Purple Dragon Knights are the charismatic and chivalrous knights within the army of Cormyr in the Forgotten Realms. In games that aren’t set in the Forgotten Realms, they are instead referred to as Bannerets to indicate they are not part of the storied Purple Dragons.
The subclass focuses on turning the Fighter class into a chivalrous knight that can melt a heart with a smile as quickly as they can slay a dragon. So, if you were thinking about playing a Fighter but wanted to be your party’s Face as well, here is a Purple Dragon Knight 5e guide with everything that you need to get started as a Purple Dragon Knight.
Key Info Up Front
- Book: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- Feature Levels: 3, 7, 10, 15
- Roles: Striker, Tank, Face, Support
Purple Dragon Knight Overview
The Purple Dragon Knight attempts to bring support, utility, and Charisma to Fighters. This allows the Purple Dragon Knights to inspire their allies during battle, use their charm to influence others, and capitalize on the tales of their heroic deeds to get fame and renown. They are well-respected across the Forgotten Realms, as the Purple Knights are a renowned band of soldiers that are feared wherever they go.
However, the Purple Dragon Knight as a subclass can be a bit difficult to play well because of how scattered its focus is. The Fighter class is traditionally hyper-focused on proficiency in combat, so trying to give it some Charisma options and support utility requires the player to invest in a third ability score, which can be very difficult to do well. However, the individual features of the Purple Dragon Knight are a ton of fun, so if you think it sounds like a fun subclass, I still suggest going for it.
I also have found that it works very well as an option for veteran players to pick up when playing with a newer party as it gives them solid battlefield options as well as being able to be the party’s Face, and it is less likely to fall behind its party members in power in that setting.
Balancing a Purple Dragon Knight’s ability scores is a difficult task because it requires you to invest in three to be as effective as possible. This might not be the worst thing if you roll for your ability scores and get lucky, but if you use a point buy system or the standard array, you may have a more challenging time. I also suggest being very careful with your choice of race when making a Purple Dragon Knight, as the racial bonus to your ability scores can help alleviate this issue if done correctly.
When it comes to filling out your ability scores, I also think there are two valid approaches for this subclass. The first is a more traditional Fighter spread that prioritizes Strength and Constitution above all else.
You can then follow these up with Charisma to get as much out of the subclass’ features as possible, then followed by Wisdom and Intelligence in either order, with Dexterity acting as your dump stat.
This will ensure that your character will be a dominating force on the battlefield but will see you not getting quite as much out of your subclass as you otherwise could.
The second option is a bit riskier, but it was the route I took while playing the class, and I had a ton of fun with it. For this build, focus on Dexterity above all else. This will allow you to increase your damage as well as your Armor Class at the same time.
With your higher AC, you can then have Charisma be your second highest ability, followed by Constitution.
Then, do Wisdom and Intelligence in either order with Strength as your dump stat. This will allow you to get as much out of your subclass features as possible, and while it will leave you more vulnerable on the battlefield, the higher AC should at least help you avoid taking too much damage.
This build is also a good option if your party already has a strong Defender or Tank that will likely soak up most of the damage for you.
As always, I recommend prioritizing a background that fits your character’s backstory over the mechanical benefits, as this will make playing your character more fun, in my opinion. However, there are a ton of options, and picking a background first is often an excellent way to get the gears turning when it comes to fleshing out a character’s history.
So, here are the best backgrounds for the Purple Dragon Knight that you should consider if you’re starting there.
- City Watch (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): This background usually isn’t great for Fighters, but with this subclass’ high Charisma, you can get a lot of use out of it. It comes with proficiency in Insight and Athletics as well as a bonus language to help you be an even better Face. Its flavor also fits very well with the Purple Dragon Knight as a city guard aspiring to be a hero knight makes a lot of sense.
- Courtier (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): This background comes with the always-useful Perception proficiency alongside Insight, which is an excellent tool for Faces but can be hard to come by as a Fighter.
- Criminal (Player’s Handbook): This background is primarily helpful if you use the second ability score build that emphasizes your Dexterity. The Criminal background comes with some decent Dexterity skill proficiencies as well as Charisma to help you along your road to being a Face. This one can also support a fun background of a common criminal going straight and rising through the ranks to become a noble knight.
- Noble (Player’s Handbook): This background is effectively a weaker Criminal option but has some strong flavor for a Purple Dragon Knight’s background.
- Sailor (Player’s Handbook): Sailor is a strong choice with the Fighter because they share a lot of common skill proficiencies and options. However, check with your Dungeon Master first to make sure that you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of your character’s sailing abilities during the campaign.
- Urban Bounty Hunter (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): The Urban Bounty Hunter is a good background if you focus on Dexterity and will give you a lot more options for approaching encounters and exploration segments of your campaign.
Choosing skills for a Purple Dragon Knight can be a bit tricky because the subclass’ focus is all over the place. This makes picking a background to round out your skill proficiencies pretty important. However, you also get a couple proficiencies from the Fighter class list when you make your character, and I recommend prioritizing them in this order.
- Intimidation: Intimidation is the only Charisma-based skill that Fighters can get proficiency in, so if you’re going to play the party’s Face, you’ll want to pick this one up. If your character has a Good alignment, you can also still use this feature well by not being too threatening but instead referencing the incredible feats your character has accomplished or leveraging the good name of the Purple Dragon Knights.
- Insight: Insight is also a very useful Face skill, but you’ll likely have a challenging time getting the most out of this one without proficiency because of your lower Wisdom score. Proficiency will help this so that you can tell the intentions of NPCs you interact with.
- Perception: Perception is always useful regardless of the character, and while your Wisdom won’t be high enough to take full advantage of it, your proficiency bonus will help.
- Athletics/Acrobatics: Whether you focused on Strength or Dexterity will determine which of these two you should take. If you have higher Strength, take Athletics and avoid Acrobatics and do the inverse if you focused on Dexterity. Whichever you pick, it will help you navigate the battlefield and keep strong positioning to be the most influential in battles.
- History: History is a very useful knowledge skill. It can help you piece together mysteries and learn about the setting of your campaign. If you take this skill, however, I recommend talking to your Dungeon Master, so they know to prepare that information for successful checks during sessions.
- Survival: Survival helps your party navigate the wilds as they travel and is essential to have in a party. However, with your low Wisdom, you should have another party member focus on this one.
- Animal Handling: Animal Handling is pretty much useless for Fighters unless you want to focus on having a mount at all times, but then you should pick up the Cavalier subclass instead of Purple Dragon Knight.
Purple Dragon Knight Features
This feature adds some support ability to your default Fighter feature, Second Wind. It allows you to give temporary hit points to an ally within 60 feet whenever you use Second Wind.
Even better, the temporary hit points are equal to your Fighter level, so it will steadily get stronger as you progress through the campaign.
It also technically can be used on unconscious allies because those allies can still hear you, which is all they need to be able to do for Rallying Cry to take effect.
This is the big Face feature that Purple Dragon Knights get. To start, it gives you proficiency in Persuasion and doubles your proficiency bonus for any Persuasion checks that you make.
If you already have proficiency in Persuasion at level seven, you instead can take it in either Animal Handling, Insight, intimidation, or Performance.
If you do end up picking up one of those other skills instead, your Persuasion still gets the benefit of doubling your proficiency bonus.
This feature allows you to give an ally within 60 feet of you to make an attack as a reaction whenever you use your Action Surge feature. When you reach level 18, this feature is further improved, allowing you to give two allies the ability to attack with a reaction when you use your Action Surge.
This is pretty big and will solidly increase the damage your party can output. If you can, I recommend using this on a Rogue as it allows them to get another Sneak Attack since it is technically a different turn than their regular one in the initiative order, which can lead to massive damage output.
Bulwark allows you to extend your Fighter feature Indomitable to an ally of your choosing within 60 feet of you. This gives them the ability to reroll an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, saving throw the price of having to take the second roll.
At higher levels saving throws for mental skills can be one of the most damaging attacks on parties, so being able to help your party survive them is a huge benefit.
Purple Dragon Knight Races
Picking a race can be more critical for a Purple Dragon Knight than other classes to help you cover the various abilities that it relies on to be effective. So, if you need help thinning the extensive list of options down, here are the best races for a Purple Dragon Knight.
Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
This race comes with a solid flight feature that works even in heavy armor, as well as a good damage boost, Radiant Consumption to help you control crowds of smaller enemies, and the limited healing option of Healing Hands.
You’ll also get some free resistances through Celestial Resistance, which is always handy to have as a martial character.
Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
The most significant benefit of this race is Enlarge/Reduce to help you get the most out of your damage rolls. However, it applies to Strength, so I’d say skip this one if you want to use a Dexterity-focused ability score spread.
It also comes with some features to help keep you on your feet, like Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude.
Book: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
The Eladrin aren’t typically a good pick for Fighters because their innate spellcasting uses Charisma, but that works perfectly for a Purple Dragon Knight. The most attractive part of this race is its teleportation feature, alongside its increase to Charisma.
Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
The Goliath is a perfect race for a Strength-focused Fighter build. It comes with Athletics proficiency and some defensive options that will keep you on your feet much longer than you otherwise would be.
Book: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
The Drow Half-Elf is the best way to get access to the Drow’s innate spellcasting list because it forgoes the sunlight sensitivity of the full Drow. Their innate spells also use Charisma to be cast, which is perfect for the Purple Dragon Knight to capitalize on.
Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
Since the Purple Dragon Knight doesn’t have any use for its bonus action, most turns, the Hobgoblin is an excellent choice. Even better, it allows you to help out your allies, which fits in perfectly with the subclass’ slight bend toward support.
Book: Player’s Handbook/Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
When using the customized origin to select your ability score increases, the Tiefling is a great pick. It comes with some decent innate spellcasting like Hellish Rebuke that you can take full advantage of with your higher Charisma stat. You can go with almost any type of Tiefling, but I recommend picking Asmodeus or Glasya to get the most out of it.
Purple Dragon Knight Feats
As you level up, you’ll likely want to take full advantage of your ability score increases since the Purple Dragon Knight relies on so many ability scores. However, if you manage to get them all to a comfortable level, you should consider picking up some feats to help tailor your character’s playstyle. If you find yourself considering taking a feat, I recommend looking at the following options.
- Chef (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): The Chef feat allows you to prepare buffing meals that can be eaten with a bonus action during the battle. This can help keep you on your feet, and since you won’t use your bonus action much unless you pick the Hobgoblin race, this can be a fun way to add some uniqueness and mechanical ability to your character.
- Durable (Player’s Handbook): If you know that you’ll be fulfilling the role of Defender for your party, I highly recommend this feat. This will help you rely less on your support party members for healing, freeing up their actions to heal other party members.
- Fighting Initiate (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): This feat gives you another Fighting Style of your choice, helping you add some variety to your character and opening up the possibility of some exciting and diverse builds.
- Sentinel (Player’s Handbook): A must-have for Defenders and fits in great with the support flavor of the Purple Dragon Knight. Combine it with any weapon with reach to control enemies during combat.
Purple Dragon Knight Equipment
The regular equipment that your character uses will be highly influenced by whether you focused on Strength or Dexterity. If you went with Strength, you’d want to start with Chain Mail armor and get to Full Plate as quickly as possible.
For a weapon, you can use either a Shield combined with your choice of a Longsword, Warhammer, or War Pick, depending on what damage dice you like the best. Or, you could use a two-handed weapon and now Shield like a Greatsword or Pike if you want reach.
If you go with a Dexterity-focused build, this will change. In this case, I recommend avoiding two-handed weapons so that you can take a Shield and maximize your Armor Class. Pair it with a Rapier, and you should be able to put up some good damage numbers as well.
For armor, you’ll want to start with Leather and then upgrade to Half Plate as soon as possible. You should then stick with Half Plate until your Dexterity hits 20, after which you should switch to Studded Leather to ditch the disadvantage on Stealth checks.
Common Magic Items
- Moon-Touched Sword (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): This sword is a strong magic item for low-level characters. Not only does it make your melee attacks count as magical, but it also can glow, giving characters without Darkvision a cheap source of light that doesn’t take up their off-hand.
- Clockwork Amulet (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): This amulet may not seem very exciting, but it gives you a guaranteed ten on an attack roll once per day without requiring attunement. This will usually guarantee a hit even at low levels, which is perfect for making sure you put out some damage when your party needs it most.
Uncommon Magic Items
- Adamantine Armor (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Due to the oddities of magical item pricing, Adamantine Armor is technically cheaper than Full Plate, so get this instead if you can. It will help protect you from critical hits, which can otherwise be devastating as your character levels up.
- Cloak of Protection (Dungeon Master’s Guide): While not a very interesting option, this magic item is a solid defensive tool for any character, especially if you are running a Dexterity build and don’t want to get hit.
- Mithral Armor (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Mithral is a decent option to pick up for a Dexterity build and is effectively Half Plate without the disadvantage on Stealth checks and without having to get your Dexterity to 20 to replace it with Studded Leather.
Rare Magic Items
- Amulet of Health (Dungeon Master’s Guide): This amulet sets your Constitution to 19, which can be a massive boon to this class. Getting your hands on this as early as possible can help you focus your ability score increases on your attack ability and Charisma or even let you pick up a feat or two.
- Belt of Giant Strength (Dungeon Master’s Guide): These come in a variety of rarities depending on their type, but boost your Strength up to above 20. This can increase your damage significantly while also allowing you to focus on growing other abilities like your Charisma and Constitution.
- Cloak of Displacement (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Effectively a better version of the Cloak of Protection and will help protect you from taking hits.
- Sword of Wounding (Dungeon Master’s Guide): This weapon lets you give extra stacking damage to bigger enemies, making it lethal against tanky enemies or bosses that your party may come across.
Very Rare Magic Items
- Dancing Sword (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Only take this item if you have a free bonus action on most of your turns, as it will help you get in another free attack every turn.
- Manual of Bodily Health (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Grants you a permanent +2 Constitution boost and bumps your max from 20 to 22, which can be huge if you need to be the party’s Defender.
- Manual of Quickness of Action (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Only pick this one up if you are making a Dexterity build. It increases your Dexterity by two and raises its maximum, allowing you to get that sweet +6 modifier. If you go with a Strength build, try to find a Giant’s Belt instead.
- Tome of Leadership and Influence (Dungeon Master’s Guide): Grants you a permanent +2 Charisma boost while also increasing your maximum from 20 to 22 so that you can be an incredibly effective Face, especially with your Royal Envoy feature.
Legendary Magic Items
- Blood Fury Tattoo (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): This tattoo gives you not only a solid damage boost and free healing, but its damage also counts as extra damage, meaning that it is doubled when you score a critical hit.
- Rod of Lordly Might (Dungeon Master’s Guide): An excellent weapon for Strength builds as it allows you to change your damage type on the fly to adapt to any situation. However, it doesn’t have any Dexterity options, so avoid it if you rely on that ability for damage.
- Vorpal Sword (Dungeon Master’s Guide): The Vorpal Sword is effectively a +3 sword with the added fun of decapitating enemies whenever you roll a natural 20 on your attack roll. This can instantly kill many monsters and enemies you’ll face, and with the four attacks that Fighters get every turn, you have the highest chance of having it happen.
How to Play a Purple Dragon Knight
When it comes to roleplaying a Purple Dragon Knight, I think it is helpful to imagine your stereotypical medieval knight. They are seen as beacons of honor, battle prowess, and culture in the Forgotten Realms, and it is a lot of fun to roleplay your character as such.
This means that they likely have a moral code or creed that they have to follow, knowledge of many aspects of life in the world, and are generally likable to others. Your character’s prowess and Charisma is also meant to serve as an inspiration to others, so an excellent way to roleplay that is by encouraging your fellow party members whenever you can.
However, you should also keep in mind that they are serving a more excellent lord in the grand scheme of things. This means that they should always consider how their actions will impact their lord and their image as well trying to do their best to help their ruler in any way. This makes them an excellent option for campaigns that have your party serving a ruler of any kind.
When it comes to playing a Purple Dragon Knight in combat, you should be on the frontlines even if you aren’t filling the role of Defender. Your character should be a seasoned warrior, meaning that they should have no fear of fighting, and being in the melee section of the battle will allow you to buff and support your party members as best as possible.
For your turns, I suggest focusing on damaging high-value targets first while using your features to help out your party members when appropriate. Since most of the class’ combat features are tied to a traditional Fighter feature, you shouldn’t have a hard time remembering to use them, and they’ll come up pretty frequently.
You should also make sure to pick a Fighting Style that fits well with your up-close combat style and play around with any combat feats you have, like Sentinel, to have as big of an impact as possible. Since your class is not solely devoted to combating, you may have a hard time being as influential as other Fighters, but that can be counteracted by playing to your strengths intelligently.
Question: What book is the Purple Dragon Knight found in?
Answer: The Purple Dragon Knight subclass for Fighters is in the supplement book Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
Question: What class is best for a Purple Dragon Knight to multiclass with?
Answer: I recommend multiclassing with Warlock, especially Hexblade Warlock, as it will take advantage of your Charisma the most and will give you a greater range of combat options.
Question: Can you use the Purple Dragon Knight subclass if you aren’t playing in the Forgotten Realms setting?
Answer: Yes, you can play a Purple Dragon Knight in any setting, but it is referred to as a Banneret instead if you aren’t in the Forgotten Realms.
The Purple Dragon Knight can be a difficult subclass to optimize and wrap your playstyle around because of its varied focuses. However, it can be an enjoyable challenge for experienced players to tackle, and it comes with some exciting roleplaying opportunities.
Its features are also all good or outstanding in their own right, so it is far from an underpowered subclass. It just lacks the synergy and focus that most other options have.
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