Like an army on the march, we have come to an end of our campaign. I have led us through the various character background options in the D&D 5th Edition player's Handbook. And now here we are with the last one: the soldier.
What is it?
The soldier is made for war. They served in a formal military of some kind.They were part of a command structure, either as an officer or as a rank and file soldier. They are used to taking orders, and perhaps giving them. They may have had a specialty. Maybe the were scouts or saboteurs. Or perhaps they simply held a pike and met the enemy on the field of battle.
How can my class use it?
Soldier is the obvious choice for martial classes. Fighters are especially common here. Rangers make great scouts or guerrilla combatants. Barbarians are excellent soldiers if a tribal society goes to war. Paladins are prevalent as soldiers in religious conflicts or crusades, but are possible even in more traditional conflicts especially those with strong moral or ideological overtones. Bards make excellent support units, and many premodern militaries had musicians to help keep troops in step and inspire them on the battlefield, so it wouldn't be amiss. Or you might explain away your inspiration of others as brilliant and charismatic commanding, and be an officer of some kind. Clerics make for great battlefield healers and medics, and druid would do passing well at this role as well. Monks are probably less common, but they might make for decent skirmishers or spies. The same can be said for rogues, who might also fall into reconnaissance or saboteur roles, or even as assassins designed to target enemy commanders. Warlocks would likely take to the field of war on behalf of their patron, though they might have other personal motives for doing so. A hexblade especially seems to fit the role here. As far as sorcerers and wizards go, war magic is something that can be quite potent on a battlefield, and casters can act as snipers or artillery with the appropriate spells, or otherwise supplement the army with various utility abilities. It would be a poor army that doesn't have any spellcasters in a world where magic is reasonably prevalent.
Why should I use it?
Honestly, the advantages of a soldier are a little underwhelming. Not enough to be useless, but not enough to incentivize me to pick it over other backgrounds based solely on mechanical reasons. The skills proficiencies are athletics and intimidation, which are decent skills, but not something that's especially game changing like perception, and if your group is noncombative, they might not even be all that useful (not that it's particularly shocking to say a soldier wouldn't excel in noncombat situations.) The Feature is likewise a bit lackluster. It can be great if the DM takes effort to incorporate it, but it could very easily be rendered obsolete if you don't find yourself interacting with the military force you were once part of. Really, the best thing I see mechanically is in the tool proficiencies. Land vehicles isn't an especially common get, and gaming sets can be fun to play around with, especially if they're used for gambling.
What if I play a system other than D&D?
The soldier is best known for formal military training. Whether this be as a man-at-arms in a medieval setting, a modern rifleman, or a futuristic space marine, the premise is the same. Know matters of war and tactics, and you will be in the right place to play a soldier.
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- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.