Category Archives: DnD

Variant 5e Genasi


It can’t be helped. They’re putting out more playable races and character options for Type V Dungeons & Dragons. It would be foolish to think they wouldn’t, but we’re about to find out whether they’re capable of exercising a little restraint. It’s expected at least four additional races will be introduced, cribbed from material previously available going back at least to the Planescape setting, the Genasi.

Genasi are plane-touched people, humans native to the various major inner planes of fire, earth, air, and water. They exhibit characteristics that make them better suited for survival in strange worlds dominated by forces hostile to normal life, as well as features that tie them in thematically with their affiliated element. The literal and allegorical natures of air, earth, fire, and water vary tremendously. By some ways of thinking they vary absolutely, which is why they were ever thought of as the fundamental building-blocks of the universe. Clearly they cannot be a single race for game purposes. Most of their characteristics would differ.

Let’s start by taking a look at how previous incarnations of this oddball cluster of player character races worked before.

2nd Edition Genasi


The Genasi of Planescape are the direct offspring of an elemental native (a djinn, sylph, ifrit, dao, etc.) and a mortal, and are exceedingly rare. They don’t get along with each other or other mortals very well and do not form communities among even same-type Genasi. They are described in terms that closely associate them with the themes of their elemental parent. From the Planewalker’s Handbook entry for Fire Genasi:

Fire burns, destroys, and consumes. Lesser creatures are afraid of fire, and so fire genasi believe themselves naturally superior – they are avatars of this fearful, destructive energy. It’s easy to see why those of other races dislike the arrogant and hot-tempered flame lords even more than other genasi. Most (sometimes wrongly) assume that fire genasi are innately evil.

  • Air – +1 Dex +1 Int -1 Wis -1 Cha, can cast Levitate as a 5th level wizard, +1 on saves versus air-based magic for every five levels. May be priests, fighters, wizards, fighter/clerics, or fighter/wizards. Specialist wizards must specialize in air elementalism.
  • Earth +1 Str +1 Con -1 Wis -1 Cha, natural AC 8, appraising proficiency, can cast Pass Without Trace as a 5th level wizard, +1 on saves versus earth-based magic for every five levels. May be fighters, wizards, or priests. Specialist wizards must specialize in earth elementalism
  • Fire – +1 Int – 1 Cha, immune to normal flame, infravision 60′, can cast Affect Normal Fires as a 5th-level wizard, +1 on saves versus air-based magic for every five levels. May be fighters, wizards, or fighter/wizards. Specialist wizards must specialize in fire elementalism.
  • Water – Amphibious, +1 Con -1 Cha, can cast Create Water as a 5th level wizard, +1 to saves versus water-based magic for every five levels. May be fighters, wizards, priests, rogues (including bards), fighter/priests, and fighter/thieves. Specialist wizards must specialize in water elementalism.

3rd Edition Genasi


The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide was our introduction to 3rd Edition Genasi. In the Forgotten Realms they are presented as the descendants (but not direct offspring) of elemental creatures. They get lots of bullet points for maximum d20 splatbook satisfaction. Mmmm… Bullet points…

  • Air – +2 Dex +2 Int -2 Wis -2 Cha, medium size, 30′ speed, darkvision 60′, can cast Levitate as 5th level sorcerer, +1 saving throw versus all air-based effects for every five levels, do not breath, outsider creature type, favored class fighter, +1 level adjustment.
  • Earth – +2 Str +2 Con -2 Wis -2 Cha, medium size, 30′ speed, darkvision 60′, can cast Pass Without Trace as a 5th level druid, +1 saving throw versus all earth effects for every five levels, outsider creature type, favored class fighters, +1 level adjustment.
  • Fire – +2 Int -2 Cha, medium size, 30′ speed, can cast Control Flame as a 5th level sorcerer, +1 saving throw versus fire effects for every five levels, outsider creature type, favored class fighter, +1 level adjustment.
  • Water – +2 Con -2 Cha, medium size, 30′ speed, 30′ swim speed, darkvision 60′, can cast Create Water as a 5th level druid, +1 saving throw versus water effects for every five levels, Breathe Water as an extraordinary ability, outsider creature type, favored class fighter, +1 level adjustment.

Here we see a fair amount of standardization between the four. They’re all the same size, the same land speed, they all get darkvision, they’re all outsiders, they all have the same level adjustment value.

4th Edition Genasi


In 4th Edition we see the four separate races turned into one race with five kinds of souls and five manifestations to match. They all get +2 Strength and +2 Intelligence, are medium-sized, have a 6-square speed, with normal vision, +2 endurance, +2 nature.

  • Earthsoul – +1 fortitude defense, +1 bonus to saving throws, Earthshock encounter power that knocks opponents prone as a minor action.
  • Firesoul – +1 reflex defense, resist vs fire, Firepulse encounter power that deals damage as a reaction.
  • Stormsoul – +1 fortitude defense, resist vs lightning, Promise of Storm encounter power that increases damage of lightning and thunder effects as a minor action.
  • Watersoul – can breathe underwater, +2 on saves versus ongoing effects, Swiftcurrent encounter power that lets you shift your movement rate as a minor action.
  • Windsoul – resist vs cold, Windwalker encounter power that lets you fly 8 squares as a move action.

In this edition they are treated as a species unto themselves with no particular animosity or affinity towards other races. This is a long stretch from their lone-wolf elemental-bastard origin from Planescape, but we can see here that the primary constant between takes on this character concept is change.

5e Genasi –┬áSpeculative

5e_genasiWhen putting together the Genasi for Type V Dungeons & Dragons, it is not necessary to tie yourself closely to previous takes on the theme considering all this flux. Trying to bear in mind the rough trajectory we’ve seen from 2nd edition to 4th and combining with what we’ve seen from the PHB playable races, I suspect we’ll see something like the following:

Common Features – +2 Charisma. A complete 180° turn from their initial incarnation, but we’re likely to see an elemental bloodline for the Sorcerer class, and the Genasi are a thematic slam-dunk as elementalists. They’ll be medium size because there’s no particular reason not to. They’ll probably speak and read Common and Primorial, depending on how 5e’s take on the Forgotten Realms pan out. They’ll get 60′ darkvision because almost everybody does. They’re giving out darkvision like candy. Pick one subrace.

Subraces – There will likely be more than the original four subraces, possibly the same as 4e, each with its own +1 to a single attribute (Strength for earth, Intelligence for fire, etc), resistance to an associated damage type, and two additional thematically-appropriate minor features. I expect wind-themed Genasi to have a higher movement rate, earth-themed Genasi to have some additional defensive benefit, and so forth.

The main thing we’re going to learn from this first post-release expansion to 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is what they’ve actually learned from previous experience. Can they keep it in their pants? Has the cancer of character option bloat gone into remission? Or is every DM out there going to have to consider radical surgery and chemotherapy to keep their games off life support?

5e Champion Rehab

In which the author rambles incoherently about the Champion Fighter Archetype as found in Type V Dungeons & Dragons.

Looking at the Champion archetype in comparison to its counterparts the Battle Master and the Eldritch Knight, particularly from a character optimization mindset, it doesn’t have a lot to recommend it. The Battle Master’s superiority dice allow you to bump up damage several times per short rest and achieve tactically-interesting results on top of dealing normal weapon damage. The Eldritch Knight has access to the low end of the Wizard spell list. All three have the core Fighter features of multiple attacks, good weapon and armor proficiencies, good hit points, and the Action Surge. What is the Champion bringing to the table that recommends it for selection?

Level 3: Improved Critical

Normally you only land a critical hit on a natural 20, that’s 5% of all rolls. With advantage it’s closer to 9%. A 3rd-level Champion scores a critical hit on a 19 or 20, 10% of rolls. With advantage that bumps up to about 19%. Granted, a critical hit isn’t always that impressive. A longsword dealing 1d8+3 damage (7.5 average) instead deals 2d8+3 damage (12 damage). A difference of 4.5. Happening 10% of the time, that’s an upswing of under half a hit point per swing. Combine this with the Great Weapon Master feat and a critical hit buys you a bonus action to attack again, which makes this feature a bit more appealing if you’re swinging a big hunk of weapon with both hands. Compared to the Battle Master’s maneuvers, which grab an extra 1d8 damage on a hit four times per short rest, plus another effect, just at the moment when you want it to, and it’s just not impressive at all.

Critical hits occur more often if we attack more often, so fighting with two weapons increases our odds somewhat. At 3rd level a Champion wielding two shortswords will land at least one critical hit every five combat rounds compared to a Battle Master two-weapon fighter landing one every ten. You can use the Great Weapon fighting style and the Polearm Master feat to get two attacks per round, one at 1d10 and one at 1d4, landing a critical at twice the normal rate and re-rolling 1’s and 2’s on the dice. Against an opponent with a 15 AC, a reasonably-put-together Polearm Master Champion would be doing 9.209 damage per round on average. By comparison a Polearm Master Eldritch Knight would be doing 8.88 damage against the same target. Four times per short rest, already knowing whether a critical applied or not, a Battle Master could add a superiority die to the mix, doing an extra 2d8 damage on that blow. If he were to consistently keep a die reserved for that purpose, his average damage bumps up to a little over 9.78 per round.

Given the opportunities provided by magical armament, some items add more dice to the weapons’ damage. These dice are also doubled on a critical hit, so a Champion with a Flametongue Longsword would deal 2d8+4d6 damage 10% of the time, improving the bang for her buck. If you could get your hands on a Flametongue Glaive, you could deal 2d10+4d6 on a critical hit with the main end and 2d4+4d6 with the other end. A 3rd level Champion with a Flametongue longsword attacking an opponent with AC 15 deals 11.535 damage per round. The Eldritch Knight, meanwhile, does 11.075 damage per round. The Battle Master dials it up to 11.525, just under the raw average output of the champion.

Arranging for advantage nearly doubles the odds of landing a critical hit, so off-label combat actions like grappling and shoving (to knock down) are somewhat more valuable to a Champion than to other Fighters. One such option is the Shield Master feat, which grants a bonus action that can be used to shove (abused somewhat by characters like the Savage Duelist). Taking from the Flametongue example above, using the Shield Master feat to knock an opponent prone grants advantage and shifts the Champion up to 16.885, the Eldritch Knight up to 15.205, and the Battle Master to 16.545. Here we see the Champion narrowly eking out an edge in the numbers game. Note that the Eldritch Knight has cantrips and couple 1st level spells to round things out, and the Battle Master’s maneuvers offer additional tactical effects and are essentially dealing identical damage over time. Over twenty rounds of combat the difference is only 6.8 hit points.

Find a way to get an additional attack, additional dice, and advantage consistently and you’re in business. That’s a lot of factors to jam together.

Level 7: Remarkable Athlete

This is basically a limited-purpose Jack of All Trades feature from the Bard class. You get half your proficiency bonus (rounded up) added to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make that doesn’t already have a proficiency bonus added in. When you get this feature at 7th level it’s worth a +2. Most things you’re going to make ability checks for could already be covered by a skill, skills that you may have already been proficient with. Did you want to wait until 7th level to be pretty good at several tasks? I didn’t think so. But like Jack of All Trades this applies to Initiative checks, too, which makes it handy in a limited context. It also lets you jump a little further.

To get the most out of this feature we would want to eschew Strength and Dexterity-based skills for the first six levels of our adventuring career. What kind of character would do that? Somebody from a more hifalutin background than we might normally associate with the Fighter class. Several backgrounds lend themselves very well to more erudite, delicate character classes than the Fighter, but if you’re looking to create a sword-wielding adventurer from a more sedentary upbringing, the Champion can help smooth out some rough spots in your skill arsenal. Consider a Guild Artisan or Acolyte with no magical proclivities striking out into the world on some important calling. As she progresses in her adventuring career she finally gets the hang of all this skulking about and scaling cliffs and cartwheeling past foes, and finally gets over a little hesitation that was holding her back. At 7th level she’s out of her shell and surprising her allies with a bolder outlook complete with initiative bonuses and derring-do.

Compared to a Battle Master gaining one superiority die and the ability to size up an opponent, this is quite good if handled right. The Eldritch Knight meanwhile has gone on to casting 2nd level spells and can opt to cast a cantrip and attack during the same round instead of just casting a spell or just attacking twice.

Level 10: Additional Fighting Style

All Fighters get a fighting style at first level, but the Champion alone gets a second style at 10th level. Most of the styles don’t compliment each other simultaneously; you don’t get your +2 damage from Dueling and +2 to attack from Archer for the same attack. You can simultaneously benefit from Defense and any of the others, and Protection is even better with a second style than it is by itself.

Great Weapon + Archer is a lovely way to round out your tactical usefulness. A bonus to attack with ranged weapons. Insulation from bad damage rolls in melee. Note that the Great Weapon re-rolls apply to the extra dice on critical hits, so this compliments the Improved Critical feature as well.

Dueling + Defense is a mildly cheesy way to top of armor class. With plate armor and a shield, you would have a 21 armor class before any magical benefits your equipment confers. The Dueling style helps you keep up on damage output compared to your greatweapon-swinging buddies even while you’re harder to hit than any Monster Manual creature under Challenge Rating 20.

Two-weapon Fighting + Protection is an attempt to get as many actions as possible during a round, providing a reliable bonus action attack without spending a feat as well as an additional use to put your reactions to. One action, one bonus action, one reaction. In the 5th Edition action economy, that’s as good as you’re going to get. Your allies will appreciate bad-guys rolling at disadvantage, too.

By comparison, the Eldritch Knight applies a conditional disadvantage on spell saving throws and the Battle Master gets bigger superiority dice and two more maneuvers. Keep in mind that these are maneuvers he didn’t think were worth acquiring earlier, so they’re not that good. Again the Champion got a somewhat superior feature.

Level 15: Superior Critical

We go from a 10% critical hit chance to 15%. With advantage it’s nearly 30%. At 15th level the Champion Fighter is hitting just right an awful lot. You take maximum advantage of this feature in the same way as with the Improved Critical. More attacks, more damage dice, advantage on attack rolls.

By comparison, the Eldritch Knight gains the ability to teleport 30′ when using his Action Surge, which is potentially awesome. At this point he’s got 3rd level spells like Fireball, which are always crowd-pleasers. The Battle Master gets an extra superiority die and a means of recovering one at the beginning of every battle if he was already spent. Not so great.

Level 18: Survivor

When starting your turn under 1/2 your maximum hit points, automatically recover some hit points. This is more a means of saving somebody else’s spell slots between battles than a save-ass toughness thing. By the time you get this feature anything that would get you to under 1/2 your hit points is likely hitting you much, much harder than this heals.

Don’t plan on taking a character archetype in hopes of getting tons of use out of an 18th-level class feature. Your character will be long dead, the campaign long abandoned before you get this far, so don’t peg your hopes and dreams on recovering 5+(Con modifier) damage every round. At this level the Eldritch Knight can cast a spell and still take a single attack. For 18th level this is thoroughly unimpressive. The Battle Master get d12s for his superiority dice, upping their average value from 4.5 when he first got them to 6.5. Also underwhelming.

The Verdict

The Champion starts off with a pretty weak feature set that gets incrementally better as the character advances in levels. If you’re looking to create a character that grows from zero to hero, this archetype may work well for you, particularly if you think she may branch out to explorer other areas of expertise through multiclassing. There’s synergy to be found between the Fighter’s extra attribute improvements to have a character improve organically, becoming stronger, faster, tougher, smarter, etc. in keeping with the events unfolding in play as opposed to some grand master plan. The Second Wind, Action Surge, and Indomitable class features lend themselves to this as well, drawing upon raw inner reserves to accomplish great things where other characters rely on specialized training or magic.

I would consider the Champion archetype a good core component to an adventuring-detective character, likely paired with the Thief archetype for skill expertise. Here’s a possible D&D Jessica Fletcher:

Dungeon, She Wrote
Rock Gnome Champion 7 / Thief 3
Sage Background
Lawful Nosy

Attribute Value Bonus Save
Str 15 +2 +5
Dex 13 +1 +1
Con 10 +0 +3
Int 16 +3 +3
Wis 15 +2 +2
Cha 10 +0 +0

Skills: Arcana (+6), History (+6), *Insight(+8), *Investigation(+9), Perception (+5), Artisan’s Tools (tinker’s tools), Thieves’ Tools
Languages: Common, Dwarven, Elvish, Gnomish
Hit Points: 61
Armor Class: 21 (Plate + Shield + Fighting Style)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 25
Weapons: Rapier (+5 to attack, 1d8+2 damage) twice
Other notable features: Advantage on Int/Wis/Cha saves vs. magic, Darkvision 60′, Artificer’s Lore, Tinker, Researcher, Fighting Style (Defense), Second Wind (1d10+7), Action Surge, Ability Score Improvement (Str), Extra Attack, Ability Score Improvement (Observant Feat), Remarkable Athlete, Expertise (Insight, Investigation), Sneak Attack (2d6), Thieves’ Cant, Cunning Action, Fast Hands

5e Pole Dancer


In which we create a simple polearm specialist for use in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Remember when Dungeons & Dragons loves polearms? My old orange-spined Player’s Handbook couldn’t get enough of them. To this day I crack a whimsical smile when I see a fauchard for sale at the Home Depot. Why? Because Fauchards and Glaives and Billhooks were the stuff of adventure, dammit.


A polearm is a beautiful thing. Attach something to the end of a long hand. Hit fools with it. What do you attach to it? Oh anything, really. Lots of polearms look like they started out life as farm or orchard tools re-purposed for slaughter. Those that showed promise eventually developed into refined, elegant, knightly implements of slaughter.


One problem that came up with some frequency was that of specialization. If an adventuring warrior were to specialize in the use of, say, the Bec de Corbin, he has put himself in a bit of a corner. With such a dizzying assortment of polearms available, what are the odds that a given villain, henchling, or long-buried hero of old would have a matching magical weapon? Warriors benefit tremendously from having enchanted armaments, and picking the wrong specialization is troublesome. Type V Dungeons & Dragons addresses this by doing away with specialization in the first place. Instead there are optional feats that lend themselves towards various broad categories of weapons and fighting styles. Whether you use shortbows or longbows or crossbows or thrown darts you can benefit from Sharpshooter. Similarly there is a Polearm Master feat that applies to most long-stick-intensive weapons.

Four feats are of particular interest:

  • Great Weapon Master – This grants a bonus action to attack upon landing a critical hit or felling an opponent, plus the option to take a penalty to hit in exchange for more damage. Polearms are typically heavy weapons wielded in two hands, so this would apply to a polearm-swining lug just fine.
  • Polearm Master – This grants a bonus action to attack with the butt-end of your polearm and grants a reaction attack when opponents enter within reach. Clearly this feat is best-used by characters that do not have a lot of other opportunities to trigger a bonus action or reaction.
  • Shield Master – Has a few benefits for Dexterity-based saving throws and allows a bonus action to shove an opponent. You can wield a Quarterstaff one-handed, so technically you can benefit from both this and Polearm Master at the same time. Why this combination doesn’t apply to spears is beyond me, as the spear-and-shield combination is literally a classic. Bronze-age classic.
  • Sentinel – Reduces the movement of anybody hit by an opportunity attack to zero for the turn, denies opponents the ability to Disengage safely, and allows a reaction attack against opponents that attack one’s allies. This is 5e’s melee lock-down mechanism, presumably present for the benefit of people who enjoy computer games and Type IV D&D.

rack_of_halberdsThe use of feats poses certain challenges, though. Most classes gain a feat at 4th, 8th, and 12th level, at the cost of foregoing an attribute score improvement. To select a feat is to pay an opportunity cost, and to pay dearly at that. One could invest three feats in Polearm Mastery, Great Weapon Mastery, and Sentinel, and thus become a heavy-hitting melee specialist locking down a 25′ swath of the battlefield. This combination sounds lovely, but your Dwarven Paladin isn’t going to have all the pieces in place until 12th level, at which point frankly your campaign is probably already over. It seems to me that, generally speaking, more than one feat is hard to justify for a typical campaign. Unless we get our feats for pennies on the dollar, that is! And boy, do I have a deal for you!

Start out by looking at the call-out on page 31 of the Player’s Handbook, the Variant Human option. Instead of taking +1 on all of your attributes, take +1 to each of two attributes of your choice and pick up a feat at 1st level. Lovely, we can start our adventuring career with part of our gimmick already in-hand. Now we can get our third feat at 8th level instead of 12th. But that means we won’t get to bump up any of our attributes, like the all-important Strength or Constitution, until 12th level. Assuming we’ll be retired or dead right around then, that’s still a bit of a delayed gratification.

Behold, another solution presents itself. Tucked away on page 70 is an under-rated character class called the “Fighter.” The Fighter, you must understand, is a newfangled specialist class introduced in 1974 that is supposed to be rugged and skilled in the use of arms. In 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons they have the distinction of gaining attribute improvements (and additional feats) at levels 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, and 16. This means we can have three feats at level six. That’s half the level as our baseline, leaving opportunities to maybe pick up a couple of bonuses before being put out to pasture.

scythesWe’ve picked a race (Human) and a class (Fighter), so it’s time to divvy up some starting attributes. I’m a fan of the standard array, as point buy leads to min/max abuses and cancer of the soul. All of our polearm trickery won’t be of much use if we aren’t hitting our targets, and none of our thematic weapons have the “finesse” quality, so our primary concern is Strength. Dexterity need not be of any great concern, as we can get by using heavy armor. Constitution is tremendously important for anybody whose primary role in combat is getting stuck in with the hostiles, so we’ll make it our secondary concern. Intelligence is lovely for anybody in the real world, but if you were really smart you’d get yourself a good steady job that doesn’t involve getting stabbed. Low priority. We could say the same about Wisdom, but some of the more concerning magic effects in the game use Wisdom for a saving throw, and skills like Insight, Medicine, and Perception all key off of this attribute. Tertiary priority. Charisma is of similar priority as Intelligence. Both are nice to have but non-essential to this gimmick. We assign 15 to Strength, 14 to Constitution, 13 to Wisdom, 12 to Charisma, 10 to Dexterity, and 8 to Intelligence. We apply our Human bonuses and end up with a statline of Str 16 Dex 10 Con 14 Int 8 Wis 14 Cha 12.

As a Fighter we’re entitled to a fighting style at level 1. Archer, Duelist, and Two-weapon don’t really apply well here. Duelist would if we were to use a Quarterstaff, but I want to go with a more traditional polearm aesthetic, so that leaves us with Defense, Great Weapon, and Protection. Protection allows you to use your reaction to impose disadvantage under some circumstances. We’re already looking to use reactions from other sources, so that isn’t so handy. Great Weapon fighting style lets us re-roll 1’s and 2’s on damage dice when using a two-handed weapon. That’s nice, but it’s just a little extra damage. We take Defense for a flat +1 to armor class. With no shield or Dexterity bonus and likely to be stuck in the scrum, we can use all the help we can get in that department.

dem_ranseursFor a background we’ll be boring and pick up Soldier. We roll some dice and see that we spent time as a Standard Bearer in the military, are always polite and respectful, we value “might” as an ideal, feel that those we fight with are worth dying for, and our hatred for our enemies is blind and unreasoning. This also gets us proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation as well as tool proficiency in one type of gaming set (Chutes & Ladders) and vehicles(land). For our Fighter skills we pick up Perception and Insight. Because we’re clearly some kind of social butterfly. For our free Human skill, we pick up Animal Handling. It goes with our land vehicle proficiency and suits our delicate nature.

At last, we pick up equipment. From the Fighter starter package we get chainmail armor, two Martial weapons (a Glaive and a Warhammer), two handaxes, and an explorer’s pack. From our background we get and insignia of rank, a trophy taken from a fallen enemy, a set of bone dice, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch, and ten gold coins.

At 1st level we look something like this:

Pole Dancer
Human Fighter 1
Soldier Background
Lawful Evil

Attribute Value Bonus Save
Str 16 +3 +5
Dex 10 +0 +0
Con 14 +2 +4
Int 8 -1 -1
Wis 14 +2 +2
Cha 12 +1 +1

Skills: Animal Handling (+4), Athletics (+5), Insight (+4), Intimidation (+3), Perception (+4)
Languages: Common, Orcish
Hit Points: 12
Armor Class: 17 (Chainmail + Fighting Style)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30
Weapons: Glaive (+5 to attack, 1d10+3 damage) plus Glaive (+5 to attack, 1d4+3 damage) as bonus action, Warhammer (+5 to attack, 1d8+3 damage), Handaxe (+5 to attack, 1d6+3 damage)
Other notable features: Polearm Master feat, Military Rank, Second Wind (recover 1d10+1 hit points as bonus action), Defense Fighting Style
Notable Equipment: Chainmail Armor, Glaive, Warhammer, 2 Handaxes, Explorer’s Pack, Lieutenant’s Bars, Hobgoblin Warrior’s Headdress, Bone Dice, Common Clothes, Belt Pouch, 10gp

From the outset he’s reasonably tough, is capable of laying out two attacks per round in melee for 1d10+3 and 1d4+3. Outside of a fight his athleticism is useful for physical challenges and at least not a liability socially. Let’s roll him forward to 6th level:

Pole Dancer
halberd_swagHuman Battle Master Fighter 6
Soldier Background
Lawful Evil

Attribute Value Bonus Save
Str 18 +4 +7
Dex 10 +0 +0
Con 14 +2 +5
Int 8 -1 -1
Wis 14 +2 +2
Cha 12 +1 +1

Skills: Animal Handling (+5), Athletics (+7), Insight (+5), Intimidation (+4), Perception (+5), Cook’s Tools
Languages: Common, Orcish
Hit Points: 52
Armor Class: 19 (Plate + Fighting Style)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30
Weapons: Glaive (+7 to attack, 1d10+4 damage) twice plus Glaive (+7 to attack, 1d4+4 damage) as bonus action, Warhammer (+7 to attack, 1d8+4 damage) twice, Handaxe (+7 to attack, 1d6+4 damage) twice
Other notable features: Polearm Master feat, Sentinel Feat, Military Rank, Second Wind (recover 1d10+1 hit points as bonus action), Defense Fighting Style, Action Surge, Combat Superiority, Goading Attack, Lunging Attack, Trip Attack, Four Superiority Dice (d8), Student of War (Cook’s Tools), Extra Attack, Ability Score Improvement (Strength)
Notable Equipment: Plate Armor, Glaive, Warhammer, 2 Handaxes, Explorer’s Pack, Lieutenant’s Bars, Hobgoblin Warrior’s Headdress, Bone Dice, Common Clothes, Belt Pouch, 10gp

At this point we could have taken Polearm Master, Sentinel, and Great Weapon Master feats, but the benefits of Great Weapon Master are a bonus attack under limited cirmstances and a bonus to damage at a heavy attack penalty. Bringing Strength up to 18 makes a lot of sense for getting more value out of it when we eventually pick it up at 8th or 12th level.

The Battle Master archetype is selected because we’ve more or less set ourselves up around being tricky in a fight. Being able to decide to trip an opponent during a reaction, extend from 10′ reach to 15′, or steal an opponent’s attention all fit nicely with a melee Swiss Army Knife approach to the world.

On the road to a typical campaign’s end-game, he’ll get another ability score bump or two, some magical arms and armor, a fifth Superiority Die, and maybe four more maneuvers, see his Superiority Die bump up from d8 to d10, and get a third attack per round with the main end of his weapon. With any luck he’ll have a broad range of implements with which to ply his trade during this time, from his first Glaive to a Halberd or two, maybe the DM will let him have a Ranseur or Bill Hook or Partisan. Who knows?