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D&D 5E D&D's Top 10 Fighter Subclasses Revealed!

In another of D&D Beyond's frequent data shares, here is a look at the most popular fighter subclasses currently in use. The Champion leads the pack, followed by Battlemaster, Eldritch Knight, Gunslinger, and Samurai.

In another of D&D Beyond's frequent data shares, here is a look at the most popular fighter subclasses currently in use. The Champion leads the pack, followed by Battlemaster, Eldritch Knight, Gunslinger, and Samurai.

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ccooke

Adventurer
(Sorry, but) The thing that stands out to me most strongly is that... this is a Zipf distribution. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised since Zipf is everywhere, but still.

(For anyone who doesn't know, a simple explanation of Zipf's Law is that it's an observation that a huge number of real-world distributions of things follow a pattern where the second most common thing is about twice as common as the first, the third about a third as common, the fourth about a fourth and so on. It's in everything - rank the most used letters or words in most languages? Zipf. Rank the sizes of cities within a country? Zipf. It's fascinating. Zipf's law - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
It does seem to be a ranking heavily influenced by date of release and how long the archetype is free on DNDBeyond.
That could explain the Gunslinger beating all the XGTE subclasses.

But the EK, Gunslinger,Samurai, AA block may suggest there is a huge block of people who want to play nontradional fighters.
 


Whew so the stereotype of those player who "just want to play a plain fighter" (I got one at my table) is actually true. What I find amazing is that so many want to play a gunslinger or a samurai.

A lot of people playing Samurai are likely not playing actual "Japanese-style warrior" wearing O-Yoroi, carrying a katana and so on, but rather want to play a cultured Fighter who is still mechanically effective. Samurai works well for all sorts of cultured Fighters, despite the very specific name.

Gunslinger is interesting, because I wouldn't even let that into my game, yet clearly a lot of people would.

But the EK, Gunslinger,Samurai, AA block may suggest there is a huge block of people who want to play nontradional fighters.

You say the EK and AA are "non-traditional", but I think they're actually extremely traditional, and just the result of 5E having a multiclassing system that isn't very compatible with a lot of traditional D&D ideas, like the Fighter/Mage. Since D&D was fairly young, loads of people have wanted to play "gishes" and so on - characters who combine arcane magic and fighting. Some pre-AD&D versions had all Elves be that way, as a class, 1E and 2E had multi-classing (which worked really surprisingly well, looking back I'm shocked at how few balance problems it caused), 3E's MC system meant that it ended up having to develop specific classes and PrCs to allow this (because just stacking levels of Fighter and Wizard was pretty rubbish, mechanically). 4E had multiple specific classes which allowed it, including the totally wonderful Swordmage, perhaps the best incarnation of the "Fighter/Mage" in many ways. 5E saw the problem coming, and presumably after deciding to use a 3E-style MC system (booo! pretty sure there was a better one in one of the playtests), put in EK and AA to cover that issue.

So I think yes, they don't want to play a single-class Fighter, I dunno about your group, but in my many 2E groups, I'd say single-class Fighters were significantly outnumbered by MC Fighters (not that single-class ones were bad - they were good, particularly after Combat & Tactics), so I feel like that's pretty traditional.

The most interesting thing I see, personally, is that the Rune Knight, a UA class which is still playtest content, is about as popular as the Cavalier (a subclass that's been out much longer and is official) and way more popular than the Purple Dragon Knight, which has been out far, far longer and is official.

I wonder what proportion Brute was before they removed it. Higher than PDK I daresay.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
You say the EK and AA are "non-traditional", but I think they're actually extremely traditional, and just the result of 5E having a multiclassing system that isn't very compatible with a lot of traditional D&D ideas, like the Fighter/Mage. Since D&D was fairly young, loads of people have wanted to play "gishes" and so on - characters who combine arcane magic and fighting. Some pre-AD&D versions had all Elves be that way, as a class, 1E and 2E had multi-classing (which worked really surprisingly well, looking back I'm shocked at how few balance problems it caused), 3E's MC system meant that it ended up having to develop specific classes and PrCs to allow this (because just stacking levels of Fighter and Wizard was pretty rubbish, mechanically). 4E had multiple specific classes which allowed it, including the totally wonderful Swordmage, perhaps the best incarnation of the "Fighter/Mage" in many ways. 5E saw the problem coming, and presumably after deciding to use a 3E-style MC system (booo! pretty sure there was a better one in one of the playtests), put in EK and AA to cover that issue.

You're probably right. "Traditional" is likely the wrong word. The "EK, AA, Gunslinger &,Samurai" have been passed down.

Maybe "quintessential" or "stereotypical" might be better.

The most interesting thing I see, personally, is that the Rune Knight, a UA class which is still playtest content, is about as popular as the Cavalier (a subclass that's been out much longer and is official) and way more popular than the Purple Dragon Knight, which has been out far, far longer and is official.

The rune knight has been up for free on DNDB whereas the other 2 are in physical and digital books which cost money legally.

The low rank of the two and the high rank of the champion and samurai shows that there is little leeway for error in "simple fighters". Sounds like when people want simple fighters they want specific things. Tweeked or specialized simple fighters are unwanted. The Samurai gives your simple fighter Persuassion without specialization.

I could see PDK and Cav kicked out the top 10 after 2 more books with fighter subclasses.
 


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