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Similar to What's the closest RAW build possible to the Gray Mouser in 5e?, I am referring to a legendary figure of Fritz Lieber's Lankhmar series (one of the things Gary Gygax said was his inspiration to invent D&D).

The essentials of this character

  • Incredible Strength and Constitution
  • Inflicts more damage per blow than most front-line melee battlers
  • Strong enough to use one-handed a sword that for normal humans would require two-handed use (though he prefers two-handed use himself, most of the time)
  • Makes use of his reaction to his opponent's attacks in combat
  • Extremely good on winning Initiative, and difficult to sneak up on
  • Charmable, but highly unlikely to be frightened
  • Typically doesn't use armor, or uses Hide armor, but is still hard to hit
  • Resistant to cold
  • Never or rarely uses a shield

Not essential, but nice-to-have:

  • Race human, or human variant (he might be more similar to a Neanderthal than you or I).
  • Very tall and long-limbed, giving some advantage to reach at least situationally
  • Reasonably handsome and appealing, while also intimidating (due to size)
  • Has an increased likelihood of scoring critical hits with a weapon attack
  • Skilled in using his attack maneuver to get an opponent to move where he wants and/or distract their attention away from a certain direction
  • Besides the sword, is reasonably good at using a hand-axe, dagger and a longbow
  • Generally doesn't use magic items although his sword and dagger could be deemed "masterwork" pieces

Based on the above desired features, what's the closest you could come to this character, in RAW?

(It would be ok to make 20th level, add feats, even epic boons, etc. if they are from published materials.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Paul See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 9 at 3:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user50904 That wasn’t a helpful comment—and was kinda snarky—and had been removed. If you want to help, your have to explain what makes it opinion-based—not just assert that it is—so that the asker has something to work with to fix (or be able to see for themselves why it’s unfixable). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 9 at 16:42
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Goliath Barbarian, Berserker; level 10+

Let's start off with the race; Goliath. I know you wanted human, but as far as I'm concerned, Goliaths are a spiritual subrace of humans. Tall, northern, tough, barbarians (little 'b'). +2 Strength and +1 Constitution are a great start and the other bonuses are gravy, not to mention that they're "acclimated to cold climates".

I think his starting array should be 14,10,15,8,13,12; that nets us:

  • Strength 16
  • Dexterity 10
  • Constitution 16
  • Intelligence 8
  • Wisdom 13
  • Charisma 12

His class is obviously going to be Barbarian (big 'B'). As much as I am loathe to say it, I think Berserker is the right fit here. The Mindless Rage feature grants a hefty benefit against charm and fright. Then at level 10, you get Intimidating Presence.

We can be done here. The character is online at level 10. But, let's try to check some other boxes and I'll give my recommended 20 build at the end.

Incredible Strength and Constitution

Our Fafhrd can have 20 Strength and 16 Constitution at level 10. That's not bad. If you want 20/20, you'll have to go to level 16. If you want higher than that, you'll need to get to level 20 and unlock the Barbarian capstone Primal Champion to break into 24/24, which are truly extraordinary.

Inflicts more damage per blow than most fighters

Again, Barbarian is a big help here. Added damage to every attack, plus Brutal Critical for when you manage a 20 gives you extra dice. Specifically for 1-handed attacks, you might want to consider a Fighter dip, but I'll talk about that later.

Using a two-handed sword in one hand

There's no precedent for this. You've got a few options, and I'm not sure you're going to like any of them.

You can homebrew a feat to let you use versatile weapons one-handed and gain the bonus; probably also gain +1 Strength.... and ... it'd need something else to be competitive.

The Unearthed Arcana feat: Blade Mastery. Average damage on a longsword in two hands is 5.5, vs 4.5 of one-handed. Add in the +1 damage from the feat and it feels a lot like you're using a longsword with two hands. Not perfect, but something. (and it gives a couple other bonuses)

Use the sword two-handed, but say it's one-handed. This is my preferred option

Fighter dip to snag the dueling style, which grants +2 damage when you're holding a one-handed weapon and no other weapon. This synergizes well with the Champion archetype and does fun things with crits. This is my second favorite option

Your DM might veto this, but I don't see why and as far as I understand, it's RAW.Have Fafhrd wield a large longsword, with disadvantage. It'd deal 2d8 damage, which is pretty cool, and you can reckless attack to negate the disadvantage. If you fighter dip with this option, I recommend Battle Master instead of Champion to improve your to-hit.

A creature has disadvantage on attack rolls with a weapon that is sized for a larger attacker. You can rule that a weapon sized for an attacker two or more sizes larger is too big for the creature to use at all.

Use reaction against opponent's attacks

Berserker gets this baked in at level 14. Done and Done. Battle Master Fighter also gets access to this. More attacks is more better.

Win Initiative and difficult to surprise

Again, Barbarian has it already baked-in.

Feral Instinct By 7th level, you have advantage on initiative rolls.

Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren't incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.

If you've got a spare feat, you can take Alert, but it's optional.

Optionals

His appearance can be whatever you say. Charisma does not equal comeliness. It's a factor, sure, but they're not the same.

If you want to score more critical hits, either have advantage, and/or take three levels of Champion Fighter.

If you want to have "battlefield maneuvers", you're going to have to have the Martial Adept feat, or you're going to have to take a Battlemaster, which is mutually exclusive with taking Champion, as mentioned above.

Hand axe and dagger are easy to deal with, but "reasonably good with a bow" is subjective and going to be difficult with our build. Honestly, I think it's fine as-is, but if you want to be a master archer, then you're going to have problems as a barbarian.


Build and Closing Thoughts

You need to decide if you want the Barbarian capstone or not.

That's the only real decision as far as I'm concerned. If you're fine without it (I am), I would use Barbarian (Berserker) 17 / Fighter (Champion) 3; grab the Dueling style. This gives you Brutal Critical (3) and Improved Critical so that you roll three extra dice on a crit, which happens on 19-20. This leaves you with only 4 ASIs, which you're going to pump into Strength and Constitution (no room for feats). Don't worry, in exchange you'll get a longsword attack +12 that deals 1d8+11 damage and crits for a total of 5d8+11 (about 20% of the time, if you have advantage).

If you plan on using the longsword two-handed for that d10 damage, then take the Great Weapon Fighting style, which will also help out on those crits you're scoring every other turn (if you're reckless attacking and Frenzying).

The biggest hangup you're going to have is making the "using a two handed sword with one hand" feel good. There just isn't a good RAW option other than "keep using a two handed sword and say that you're using it with one hand". 5e loves reflavoring things; so who am I to argue. Otherwise, you're probably going to be in homebrew territory.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Wow, this comes much closer than I imagined possible. My quandry is Champion vs Batllemaster. About that: you said "no room for feats" -- but does RAW allow him to get Martial Adept as an epic boon, to get a bit of the Batllemaster moves? (Really want him to be able to make a lunge attack, and to distract foes from his rogue companion) \$\endgroup\$ – BigJamey Feb 10 at 8:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, but: Sentinel is much more valuable than +1 dice on a critical, why would anyone attack a barbarian who retaliates and halves the damage? Go B16/F4 \$\endgroup\$ – András Feb 10 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BigJamey yes, epic boons can indeed grant feats. (dmg pg230). And as Andras mentioned, you could take a 4th level in fighter. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Feb 10 at 20:35

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