Finesse weapons allow you to use Dex for attack and damage rolls. This allows most of classes, including even some first-line fighters, to dump Str for Dex - you do not lose in attack rolls, only a little bit in damage rolls (there are no finesse two-handed weapons, but a rapier with d8 dmg is still pretty good), you gain a lot in AC, and as a bonus you have excellent ranged attacks. You cannot really grapple etc., but you easily avoid such attacks.

Having low Str incurs some limitations like lower carrying capacity, but this seems to be more than offset by having good Dex skill checks. All in all, having a power-focused fighter against a fighter with this kind of optimization, my bets would be strongly on the second one. Am I missing something?

(Of course, the DM can have something to say on that, and it may also look like poor role-playing; but let's put aside those for now.)


6 Answers 6


It's not as overpowered as you might think, depending on your class choice.

The AC bonus only helps with light and medium armor. If you were a fighter, you could have full plate on which makes your AC 18, regardless of what your Dex stat is. The max you can get with dex armor (without feats or unarmored defense) is 17, either from 12+5 studded leather or 15+2 half plate. Obviously, we aren't including shields.

If you want range you could be chucking spears. Granted it's no d10 bow, but it also lets you go into melee whenever you want.

Of course dex isn't the best stat for a fighter to put a low score into, but you could manage. And that giant great sword you wield will be doing excellent damage while you tank for the party.

  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ It can be used for ranged and melee weapons. It gives higher Initiative. It's important for an insane number of saves (str is basically not used at all), It's a sizeable bonus to AC. I think this answer leaves alot to be desired actually. It just shows what STR can do, and leaves out the large number of things Dex can do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 23:58
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could be improved (slightly) by going into why greatswords deal so much more damage than a rapier (Great Weapon Master, etc). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 4:35

It depends. You're correct that a light and fast fighter, with good ranged attacks and dexterity checks, can be viable in combat. But if you're counting on dex, they'll probably start and finish with a lower AC (11+3=14 vs. 16 up to 12+5=17 vs. 18) and do less damage (especially after multi attack) than a bruiser. So it's not a clear advantage.

From a philosophical standpoint, 5e focuses less on optimization and more on roleplaying, so even if one build does have higher DPR than another, you're not supposed to be "missing out" if you pick either. I mention this because "setting it aside" for what must be a pretty small difference either way isn't necessarily something the designers expected (obviously they know some people would, but it's far from required.) So it's possible they weren't concerned with whether or not one is "overpowered" or not, figuring people will either play what interests them or pick the best numbers, and either way is OK.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "5e focuses less on optimization and more on roleplaying" \$\endgroup\$
    – Night Owl
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Adding to your "philosophical standpoint" statement - Notice how Fighters may learn the Archery Fighting Style and take the Sharpshooter Feat as easily as Great Weapon Fighting and Great Weapon Master. Perhaps the mathematicians will claim one is better, but you see how the devs provided "philosophical" equality between Str and Dex warriors. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:14

Mike Mearls voiced his opinion on dexterity vs strength (granted, in the context of paladins) in a sage advice:

JamesPaten ‏@JamesPaten

@mikemearls Thanks! Are Dex Paladins considered more powerful than Str Paladins? Was thinking of a Olidimmara rogue/pally for AL.

Mike Mearls ‏@mikemearls

@JamesPaten Since dex is both offense and defense, it's slightly stronger than a Str-based character. more versatile


I have read this argument in multiple chats and they always seem to forget one key thing. The belts of giant strength.

Dump your stats on Dex to go first, you will get all of the advantages you want from Dex, and the damage from strength being they set your score having a 29 strength is a +9 to damage and to hit, rather than plus 5: there is no Dex equivalent. So by having a 20 dex you will on average start at the same time as your Dex fighter, and deal more damage.

Now for armor: +1 armor is always nice. Being harder to hit by any number is always great. The Disadvantage on Stealth does not really matter. Your job as a fighter is to kill, not to be sneaky. It's the rogue's job to use sneak attack, not yours. Set them up to succeed at that. It's always fun to have your slippery rogue taunt the enemy and have them get chased while you wait around the corner and smash them with a surprise attack.

As for range, you're dumping all your energy on Dex so you'll have the same range damage and to hit with any of the dex ranged weapons. You will have a better throwing hammer or javelin to hit and damage, but for those I find that it is not that helpful, range is not good enough, so the damage is pretty meh. However it is nice if you do manage to get Whelm.

To shield or not to shield?

Great weapon fighting with a maul takes your min damage from 2+mod to 6+mod per hit. Which is pretty great when you think about it. You won't take damage from a dead target.

However two weapon fighting is not always the best option. A shield and a one handed weapon also mean you won't get hit as often. I tend to carry one on my back for when I need it and a secondary weapon (in bag of holding if I cant wear it), that's one handed. If I know the target is bursty that means shield always. If I know that my target is squishy then maul always. (You can use your stealth PCs to find that out, and your mage can do a knowledge check).

I will note that the secondary weapon is best when you can use it one or two handed in case the shield gets lost. (Is broken in combat, gets removed by some other way).

When it comes to two weapon fighting, that is a weapon in each hand you get one extra attack being your using your bonus action. Bonus actions are not always being used so this is a great way to use an effective action economy. In each of these options were are using both hands so we cannot drink potions of healing when we need to. So stick close to the cleric.


It is also important to note that you are the front line, you will be taking a lot of the aggro, so using whatever you can to stay alive is important. Your job is to protect the mage so that he/she can cast their big damage spell. This is why your AC matters. When you take plate to get 18 armor rather than 17, it's an extra 5% chance to not get hit. If it's a big fight you might have multiple people one you, and that extra AC will make a difference.

Multiple Targets

"When a melee attack reduces an undamaged creature to 0 hit points, any excess damage from that attack might carry over to another creature nearby." page 272 (optional rule). It's a mini cleave if your DM allows for this then a strength fighter does more. Assuming you have a belt, that puts you over the +5 damage any modifier up to plus 9. With great weapon fighting like i said before each hit does more, which means we can take advantage of this little rule to remove multiple targets. Which can really save a party.

What's the cost?

This is a lot more expensive to build than the normal dex build, but it allows for a lot with crappy equipment. Every new item you add gets you closer to your final build, which should eventually make you better.

Also if you find Mithral plate; you don't have any disadvantages on stealth. So I say Strength is fine later on your character's career: just don't make it your best score early on: wait for that belt of giant strength.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 3:14
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You had some interesting ideas that need a coherent writing style. Quite frankly, I suspect that part of the reason that you attracted down votes was the sloppy writing that you offered. We have quality standards here: this isn't reddit, this isn't 4chan, this isn't twitter, and this isn't a forum. Please try to achieve the quality standards, since you have some good ideas that I think would benefit those who visit here. Please review the edit to make sure that what you were trying to get across finally came through. Thanks for joining in and making the effort to offer a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 3:51
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You might be waiting a long time for that belt though; there's no real way to get your hands on one unless the DM is willing to give it, and if your entire character is based around being fast and nimble and then trying to game the system, you probably won't get one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 12:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, there is an uncommon item (Gauntlets of Ogre Power) that might be more likely to be found than a rare through legendary item. It offers a 19 Strength for the wearer that takes care of most needs for a strength based character. Do you want to add that in to your answer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 13:51

I think the simple answer is "Yes". Taking both P.John's and SirTechSpec's answers as giving true stats, I have an addition. If "Obviously, we aren't including shields", then a (Str) fighter using a two handed weapon would have to be compared to a Dex fighter using two weapons; not just one.
With 18 Dex or Strength, 2d6+4 compares to 2d8+4 (or 2d8+8, if two wpn fighting feat). It seems to me, without all the "Great weapon" feats, Str is actually inferior.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 2d8 would only come from the Dual Wielder feat (it'd be the same 2d6 otherwise), additionally, this doesn't take into account gaining Extra Attack, which swings things to: 4d6 + 8 vs 3d6 + 8 (+12 if TWF). Note that Great Weapon Fighting does also give an average of ~2.5 over the two attacks. This is 4d6 + 10.5 vs 3d6 + 12, expected damage of each is 24.5 vs 22.5, swinging in favour of Strength. Additionally, the Strength fighter still has their bonus action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Randomorph
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 0:52

In a campaign with a friend, I was playing a level 6 fighter who was focused on dexterity and two-weapon fighting. This character had an AC of 18 (12 from studded leather, +1 from duel wielding, and +5 from dex) and they used 2 rapiers which gave me the equivalent of 2d8+10 damage per turn. In addition I had the two-weapon fighting bonus attack, which would give me 3d8+15 (with the two-weapon fighting style and feat).

Compare this to a level 6 strength-based fighter with plate armor and a greatsword. They could have 19 AC (with Defense and plate armor), and they could attack twice, dealing a total of 4d6+10 damage.

So we have the dex-based fighter, who deals 18-39 damage with duel wielding, and then we have the strength-based fighter, who deals 14-34 damage. A Dexterity build would be slightly worse at defending but could put out more damage than a strength build.

However, this is not necessarily true since there are other factors such as equipment cost, magic items, feats, and fighting styles that also impact raw damage output and AC. Maybe the Dex fighter gets a +1 AC item, or the fighter gets a +1 weapon. At the same time, perhaps the fighter cannot afford the 1500 GP cost of plate armor. There are so many factors besides raw damage output or AC.

Overall the answer is yes, but it can vary wildly depending on equipment and build.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .