Think of fantasy roleplaying games, especially DnD, and one of the first images that come up is probably of armored heroes charging into battle against hordes of beasts or non-human foes.
Such an image can take the form of a skilled duelist, deftly taking on an individual beast one-on-one, or it might conjure mass ranks, shields interlocked, braced to receive the wave of enemies charging towards them.
It is the stuff of legend and the backbone of the dark and dangerous DnD world. Read our guide to Fighting Styles 5e below.
Different Fighting Styles in 5e DnD
But, just as each hero has their own personality and traits, they will have their own individual fighting style — one might be agile, another aggressive, cautious, brave, and fearless. So too, the weapons employed are many and varied, from a close-quarter, hand-to-hand weapon to long-range missile attacks and everything in between.
And so it is in the DnD world. Each character has the scope to establish a signature fighting style that suits the player’s vision of their purpose and personality. This is achieved through choosing feats, weapons, and, when they become available to you, developing your battle code.
This can be driven by your alignment’s sense of fair play, your character backstory, or merely the whims and preferences of the player who inhabits the character. Have fun with it and be an individual.
It is worth noting that there is no limit to the different feats you can choose, allowing you to develop a web of intricate fighting skills.
It is also worth noting that you can only benefit from the same fighting feat once. This means no stacking Dueling for a +4 damage or Archery for a +4 to hit!
Fighting Feats and Marvellous Melees
An absolute must for any ranged weapon user. This feat will offset a target’s bonus for being in half-cover. It also makes up for the -5 penalty to hit when coupled with the Sharpshooter feat.
Not only does this make your attacks more likely to hit, but it also allows for other damage boosts, such as when used in conjunction with Hunter’s Mark.
A good feat if you want to develop a Charisma-focused fighting style, especially if you are a Paladin or like to adopt a more leadership role when adventuring. It also comes with great cantrips such as Guidance, Sacred Flame, and Toll the Dead.
A much rarer and more specialized fighting style. Its main advantage is the blindsight skill, but as this only has a range of 10ft, this is best for characters who like to get up close and personal. Its effects can be improved when combined with spells such as Darkness or Fog Cloud.
Perhaps not the most dynamic or flamboyant fighting feat, but it will compensate for not having a shield, whether through choice or unforeseen circumstances. It is also great if you want the AC bonus it confers.
While it won’t make you stand out in a crowd, it will save you from massive amounts of hit point losses when viewed over a whole adventuring career. It might also save your life some time.
If you are looking to play a more magically-inclined Ranger, it allows you to focus on Wisdom rather than Strength or Dexterity when using cantrips such as Shillelagh. Other great cantrips available to you include Guidance and Thorn Whip.
A simple +2 damage bonus that, again, might not be the most dynamic of styles (although given that this is a dueling feat, it is all about the chance to roleplay a fancy style rather than the actual results) but is reliable and gives you the edge in combat.
Great Weapon Master
Despite the name, this is not one of the best, most obvious, or first choices you will probably make when developing your individual fighting style. The ability to re-roll a one on a d12 and have it change into an 11 feels great, but at higher levels, the impact might not be particularly significant in and of itself.
Read our guide to Great Weapon Master 5e.
If you like being the first to the action and see your role as the physical protector of the party, the tank, as it is known, this feat is for you. It is a better choice than Protection as the benefits are never wasted, and using a shield here is optional rather than a requirement.
The big drawback is teamwork, as it only works if the rest of the party and other beneficiaries are willing to stay within 5ft of the Interceptor character.
Like Interception, this feat only works if your party stays within 5ft of you. Unlike Interception, a shield (as opposed to a shield OR weapon) is necessary; even meeting those criteria is no guarantee of success as your attacker can still hit you if they roll high enough to overcome your defense, albeit at a disadvantage.
This feat allows you to take advantage of some of the skills available to the Battle Master. If you are already a Battle Master, you gain a notable increase in some of your existing maneuvers. If you are of another subclass, you can gain some of their skills to help cover any potential weakness.
Thrown Weapon Fighting
Just as Archery is the go-to feat for anyone looking to master bow weapons, this is the equivalent for those looking to be proficient in thrown weapons.
It allows you to draw and use as many weapons as you have attacks available, and the +2 damage is a worthwhile advantage, making up for the fact that most thrown weapons have a naturally low damage range. You can also stack this style with either the Dueling or Two-Weapon Fighting styles to leave even more destruction in your wake.
If you like the idea of your character standing in an open space wielding two weapons, one in each hand, then this is how you achieve that. It confers a significant increase in damage, and you can turn yourself into an absolute killing machine with the proper selection of weapons to arm yourself with. Just make sure that your allies don’t stand too close to you! Read our guide to Two-Weapon Fighting 5e.
As the name suggests, if unarmed attacks are your preference, this is the essential choice. This is a more competitive style than the natural weapons that certain races are armed with through their very nature — teeth, claws, tails, etc., as this feat allows you to use both hands for d8 damage whilst getting a benefit for grappling.
The latter ability makes the Unarmed Fighting feat very appealing for those building a character who likes to get right into the action, as it allows them to offset some of the damage potentially lost by attempting the grapple in the first place.
Ready for a fight? Make sure you check out these other helpful articles before combat begins. Unarmed Strike 5e, Defensive Duelist 5e, Fighting Initiate 5e, Two-Weapon Fighting 5e and Disengage 5e.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages.