Hello all and welcome back to our third installment in the Underrated or Underpowered series, where we take a look at different spells, subclasses, and abilities and determine if they’re woefully underrated or sadly underpowered! Today we will be taking a look at the Purple Dragon Knight, more generally known as the Banneret, that was released with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Fifth edition’s spiritual successor to the ever loved Warlord in Fourth edition, we’ll take a look at all of its abilities and see how it stacks up to both its ancestors and other available subclasses in Fifth edition!
The Knight’s Code
Kicking off our subclass which we acquire at level 3 for the Fighter is the Rallying Cry ability. Whenever you use your Second Wind feature, you choose up to three target creatures within 60 feet and they regain hit points equal to your fighter level. Heals are always nice, and being able to top off allies behind you or on the front lines with you is always appreciated. However, since healing in Fifth edition is never the most useful option, it’s also kind of a useless ability. Many times when you use Second Wind, you’ll be the one taking most of the hits and if you are taking most of the hits… that means your allies are not. Likewise, if your allies are low, you’ll be more often than not be at full HP, making you less inclined to want to use your Second Wind. Perhaps the most useful application of this ability would be if you saved Second Wind to before a short rest and you use it to top yourself and three allies off to save a hit die or two… The final nail in the coffin is that the ally must be able to see or hear you, meaning if they’re incapacitated with 0 HP, tough luck buddy, better hope you’ve got someone with healing word in the party.
Royal Envoy at level 7 allows you to gain proficiency in the Persuasion skill. If you already have this proficiency, then you get to choose from Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, or Performance. Additionally, you gain expertise in Persuasion, doubling your proficiency bonus for all checks. Now, Persuasion is viewed as the king of face skills, being desired by Bards, Sorcerers, Paladins, Warlocks… well maybe not Warlocks. But you notice which class isn’t included? The Fighter. Often times Charisma, even more so than Intelligence, is going to be dumped for the Fighter. While the ability is extremely flavorful, it just doesn’t seem very useful, when Bards, whose main stat is charisma, are more than likely choosing Persuasion for their expertise at level 3 and even some Rogues at level 1. These classes excel out of combat, and gaining expertise and taking those social situations away from them can lead to a feeling of toe stepping and animosity at the table. However, if it’s established early in the game that you will be the party face, this ability helps you excel at that!
At level 10, we gain the Inspiring Surge ability! When you use your Action Surge ability, you can chose an ally within 60 feet of you. Using their reaction, that creature can make one melee or ranged attack, provided it can hear you. This ability really leans into the Warlord aspect of the class, allowing your Action Surge to deal a little extra hurt. Use this with the party rogue, and they’ll love you for letting them hit their sneak attack twice in a round. Sadly, this is where the fun ends. Only being able to do this once per short rest is kind of miserable. The ability is also only really useful if you are coupled with the aforementioned rogue, a paladin, perhaps even a ranger. Your spellcasters will sadly never see the light of this ability. We’ll talk about how bad it is later when we mention some other classes, but for now it’s just a disappointing 10th level ability, barely improving on an already spectacular feature.
Level 15 brings us Bulwark, which similarly to the rest of the PDK’s abilities enhances a core class feature, this one enhancing Indomitable. When you use your Indomitable ability, you can choose an ally within 60 feet of you that failed the same save and allow them to reroll its saving throw. Now, I’ve mentioned that being able to reroll saving throws is an amazing ability. Getting a second chance to escape those slow spells, take half damage from a fireball, or otherwise succeed is always welcome. However, being able to only extend this benefit once – and eventually twice – per long rest feels incredibly underwhelming for such a high level ability. You can’t use it if you succeed the saving throw, and it feels wasted if you’re the only one who fails the saving throw and you want to use this feature. All in all… it fits the class, giving underwhelming bonuses to spectacular class features
At level 18 you get… wait. Nothing?? You get NOTHING at level 18?? Oh, you can choose TWO allies with Inspiring Surge instead of just ONE. This just adds insult to injury to an already underwhelming subclass.
Knights of the Round Table
Now, I’ve had to restrain myself from comparing all of these abilities to their better counterparts, because each and every one of these has something that easily outclasses the ability, some of them even being found in other fighter subclasses. Let’s have a look.
Rallying Cry is immediately and obviously outclassed by Healing Word. Healing Word is available to the Bard, Cleric, and Druid. Chances are you’re going to have one of these classes in your party, and more often than not they will have Healing Word prepared. Healing Word doesn’t require the incapacitated ally to look up and acknowledge that you’re trying to bring them back from the brink of death. Healing Word is also a bonus action, just like Second Wind, so it doesn’t interfere with your normal action economy. It even has the same range!
Inspiring Surge is easily outclassed by the Battle Master’s Commander’s Strike. Instead of doing it once per short rest, you can do it up to FIVE TIMES per short rest with the Battle Master! Instead of being contingent on you deciding when to use your action surge, it only takes you a bonus action and one of your attacks from your attack action to proc the ally’s attack. With Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, we also got the Order Cleric, which can do the same thing whenever they use a spell of 1st level or higher on an ally. Remember Healing Word? It’s a real good spell, and it’ll let you use this up to four times… by level 3! Just like the Battle Master! You don’t have to wait until level 10 to do it once per short rest.
Ahh, and Bulwark. You’ll mostly want to save your Indomitable feature for big saving throws, things like disintegrate, finger of death, a dragon’s breath weapon, etc. Chances are, if you’re using Indomitable on one of these abilities, you’re in a big boss fight. You know what Clerics do before big boss fights? They use Holy Aura, which they also get at level 15. This gives advantage on ALL saving throws, to ALL of your party members. Even aside from that, many classes have abilities of their own that allow them to succeed on saving throws. Bulwark just isn’t that useful sadly compared to the tools other classes can bring.
I don’t even have anything at level 18 to compare with. Samurais literally don’t die, Eldritch Knights can Fireball and swing a sword on the same turn, Champions regain HP, Battle Masters get d12 for their superiority dice, Cavaliers gain a million reactions, and Purple Dragon Knight gets nothing. How sad.
The Final Verdict
So I don’t know if it’s blatantly obvious by now, but I’m going to have to give the Purple Dragon Knight a big fat Underpowered. All of its abilities are outclassed by other classes, it doesn’t bring anything new or unique to the table, and it only buffs the core class abilities in a way that isn’t useful to the fighter. Can you make an interesting character with the Purple Dragon Knight? Absolutely. Can you also do the same with any other subclass? Aboslutely. It makes me so sad to see that the Warlord didn’t make it into Fifth edition, and it makes me even sadder that this is the closest thing we get to such an incredible class. Sorry for the negativity, this subclass makes me so sad because of what it could have been. Maybe we’ll write an article eventually about it.
As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope that you enjoyed the article. Feel free to discuss down below or in the newly built forums! Fancy! If you enjoyed the article feel free to give us a follow on our social medias, and I’ll make sure to keep updating with this series. I couldn’t do it without you guys, so thank you so much!