5E Nerfing Great Weapon Master
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  1. #1

    Nerfing Great Weapon Master

    I'm thinking a lot about mechanics today. Sorry. That's what days off do.

    In one of the longer 5E games I've had going, one of the players is a Barbarian with Great Weapon Master. On paper, -5 to hit for +10 damage seemed fine to me (especially since it costs an ASI, so it's more like -6 to hit for +9 damage):

    +7 to hit, 1d12+4 damage vs AC 15 (65% hit) is 7.15 damage
    +2 to hit, 1d12+14 damage vs AC 15 (40% hit) is 8.525 damage
    +8 to hit, 1d12+5 damage vs AC 15 (70% hit) is 8.375 damage (And yes, there's the cleave portion, but +2 Str also gets you ability checks, saves, and carrying capacity).

    It's real issue would be once someone already has Str 20, but that's fine; that's what they want to focus on.

    Well, that's what I thought. Then the barbarian had it with their Reckless Attack. 40% to hit turns into 64% to hit, so basically no penalty. Yes, it means he's very vulnerable to attack after, but he's taking half damage so it doesn't matter if he takes twice as many hits. Also, his foes are usually dead after 1 or 2 attacks at 1d12+14.

    Today, I had an idea that I was curious about. What if, instead of GWM being -5 to hit for +10 damage, it was Disadvantage for +10 damage (with the caveat that you cannot use it while you have disadvantage). Or would that take away the fun image of someone "power attacking" while blinded because they might as well swing for the fences?

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    IMO the real issue is barbarian always using reckless attack and just shruging off grating advantage to all enemies due to either being raging or just having a good AC coupled with enough hp to not having to worry to much (especially given how always using GWM shortens most fights thus reducing the number of incoming hits).
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  3. #3
    The real issue is the +10 damage.

    It effectively gives the character Strength 40.

    That simply can't be allowed to remain; it destroys the fundamental assumptions of the game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeviat View Post
    Today, I had an idea that I was curious about. What if, instead of GWM being -5 to hit for +10 damage, it was Disadvantage for +10 damage (with the caveat that you cannot use it while you have disadvantage). Or would that take away the fun image of someone "power attacking" while blinded because they might as well swing for the fences?
    It would certainly streamline the math. It's the obvious way that the ability should have worked, within the language of the system, before it was probably changed due to the inherent limitations on stacking disadvantage.

    The big problem that I see is when the attacker doesn't know that they have disadvantage. There are powers which inflict disadvantage as a reaction, or illusions which make you not realize when you're aiming at the wrong thing. If the PC tries to power attack, and then a nearby guardian inflicts disadvantage on the attack roll, how does that work?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    The real issue is the +10 damage.

    It effectively gives the character Strength 40.

    That simply can't be allowed to remain; it destroys the fundamental assumptions of the game.
    That seems like an exaggeration to me. The games have been functioning OK with this feat. I don't think it's a fundamental assumption that you don't do that much damage. There's a pretty wide range for acceptable damage built into the game without it breaking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeviat View Post
    I'm thinking a lot about mechanics today. Sorry. That's what days off do.

    In one of the longer 5E games I've had going, one of the players is a Barbarian with Great Weapon Master. On paper, -5 to hit for +10 damage seemed fine to me (especially since it costs an ASI, so it's more like -6 to hit for +9 damage):

    +7 to hit, 1d12+4 damage vs AC 15 (65% hit) is 7.15 damage
    +2 to hit, 1d12+14 damage vs AC 15 (40% hit) is 8.525 damage
    +8 to hit, 1d12+5 damage vs AC 15 (70% hit) is 8.375 damage (And yes, there's the cleave portion, but +2 Str also gets you ability checks, saves, and carrying capacity).

    It's real issue would be once someone already has Str 20, but that's fine; that's what they want to focus on.

    Well, that's what I thought. Then the barbarian had it with their Reckless Attack. 40% to hit turns into 64% to hit, so basically no penalty. Yes, it means he's very vulnerable to attack after, but he's taking half damage so it doesn't matter if he takes twice as many hits. Also, his foes are usually dead after 1 or 2 attacks at 1d12+14.

    Today, I had an idea that I was curious about. What if, instead of GWM being -5 to hit for +10 damage, it was Disadvantage for +10 damage (with the caveat that you cannot use it while you have disadvantage). Or would that take away the fun image of someone "power attacking" while blinded because they might as well swing for the fences?
    I don't think changing it to disadvantage will help the problem much. Under many circumstances, a -5 is actually a bigger penalty. Granted, disadvantage also impacts crit chance, but that's relatively minimal from a DPR standpoint.

    What I did was make power attack once per round, but reduced the penalty to -2. Yes, that makes it more powerful prior to level 5 (it doesn't bother me). Admittedly, my change was addressing a much different concern than yours. I play with some very math oriented players and also some players who aren't very good at math. My change is intended to more or less equalize the playing field. But it may help your issue as well. After all, it's less than 10 extra damage per round. Agonizing blast has a similar impact starting at 5th level, and only increases from there.

  7. #7
    Don't feel obliged to be a "cool" DM if you don't like the feat. Just take it out.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
    That seems like an exaggeration to me. The games have been functioning OK with this feat. I don't think it's a fundamental assumption that you don't do that much damage. There's a pretty wide range for acceptable damage built into the game without it breaking.
    Its out of whack with those assumptions though. Look at class functions like the hunter bonus damage, +2 damage off the duelist fighting style, the clerics bonus dice of damage at level 8. Even spells as class features hunters quarry and hex.

  9. #9
    It really isn't a problem. But do whatever


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    Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
    Its out of whack with those assumptions though. Look at class functions like the hunter bonus damage, +2 damage off the duelist fighting style, the clerics bonus dice of damage at level 8. Even spells as class features hunters quarry and hex.
    That's the thing. Depending on the enemy's AC (and the player's skill at calculating probability) power attack can be a huge boon or a serious detriment.

    For example, assume a 50% hit chance. A 20 Strength warrior with a great sword deals about 6 DPR. Using power attack, his DPR drops to about 5.5, because even though his damage increases his accuracy drops to 25%.

    Now, admittedly, PCs typically have a better than 50% hit rate. But under many circumstances power attack is a comparable increase to things like duelist fighting style.

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