Character Close-Up: The Fighter
What makes the fighter archetype the most popular of the iconic gaming archetypes to date? Well, there are several reasons. First and foremost, it (like the rogue and spell-caster archetypes) was one of the three original character options for the very first role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, back when it was first released in 1974. It represented the classic strong hero of fantasy literature and mythology. The sword bearing, ax wielding, armored defender of the weak and the helpless. More than that, though, I believe that the fighter archetype is the most popular among the classic three because it serves as the greatest introduction for new players into this wonderful hobby of ours. The fighter is a simple character.
Now, saying that the fighter is a simple character is not saying that the fighter is a bad or boring character, only that they are good at one thing above all others; fighting. The fighter fights and they are renowned for being very, very good at it. More so than any other archetype, the fighter can stand tall against their enemies, trading blow for blow, and can usually come out on top. Where the rogue archetype needs to be tricky and careful, planning and plotting how to out maneuver their opponents, and the mystic need to study and prepare their magic each day, thinking ahead and preparing themselves in wholly unique ways, the fighter need not do any of this. The fighter has their weapon, their shield, and their armor. They need nothing else in order to adventure.
For first-time players, this can be a very attractive option. The fighter is automatically good at doing what they do, unlike rogues or spell-casters that have a higher probability of messing something up. They are also able to take a lot of punishment and deal it back, worrying less about how gravely their enemies might hurt them if they draw too close. In terms of crunch, the fighter archetype tends to have a lot of advantages over other characters. Higher hit points, more armor, better attack scores, and better damage values with their weapons. Rogues, and especially spell-casters, tend to change a great deal in how they are played as they level-up or grow where the fighter remains much the same from early levels into higher tier game-play.
There are many games out there that have done a lot to improve the fighter archetype in terms of repetitive play. Feats and prestige classes from third edition Dungeons & Dragons gave a lot of variety in how fighters worked. Stunts in the Dragon Age RPG allow fighters to change up each fight, using tactical maneuvers and raw skill to best their opponents. Games like Shadowrun provide a plethora of weapons, armor, and augmentations to make each Street Samurai (their own unique term for the fighter archetype) a unique individual. In the end, though, none of this changes the simple truth that fighters fight, and in a role-playing game, you are going to fight.
The fighter archetype is one that many players have a great deal of fun with. Sure, they may seem simple, and in many cases this is not wrong, but that does not mean that they are not a great deal of fun. After all, sometimes you do not want to sneak around or figure out what would be the right spell to cast at the right time. Sometimes you just want to kick down a door, unleash your battle cry, and hit the bad guy with your halberd, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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