D&D 5e: Purple Dragon Knight (Banneret) Fighter
D&D 5e: Purple Dragon Knight (Banneret) Fighter
Role in the Party
The Purple Dragon Knight is an old subclass from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide: the setting-neutral name is “Banneret,” which is a cool detail that more setting-specific content ought to do these days. The class is most broadly known as the Purple Dragon Knight, so I’ll keep referring to it as that throughout the guide.
The Purple Dragon Knight is infamous for being weak, but perhaps unfairly so; it’s definitely one of the worst subclasses, but it still has some value, and it’s certainly better than the Champion!
Purple Dragon Knight Features
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you learn how to inspire your allies to fight on past their injuries.
When you use your Second Wind feature, you can choose up to three creatures within 60 feet of you that are allied with you. Each one regains hit points equal to your fighter level, provided that the creature can see or hear you.
Meh. It’s like getting three Healing Words whenever you use Second Wind, except you can’t bring up unconscious creatures with it. But still, you can get anywhere from 9 to 60 hit points out of this every short rest, so… I guess it’s okay. It doesn’t require any additional action economy expenditure, so it really is just free hit points for your friends.
Knights of high standing are expected to conduct themselves with grace.
At 7th level, you gain proficiency in the Persuasion skill. If you are already proficient in it, you gain proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, or Performance.
Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses Persuasion. You receive this benefit regardless of the skill proficiency you gain from this feature.
Having an extra skill proficiency is useful, but expertise in Persuasion is unusual for a fighter. This makes you pretty good in some social situations, but… yeah that’s it. Another proficiency and Expertise in one skill that you don’t have a high ability score modifier for. Persuasion is a solid skill at least, so this is Meh overall.
Starting at 10th level, when you use your Action Surge feature, you can choose one creature within 60 feet of you that is allied with you. That creature can make one melee or ranged weapon attack with its reaction, provided that it can see or hear you.
Starting at 18th level, you can choose two allies within 60 feet of you, rather than one.
This is one extra attack whenever you Action Surge, but if you have a rogue in the party, that one attack can have a lot of extra weight behind it. Not a big boost, so it’s kind of meh.
Beginning at 15th level, you can extend the benefit of your Indomitable feature to an ally. When you decide to use Indomitable to reroll an Intelligence, a Wisdom, or a Charisma saving throw and you aren’t incapacitated, you can choose one ally within 60 feet of you that also failed its saving throw against the same effect. If that creature can see or hear you, it can reroll its saving throw and must use the new roll.
You might save an ally from a mental saving throw effect now and then. Frustratingly enough, if an ally fails and you pass, you can’t use these rules as written, but some dungeon masters might be generous and let you give the ally a reroll anyway by expending a use of Indomitable.
Your normal fighter features all have additional benefits whenever you use them; the features here are completely unobtrusive and do not interfere with anything else you’re doing. Everything is also extremely simple and uncomplicated, and everything here is arguably more straightforward than the Champion features, which have unintuitive features.
Your features are meh and have only a mild impact. It’s still an impact, but it’s the most meh subclass of all time. It’s also hard to optimize anything here since there aren’t any real synergies you can do, outside of just having a rogue in your party to take advantage of Inspiring Surge.
Best Race Options
You can’t go wrong with Human if all your ability scores happen to be odd, or if you’re a cheeky optimizer, Variant Human. The stereotypical Purple Dragon Knight is a human.
For a long time, there was no such thing as a purple dragon; until Fizban’s. The Amethyst Gem Dragonborn lets you be purple and a dragon and a knight. You even have telepathy and eventually limited flight, and the breath weapon only replaces one attack.
The Volo’s Kobold has Pack Tactics, but the Monsters of the Multiverse Kobold, while probably slightly weaker overall, has the excellent Draconic Cry feature. You can use your bonus action to give you and your allies advantage on all attack rolls, then unleash two attack actions with your Action Surge, then whatever ally you target with Inspiring Surge will have advantage on their attack. This isn’t the only source of advantage you can get, but it pairs decently well with the feature, and kobolds are a fine race.
Choosing the Right Skills
Perception proficiency is mandatory on account of how ridiculously good it is compared to other skills.
You want Athletics and/or Acrobatics for grappling and/or escaping grapples and doing physical activities. Athletics is especially important on a melee strength build since you often need to compensate for your allies’ dumping strength.
Unusually enough, you want Persuasion proficiency so that it turns into expertise at level 7; you’re a charming knight who commands their allies, so perhaps this is a great way to fit the knight in shining armor trope. While you’re at it, Intimidation and Deception are also good picks, as well as Insight.
There’s no bonus action conflict going on like a Rune Knight or Echo Knight or even some Battlemaster builds, so you’re free to take Polearm Master or Crossbow Expert at level 1 or 4, then follow it up with Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master. This is a solid core for any great damage build.
Ritual Caster will add an array of interesting abilities to your moderately bland Purple Dragon Knight, from Find Familiar to Detect Magic, and if you find it, Leomund’s Tiny Hut provides almost guaranteed safe long rests.
You don’t have healing spells, but healing and support is something you might want to do; unlike a Life Cleric or Paladin, there is no redundancy whatsoever with the Healer feat. It’s more potent at low levels than high levels, but you can do solid out of combat healing and effective emergency in-combat healing.
Knight is a great background for reasons that should be obvious. Knight of the Order is a Sword Coast-specific background that’s very similar.
The Soldier background is a suitable pick, and the officer or standard-bearer are good roles to have; one is a tactical sort of soldier and the other is more focused on emotional inspiration and support. Remember to ask the tavern’s bartender if they have military discounts.
Folk Hero is a great background for any fighter who wants to start their adventuring career with a single inspiring deed that changed their life forever.
Two levels of Barbarian give you Rage and Reckless Attack. A melee fighter will love these things, but remember that Rage is incompatible with heavy armor, so you need some dexterity to maintain a good armor class.
Three levels of Ranger for the Gloom Stalker subclass vastly enhance your round 1 nova damage potential, gives an extra fighting style, let you be almost invisible in darkness, and provide a large array of utility benefits.
Hexblade is an easy way of accessing the Shield spell and resources to fuel it, as well as the potent Hexblade’s Curse; you already benefit a ton from short rests and are presumably begging your party members to take them, so it works perfectly. You may not want to attack with your charisma modifier unless you’re doing an unusual build.
Would I recommend playing a Purple Dragon Knight Fighter?
I wouldn’t recommend playing a Purple Dragon Knight; it is the ultimate embodiment of Meh. It has nothing useless, but nothing dramatic either. You can make a strong character with the fight feats, but if you want a strong character, why not go Echo Knight, Rune Knight, or Battlemaster? Those subclasses have a lot more meat on them and are probably more fun.
I would still recommend it more than the Champion fighter; new players will find the Purple Dragon Knight simple and easy to use, and it feels nice to heal allies. I prefer the minor healing effect to the 3% or so damage boost Champion gives you at level 3.