The champion fighter is one of the simplest classes in 5e D&D. Maybe second simplest after the berseker barbarian.
So, if I were to make a point about how unnecessarily complex 5e is, champions and berserkers wouldn't be the best candidates. However, I'm not just trying to make a point; I am writing my own version of 5e and I found out that even those classes are too complex for my tastes.
Let me show you.
|Fighters don't need much... (art by Angus McBride).|
This is what the fighter gets:
Hit Dice: 1d10 per fighter levelArmor: All armor, shieldsWeapons: Simple weapons, martial weaponsTools: NoneSaving Throws: Strength, ConstitutionSkills: Choose two skills from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival
I'll skip this part since I've written about skills before. Suffice to say: the fighter's weapons, armor, hit dice, skills and saving throws are all easily replaced by higher ability scores - mainly Strength, Constitution and Dexterity. A few "mental" skills are the only exception, which I'll discuss later on.
Anyway, the fighter also gets this (the champion features are bold).
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Bonus Features|
|1st||+2||Fighting Style, Second Wind|
|2nd||+2||Action Surge (one use)|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement|
|6th||+3||Ability Score Improvement|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement|
|9th||+4||Indomitable (one use)|
|10th||+4||Additional Fighting Style|
|11th||+4||Extra Attack (2)|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement|
|13th||+5||Indomitable (two uses)|
|14th||+5||Ability Score Improvement|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement|
|17th||+6||Action Surge (two uses), Indomitable (three uses)|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement|
|20th||+6||Extra Attack (3)|
I'll briefly tackle them one by one.
Fighting Style - a collection of small (often too small) bonuses for fighting with certain weapons. Wrote about them here. I like them in play, but they could easily be replaced for something simpler and more balanced (archery is too good and GWF too weak).
Second Wind - in practice, this means the fighter gets about a bit more than 1 extra HP per level. Easily replaced by higher Constitution.
Action Surge - once a day, the fighter gets two actions instead of one. I'm not even sure this is thematically appropriated for a fighter (it is often used to multi-class and cast two spells), nor do I think it is a great idea to give a high-level fighter eight attacks before anyone else can move. I'd rather fewer, more powerful attacks.
Improved Critical - A critical hit on a 19 or 20 is a good idea, if only because it allows you to add more meaning to the number you rolled (instead of just hit/miss). Nothing particularly "fighter" here (I could see it in a Rogue or Barbarian, for example), but good feature nonetheless.
Extra attack - This is ok IMO.
Remarkable Athlete - this lackluster feature is easily replaced by higher Constitution, Strength and Dexterity.
Indomitable - not a bad idea, thematically appropriated, I like it - despite maybe being easily replaced by higher ability scores.
Survivor - well, not bad for a high-level, "epic" feature.
So, about half of the fighter features could be replaced with better ability scores - especially Constitution, Strength and Dexterity.
But we are left with the "mental skills". It makes sense that a fighter might be good with Animal Handling, Perception, and Survival. Which could be replaced by good Wisdom... and that would ALSO improve their saving throws. I like the idea of requiring some Wisdom for a fighter - it represents willpower, awareness, etc., things that even a dumb fighter should have.
History and Insight, I see no reason for the fighter to have. Intimidation shouldn't be a skill in the first place, but if you use the popular "intimidate with Strength" house rule, this is easily replaced by higher Strength.
BTW, berseker barbarians are very similar. d12 for HD, Unarmored Defense, Danger Sense, Feral Instinct... all easily replaced by higher Constitution, Strength and Dexterity.
You basically get a fighter with some interesting rage features.
He gets unarmored defense instead of heavy armor, but I don't see why a barbarian wouldn't be able to fight in Chain Mail if he found some (IIRC Conan wore armor sometimes), nor do I see why a Fighter wouldn't get some small bonus to AC even when unarmored (when compared to a wizard, for example). BTW, if the barbarian is carrying heavy armor on his back, he might have better AC than wearing it, which sounds insane. Maybe some advantage for unarmored fighting is a good idea... but that's not it.
The monk and ranger are not too dissimilar. The paladin has a few cleric features. And that's it. We could probably reduce all this classes to a single "warrior" class with a dozen to twenty features to choose from. Which is what I did in Dark Fantasy Basic and plan to do with my minimalist 5e.