shield, in-line with the classic literary trope.
You also gain the ability to move as a reaction to an attack against an ally, so long as you move into base contact with that character. This then allows you to take advantage of your other reaction abilities to protect that ally from harm. The movement does provoke opportunity attacks, but if you are okay with this you can get across the battlefield quickly to defend an ally from danger.
You also gain proficiency (or expertise) with Perception, and also gain advantage on Constitution saving throws to protect yourself from poisoning when tasting food (or anything else that may involve a Constitution saving throw). And by the time you are a high-level bodyguard, you also gain proficiency (or expertise) with Athletics checks and gain advantage on grappling checks, allowing you to wrestle down an enemy and break free from being restrained.
So whatever tools you need to defend your allies, you have them with this subclass. It is not as strong offensively as other fighter subclasses, though it does give you a chance at a lot of opportunity attacks if you really need them. And since virtually no other class gets these features, this makes you unique in ways that the Champion subclass, for example, does not.
And while you can get in a lot of actions in a single turn, all of your actions are GM-prompted, which helps to keep balance in the fight. While you can take opportunity attacks against 2-4 targets each turn, this is only if the DM chooses to give you that many targets running through your reach. While you can impose yourself against attacks directed against a target next to you, the DM gets to choose who they attack. So while you have a lot of actions, it does not dramatically disrupt the balance of power in the fight.
If you are looking for an offense-oriented character, the Battle Master and Samurai are far better choices (and possibly the cavalier). If you are looking for defensive capabilities the Eldritch Knight gives you access to the Shield spell and many other useful tricks, and is definitely worth playing in a campaign. But if you are looking for that sacrificial defender in your game, may I recommend the Bodyguard. No one does it better.
In our next post we will continue with another style of fighter - the commander. If you enjoy playing support characters but don't want to use a magic caster (or are just really tired of the Counterspell and Dispel Magic spells blocking your cool spells from happening), you will want to check out this subclass!
Until next time,