New: D&D Fighter Commander
Welcome back to the blog! We continue our look at the fighter class in D&D, today looking at a support subclass that does not involve magic - a rarity in the game. Amidst the greatest warriors in the world stands a good commander: a soldier who uses his cunning and charisma to organize his men into an effective fighter force, enhancing their martial prowess through unity and cohesion.
Dungeons & Dragons doesn't have that - the Battle Master enhances his own ability and sets up opportunities for allies, but there is no "support fighter" in the game, and that is what we have built for you.
Like the Bodyguard, I don't think this subclass is as strong as the Battle Master, Echo Knight, or Samurai, and very well may not be stronger than the Eldritch Knight or the Cavalier. But the goal isn't to build the "best" subclass, but a flavorful and vivid subclass that allows you to play in new and exciting ways. And when it comes to non-magic fighter subclasses, this may be the most unique subclass you will find.
Also, I know that the Purple Dragon Knight tried to be a commander-style character. It doesn't do it well, so I am presenting this to the community as an alternative to the Purple Dragon Knight from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.
Commander: Theme and Inspiration
The commander is a warrior that thrives on giving orders to allies to make them more effective in combat. Much like Maximus Decimus Meridius in Germania or the arena in Rome, your allies gain useful bonuses for 1 minute while they are near you. This is an auric element reminiscent of a paladin, but instead of channeling the might of a deity to empower your party, you are stoking their emotions through barking orders, enhancing their effectiveness in battle.
Much like William Wallace at Stirling Bridge or Leonidas at Thermopylae, a good commander can maintain unit cohesion despite overwhelming odds, keeping their allies in the fight longer through good discipline. Skilled commanders empower those that hear their voices, so the benefits should require allies to be near the commander to benefit from his commands.
Furthermore, the commands should be swift: you shout a few words, and your men react to the command. The result is that it shouldn't require an action to issue an order, much like how it doesn't require an action for Battle Masters to use a combat maneuver. There needs to be a limit on the orders you can issue (at some point your voice will go hoarse), but the limit shouldn't be tied to action economy.
And with this subclass I think we captured all of this. We aimed for a character that can round out the party based on the threats it faces and provide bonuses both in and out of combat.
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 core of the class centers around the orders you receive, starting with three and adding more as you level up, much like how the Battle Master gains combat maneuvers.
Each order benefits allies within 20 feet (or 30 feet at higher levels), and you may have one order active at a time (or two at higher levels). These generally fall into four categories: offensive boosts, defensive boosts, utility boosts, and a few special rules benefits. Whether you are granting allies advantage on attacks when working as a unit, helping them with saving throws, or improving their movement, you have a tool for everything in your arsenal.
Much like the Battle Master, though, you have to choose which tool to use at a given time. Since only one order can be active at a time until you reach 10th level, you need to pick the order that will be most useful to the party at a given moment. You can switch your order in the midst of combat (as you can give orders up to your fighter level every day), but unlike the Battle Master you have no, "If you are out at the start of a combat, you regain one" ability.
This underscores and simulates the idea of a hoarse voice and the fact that morale is not a tireless or unflagging resource: you can only push your men so much every day (even if you are the best commander in the world). So give the order that will give your allies the best advantage in the moment, and let the battle then take its course.
You also have a lot of orders to choose from, so we recommend specializing in the orders you give. Do you want to make your party stronger offensively? Take those orders. Do you want to be more of a "bulwark" commander like Stonewall Jackson? Then take the more defensive ones. You will naturally mix and match if you find some of them more useful than others (if you don't have a lot of casters who use saving throws, you may not need Unleash the Barrage), but you may find it more useful to specialize in something and let your party count on you for that.
The class does more than just give orders, though. You gain the ability to size up your enemies, learning info from their stat blocks, history, etc. that may aid you in battle. You also gain greater offensive capabilities when near your allies, leading them by example as any good commander should. And as you reach the higher levels, you are a veteran commander, taking less damage so that you stay alive longer to see your orders are obeyed and properly executed.
The fighter is a strong class to begin with, and the commander takes that strength and shares the wealth. While you may not do as many attacks as the Samurai, you have ways to insure you and your allies hit and deal higher damage more often. While you may not have as many options as the Eldritch Knight you do shield your allies from more dangers. While you may not have the mobility of the Echo Knight you have the ability to enhance the mobility of your friends, which may be worth more in the final estimation.
If you are looking for a new playing experience from a fighter, check this subclass out. Especially if you're looking for a character for a one-off campaign and you don't intend to play the character for long, because I think you'll enjoy the benefits it gives.
In our next post we move from the fighter to the monk, where we find a person who has embraced harmony and the path of peace, not war.
Until next time,