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Ampersand Special: The Essential Classes
by Bill Slavicsek

Hi. Welcome to another one of our special, free-to-all editions of my regular column. I’m talking about our DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Essentials products throughout this month and next. In case you haven’t checked out any of the previous columns, allow me to recap:

  • The Essentials consist of 10 key products that will form the baseline experience for the roleplaying game moving forward.
  • Why are they Essentials? They contain the foundational rules of the game, the baseline character classes, races, and monsters, and the key components that you need to play. No matter what else your retailer has on the shelves, you will always be able to find the Essentials products.
  • The Essentials products are designed to provide a better introductory experience to the game for new players while also containing new and exciting options for veteran players.
  • The Essentials products are fully compatible with all other DUNGEONS & DRAGONS roleplaying game products, from Player’s Handbook to new products releasing in 2011 and beyond.

That’s a quick recap. Now, let’s look at one of the new fighter builds—the knight. Note that I’m only showing a little bit of the 1st-level knight. Check out Heroes of the Fallen Lands for the complete class build when it debuts in September.

The Essentials Fighter

Martial Defender: Fighters such as the knight use tactical cunning to lock down and control enemies, letting their heavy armor and abundant hit points protect them from the worst attacks.

Why This Is the Class for You: You like playing a tough character who possesses unmatched defenses and a decent amount of offense.

Fighters train long and hard to become masters of combat. When a fighter is in a party, he or she defines the front line of every battle, bashing and slicing foes into submission while blocking and parrying attacks from all directions. Fighters use their battle-honed skills to gain gold and glory, for honor and duty, and for the joy of unrestrained combat.

Through endless hours of practice and determination, a fighter develops a distinctive style of combat. This style builds atop the foundation of whatever early training the fighter received, whether formal schooling in the military arts or trial by fire on the borders of the fallen lands, and then borrows from the styles of every opponent the fighter meets.

The people of villages and towns look to fighters to protect them from the threats that surround them. Bandits, marauders, and wandering monsters of all types constantly assault the last vestiges of light and civilization in a dark world, and it often falls on fighters to lead the defense of every settlement. From there, some fighters go on to become adventurers, taking the battle into the darkness in order to strike before the next raid hits home.

Basic Attacks: As a fighter, you make most of your attacks using basic attacks. Some classes rely primarily on class-specific attack powers, whereas you typically make basic attacks enhanced by your fighter stances and other class features and powers.


Key Abilities: Strength, Constitution

Along the borderlands, knights are the stalwart commanders of peasant militias, caravan guards, and adventuring groups. Their cunning and skill puts them in control of the battlefield and lets them minimize the onslaught of their enemies. Rampaging monsters fear a knight above almost any other attacker. While the knight locks down a formidable foe, the other members of a party close in for the kill.

Many knights are members of chivalrous orders, though some are independent warriors who wander wherever their hearts take them. Each order combines a rigid sense of honor and relentless training to produce champions of the borderlands. Whenever ogres descend from the hills, when hobgoblins march from their strongholds, and when necromancers call forth armies of undead, a noble knight is the best defense an isolated community can hope for.

All sorts of warriors follow the path of the knight: young wanderers seeking to prove their mettle and gain full membership into a knightly order, reclusive warriors who abandon material comforts in favor of crusades for justice, or self-centered mercenaries who hope to claim treasure and power after every fight.

Most knights start as squires, training with orders that have heroic and historic names such as the Knights of the Watch or the Order of the Silver Dragon. Through study, martial practice, and adventuring, a squire earns the right to wear armor and bear the weapons of a knight. Orders maintain small keeps on the borderlands, from which they send out patrols, enforce the law, and repel monstrous incursions.

Hit Points: You start with hit points equal to 15 + your Constitution score. You gain 6 hit points each time you gain a level.
Bonus to Defenses: +2 to Fortitude
Healing Surges per Day: 9 + your Constitution modifier
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale, plate; light shield, heavy shield
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged, military ranged
Class Skills: Athletics (Str), Diplomacy (Cha), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha)
Trained Skills: Three from the list of class skills

Heroic Knight

A knight in the heroic tier is still in the process of mastering basic tactics and weapons. The talents you establish over the course of these levels are the foundation for all that comes after.

Level Feats
Class Features and Powers
0 1 1 Defender aura
Battle guardian
Weapon Talent
Shield Finesse
Fighter stances
Power strike
1,000 2 +1 Utility power
2,250 3 Improved power strike
3,750 4 +1 Ability score increase
Combat Readiness
5,500 5 Weapon Mastery
7,500 6 +1 Utility power
10,000 7 Extra fighter stance
Weapon Specialization
13,000 8 +1 Ability score increase
Shield block
16,500 9 Greater Combat Readiness
20,500 10 +1 Utility power

Level 1: Defender Aura

You are a knight, and the battlefield is your home. Amid the chaos and violence, you keep a cool head as you carefully measure your foes, counting on your presence and the threat of your weapon to keep their focus on you.

Benefit: You gain the defender aura power.

Defender Aura
Fighter Utility
You work to occupy nearby foes using a combination of fighting skill and clever tactics to keep them distracted.
At-Will Aura
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You activate an aura 1 that lasts until you end it as a minor action or until you fall unconscious. While in the aura, any enemy takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls when it makes an attack that does not include among its targets either you or an ally of yours who has this aura active. Marked enemies are not subject to this aura.

Level 1: Fighter Stances

Fighters learn a number of stances, special powers that combine positioning, footwork, and combat tactics to maximum effect. A stance allows you to customize your approach for fighting different enemies. Against a massive ogre, battle wrath allows a knight to overcome that creature’s impressive hit points more quickly. Against monsters that gain advantage from flanking you, measured cut lets you stay in motion to keep them out of position.

Benefit: You gain two of the following powers of your choice.

Battle Wrath
Tactics and cunning have their place in every battle. However, you learned early in your training that raw anger is an effective weapon against a foe that refuses to die.

Battle Wrath
Fighter Utility
You channel your anger into each strike, dealing devastating damage to your foes.
At-Will Martial, Stance
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You assume the battle wrath stance. Until the stance ends, you gain a +2 power bonus to the damage rolls of basic attacks using a weapon.

Cleaving Assault
The knights who protect the borderlands stand against hordes of goblins, kobolds, and other creatures that rely on sheer numbers to overcome their victims. After countless battles fighting against overwhelming odds, you have perfected a whirling assault technique that uses the follow-through from an attack for deadly effect.

Cleaving Assault
Fighter Utility
Your wide, sweeping attacks carry through to let you lash out at another nearby foe.
At-Will Martial, Stance
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You assume the cleaving assault stance. Until the stance ends, whenever you hit with a melee basic attack using a weapon, one enemy adjacent to you other than the target of that attack takes damage equal to your Constitution modifier.

Level 1: Power Strike

Power strike is a quintessential exploit. This power is usable with a wide range of tactics and a variety of weapons. The exploit ensures that your weapon has a devastating effect on your foe.

Benefit: You gain the power strike power.

Power Strike
Fighter Attack
By pushing yourself beyond your normal limits, you unleash your full wrath against a foe.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Free Action Personal
Trigger: You hit an enemy with a melee basic attack using a weapon.
Target: The enemy you hit.
Effect: The target takes 1[W] extra damage from the triggering attack.

Next Week

I’ll be back again next week with more news, as well as more on our continuing exploration of the new Essentials player character classes. Next time, we’ll examine the rogue. Until then …

Keep playing!

In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon Magazine.

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