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In today's D&D Next blog, +Robert Schwalb muses about the "big picture" identity of the fighter.
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Personally, I favor a fighter who's a melee expert. but I like that 3E had a highly customizable fighter, even if some fighters ended up as archers. The problem with 3E fighters is that they got a bigger boost from increasing their AC than from increasing their damage. That's because of how the math works out. The higher your AC already is, the better a +1 AC is, but the higher your damage is, the less +1 damage is worth. So they ended up more as defenders than attackers. 4E's fix was to make them better defenders, which never sat right with me. Marking left me cold. I'd rather they'd been fixed by making them better attackers.
This one took some chewing on before I had a solid opinion formulated.

Ultimately, I feel the fighter is the guy that wades into combat and kills stuff. He/she doesn't sling spells or call on deities, instead just pounding the ever-living snot out of his/her foes. That, to me, is the essence of the fighter.

What that also means is that I don't see the need to tie deep weapon rules to the class (specialization and the like). While those would be nice options, I think a fighter should be deadly when next to you, no matter what is in their hands, an axe, a pair of swords, or just fists.

As an aside, I'm also leery of ability options that tie a character to a specific weapon because of how that can interact with magic items and damage types, which can end up being limiting in an unfun way.
I like 4e fighters, and people seem to have fun playing them. I think they very effectively fill a particular fighter niche. But I did wish that the 'fighter' class covered more territory. They did expand substantially with supplements.
At any rate, the more I think on it the more I can understand the trouble one might have trying to decide which 'niches' to fill without it getting out of hand.

Why are questions about what fighters should be about restricted to what kind of gear they carry? Isn't there something more interesting to focus on? Something about the character's personality?
While I know I don't have the most popular opinion on the subject, I would like to see fighters go back to being the guys who fight. Whether the characters goes around as an archer, pirate, a barbarian, a knight, whatever. The more classes there are, the less the idea of a class actually means.
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