Hey guys, we’re gearing up for a happy holiday season and we’re going to kick off by taking a look at the new Unearthed Arcana releases for the last month. The Mad Wizards of the Coast are playtesting a bunch of new options for the core classes from the Player’s Handbook (my guess is as a prelude to releasing a new player’s handbook or options book). These offer a lot of new ideas and spins for players looking to spice up the world’s greatest roleplaying game. Today we’re going to take a look at the Fighter archetypes. Remember, these are playtest material, so they aren’t compatible with adventurer’s league play, yet. We’ve got four (Four!) new Martial Archetypes to take a look at, the Arcane Archer, The Knight, The Samurai, and the Sharpshooter.
The Arcane Archer
The Arcane Archer martial archetype is an archery based martial archetype focused on imbuing arrows with magical energy to make things die super effectively. It’s based off an older elven tradition of magical archery, though in this edition it’s something that anyone can pursue. It’s a combination of interesting magical effects and tricks similar to the eldritch knight, but focused on ranged combat.
Note: This is a refit of 3rd edition Prestige Class for Dungeons and Dragons, and if we see more Prestige classes rebuilt in this fashion, i like the way it works/looks for the most part.
At 3rd level, the Arcane Archer gets the ability to create a magical arrow as a bonus action. It lasts until the end of the turn, or until it’s hit or missed it’s target. The magically created arrow counts as a magical weapon and deals an extra 2D6 points of force damage. This ability can be used twice before it needs to be recharged as part of either a short or long rest.
The other half of this ability is the Arcane Shot. When the Arcane Archer gains the Arcane Arrow ability they also get to select two arcane shot options (think Trick shooting arrows from anything you’ve ever seen that has trick arrows). When the Arcane Archer creates a magic arrow using Arcane Arrow, they can apply an arcane shot to the arrow created. Additional choices are gained at level 7,10, 15, and 18.
Note: I think two uses of this ability is sort of limited, and i think it might be more appropriate with a 1 per 4 levels of fighter progression rather than a fixed number.
At 3rd level, the Arcane Archer gains proficiency in two skills from the following list: Arcana, Athletics, Nature, Perception, Stealth, Survival
At 7th level, the Arcane Archer can summon a bundle of 20 arrows. These nonmagical arrows appear in hand or in a handy quiver and last for 10 minutes or until the Arcane Archer triggers the feature again.
At 14th level, the Arcane Archer gets to recharge Arcane Arrow much more efficiently. One minute after they’ve expended the last usage of the ability, they get one use back.
Note: this seems a little late to pick up this ability, because while it recharges the ability faster than the short/long rest, i think it still limits the Arcane Archer’s potency in combat. If it recharged all of the uses, that would be a better use of a 14th level ability.
At 18th level, the Arcane Archer’s Force Damage increases to 4D6 damage on his arcane arrows.
Note: I think this ability is a little underpowered compared to other heavy abilities at this level. This increases the Arcane Archer’s total Damage output by 8D6 damage over 2 rounds before the Arcane Archer has to switch back to whatever magic arrows they’re carrying.
Overall, this fighter archetype hits a couple of good notes, but i think it’s built on the power of the Arcane Arrow ability to do the heaviest lifting, and it only gets two uses of that ability before needing to either take a minute to catch its breath (at 14th level) or an actual short or long rest before that. Neat ability, make sure you check out the arcane shots for neat ways to customize your Arcane Archer.
Ostensibly built to be a Battlefield control character, the Knight Archetype is built to lock down singularly dangerous threats and keep them from engaging allies. They are built for mounted and foot combat, and are expected to take the fight to the most dangerous thing they can find.
Born to the Saddle
At 3rd level, the Knight gains several benefits related to mounted combat.
- Mounting or dismounting requires five feet of movement rather than half of the Knight’s total movement
- The Knight has advantage on Saving throws relating to not falling off his or her mount.
- In a situation where the Knight falls off of his or her mount, he or she automatically lands on their feet if they fall less than ten feet and aren’t incapacitated.
Note: Overall, this could be the start of a thematically interesting mounted combat character, but mounted combat is not an emphasis of the rules as they currently sit, and without augmenting those rules, or making a much more dedicated mounted warrior, these are gimmick options at best.
At 3rd level, the Knight has the ability to mark a target by successfully striking it with a melee attack. Creatures targeted by this ability take disadvantage on attack rolls against anyone but the knight (or another person who has this ability or something similar to it). Further, if the target starts its turn adjacent to the knight and either moves at least 1 foot or takes an attack it has disadvantage on, the Knight gets a free swing with advantage, that deals an extra amount of damage equal to the Knight’s fighter levels. The mark ability is usable as many times as the Knight likes, but the free attacks are limited to three before needing a recharge.
Note: The knight doesn’t use up his or her reaction for this ability.
At 7th level, the Knight gains proficiency in two of the following skills: Animal Handling, History, Insight, Persuasion, or Religion. Alternatively, in place of one of these skills, the Knight may learn one language of choice.
Note: This seems like a mightily lame benefit to get at 7th level, but i’ll get to that in my conclusion
Hold the Line
At 10th level, the Knight gains the ability to limit an opponent’s maneuverability. As a reaction, the Knight can make a melee attack against a creature within five feet that has moved at least one foot. If the Knight hits, the target takes normal damage for the weapon plus half the knight’s levels in fighter and their speed is reduced to 0 Feet.
At 15th level, the Knight can trade advantage on an attack roll to make an additional attack as a bonus action.
At 19th level, the Knight gains the ability to react on as many turns in a round as it wants to. It can’t react to more than one activation per turn, but can certainly react to every other creatures turn that activates any of its abilities (such as Hold the Line). The Knight also gains +1 bonus to its Armor Class in Heavy Armor.
The Knight martial archetype seems like an interesting combination of abilities, but i think it could be improved with a couple of minor tweaks. First, the Born in the Saddle ability just doesn’t work on a couple of levels. In order for it to work the way i think it wants to, it needs to either have more mounted combat abilities (the mount gets some significant bonuses as the Knight levels up, Magic Mounts...etc) or the mounted combat system needs to be pushed much harder. If you drop the Born in the saddle ability, you can shift the level 7 ability back down to level 3 (where it seems to fit better anyway) with a name change, and add a new ability.
My proposed suggestion for an ability of this type would be something that let’s the Knight transfer an ability like the Implacable Mark from one of his or her allies to himself or herself. Name it something like Chosen Champion and turn the Knight loose as a martial archetype built to guard his or her allies from others in a challenge, and it works thematically.
Based on a notion of a warrior who’s fighting spirit and will are irresistible forces, the Samurai is a warrior equally at home in the court of their lord as they are on the battlefield. They are masterful warriors whose spirit drives them to feats that lesser warriors are incapable of meeting.
At 3rd level, the Samurai can channel his fighting spirit for two benefits. As a bonus action, the Samurai gains advantage on all attack rolls, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing weapons. This ability lasts until the beginning of the Samurai’s next turn, and can be used three times before it needs to be recharged on a short or long rest.
At 7th level, the Samurai understands how social structures work on a much more efficient level as part of their training. They add their Wisdom modifier to any charisma check they have to make to please or persuade a noble or other person of high standing. They also gain proficiency in History, Insight, or Persuasion, or a language of their choice.
At 10th level, the samurai gains proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. If they are all ready proficient in Wisdom saving throws, they gain proficiency in Intelligence or Charisma saving throws (their choice).
At 15th level, the Samurai can trade advantage on an attack roll to make an additional attack as a bonus action.
Strength Before Death
At 18th level, the Samurai’s fighting spirit can delay death. Should the Samurai take damage that reduces them to 0 hit points, they can delay that damage and immediately take a bonus turn. They get a full turn’s worth of actions, and when that turn ends, they take the damage they’ve delayed. It’s possible that through clever use of actions or other abilities, they can reduce the damage that would reduce them to 0 hit points.
Overall the Samurai martial archetype fits the theme it’s aiming for. The abilities work well together and the character would be both flavorful and interesting to play. I like the way this archetype works and despite it’s potential for being a niche character, with a name change this becomes a character direction that works in any environment full of nobles and dutiful warriors that follow their lord’s commands.
The other ranged combatant in this playtest packet, the Sharpshooter is designed to engage foes at range with a variety of neat tricks and martial skill. This is a character that knows the battlefield almost instinctively and uses both terrain and ranged weapons to lethal effect.
At 3rd level, the Sharpshooter uses his exceptional abilities at ranged combat for the following benefits. As a bonus action, the Sharpshooter aims at a specific creature, which gives the Sharpshooter the ability to ignore half and three quarters cover, and they deal 2+half their fighter level in addition to their normal weapon damage on a successful hit with a ranged weapon, until the end of the turn. This ability can be used three times before it needs to be recharged with a short or long rest. .
At 7th level, the Sharpshooter can take the Search action as a bonus action. They also gain proficiency in Perception, Investigation, or Survival.
Close Quarters Shooting
At 10th level, the Sharpshooter doesn’t take disadvantage on ranged attacks at targets within 5 feet. Further, if a target within 5 feet is hit by the Sharpshooter, they can’t take reaction until the end of the current turn.
At 15th level, the Sharpshooter can trade advantage on an attack roll to make an additional attack as a bonus action.
At 18th level, the Sharpshooter can make ranged attacks with surprising alacrity. During their first turn of a combat, if the Sharpshooter takes an attack action, they can make an additional attack as part of that action.
Overall the Sharpshooter adds ranged versatility to the Fighter archetypes. It’s flavorful and provides distinct abilities that provide flavor and stopping power. This is a character that wants to stand off at range until it get’s to level 10. At that point, Close quarters shooting lets the Sharpshooter engage at point blank range with whatever ranged combat options they have.
Overall, i think that all of the archetypes but Knight work very well. I’m not sure why Rapid Strike is the default ability for 15th level fighters, but it seems to work across the archetypes. Knight has a couple of issues, but those could be solved with the changes i recommended above. Neat options overall, and they give fighters a brand new bag of tricks.
Game On, Game Fans