Fighters are the soldiers, mercenaries, warriors, the armour + weapon meatstick that goes first through close corridors and stands at the front of a fight yelling “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. They’re often cold, functional, and unimaginative, fine for a new gamer, but if you’re comfortable with the rules you can play something more interesting.
The problem with spells is that you can get very locked into the descriptive text of a spell and struggle to stick your own stamp on it. The same goes for the styles of monk, the divine domains of clerics, the pacts of warlocks. It’s all to easy to read the words in the book and say “that’s me” rather than thinking about your character and then deciding what class and styles match your ideas most closely.
Fighters should be the most free of all! Ripped from the page they’re cardboard cutouts, grey plastic minis for you to plaster with paint. And yet all to often when it comes to play I either never get a fighter in the group, and those fighters that I do see are bland and bloodthirsty, perhaps a noble, just, and true meatstick. In combat they go from enemy to enemy beating them to death in turn by putting out the maximum possible damage that their class abilities permit.
So here’s a few ways to make your fighter something memorable for your party and DM alike.
My Signature Weapon
Your choice of weapon may not have a huge effect on your performance in-game. The difference between longbow, greatsword and halberd may be rather noticeable, but numerically a battleaxe is no different to a longsword or a warhammer, and there’s a few examples of weapons that are no different from one another at all. Now, you can wait patiently for a magic item, sure, but why not take that cluster of numbers and make them yours?
Do you wield your mother’s hammer? Is your sword a mark of authority in the kingdom, an official issue from the king? What wood is the haft of your pike made from? Who trained you to fight, and why did you choose your weapon? Or maybe you just like keeping your unfairly high volume of hitpoints to yourself and want to hide behind a crossbow you coward (I kid, archers are actually kind of awesome).
Alternatively, you do have other distinguishing features. Dress up your armour with a tabard bearing the insignia of a nation you represent so that starting bar fights is easier. Perhaps you’ve earned (or self-prescribed) a title or nickname? Why not have pauldrons commissioned that let everyone know that Harug “the Badger” has arrived in town! Or perhaps you wear chainmail under a long coat, creating the illusion of a lighter and more vulnerable combatant, because you like your enemies to underestimate you.
Attach a story to your items. Presumably you’ve come up with a story for your character? Surely you didn’t start the campaign with all shop-bought items, tell us the story about that one item that has some sentimentality to you.
How many times do I hear the words “Who’s closest? I’ll hit that one.”
“I’ll hit that one.”
“I’ll hit him again.”
If you’re playing a fighter you are playing a master of martial skills, a trained artist of war, a brutal combatant. You are not a nine-year-old playing whak-a-mole. I’m not saying you must get creative with every single thrust and stab, but when you’re competing with spell casters creating hurricanes, or swarms of flying knives, why not give your turn a bit more panache? Get low and sweep your enemy’s ankles, or aim your hammer blow for your target’s shield to try and break it. A friendly DM will play along and might give you some in-game advantages, although a good DM won’t make them exceptionally advantageous unless you’re a high-level player.
Use the environment! Flip a table for cover, or jump on it to gain some high-ground, or just obliterate the table and charge on through. Try shoving enemies into more perilous situations like into fireplaces, off cliffs, or right where the rogue is standing. Don’t forget that you’re likely to be the strongest in the party, it’s not just for bashing down doors and climbing trees, you can use your power creatively mid-combat.
Progressing as a fighter can make you a hub of damage dealing and receiving, but depending on what fighting style and paths of progression you take can make your character fairly limited in terms of descriptive power, but only if you take the rules as written; there’s so much more you can do if you are willing to go off-script.