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"Darkest Dungeon" Guide: How to Use Man-at-Arms

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Darkest Dungeon is a pretty tough game the first time you jump into it. Characters will die, you'll struggle to keep your party sane, and it can be overwhelming at first glance to choose who to take on your next quest.

These guides are designed to help with that. Each installment focuses on a character class, discusses each of their skills, and gives you a general build or two to try out.

Note that these aren't intended to be “perfect” guides but more of a roadmap for the newer player who wants some help getting their head around things. Please leave a comment if you feel anything has been left out so that we can all benefit from it.

It's also worth noting that Darkest Dungeon has undergone repeated alterations and tweaks to class skills as it has been developed. Therefore, whilst these guides will strive to be as accurate as possible, by the time you are reading them, all of the information may not be 100% correct, so always double check with your game in case skill properties have been altered in some way.

Man-at-Arms is usually deployed in the front lines to soak up damage and counterattack.

Man-at-Arms is usually deployed in the front lines to soak up damage and counterattack.


Of all the character classes in Darkest Dungeon, the Man-at-Arms is the most defensive of all the melee-focused units. Many of his attacks revolve around keeping him at the front, protecting the party or buffing his comrades. In addition, he's the only character to get a built-in counter-attack with one of his skills, Retribution.

The main challenge for the Man-at-Arms is that he's in a very aggressive game. Darkest Dungeon is simply not the place to have a character whose sole job is to soak him up damage. Therefore, it's the Man-at-Arms job to use his decent HP and damage stats to his advantage, being as proactive as possible whilst still being able to utilize his awesome defensive potential.

Man-at-Arms Skill Guide


Position: 1st, 2nd rank

Target: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

The Man-at-Arms standard attacking skill is solid enough, if a little lacklustre when compared to the likes of the Crusader and Bounty Hunter. The primary advantage is that he can hit that all-important third rank. In many instances, some of your combat units, like the Crusader, might not be able to hit further down the enemy line, and that can be a problem against some enemies. Fortunately, thanks to Crush, the Man-at-Arms doesn't have that problem.


Position: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

Target: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

The Man-at-Arms stun ability is also one of his best overall skills. In addition to being able to hit three ranks deep, the move also pushes him forward, giving him a built in defence against being surprised, or against enemies with movement skills.

What's more, the move causes the target to be pushed back as well. This can be great for keeping a troublesome combat unit out of combat. Not only will they hopefully lose their next turn thanks to being stunned, they're likely to have to waste another round moving back into optimal attacking position.


Position: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

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Target: All

In addition to his combat potential, the Man-at Arms has a theme of buffing and debuffing throughout his skills. Bellow is the first ability to showcase that, inflicting all enemies with a dodge and speed debuff.

This can be useful for pressing the advantage, and ensuring your characters can to strike first on subsequent turns. However, given the Man-at-Arms mediocre speed rating, you're still going to have to weather some blows before you can have him pull this off. Even worse, you have to sacrifice a whole turns of damage from the Man-at-Arms (Bellow has a -90% damage modifier) which can be a tough pill to swallow for some party configurations.


Position: Any

Target: Any

Defender, as the name suggests, is a pure tanking skill designed to soak up hits. In addition to giving the Man-at-Arms a significant protection buff of 25%, the character will guard another character, protecting them from blows.

Whilst obviously helpful, the usually caveat applies that pure defence is risky in Darkest Dungeon because it leads to protracted battles. There's too much randomness to run the risk of extending fights in many cases, and prolonging encounters simply increases the amount of variance in your game.

The one interesting combination is when Defender is combined with Retribution. With Retribution active, the Man-at-Arms will counter-attack hits, whilst Defender ensures that a weaker party member is protected and that the Man-at-Arms is stronger thanks to the protection buff.


Position: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

Target: 1st, 2nd or 3rd rank

Easily the character's most interesting skill, Retribution marks the Man-at-War, making him more likely to be attacked, whilst also triggering the riposte status, meaning he will counter-attack any hits against him.

On its own this move is already decent due to the fact that it already draws aggression towards the Man-at-Arms. However, when combined with Defender, the character is able to increase the number of counter-attacks by also soaking up hits directed at another player.

This is perfect for the Man-at-War. Not only does he get to do what he's good at, defending, he's able to do it in a way that enables him to put his decent damage output to good use and kill enemies. The fact that it does all of this and protects weaker party members just makes it all the better.

Make sure to upgrade the skill as soon as possible. Each subsequent upgrade of Retribution grants the character a number of buffs to his damage, accuracy and critical hit rate. The more this skill is improved, the more potent those buffs get.


Position: Any

Target: All

A party-wide buff that improves all your units' accuracy. Whilst there's certainly a benefit to improving accuracy in some situations it's rarely the most important stat that wants to be buffed during combat.

As always, the fact that this also results in the Man-at-Arms effectively “losing out” on a round of damage, makes taking skills like these even less appealing.


Position: Any

Target: All

Definitely the stronger of the Man-at-Arms two “leadership” abilities, Bolster provides both a buff to your party's dodge and speed ratings. This is much more interesting than simply improving accuracy, since dodge helps improve your defense, and even a minor boost in speed will have many party members getting the jump on the enemy.

There's still the pain of using up one of your combat units turn doing something passive, but, with clever use of Retribution, there are ways to work around that.

Sample Man-at-Arms Builds

Here's two different builds to try with the Man-at-Arms:

“Lead from the Front”

  • Crush
  • Rampart
  • Defender
  • Retribution

This is the conventional set-up for the Man-at-Arms. Crush and Rampart give the character the usual combat skills much like a Crusader, whilst the Defender/Retribution combo means he can help out tremendously when taking part in longer fights, such as boss encounters.

The Man-at-Arms combines tremendously well with characters like the Vestal, Occultist and Jester. Not only do they provide him with healing, or in the Jester's case access to buffs and stress reduction, but, in return he can protect these weaker characters thanks to Defender.

“Lead from the Back”

  • Bellow
  • Bolster
  • Defender
  • Retribution

A less straightforward build, this is useful for when your front ranks are taken up by better combat units like the Crusader or Hellion, yet you still want to take a Man-at-Arms along. The Defender/Retribution combo remains intact, but, instead of having access to attacking skills, the Man-at-Arms now uses buffs and debuffs. Between Bellow and Bolster you will attack before your opponent, and, with a little luck, you won't even get hit back thanks to the dodge boost.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Man-at-War definitely suffers when compared to the more focused damage-dealing melee classes in Darkest Dungeon. His skills aren't as strong offensively, and he runs the risk of simply treading water by simply not doing all that much each turn. However, with thought to your party composition, the Man-at-Arms can be a useful unit to bring along, improving the survivability of your whole team and bringing some decent damage dealing potential to boot.

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