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PHBR1 The Complete Fighter's Handbook is a 128-page sourcebook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition released in 1989.

Official synopsis[]

Who says fighters are the poor cousins of the AD&D game? No one will say it aloud after reading the Complete Fighter's Handbook: 128 pages of mind-expanding advice on how to make your fighter the leanest, meanest threshing machine for leagues around. New weapons, new proficiencies, new fighting styles, and fighter "kits" make this optional AD&D accessory a useful item for players and DMs.


Character Creation[]

This chapter summarizes the existing AD&D character creation rules. It recommends that all Warrior classes (fighters, paladins, and rangers) start with maximum hit points on their starting hit die; this would later become a standard rule for all character classes in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000).

Detailed rules are described for armor and weapon crafting, over six pages.

Warrior Kits[]

This chapter introduces the reader to kits, specialist variant character classes. The kits described in this chapter are for all three Warrior classes (fighter, paladin, and ranger). The kits appearing in the chapter are:

  • The amazon, a female tribal warrior
  • The barbarian, a warrior from the edges of civilization
  • The beast-rider, a mounted tribal warrior
  • The berserker, a warrior ho can temporarily enter a rage
  • The cavalier, a mounted knight
  • The gladiator, a warrior who fights in tournaments
  • The myrmidon, a professional soldier
  • The noble warrior, a knight
  • The peasant hero, a local warrior admired by the common folk
  • The pirate/outlaw, a Robin Hood style character
  • The samurai, an honorable warrior who serves a lord
  • The savage, a Tarzan-like warrior from a primitive society
  • The swashbuckler, a Three Musketeers style fighter
  • The wilderness warrior, a hero of difficult terrain such as tundra or desert


This chapter describes various iconic warrior personalities and how to play them: as the brash youth, the crude crusher, the dangerous antagonist, the doomed champion, the fated philosopher, the merry showoff, the natural leader, the sneaky thinker.

The second part of the chapter describes how to run a campaign based primarily on warriors. Such a campaign setting may be magical, mostly non-magical or strictly non-magical; it might have only one fixed warrior type, or it may have a variety of warrior types. It describes what a world may look like dominated by each warrior kit, such as a tribal campaign were all warriors are barbarians, or a campaign where the player characters are all gladiators with different specialties.

Combat Rules[]

This chapter presents new combat optional combat rules: wielding weapons in an off-hand at a penalty, kneeling and sitting, and range and initiative. It describes ways of handling weapon proficiencies, including weapon group proficiency.

It describes fighting styles, giving four types: single-weapon (one-handed), two-handed weapon, weapon and shield, and two-weapon fighting. It describes the effect of specializing in each.

It introduces rules on "melee maneuvers": called shots, smashing something being held, bypassing armor by striking a weak spot, flashing special results like cutting one's initials into an opponent's shirt Zorro style or pinning someone to the wall with an arrow, disarming, grabbing, holding one's turn, parrying, pulling/tripping, sapping (nonlethal damage), shield-punch (shield bash), and shield-rush.

It particularly advises DMs "Don't Say No", a concept which would later become popular DMing advice during the 2000s, with many bloggers asserting that allowing players to attempt innovative actions is a positive style of DMing.

Expanded are given for unarmed combat, including punching, wrestling, and martial arts. Rules are also given for healing nonlethal damage, debilities like low-light conditions, mounted combat and jousting, and ending combats before everyone on one side is defeated (such as handling surreders). Tactics and other issues are discussed.


This chapter lists various existing weapons and introduces numerous new ones, including the bolas, bo stick, bone dagger, cestus, chain, cutlass, daikyu, drusus, katana, lasso, long spear, main-gauche, naginata, net, nunchaku, rapier, sabre, sai, shuriken, stiletto, stone dagger, stone javelin, stone knife, stone spear, tetsubo, trident, and wakizashi.

Variant rules for armor are provided, including different types of armor, different types of helmet, armor penalties to dexterity checks, helmet effects on vision and hearing, variant armor based on race, piecemeal armor (armor made of bits and pieces of a suit, or pieces of armor worn singly), and damage to armor.

Magic items appearing in this book are the bracelet of charms, cage of shelter, charm of favor, rings of readiness, saddle of the spirit-horse, sheath of holding, and shield of medusae. The non-magical atl-atl, spring-out spike and secret spring sheath are also listed.

Development and release[]


The Complete Fighter's Handbook was written by Aaron Allston and edited by Steve Winter, with typography by Angelika Lokotz. Color art was provided by John Lakey, Laura Lakey, Dough Chaffee and Jeff Easley, with black and white art by Valerie Valusek.


The Complete Fighter's Handbook was released in 1989 by TSR as a softcover book for $15.00. It is printed in the early AD&D 2nd edition internal style, matching the original core rulebooks.

On March 05, 2013, it was re-released in digital format. It is currently available on DriveThruRPG and Dungeon Masters Guild for $9.99.

Reception and influence[]

Critical reception[]

In the book's DriveThruRPG description, reviewer Kevin Kulp described PHBR1 The Complete Fighter's Handbook as fun, well-written, useful to both players and DMs, and a excellent example of how good layout and attention to layout can make a book more useful. It is crunch-heavy, and introduces a great deal of variety to playing a warrior class in AD&D. It is relatively well balanced compared to later sourcebooks in the PHBR series.[1]

As of 2023, The Complete Fighter's Handbook reached the rank of Gold seller on DriveThruRPG.

Influence on other works[]

The Complete Fighter's Handbook was the first sourcebook to introduce the concept of kits to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Many rules appearing in this book would go on to become standard rules in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. Examples include maximum hit dice at first level, the barbarian class, the rapier weapon, penalties for off-hand weapons, smashing held items (sundering), disarming, grappling, tripping, dealing nonlethal damage, and the shield bash.

External links[]


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Player's Handbook Rules Supplements
The Complete Fighter's HandbookThe Complete Thief's HandbookThe Complete Priest's HandbookThe Complete Wizard's HandbookThe Complete Psionics HandbookThe Complete Book of DwarvesThe Complete Bard's HandbookThe Complete Book of ElvesThe Complete Book of Gnomes & HalflingsThe Complete Book of HumanoidsThe Complete Ranger's HandbookThe Complete Paladin's HandbookThe Complete Druid's HandbookThe Complete Barbarian's HandbookThe Complete Ninja's Handbook
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition
Core rules
Player's HandbookDungeon Master Guide
Monstrous Compendium Volume OneMonstrous Compendium Volume TwoMonstrous Manual
First QuestIntroduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons GameThe Complete Starter SetDungeons & Dragons Adventure Game
Optional core rules
Player's Option: Combat & TacticsPlayer's Option: Skills & PowersPlayer's Option: Spells & Magic
Dungeon Master Option: High-Level CampaignsCampaign Option: Council of Wyrms
Supplement lines
Player's Handbook Rules SupplementDungeon Master's Guide Rules Supplement
Monstrous Compendium AppendixMonstrous Compendium Annual
Encyclopedia MagicaHistorical ReferenceThe Magic EncyclopediaMonstrous ArcanaPriest's Spell CompendiumWizard's Spell Compendium
Other supplements
Bastion of FaithBook of ArtifactsCastle SitesChronomancerCity SitesCollege of WizardryCountry SitesDen of ThievesDungeon Builder's GuidebookGuide to HellLegends & LoreRogues' GalleryShamanTome of MagicThe Vortex of Madness and Other Planar PerilsWarriors of HeavenWorld Builder's Guidebook
The Apocalypse StoneAxe of the Dwarvish LordsCleric's Challenge (II) • The Dancing Hut of Baba YagaDestiny of KingsDie Vecna Die!Dragon MountainDungeons of DespairFighter's Challenge (II) • The Gates of Firestorm PeakA Hero's TaleLabyrinth of MadnessThe Lost Shrine of BundushaturMoonlight MadnessThe Murky DeepNight Below: An Underdark CampaignA Paladin in HellReturn to the Tomb of HorrorsReverse DungeonRoad to DangerThe Rod of Seven PartsThe Shattered CircleThe Silver KeySwamplightTale of the CometTales of EnchantmentTemple, Tower, & TombThief's Challenge (II) • TSR Jam 1999Wizard's Challenge (II)