BY RICK MOSCATELLO

In

Evolution of the Fighter the relative strength of a “basic” first level human fighter against goblins, one at a time, is compared across all editions. By “basic” I mean the fighter isn’t particularly optimized for fighting goblins, but instead just is your usual sword/shield/chainmail fighter with the usual obvious choices for stats like strength and such. The article shows the fighter getting ever more powerful across editions, killing some 23 goblins in 4E. The link, alas, is a bit outdated, and doesn’t calculate what a 5E fighter can do, under the current rules.

As near as I can tell, the author of the article uses a Monte Carlo approach, simply running a random number generator and taking averages. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the conditions are simple enough that a straight up calculation and estimation is quite possible.

My fighter is created as per the rules. He’ll have 15 strength/dex/con, and 8’s in the other stats. He’ll have chainmail, shield, and sword, and pick the duelist style for +2 damage (hardly a specialization against goblins, since that’s a pretty good modifier). Being human he gets an additional +1 to all stats.

Here are the key things we get from such a fighter, compared to the goblin:

The fighter is +5 to hit, and deals d8 + 5 damage—just barely not enough to guarantee killing a standard 7hp goblin with every hit (unless it’s a critical). A goblin is +4 to hit and does d6 +2 damage.

The fighter’s high dex won’t help his AC because he’s wearing chainmail, but the +3 to initiative helps, especially compared to the +2 initiative the goblin has. Being able to strike first is a big deal for this fight, since the goblin has a pretty good chance of dying in one hit. The 5e rules give some leeway to ties in rolls for initiative; my houserule is ties go to whomever has the best dex (a tie between the goblin and the fighter happens less than 1 combat in 20 anyway, so probably won’t be much of a factor).

The fighter’s AC is 18 and the goblin has AC 15. The goblin has 7 hit points. The fighter starts with 13 hit points, but has a bonus action “second wind” healing ability, effectively giving him d10 + 1 more hit points. This is actually a little problematic, since the fighter might not wait until he’s at 2 or less hit points to get the maximum potential from the second wind. While the expected healing is 6.5, I’ll model the possibility of “healing early” by making the expected healing just 6. In essence then, the fighter has an expectation of effectively 19 hit points.

Looking at “expected damage” for the fighter is meaningless here—far too much of the damage the fighter deals won’t matter since it’ll exceed the goblin’s hit points. Instead, I’m just going to note that the goblin will die from one hit with probability .8864 (it’s a little bit more than .875 because of the chance of dealing a critical hit, and because 1/11 of the fighter’s hits are critical). Two hits will kill any goblin. Let’s look very carefully at the most common battle, against a goblin that dies in one hit:

**One-hit-goblin:**For a one-hit-goblin fight, note that the fighter has a 55% chance of hitting. Let’s look carefully at the length of this battle:

55% of the time, the fighter will land that killing hit in the first round.

24.75%, it’ll be in the second round.

11.14%, the third round.

5.01%, the fourth round.

2.26%, the fifth round.

1.01% of the time it will take six rounds.

Less than 1% of the time, it will take 7 or more rounds; I’m just going to assume all the fights take seven rounds or less and just say the 7 round fight occurs 1% of the time. This assumption is only going to be a problem (at best) if the fighter is likely to slay 50 or more goblins, and I don’t see that happening.

Because that first hit is so important to the fighter, initiative is important. The relative difference in dex between the fighter and goblin is +1, the fighter will win initiative with probability .5725, using my house rule that higher dex wins ties.

This means that with probability .5725, the goblin will get from 0 to 6 attacks (depending on how long it takes for the fighter to land that killing blow). Comparing that to our distribution of length of combats (assuming a maximum of 7 rounds), we see that the goblin will expect to get .8215 attacks…kinda sucks being a goblin.

On the other hand, if the fighter loses initiative (probability .4275), the goblin gets 1 to 7 attacks. Again, comparing to our distribution, we see that the goblin now expects to get 1.8232 (it should be 1.8215, of course, but there’s some rounding here) attacks.

This means that on a random fight, the fighter should expect to take 1.25 goblin attacks. Now we have to figure out how much damage a goblin can expect to do on an attack—the fighter can take several goblin hits, so expectation is more reasonable to use here.

On a normal hit, the goblin expects to deal 5.5 damage on a hit, and, for a critical hit, the goblin expects 9 damage.

When a goblin swings, the goblin will deal a normal hit 30% of the time, and land a critical 5% of the time. So, the expected damage of a goblin attack is 2.1. Note that 1/7 of the time, a goblin’s hit is a critical hit—the 5E rules in some sense cause less accurate monsters to land critical hits more often relative to normal hits than more accurate monsters.

Multiply this by the expected number of attacks a one-hit-goblin gets, and we see the fighter can expect to take 2.625 damage per encounter. If all goblins were of this type, then the fighter, with his effective 19 hit points, will generally kill 7 goblins before probably going down to the 8th.

But wait, there’s a probability of .1136 that the fighter will meet a goblin that requires two hits before dying (i.e., a “two-hit-goblin”). That’s around 1 goblin in 9, however, so it’s not going to affect the fighter much: even under the best case scenario (of one-hit-goblins) he will probably won’t even see 9 goblins before dying. In this combat example, a 2-hit-goblin is not really different than two, one-hit-goblins, after all, so all we really need to do is subtract the expected number of 2-hit-goblins a fighter might see in this battle…but that’s less than one goblin.

So, rather than go through somewhat more tedious calculations, I’ll estimate that the 5E fighter can count on taking down 6 goblins, with a pretty good shot at killing a 7th before being defeated.

This puts the 5E fighter just a little bit weaker than the 2E fighter (probably since the 2E fighter had weapon specialization helping him out quite a bit).

This gives considerable ammunition to the folks that say 5E has a similar feel to 2E…but the numbers are the numbers. What makes a game work are the players and the DM, not that there’s anything wrong with numbers.