Top 10 5E D&D Homebrew Martial Archetypes by a Factor of Three
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted enjoy looking at fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons homebrew content contributed to D&D Beyond. While they explore homebrew magic items on the DDB website — including one from Matt Mercer — I’m taking a look at another 5E D&D class and the homebrew subclasses folks created there. (There’s lots of these posts whether for homebrew subclasses, magic items, spells, feats and more floating around for the curious.) This time around my gaze turns to my favorite D&D class. Fighters come equipped with the best foundation to manage one third of the game. In other words as we like to say around here fighters fight. This leaves tremendous space to add variety to a fighter character. There are fighter subclasses in the Player’s Handbook, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and outside of official sources there are countless Martial Archetypes created by players all over the world. We put the finishing touches one of the the ones we’ve created just this past week and shared it along with a bunch of other new subclasses, spells, magic items and creatures. Now it’s time to check out the Top 10 homebrew Martial Archetypes. There’s currently over 325 homebrew of them so let’s get into it.
Martial Archetypes at D&D Beyond
Dave and Ted also put up the video above where they discuss the most popular homebrew magic items at DDB. I’ve dabbled in related homebrew material for these sorts of videos but if I’m honest magic items are such a subjective topic particularly since there’s no mechanical hooks to latch onto for any particular 5E D&D class. (There’s attunement requirements but that’s too narrow in scope.)
Before getting started it’s important to note you can create homebrew content for private use and share your homebrew content publicly at DDB at no cost — there’s no subscription required to access these services. However if you want to add any of the homebrew Martial Archetypes mentioned below or any other homebrew content you come across to your 5E D&D collection you must subscribe at the Hero Tier or above. There’s a lot you can do at DDB for free. Check out what you can do here.
The DDB homebrew collection uses several statistics to track entries. Views shows how many eyeballs any particular homebrew creation received, Adds shows the number of times a creation was added to someone’s collection and Rating is an upvote/downvote system. Since there are over 325 Martial Archetypes in the collection I’m going to share the top 10 highest rated, most viewed and most added selections and to see what’s out there along with any crossover between these three lists.
Top 10 highest rating Martial Archetypes
- Anime Swordsman. “There isn’t enough time in your life to hear the backstory of this individual. The anime swordsman’s past is shrouded in mystery, and you can bet this fighter’s parents were gruesomely murdered in his or her formative years.” Setting aside my general disinterest in anime this is a pretty nifty fighter subclass! A dash of social interaction along with flavorful combat features looks fun to play and the rating on this one far exceeds even the No. 2 spot to show lots of other players out there dig it too.
- Hero. A Hero is an extraordinary individual who harnesses extreme determination over brute force or clinical finesse. Cool concept and leans into reactions with some interesting options for a fighter seeking heroic moments.
- Master-At-Arms. A Fighter with effective training and application of specialized styles using a variety of weapons is the mark of the Master-At-Arms. Wowie wow wow does this live up to the title.
- Arcane Gunslinger. The arcane firearms of Eberron, developed by House Cannith, are named after various celestial bodies. Very Eberron inspired with dragonshard powder weapons makes for a pretty neat take on the concept.
- Rune Knight. There might not be a more difficult profession than the creation of magical items. A different take on the official iteration of a Rune Knight without the emphasis on giant lore. I wonder how this would match up with Runey McRuneface the runiest Rune Knight of all?
- Alien Exoskeleton v1.1. Upon stumbling into the ancient ruins of an alien vessel, you found what appeared to be a suit of some kind, like an exoskeleton. Mark Hamill and David Hayter would be proud.
- Abyss Walker. The sacred order of the Abyss Walkers was founded in a lost time out of necessity, in a time where creatures of the Hells and the Abyss ran amuck, the Fey weren’t confined to the Feywild, and the eldritch horrors of the Far Realm reached out into the Mortal Coil to enact terrible plots. Kinda reminds me of when we explored the idea of Slayers for 5E D&D.
- Dragoon. The Dragoons are a powerful order of warriors who wield polearms and challenge the powerful beasts of the sky. A character concept near and dear to my heart from my affection for Final Fantasy this is a concept adored by tons of players. I could go on and on about my 3.5 D&D experience playing my take on a dragoon, there’s Unearthed Arcana strong in the dragoon flavor and at least one other 5E D&D class with a homebrew dragoon option too.
- Ancient Weapon Master. Some fighters specialize in multiple weapons. Others are practitioners of the bow. And then, there are those who develop a kinship with a single weapon, that chosen weapon becoming an extension of the fighter itself. A terrific concept! These fighters form a mighty connection with a specific weapon and demonstrate amazing abilities with the chosen instrument of combat.
- Warlord. Those who emulate the archetypal Warlord employ the tactical maneuvers of great generals and commanders of old. A somewhat kludgy take on a class concept players have been enamored of since entering the D&D lexicon with the greatest edition of the game.
Top 10 most viewed Martial Archetypes
- Anime Swordsman.
- Samurai. Samurai exclusively use a katana or 2 tanto as weapons. A themed approach to basically a purely combat focused fighter subclass misses the mark in my book.
- Arcane Gunslinger.
- Gunslinger. To be a true gunslinger is to live a certain kind of life. Lots of gunplay tricks.
- Dark Knight. A warrior who has embraced the dark in order to gain strength and is willing to sacrifice their own health to defeat their foes. Another Final Fantasy inspired subclass and I’m here for these. The FF franchise is incredible and adapting character concepts from those games into 5E D&D is a noble effort. Not for nothing we’ve got a take on the Puppet Master here on the site and long before I was part of the Nerdarchy crew I created my own take on Blue Magic.
- Abyss Walker.
- Beast Tamer. You use your knowledge of animals and how to tame them to have one follow you around and listen to you. An interesting take on a beloved concept. I like how the features explore training and otherwise interacting with beasts. It speaks to the approach we took with Chimes of Discordia: Fantastical Mounts.
Top 10 most added Martial Archetypes
- Anime Swordsman.
- Arcane Gunslinger.
- Rune Knight.
- Dark Knight.
- Abyss Walker.
Martial Archetypes rising to the top
Anime Swordsman fights off all 325+ Martial Archetypes for the decisive victory across the board. I must admit when I first saw the name I groaned a bit but as a Martial Archetype for 5E D&D fighters it’s a terrific job. Incorporating some social interaction features along with over the top explosive combat action looks like a ton of fun to play. All things considered fighter is my favorite class and the Anime Swordsman checks the boxes I look for in a fighter subclass. Any official or homebrew option for fighters with a foundation in combat prowess and a smidge of something else for flavor or theme suits me and most of the homebrew ones from DDB fit this mold. A few stray into much more noodly material than I care for but that’s just me.
5E D&D fighter resources
Remember when you read about how Nerdarchy creates our own homebrew material? The fighter class is no exception. Here’s some stuff for the 5E D&D fighter fans out there and if you’re not already perhaps something here will get you excited to play one of these awesome characters in your next game. Some of this material is found in our books and others right here at Nerdarchy the Website. As always remember when you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter you’ll get several gifts including $9.99 in store credit so you can add whatever you like there to your own collection.
- Beware the Reaver | New 5E D&D Fighter Subclass is the Darkest Yet!
- Play Your Next 5E D&D Game as a Dirty Fighter by Metagaming
- D&D Party Composition — Playing an All Fighter Party
- A Group of Fighters is Called a Club
- D&D Quest Starters by Character Class — Fighter and Monk
- Flavour Shots: Skill Contests for Fighters in D&D
- How D&D Beyond Revealed the Elegance of a Classic D&D Fighter
*Featured image — Ajani Goldmane is a leonin planeswalker from Naya, Alara in the Magic: The Gathering universe. Why is it featured for a post about homebrew Martial Archetypes for 5E D&D fighters? Great question and there’s two reasons! First up it’s a great illustration and reminds me of the Mane Knight, a new Martial Archetype and part of April 2021’s third annual delve into the Beard Dimension in Bad Hair Day. This led me to think about the Play Your Next 5E D&D Game as a Pride Warrior Leonin post here on the site with a bunch of fun leonin ideas for 5E D&D. [Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez]