In this series I’ll go through classes and subclasses in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and apply them to their real-world associates in history and sometimes contemporary culture and suggest how you can flavour them in a way that feels more dynamic or realistic.
Mercenary ambiguity, a wanderlust carpenter seeking adventure on the open road, or an edgy swordsman seeking revenge for the death of his loved one(s). In D&D we see these archetypes a bunch, but none so often as when a fighter is at the table.
This time… I’m removing my flatcap and shaving my unkempt beard. That’s right… I’m going to encourage the contrary of what Classpiration usually aims to do. Instead of fighting these archetypes and racking your brain for something else, EMBRACE IT.
A fighter often thrives on stories that have grounded catalysts for adventure, they’re perfect for building a classic Hero’s Journey. The main focus shouldn’t be trying to be original with the mechanics of your story, but rather add unique details that make it your own and will enchant, humor, and emotionally move the party you’re in. When I created my first and only fighter it started as a joke character, but as I delved into their backstory, I realized I could make him something more dynamic whilst using all the tropes.
Let me introduce you to Guillaume Withsword, most people call him “Guy With sword” mockingly since he talks a big game about his adventuring skills even though he is basically only a Human Champion Fighter. He has a French-I mean Cormyrian accent and has a goose feather quill pinned over his heart atop his studded leather armor. Already he’s a character you roll your eyes at as you hear his name and barely tolerate his enthusiastic voice and accent. Basically a happy-go-lucky Inigo Montoya, but it’s that Quill, that curious quill on his breast… where his story turns serious.
Warriors on the road whether it be millennia ago or even our modern soldiers today often carry mementos with them. The colors of their lady as a scarf around their arm, a thistle flattened and dried in an embroidered handkerchief, a locket, or a photo of their family that they keep under their kevlar in a leather sleeve. These are more than just wedding rings or religious symbols of devotion, these are keepsakes to remind them of where home is, amidst all the dangers they will face that could make them feel lost or helpless. That feeling of heart and home is in that item. Reminding them they must return.
In the case of Guillaume, the quill was a desperate last-minute token given to him by his newlywed wife who was a Lord’s Scribe in the court he Squired in. The Lord was jealous of the Squire and insidiously put Guillaume in debt. Claiming his wife and newborn child as collateral until he could repay the heavy debt and interest he accrued. Driven from the demesne overnight, he came to her balcony to try and help her escape, but was unable to save her, she hurriedly gave him her quill. Guillaume’s whole endgame story is to raise enough money to both pay the debt and hire an army or group to help him storm the Lord’s estates so he might save his family. Either way, he wishes to kill the Lord who took everything from him and shower his corpse with the payment he was said to owe in spite.
Simply by adding a feather Quill, I was able to extrapolate drama. He was just a squire, and his wife was a scribe in the Lord’s court, not necessarily princesses and princes in this story, but the idea of young love being torn apart by jealous authorities is a tale as old as time. The deep sentiments set in the being driven out in the night by soldiers whilst being torn from your family is easy to pull at heartstrings. As a DM, these stories are fun to build from for character-driven adventures, and furthermore, they’re easier to do well than something more abstract. So revel in the tropes that are so satisfying when playing or DM’ing a fighter with a revenge story.
When it comes to the more mercenary or wanderlust fighters, sometimes the story is very simple: swing sword, get money. That in itself can also be fun because now the DM gets a chance to see your growth in-game, rather than in a predetermined saga written beforehand. My only suggestion is that the character has specific flaws, fears, and virtues, and they are played out to give them a morality that develops over time either through experience or comradery with the party.
Although these concocted Backgrounds below can be used with any class I feel like they would befit the Fighter best. The issue with most backgrounds is they do not address the potential of a hero’s personal narrative, so former employment and lifestyle are going to take a backseat for these ones.
–Background: The Avenger–
You have suffered or bore witness to a personal trauma for which you will get your revenge for. Whether it’s to find the Syndicate of Assassins that killed your parents or to kill the Lord who kidnapped your spouse and child, your intense and motivating mission is your driving force.
Skill Profs: Intimidation, Insight
Equipment: A small token of that which you are avenging like a locket of a loved one or a silk scarf, a deep-hooded cloak, and 15 gp.
Languages: One extra language of choice.
Feature: Not Today
The fates can be cruel to those who must venture far to reach their quarry of vengeance. Your sheer motivation and stubbornness of mind and body allow you to fight harder to stay alive. Once a day, you may roll advantage on a single death save. This advantage roll can never be negated by a disadvantage effect from a creature, lair effect, or any other element. The sheer will of your goal gives you this advantage overall. If this is used as a final death save that leads to a stabilization success, they gain 10% of their HP back, rounded up (minimum of 2) and are conscious.
–Background: Wanderlust Traveller–
Whatever life you had before is behind you, and you’re a person that only looks at the road ahead. Whether you’re a mercenary who loves the liberty of the open road and a bag of gold with monster heads handing off your saddle or the green and spry cobbler who dropped their tools to pick up a sword, the colorful and dangerous world you’re in calls your name in the wind, and you feel ready to follow it.
Skill Profs: One of your choice and Persuasion
Equipment: One set of tools from your former life, a wooden buckler (+1 shield), traveler’s clothes, and 10gp.
Feature: Fortune and Glory
You’re always looking ahead, and to move onward and upward as an adventurer the love and lust of rare items riches is something you’ve developed an eye for. Twice a day when investigating for something of great value like buried treasure, change under a couch, or magic items amidst a dragon’s hoard, your investigation is rolled with advantage.
I think these will suit and flavor fighters and other adventurers who want to lean into the fun tropes that make D&D characters fun to play! Embrace the archetypes and enjoy the cinematic ride of their stories.
To all board game fanatics! Check out our Twitch schedule and see what we’re cooking up over at sixsidesofgaming. Subscribers get access to giveaways, exclusive content, sneak peeks at upcoming games and most importantly, some damn fine entertainment.