Fighters are by far the most common character types in normal campaigns. They must meet the least stringent class requirements and are drawn from the biggest pool of talent--soldiers of innumerable armies, mercenary companies, militias, palace guards, temple hosts, and sheriff's men. In these and other forces, the potential fighter learns his trade. He is taught how to handle weapons and care for them. He picks up some basic tactics and earns acceptance as a fighting man.

From these ranks some go on to become 1st-level fighters. Such men are often given rank in recognition of their talents. Thus, a 1st-level fighter may become a corporal or a sergeant. As the ranks become greater and more influential, the tendency is to award these to higher level fighters. However, this trend is not absolute and often breaks down at the highest levels. The captain of the company may be a 12th-level fighter, but he would still take orders from a 0-level prince!

Level is no guarantee of rank, nor is rank fixed to level. Some people don't want responsibility and all that comes with it. They would rather let other people tell them what to do. Such characters may become accomplished fighters but never advance beyond the rank of common soldier. Political maneuvering and favoritism can raise even the lowest level character to the highest positions of authority.

Since fighters tend to rise above the level of the common soldier, few armies are composed of high- or even low-level fighters. While there is little difference in ability between the typical foot soldier and a 1st-level fighter, it is just not possible to find an army of 20,000 4th-level fighters. It's rare enough to find 1,000 or so 2nd-level fighters in a single unit. Such units are elite, superbly trained and outfitted, and are normally held in reserve for special tasks. They may be the shock troops of an assault, a special bodyguard, or the reserve of an army held back for pursuit.

Adventurer fighters (whether player characters or NPCs) are those who have struck out on their own. Not every man is content to take orders or give orders, and fame seldom comes to the common foot soldier. Some men are willing to try to rise through the ranks, but it is by no means an easy or speedy process. There aren't many openings, nor is it a path where skill at arms guarantees success.

Given all this, it's not surprising that most fighters opt for the more direct method of adventuring. In the course of adventuring, though, many fighters find themselves becoming leaders and commanders, assembling men around them as they carve their own place in the world.

(See also
Fighter, Player’s Handbook)

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