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The Archetype of the Purple Dragon Knight Fighter was introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Like many of the subclasses from this book, it’s pretty underpowered and is probably the weakest of all the fighter Archetypes.
In this review, we’ll have a closer look at the Purple Dragon Knight features and how these synergize with the Fighter’s main class features, then review suitable feat, race, and multiclass options and finally combine these into some build concepts.
As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Purple Dragon Knight, please let me know in the comments below!
The Purple Dragon Knight has a cool name (and some evocative flavor text) but is supposed to be tied to a specific order of Cormyrean knighthood – and is otherwise known as the Banneret, which (let’s be honest) is nowhere near as cool.
Rallying Cry – 3rd Level
When you use your Second Wind bonus action (one per short rest), you can choose up to 3 allied creatures within 60ft that can see or hear you, who will each regain hit points equal to your Fighter level.
And that’s it – your cornerstone ability as a Purple Dragon Knight, which you get to use once before you have to take a rest. It’s not a terrible ability, and it scales with you, but you don’t get to use it much. At all. The Battle Master gets a similar Maneuver (Rally) that affects fewer creatures but that they can use much more often.
Royal Envoy – 7th Level
You gain proficiency in Persuasion (or one of Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, or Performance if you already have Persuasion), and your proficiency bonus is doubled for any Persuasion check you make.
Expertise in Persuasion is nice, although you’ll need to invest in Charisma a bit to get the most out of this.
You could easily have been given this at 3rd level as well – and still felt light on subclass features. The Battle Master gets a Maneuver (Commanding Presence) that has a similar effect, and the Samurai can also boost their social skills.
Inspiring Surge – 10th Level
When you Action Surge (one per short rest, twice from 17th level), you can choose 1 allied creature within 60ft that can see or hear too, who will gain an extra weapon attack using their reaction.
This is great for the Rogue or Paladin in the party, but again the limited uses are grim. The Battle Master (again!) gets a similar Maneuver (Commander’s Strike) that they can use much more often.
Bulwark – 15th Level
When you use Indomitable to reroll a failed Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma save (twice per long rest rising to three times at level 17), you can choose 1 allied creature within 60ft that can see or hear you that failed the same save – and they can reroll it too.
This is highly situational – you both have to fail the save – so if this comes up more than once or twice per campaign, I’d be surprised. Another awful feature.
Inspiring Surge – 18th Level
You can give 2 allies an Inspiring Surge (reaction weapon attack) instead of 1.
Now that you also have two uses of Action Surge, this feature gets slightly better.
The Purple Dragon Knight features are awful – they don’t get many features, they are not very impactful, and you don’t get to use them very often.
On top of that, the Battle Master had equivalent Maneuvers, which can be used more often, and has tons more Maneuvers and flexibility besides.
If you want to be a ‘Commanding Purple Dragon Knight,’ I recommend just playing a Battle Master and wearing an outfit with a Purple Dragon on it.
Feat Options for Purple Dragon Knights
If you insist on going the Purple Dragon route, then you may as well double down and take Inspiring Leader and concentrate on boosting Charisma as your second stat behind Dexterity or Strength.
Fighters get more ASIs and can potentially get more feats than any other class, and the Purple Dragon Knight doesn’t push you towards a particular play style, so there’s tons of flexibility.
As always, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, and Sentinel are a great combination for a Strength-based melee Purple Dragon Knight.
Alternatively, you could pair Polearm Master with Shield Master and wield a spear or quarterstaff, another extremely effective Strength-based melee build, with a slightly more defensive focus. You could add Sentinel here as well.
For Dexterity-based melee builds, you can wield a rapier and add the Defensive Duelist and Shield Master feats.
Sharpshooter is always great for ranged builds and can be combined with Crossbow Expert for an extra bonus action attack and/or Piercer.
Pretty much every race will work well with the Purple Dragon Knight. Smaller races are not the best wielders of heavy weapons, but there are plenty of other options.
As always, Custom Lineage and Variant Human are great choices with yet another feat.
One level of Rogue or Ranger could provide expertise in other social skills.
Bard, Paladin, or Hexblade Warlock would make a good fit for a commander, with plenty of synergy with a high Charisma.
Purple Dragon Knight Fighter Build Ideas
There are so many builds that will work out just fine with the Purple Dragon Knight.
They will all work out better with a Battle Master, though – so just see my review of that subclass for some ideas.
Final Review of the Purple Dragon Knight Fighter
That wraps up my review of the Purple Dragon Knight! In summary, it’s underpowered, and all the other Fighter subclasses offer you more.
Note that if you fancy spicing up your Purple Dragon Knight, Flutes and I have collaborated on an improved Purple Dragon Knight Fighter article and video!
Please cast Message in the comments either here or on YouTube if you have any questions or suggestions! You can also read more Fighter content here.