D&D 5E Are some Fighting Styles worthless, and how could they be fixed?


You do need to remember to put these capabilities into context.

Dueling, for example, can add 16 damage to your attacks during a round at 20th level (with an action surge - maybe 20 with haste and a reaction attack)... but to benefit from it you must be wielding a weapon that inherently deals less damage than our high water mark two handed weapons. It takes you from so-so damage to pretty good damage.

Great Weapon Fighting, which does less than you you suggested (your average six sider goes from an average of 3.5 to 4.1666666, which means a great sword goes from an average of 7 to 8.3333 which is only a 1.333 increase while a great axe goes from an average of 6.5 to 7.3333 which is only 0.8333333 on an increase per attack), pushes the envelope. You're talking about one of the highest damage options out there and you're increasing that damage to even higher levels. It wasn't an oversight that it adds less damage - they were very intentional about it. It would have been obvious and easier to make great weapon master better by just letting you reroll any damage dice. On a 2d6 weapon that would give you 4.25 damage per die if used on sub average rolls (for 8.5 average damage), and a greataxe would go from 6.5 to 8.58 - making them comparable to great swords ... but they intentionally did not do that and restricted it futher because they realized that great weapon fighters are amongst the most agressive at damage dealing in 5E and didn't want to push the envelope that far.

Blind fighting, is situationally useless - but if you build around it is insanely powerful. How would you feel if this feature was "all of your melee attacks are at advantage, your enemy's attacks are all at disadvantage, and you can't be the target of spells that require that you be seen". This is pretty close to what we saw with an Eldritch Knight Drow build that focused on obtaining a Ring of Obscurement at low level (fog cloud 1 to 3 times per day). 3 to 5 Fog Clouds per day - on a build that was decently stealthy - at level 3. The most common combat start was to spy, drop fog cloud or darkness as a surprise and then charge in and start killing. The entire party built around it and it became their iconic method of getting in there and killing foes. At higher level they were all using darkness and seeing through the darkness.

Protection is underrated. Let's say you've got an ogre attacking an ally within 5 feet of you and the ally has an AC of 17. At a +6 to hit, that ogre will critical 5% of the time, and hit normally 45% of the time. A critical will deal 18, and a normal hit 11. Average damage is 5.85. Now, if you give that attack disadvantage, the chance to get a critical hit is 0.25% (1 in 400) and the chance to get a normal hit is 24.75%. (99 in 400). The average damage drops to 2.7675 - A savings of over 3 damage - every round, potentially. While doing so, the chances of that high damage critical that just flat out kills a low level PC are nearly eliminated. Further, this scales at higher levels as enemies deal more damage. If an AC 25 ally is being attacked by a storm giant you are potentially saving them from 16.05 down to 7.68. That is like a first level healing spell per round. Healing is often less effective than damage dealing (cure wounds heals 1d8+ wisdom while an attack usually gets to add magic weapon damage, bonus damage from spells like divine favor, and can potentially start at 2d6 rather than 1d8). I'm not saying this isn't one of the weakest options ... but it is not so far behind other options like many people think.

My suggestion for DMs that think some of these need augmentation: Don't change them. Instead, give your PCs an opportunity to earn a boon from a task performed for a church and allow that 'Boon' to augment an underpowered ability for each PC. You don't mess with the rules, and you instead give them PC something that makes them feel special.

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I was looking at some third party altered fighting styles, and it got me thinking more about something that's been in the back of my mind for years.

Some fighting styles are utter crap.

Possible hyperbole aside, in my experience, some fighting styles are worth taking, and I think the others really need something to make them worthwhile alternatives.

The main worthwhile fighting styles are Archery, Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting (in theory), and Two-Weapon Fighting. Defense works fine as (most) every Champion's second fighting style. From the optional fighting styles introduced later, Thrown Weapon Fighting also does its job, and Unarmed Fighting works about as well as it can if you are going for that niche concept.

The others aren't worth taking over those (and neither is swapping your fighting style for a cantrip for ranger and paladin). The reason is that the fighting styles listed do something you don't want to give up. They directly (or indirectly but reliably in the case of Archery) increase your at-will, round after round damage output. That additional damage (along with your d10 HD) helps define the primary warrior classes. (Barbarians and monks have their own thing going on.) You get good hit points, extra damage with your martial weapons, and Extra Attack. Giving up that reliable, round after round extra damage is a sacrifice that needs a commensurate reward.

And those other fighting styles, just aren't.
If you are playing a caster Ranger that maximizes Wisdom and does not rely primarily on weapons Duidic Warrior is effective as it lets you push Wisdom without sacrificing a lot on your weapon attacks.

Most of the point buy Rangers I play sill have a 16 Dex until level 20, but a 20 Wisdom at level 8 and having a magic weapon attack at 2nd level is pretty good.

I would agree about Blessed Warrior, because their Cantrip list is inferior.

Blind Fighting: Cool concept! It will make you feel great all 4 rounds of your campaign that it matters. The rest of the time you aren't doing an extra 2 to 8 damage per round.

Blind fighting is more character and party dependent than campaign dependent, but on those characters and in those parties it is extremely powerful. Invisible enemies are relatively common. Blinded is not that uncommon, and is actually common if your party is throwing around things like Fog Cloud or Darkness.

Superior Technique: Again, great concept. This one is, conceptually, idea for a future Battle Master to lean into their identity right away. But again, an extra 3.5 damage plus a cool and useful rider once per short rest isn't making up for the lost DPR unless you get a short rest after every 3 round fight. And if you actually do become a Battle Master, even if your DM lets you transmute the die you get from this into the size of your normal dice, you'll probably wish you had that extra DPR over one more maneuver and one more Superiority Die. This one might be salvageable if it also gave you a flat +1 damage, though it's have to only do that with some other category of weapons (like Great Weapons, or Dueling weapons, or Archery weapons, etc) to not be too good.

Superior Technique is pretty awesome IME on the right character. This is the second most common fighting style I take on a fighter, after defense. In the games I play it is almost always better than the +2 damage you would get from dueling. On most builds I play it is better than +2 attack with missile weapons or Two Weapon Fighting as well.

Every champion I have seen since Tasha's (and admittedly that is not many) took superior technique, either at 1st level or 10th level. Menacing attack or quick-toss with a net are awesome even on a once per short rest budget. Both of these, played right, bite into the enemy action economy when they land.

IME control usually beats damage and being able to Frighten an enemy for 1 round and restrict his movement or restrain an enemy and make him burn an attack or action to get out of it, once per short rest is going to generally be better than the 20 or so extra damage you would get from dueling per short rest. This is a harder argument to compare against Archery or Two-Weapon fighting, but it depends on specific build.

So, any suggestions for making those other styles actually feel worth the DPR trade off for classes for whom DPR is a major part of their role and identity?

I would like to just get rid of Great Weapon Fighting. Steer those players towards one of the other styles. Two-Handed Weapons already have more damage than other melee weapons, so if damage is your thing they are not really that far behind I don't think.

Blessed Warrior is weak because the Cleric Cantrips are weak, I think you need to look at Cleric spells for this. This is a tough value proposition though because I think this is purposeful as Clerics are intended to use Weapons more than other full casters .

Protection/Interception - I have seen both of these played and they worked ok but they are situational. Typically if you are taking these styles you are not going for a maximum DPR from your weapons. You are either playing a tanking build or a Paladin build where you are relying on smite for damage. Usually these are combined with high AC, a relatively low DPR and sometimes Sentinel. The intent with these builds is to make enemies want to attack you.
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Protection is completely fine. It gives you something good to do with your reaction each round.

Defense is the worst one. You are already going to be the last character standing. Increasing AC even higher doesn't do much to increase the party's chances of success.


Has anyone thought about changing the others to grant only +1 instead of +2, and if this would balance things more? I tend to find that some things that are too good to not take are the things that need changing over boosting the other things. Same with some of the big DPR feats.


Dusty Dragon
Great Weapon Fighting (in actuality): This one gets a dishonorable mention. If I recall my calculations, it gives you an average +1.67 damage per attack with a greatsword or maul, or about half that with a d12 weapon--which means you are locked into a greatsword or maul. If you don't mind be locked into two specific weapon choices for it to be worth it, then it's okay, and if you're a fighter getting lots of those 2d6 attacks it does its job for you.

So, any suggestions for making those other styles actually feel worth the DPR trade off for classes for whom DPR is a major part of their role and identity?

My math for it was +0.83 dmg per attack, but now I want to re-check.

1d6 average, instead of being (1+2+3+4+5+6)/6, becomes (3.5+2+3+4+5+6)/6 (the 1 is rerolled for a d6, which has an average of 3.5). So 3.916666. Do - 3.5, x2 for the 2d6 of a greatsword and... yeah, not good.

It's actually a little bit more than 0.83 because of the crit, but I doubt it would pass +1...


Dusty Dragon
In my games, I allow characters to chuck thrown weapon without too much consideration of the weapon hands, so the thrown weapon fighting style is never taken. If someone wanted to have a specialist in that style (a knife throwing master)... I would make the style give a bonus to both range and accuracy - +1 to hit, +20 feet to ranges?

Has anyone thought about changing the others to grant only +1 instead of +2, and if this would balance things more? I tend to find that some things that are too good to not take are the things that need changing over boosting the other things. Same with some of the big DPR feats.
I don't think fighters need to be nerfed compared to other classes, which is what weakening their strong styles would achieve.


I don't think fighters need to be nerfed compared to other classes, which is what weakening their strong styles would achieve.

Across levels 1-20 Fighters are already the most powerful non-casting class, they could use a bit of a nerfing to bring them closer to Monks, Barbarians and Rogues at most levels.

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