Bulwark (5e Class)

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Trained by the Order of the Defenders, Bulwarks are all specifically trained in the art of defending allies and surviving almost anything.

"Ever seen a Gnome Bulwark ? No ? Worst day of my life fighting against that..." Hobgoblin champion

"And then this elf chick walks up to them and asks "Need a healer in your party?"; so he points at me brother and replies "No thanks, we've got him!"; She glances at the guy, wide as he's tall, and he's tall me bro, sees the shield & insignia on it and winces, then goes "Oh... maybe next time." ! Hahaha ! You should've seen the look on her face !" Bulwark Joke

The Bulwark Protectors[edit]

"Being a Bulwark is more than being big, tough, and heavy. There is a subtle finesse and skill to it... or so any Bulwark would tell you, but I can never tell if they're joking or not.

Initially a simple military garrison, the Order of the Defenders was eventually formed by the troops, state and mercenary, assigned to protect a single mountain pass fort during one of the many wars that shaped the current borders.

The war lasted longer than any anticipated, and 2 others followed soon on its heel before a long time of peace.

The constant need for a permanent defence force in that one remote isolated fort, forged its people into a unique autonomous militaristic guild of sort, and the ideals of the Order were passed on down the generations.

After a long time during the peace era, they were... ahem, remembered by the crown holding claim to that one fort, and given great praise for their unyielding protection of the kingdom from it's enemies. Many commanders of the Order were given nobility titles. However, they did not retire. Instead, using the monetary resources awarded to them and their newfound influence, they founded a fully independent mercenary order. The one we know of as the Order of the Defenders.

Using this newfound base, they recruited those of the warriors of that mountain fort that would not set down their shields and retire as was offered to them. Most of the legendary garrison joined. Now time has passed, and the Order recruits and trains aspirants to become Bulwarks, giant shield wielders using a combat style forged in the harsh constantly besieged snowy passes of that fort. Their repute is that of the toughest individuals one can ever find amongst mercenaries. And the fact that the fighting style and ideals of the Order train them to shield others from harm, makes them the most valued and expensive bodyguards money can buy."

Archivist Emerdine

Creating a Bulwark[edit]

Who trained you and where? Why were you being trained? Sometimes, criminals are taken in by the Order and trained to protect instead of kill. Was it your choice to become a Bulwark, or is some 3rd party involved? What are your ambitions for the future? Mercenary work is where one most often finds Bulwarks, but other lines of work exist with men & women like these strong and tough individuals. What are your hobbies? Any other skills? Any friends? Enemies?

The most important aspect of character when creating an impenetrable Bulwark is most definitely their inner weakness. So what is yours and who knows about it? Character flaws are going to be quite important to the way your character evolves as a person, so take your time to think them through.

Bulwarks have Powerful build and are taller than normal, however you cannot go past the limited height on your race.

Quick Build

You can make a Bulwark quickly by following these suggestions. First, Constitution should be your highest ability score, followed by Strength. Second, choose the Soldier or Mercenary background. Third, choose the Chain Mail, the Longsword, the hand Crossbow and the Explorer's Pack.

Class Features

As a Bulwark you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d12 per Bulwark level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 12 + Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d12 (or 7) + Constitution modifier per Bulwark level after 1st


Armor: All armors, shields
Weapons: Simple Weapons, martial weapons
Tools: Smith's tools
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Survival


You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • chain mail and shield
  • (a) longsword or (b) any martial weapon
  • (a) dungeoneer's Pack or (b) explorer's Pack
  • If you are using starting wealth, you have 5d4 x 10 gp in funds.

Table: The Bulwark

Level Proficiency
Features Strain points
1st +2 The Strain of Might, The Bulwark Shield, 1
2nd +2 Armour Expertise, Tactics of Sacrifice, Reflexes of Survival and Sacrifice 2
3rd +2 Bulwark Archetype Feature 3
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement 4
5th +3 Extra Attack 5
6th +3 The Bulwark Shield, Bulwark Archetype Feature 6
7th +3 Bulwark Archetype Feature 7
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement 8
9th +4 Bulwark Archetype Feature 9
10th +4 Skills of Survival and Sacrifice, Great Strength 10
11th +4 Extra Attack 11
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement 12
13th +5 Bulwark Archetype Feature 13
14th +5 The Bulwark Shield, Mind of Metal 14
15th +5 Bulwark Archetype Feature 15
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement 16
17th +6 Might of Survival and Sacrifice 17
18th +6 Survivor's Reward 18
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 19
20th +6 The Might of Strain 20

The Bulwark Shield[edit]

After your training as a stoic defender, you were given one of the Greatshields that are the namesake of the Order. Starting 1st level, you gain a special shield called the "Bulwark Greatshield". If you lose your greatshield, you can use the smith's tools to turn a regular shield in a bulwark greatshield, by spending 50 gp in materials. The shield have the following properties:

  • It grants you +3 to your AC, instead of +2.
  • If you haven't moved on your turn, you can use your bonus action to give yourself and all friendly creatures within 5 feet half cover. Your movement speed is reduced to 0 until the start of your next turn when you do so.
  • While wielding the greatshield, your size is considered one size larger for the purposes of grapple and shove attempts and for your Bulwark features.
  • When you would need to make a Dexterity saving throw you can make a Strength saving throw instead.

The Strain of Might[edit]

Starting at 1st level, you have a resource called strain. Your strain maximum equals your Bulwark level, as shown on the Maximum Strain column on the Bulwark table. Whenever you finish a long rest, your strain is reduced to 0.

Some features you use give you strain, and you can accumulate strain up to your maximum. If you use a feature that gives you strain while your strain accumulated is at your maximum, you suffer a number of levels of exhaustion equal to the strain you would gain.

You can choose one of the following techniques at 1st level, then choose another one at 6th and 14th levels.

Great Bash

"Swinging that shield around is definitely not as easy as you make it look!"

As an action, you can choose to gain 1 strain to make a single melee attack with your greatshield. On a hit, you cause 1d8 bludgeoning damage. The damage increases to 2d8 at 7th level, 3d8 at 11th level and 4d8 at 15th level.

In addition, if the creature is one size larger of you or smaller, it must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier). On a failed save, you can apply one of the following effects:

  • Creature is stunned until the end of its next turn.
  • Creature takes additional 2d6 damage.
Great Push

"Towing that huge Bulwark shield around all day as part of your training has given you a strong sense of balance as well as Kord-like muscles."

As an Action, you can choose to gain 1 strain to force a creature of one size larger than you or smaller that you are in melee range of, to make a Strength or Dexterity Saving Throw (its choice) against a DC of 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier. On a failure, you can choose one of the following effects:

  • The creature is knocked prone and takes 2d6 bludgeoning damage. This damage increases to 3d6 at 7th level, 4d6 at 11th level and 5d6 at 15th level.
  • The creature is violently pushed back 20 feet. If it collides with anything solid enough, such as a creature or object of its same size or larger, or a immovable structure, it takes 1d6 damage for each 10 feet pushed, plus an extra 1d8 bludgeoning damage. Objects and creatures hit by the creature take half the damage dealt to the target of the push. The distance pushed increases to 30 feet at 7th level, 40 feet at 11th level and 50 feet at 15th level.
Great Leap

"Jumping to the rescue has been pounded into your mind and body, allowing you to cover some distances in very fast long jumps."

As an Action, you can choose to gain 1 strain to jump 15 feet in any direction. You can jump towards a space occupied by another creature, that creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier), or take 1d6 bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. On a success, you fall on a unoccupied space within 5 feet of that creature. The damage increases to 2d6 at 7th level, 3d6 at 11th level and 4d6 at 15th level.

Tactics of Sacrifice[edit]

At 2nd level, you have learned when to make a stand... and when to run. Some abilities require Sacrifice, meaning reducing a certain value by a certain amount, until the effect ends. Tactics of sacrifice require a bonus action to be used, and last for 1 minute, or until you are incapacitated. You can choose to end them earlier, using a bonus action.

You can have only one tactic of sacrifice active at the same time.

Leg Focus

As a Bonus Action, you can sacrifice 1 AC to gain 10 feet of movement for 1 minute. At 10th level, you can sacrifice 3 AC to gain 20 feet of movement for 1 minute.

Shield Focus

As a Bonus Action, you may Sacrifice 10 feet of movement to gain 1 AC for 1 minute. At 10th level, you may sacrifice 20 feet of movement to gain 3 AC for 1 minute. You must be wielding a shield to use this focus.

Reflexes of Survival and Sacrifice[edit]

At 2nd level, your body moves by instinct to protect.

"This is what you were trained for, believe in it and the rewards will be greater than you can imagine."

Full Sacrifice

When an allied creature within 15 feet is targeted by an attack, you can use your reaction and gain 1 strain to move to an unoccupied space within 5 feet of that creature and take the attack in its place, causing the attack to target you instead. You must use this reaction before you know if the attack hits or misses.

At 10th level, you halve the damage taken if the attack hits. At 17th level, the attack that is being redirected onto you have disadvantage.

Partial Sacrifice

As a Reaction, you may take half of the damage from an attack targeting or affecting (Area of effect spells) target ally within 15ft of you. That ally takes half the damage they would otherwise take from that attack. using this ability gives you a point of strain

Unpredictable Defense

As a Reaction, You may sacrifice 3AC to impose disadvantage on all attacks made by target enemy against target ally within 5ft of you until the start of your next turn. using this ability gives you a point of strain

Shield Expertise[edit]

Starting at 2nd level, you can use a reaction, before enemy attack rolls are made, to force all enemies within 5 feet of you to make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus+ your Constitution modifier). On a failed save, a creature have disadvantage on attack rolls made against creatures other than you until the start of your next turn.

Bulwark Archetype[edit]

"You now know enough of your deep nature and how you react in a crisis to choose your Path as a Bulwark."

At 3rd level, you choose an archetype feature out of the different Paths of the Bulwark.

Ability Score Increase[edit]

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature or choose a talent.

Extra Attack[edit]

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

The number of attacks increases to three when you reach 11th level in this class.

Skills of Survival and Sacrifice[edit]

At 10th level, these abilities become available:

Trick Opening

"Trick... or Treat ? Depends on whether they dare..."

As a Bonus Action, You may sacrifice 4 AC to impose disadvantage on all attacks against you until the start of your next turn.

Tighten the Flesh

"Its just a flesh wound, and my flesh is mostly made of muscles...*hunmg!*... See ? No more blood !"

As a Bonus Action, you can regain a number of hit points equal to twice your strain point maximum. Once you use this ability, you can't use it again until you finish a short rest.

Swift Burst

"You learn to walk into them at first, then you learn to walk over them..."

As a Bonus Action, you can force all creatures within 5 feet to make a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier) or be knocked prone.

Mind of Metal[edit]

At 14th level, you become able to shield even your mind from prying enemies. You have advantage on saving throws made to resist the charmed condition. You also have advantage on resisting any attempt at reading your mind.

Might of Survival and Sacrifice[edit]

At level 17, these abilities become available.

Ultimate Smite

You Smite an enemy with all your might.

As an Action make a melee attack against a creature within range, this attack is a critical on an 18, 19 or 20.

On a hit, you deal 10d12+(current Strain)bludgeoning damage to target creature.

Using this ability gives you 10 points of Strain.

Ultimate Rescue

You shield an ally from all incoming damage.

As a Reaction, you jump to target creature within 25ft and it becomes immune to all damage until the start of your next turn.

Using this ability gives you 5 points of Strain.

Survivor's Reward[edit]

At 18th level, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage

The Might of Strain[edit]

At 20th level, when you take a short rest, you can remove 10 points of accumulated Strain.

Bulwark Archetypes[edit]

Path of the Protector[edit]

"The Protector focuses on saving allies from damage and taking hits for them. They sacrifice more but gain more from their sacrifice."


At level 3 : For every two points of Strain accumulated (rounded down but can be no lower than 1 if you have at least one point accumulated), you reduce all damage taken by 1.

Life Before Death

At level 6 : Full Sacrifice's radius increases to 25ft.

Increased Focus

At level 7 : Shield Focus's sacrifice costs are halved and its duration is doubled (reduces speed by 5ft and 10ft respectively for 2 minutes). Activating Shield Focus now gives a point of Strain.

Big Basher

At level 9 : Great Bash is now usable without a Bulwark Greatshield, does 1d8 extra damage and can affect huge creatures.

Effortless Jumps

At level 13 : Great Leap no longer gives Strain.

Forceful Burst

At level 15 : Swift Burst now deals 4d8 bludgeoning damage to any creature failing the save.

Path of the Survivor[edit]

"The Survivor focuses on just that : surviving by any means, even dishonourable ones when necessary."

Forced March

At level 3 : For every 2 points of Strain accumulated, you gain 5ft of movement.

Long Jump

At level 6 : Partial Sacrifice's radius increases to 25ft.


At level 7 : Leg Focus's benefits are doubled (increases speed to 20ft and 40ft respectively for 2 minutes). Activating leg Focus now gives a point of Strain.

Intimidating Push

At level 9 : Great Push now causes the target creature to become intimidated by you if it fails its saving throw. That creature has disadvantage on all attacks made directly against you until the start of your next turn.

Toughened Constitution

At level 13 : You gain resistance to 2 damage types of your choice.

Effortless Trick

At level 15 : Trick Opening's sacrifice cost is halved down to a -2 AC penalty.


Prerequisites. To qualify for multiclassing into the Bulwark class, you must meet these prerequisites: 14 Strength, 14 Constitution

Proficiencies. When you multiclass into the Bulwark class, you gain the following proficiencies: Athletics or Intimidation, heavy armor and martial weapons.

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