The Battle Master Fighter is one of the most popular Fighter subclasses in D&D 5e.
And for good reason!
These warriors are the very definition of martial prowess. Through intense training of both the body and mind, the Battle Master uses their masterful technique to overcome their foes.
They are students of war and combat. After all, in the heat of battle, the only thing that you can truly rely on is your own skill to keep you and your allies safe.
Your training begins now.
This is the full guide to the Battle Master Fighter in D&D 5e!
What is the Battle Master Fighter in D&D 5e?
Many might not consider combat to be an academic field, but the Battle Master approaches it with the same discipline and attention to detail.
These warriors relentlessly train and perfect new techniques across a variety of weapons and disciplines.
In fact, many of their lessons are gained from non-combat activities such as learning trades (blacksmithing and woodcarving are particularly popular) or studying calligraphy and painting.
While many Martial Archetypes available to Fighters present a high level of specialization, the Battle Master takes a different approach.
Mike Tyson said it best when he said that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
In that same spirit, Battle Masters prefer to be versatile. Whatever happens in combat, they’ll have the skills, training, and technique to respond dynamically and come out on top.
While their enemies are swinging wildly, the Battle Master knows that the difference between life and death can often be a single, perfectly executed maneuver.
Role in the Party
True to the subclass’s name, the Battle Master Fighter thrives in combat situations.
Depending on how you build your character, you can play either offense or defense for your party. Whichever you choose, the Battle Master is perfectly skilled at both.
On the one hand, the Battle Master Fighter is a remarkably straightforward subclass.
The unique combat maneuvers that you learn are your most important resource and are powered by your Superiority Dice resource. As you level up, your most important features build upon these.
But on the other hand, it’s the maneuvers that you choose and how you use them that really define this class.
Much like how a spellcaster needs to choose spells that work to solve specific problems, a large part of the Battle Master Fighter’s specific role within the party is determined by the maneuvers that they choose.
This means that the Battle Master is incredibly versatile in combat. While their role is certainly firmly planted on the combat side of things, how you choose to go about that is entirely up to you!
Battle Master Fighter Features 5e
The core feature of the Battle Master Fighter (which we’ll discuss momentarily) gives you access to their combat maneuvers and the Superiority Dice that power them.
As you level up, you’ll be gaining additional maneuvers while also powering up your Superiority Dice.
For this article, I want to mostly focus on the features themselves. Though I recommend also checking out my article that covers the Battle Master Maneuvers in more detail.
My hope is that looking over these features will show you how they work and tie together which will better help you pick the maneuvers that work for the character that you envision.
After all, every Battle Master is going to function slightly differently based on which maneuvers you choose and how you build your character.
Of course, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you still have any questions that I can help you with!
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Combat Superiority (Level 3)
Right out the gate, we’re getting the Battle Master’s most important feature: Combat Superiority.
There are two key components to this feature: Maneuvers and Superiority Dice.
Let’s take a look!
Maneuvers: You learn three maneuvers of your choice. You can use only one maneuver per attack.
You learn two additional maneuvers of your choice at levels 7, 10, and 15. Each time you learn new maneuvers, you can also replace one maneuver you know with a different one.
The Battle Master’s maneuvers represent special techniques they’ve learned from honing their martial prowess. There are A TON of options to choose from which means that you should have little difficulty building your character how you want.
These maneuvers come with special effects that bring new ways that you can function in combat. Whether you’re disarming a foe, tripping them, rallying your allies, or some other effect, each maneuver serves a distinct purpose.
For maneuvers that require the target to make a saving throw, the saving throw DC is calculated as:
Maneuver save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice)
Even beyond the mechanical benefit of these, it’s also a great way to bring more nuance and action into combat encounters. If you enjoy combat descriptions (or want to practice them), the Battle Master makes for an excellent candidate!
Though we also have the Superiority Dice that you use to power your maneuvers.
Superiority Dice: You have four superiority dice, which are d8s. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain all of your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.
You gain another superiority die at level 7 and another at level 15.
Because your Superiority Dice power your maneuvers, you will want to take care to properly manage this resource.
Note that you can only use one maneuver per attack. However, if you REALLY need to get your point across to an enemy, you can apply maneuvers to each of your attacks.
Still, that’s usually best left as the “for emergencies only” option.
Thankfully, recovering all expended uses of your Superiority Dice on a short or long rest means that you can fairly quickly get them back.
You’ll still want to be mindful (as the party probably won’t want to take a one-hour break after every single combat), but you also don’t need to be stingy with them!
Student of War (Level 3)
You’ll also be gaining an extra proficiency with the tools of your choice when you choose this subclass.
You gain proficiency with one type of artisan’s tools of your choice.
You might find some reason to use this in your campaign, but it’s mostly just flavor.
A campaign with a lot of downtime might see you getting more opportunities to explore your crafty side. That could be fun and help you flesh out a side of your character that won’t exactly be seen on the battlefield.
Perhaps your character was a mason or a potter before they became an adventurer. Maybe they picked up brewing or painting to pass the time or were trained as a cartographer while serving in the military.
You’ve got plenty of options!
Know Your Enemy (Level 7)
At level 7, you gain the ability to size up others.
By spending some time observing other creatures outside of combat, you’re able to determine certain information about them.
This is a situational feature, but it can potentially be very useful.
In situations where you’re able to observe for a bit before combat kicks off, the information that you gain from this feature can greatly inform your own tactics when the fighting starts.
If you spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside of combat, you can learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own.
The DM tells you if the creature is your equal, superior, or inferior in regard to two of the following characteristics of your choice: Strength score, Dexterity score, Constitution score, Armor Class, Current Hit Points, Total class levels (if any), Fighter class levels (if any)
Note that the things that you are looking for are determined in relation to your own score/total.
For example, you might be trying to figure out how hard of a target to hit a certain enemy is.
By observing them for at least one minute, you can get an idea of what their Dexterity score and Armor Class are.
If they’re faster than you or have a higher Armor Class than you, it might be a good idea to find a way to knock them prone or otherwise hinder their speed/armor once combat starts! Otherwise, you might have a difficult time landing any attacks!
Improved Combat Superiority (Level 10)
The Battle Master Fighter’s maneuvers and the Superiority Dice that power them are the subclass’s most important features.
At level 10, we get a buff to those Superiority Dice.
Your superiority dice turn into d10s.
At level 18, they turn into d12s.
Sure, it’s an increase of 1 to the average Superiority Dice roll (and again at level 18), but every little bit helps.
The reality is that you’re using maneuvers (most of which add extra damage based on the Superiority Dice) so often, that this will quickly add up.
It’s a sweet and simple buff, but one that you’ll get great use out of!
Relentless (Level 15)
Sure, it’s important to manage your Superiority Dice resource.
Instead of going crazy and using all of them against the first enemy unlucky enough to cross your path, it’s generally wise to show a level of restraint.
But sometimes you either need or want to go all-out even though that leaves you with no Superiority Dice until you finish your next rest.
If you find yourself in another combat before you can finish that rest, that’s where Relentless comes in!
When you roll initiative and have no Superiority Dice remaining, you regain one Superiority Die.
Another feature that gets straight to the point!
You’ll always have at least one Superiority Die in any combat at this point. Think of it as permission to REALLY dish out some punishment without having to care about managing your main resource.
Well, having to care less anyways.
Considering that most combats tend to be over within just a few rounds, you should be fine with one Superiority Die. Just make sure that you use it when it is most impactful!
Though, you still will want to show restraint (and get at least a short rest) if you know that you’ve got a boss encounter coming up. Those will typically require more than one Superiority Dice.
All in all, this is a nice quality-of-life capstone feature. It’s handy to be able to worry less about how you use your Superiority Dice.
Worst case: you’ll always have at least one extra trick up your sleeve!
Of all the subclasses in D&D 5e, the Battle Master Fighter might just be the easiest to tie into literally any adventure or party.
These are your battle-hardened warriors who have most often learned their techniques from the experts. This might come from service in the military or receiving “on-the-job training” as an apprentice in an adventurer’s guild.
However, you could just as easily have learned such techniques as a gladiator. While that’s definitely the hardest way to learn such lessons, you might chalk that up to “natural selection.”
But because the Battle Master Fighter focuses on their combat training and study, the easiest connection is within some kind of organization.
That provides an easy way to explain the advanced techniques, combat strategies, and training that Battle Masters pride themselves on.
However, your background can reasonably be pretty much anything and make sense.
What matters most is your character’s dedication to developing their skills in combat. Where others play combat like checkers, the Battle Master instead sees a game of chess with countless opportunities to gain the upper hand.
As such, there can certainly be a desire for Battle Masters to prove themselves. Using their perfectly honed technique to dispose of the biggest threats is quite the test of skill, after all!
Is the Battle Master Fighter Good?
The Battle Master Fighter is an excellent option that’s definitely worth considering for anyone that wants to play a martial character.
What stands out most about this subclass is easily its versatility.
Between the maneuvers that you find most interesting, how you envision your character, and the party’s overall tactics, the Battle Master can make a huge impact within any party.
Not to mention, your maneuvers don’t necessarily need to be made with melee attacks. This makes the Battle Master equally powerful in ranged combat as well!
(In fact, a player in one of my own games did this to incredible effect. His character was quickly nicknamed “The Murder Elf”.)
With such incredible versatility in combat, the Battle Master Fighter is able to hold their own in nearly any situation!
Though I particularly like how the Battle Master really brings out the visuals in combat.
Let’s be honest: there are only so many ways you can describe swinging your sword or shooting an arrow. But adding the effect of the maneuvers that you’re using to the description also helps to create a deeper sense of immersion at the table as well!
However, there is a slight drawback to the Battle Master Fighter. Specifically, it is one of the more complicated subclass options.
Between your maneuvers, fighting styles, and feats, there’s a virtually limitless number of ways to build a Battle Master Fighter. Thankfully, there aren’t many “wrong” ways to build so unless you’re specifically trying to do so.
Though if you find the staggering amount of combat maneuver options available to you overwhelming, don’t worry. Options like Trip Attack and Precision Attack (with either Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master) guarantee that you’ll be making a huge impact.
You can take the Battle Master Fighter in any direction you would like. How else can it be described but “iconic”?
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Conclusion – Battle Master Fighter in D&D 5e
As it turns out “Combat Superiority” isn’t just the name of one of these subclass features. It’s probably the best way to describe the subclass!
I hope you’ve found this guide to the Battle Master Fighter in D&D 5e helpful.
There are seriously so many crazy builds that you can make with this subclass.
I would especially like to know what kind of builds you would consider or recommend for a Battle Master Fighter. Let’s chat in the comments!