Game Day: Let Me Tell You About My Battle Master

Odothar Bronzearm is my human battlemaster, my favorite fighter since my first-ever Dungeons & Dragons character “Battle Axe”, and the culmination of a years-long quest for a tactical warrior.

Though my favorite class is wizard, I’ve played my share of fighters over the years though most of them were multi-classed (fighter/wizard, fighter/cleric, etc.). Looking back, what I wanted was a tactical fighter, someone who was as much about brains as they were about brawn.

The Way of the Sword

Multi-classing got me some of that, but it wasn’t until I got to the Book of Nine Swords for D&D 3rd Edition that I found classes that really scratched that itch. The book was a testbed for D&D 4th Edition, and my friends jokingly railed about Zilanderan, my Nine Swords fighter. He had a lot of the abilities-as-powers that came to define D&D 4th Edition, but unfortunately he died at the hands of a goblin king before I got to play him at high or even moderate levels.

Another cool book, though one I never got to play was Iron Lore (later known as Monte Cooke’s Iron Heroes). Designed by Mike Mearls and set in a world with minimal (but dangerous) magic, the book was packed with varient fighters with a bunch of cool mechanics. It read like a test bed for D&D 4th Edition and it wasn’t much of a surprise when Mike Mearls moved to Wizards of the Coast.

D&D 4th Edition gave us a new fighter class, but more interestingly it gave us the warlord class. The warlord wasn’t just about fighting the good fight, it was about directing the good fight. Acting like a superpowered bard, the warlord could provide allies with combat bonuses while also moving them around the battlefield. It could also hamper enemies with similar abilities. I never got to play the class, but I loved the idea of it.

Folks often point out how D&D 5th Edition united earlier editions while simplifying the rules. D&D Basic, 1st, and 3rd Editions get a lot of love, heck, even 2nd edition does as folks compare archetypes to classes, but there’s a lot of 4th Edition in the game as well … as the Battlemaster demonstrates.

The specialization allows fighters to choose from a number of different combat maneuvers that allow them to manipulate the battlefield or enhance their combat options in interesting and diverse ways. That in turn finally gave me the sort of crunchy, tactical, and mechanically interesting choices I wanted for our Obsidian Frontier campaign.

Odothar the Defender

Odothar Bronzearm is a lawful good fighter who fled the impending disintegration of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. He was the weaponmaster of one of the noble families in Aerdy, and when an innocent man was killed for no good reason, he left his homeland for the frontier town of Obsidian Bay on the Pomarj peninsula. Accompanied by three proteges, he established a training school focusing on the art of defense. He soon found himself unexpectedly caught up in the city’s adventuring scene, finding that he could best defend others by taking to the field.

Mechanically, Odothar focuses on defensive feats and maneuvers. As low-level fighter he took the Protection fighting style, which allows him to impose disadvantage on an attacks against a target within five feet of him. At third level he took the Battlemaster school with the emphasis being on maneuvers that allowed him to disable, distract, or rebuff enemies. All of these are meant to keep the people around him safe.

  • Disarming Attack: They can’t attack anyone if they don’t have a sword. This ability lets Odothar do extra damage and then forces his opponent to make a save or lose their weapon.
  • Goading Attack: Pick on someone your own size. The goading attack does extra damage and causes them to make a save or suffer disadvantage on attacks that aren’t against Odothar.
  • Maneuvering Attack: Get out of the way (or go there). This maneuver does extra damage, and then lets Odothar grant his allies a bonus move (up to half their speed) without provoking opportunity attacks. Great for getting people to safety … or letting the rogue move into optimum position for sneak attack.
  • Precision Attack: This one doesn’t cause any extra damage, but it does give a bonus to attacks. Awesome when you’re up against that foe who can’t easily be hit (or those nights when your dice are cursed with bad luck)
  • Pushing Attack: Does bonus damage and forces a save. Those who fail are pushed back up to 15 feet. Good for buying Odothar some time, clearing the space around him, and/or setting up a charge attack.

The first three were acquired at 3rd level; the last two were picked up at 7th and reflect Odothar incorporating experiences from his adventuring career into his training.

Feat-wise, I took Tough. The feat grants him bonus hit points, which are critical when you’re constantly throwing yourself into the fray and goading enemies into attacking you instead of your companions. Keeping with the protection theme, I also took Sentinel, which allows Odo to stop the movement of anyone he hits with an opportunity attack, grants him an attack against those who attempt to disengage from combat, and grants him an attack as a reaction against enemies who try to attack someone other than him. Mixing things up a bit, I also took Charger, which lets Odothar go running into the middle of a combat and either get a bonus to damage or shove an enemy out of the way.

Into the Fray

All of this combines to make Odothar one hell of a combatant, and a mechanically interesting one as well. I play his defender role to the hilt, making sure he’s always where he needs to be to protect the weaker members of the party. I take more risks with Odothar than my other characters because that’s just the sort of fighter he is. If he’s not taking the risk, someone else is … and that means they’re probably going to end up dead (or at least, that’s Odo’s reasoning).

As far as D&D 5th Edition goes, I’m enjoying the middle-levels greatly. Of course, we always enjoyed D&D at the middle tier — for many years levels 6-13 were our sweet spot — but with 5e it’s even sweeter. Combats are just as fast as they were at lower levels, in large part because while fighters and other classes have become more mechanically complex, spellcasters can no longer daisy chain all manner of different spells together to buff the party. The rules only allow them to maintain one concentration based spell (like stoneskin or blur) so they have to choose wisely.

Meanwhile, the fighters are still very much in the fray. I know that other gaming groups have had issues with wizards outshining fighters in earlier editions of the game — and I’ve heard grumblings about the same being true in 5e — but it’s never been a problem for us. It doesn’t look to be a problem now.

Let the wizard lob a few flashy fireballs; Odothar will be there to make sure he’s still breathing at the end of the fight.

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