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D&D 5E How game-breaking is it if GW Fighting Style applies to smites?

I believe that it is likely that the OP is asking about the Great Weapon Fighting Fighting style, not the feat.

Re-rolling 1s and 2s when you're adding more dice like smites or sneak attack is a significant boost, but not excessive I think.

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IMO. The better part of GWM at least lower level is the ability to smite kill an enemy and be rewarded with a bonus action attack.
Fair, although the high HP of 5e monsters means it's hardly a guarantee, unless they're very low CR mooks.

A CR 1 bear has 34 HP. A CR 2 Giant Constrictor Snake has 60. By the time you get your second attack you're potentially dealing with 126 HP Giant Sharks. Unless your party can soften the enemy up before your turn, you're probably not getting your cleave every round. A cleave every other round is certainly still nothing to sneeze at, but it's only half as good as the optimal scenario.

Having not stated my opinion on GWM and SS in this thread before now, I suppose this response is as good a time as any. IMO, the value of these feats is highly dependent on your players.

As I see it, these two feats are fine in a group of casual players (potentially bordering on trap options, if the players don't have a solid grasp on how the math works). In a group of mostly casual players with one optimizer, it's strong but generally not over-the-top. Where it gets kind of out of control is in a group of optimizers that build a party with synergistic strategems around these feats. YMMV


As long as i get to be the frog
I've got a paladin in my game who took Great Weapon Master and wanted to know whether the damage bonus applies to smites. Apparently, there are conflicting rulings about it online.

I tend to think that a strict reading of the feat implies that it applies to weapon damage only, not to enhancements like smites; but on the other hand, I like to rule in players' favor when possible; but on the third hand, I don't want to accidentally break my game and regret it. So I'm wondering if anyone has seen this combo in action, where the damage bonus is allowed to apply to smites, and can comment on how unbalancing it actually is. Thanks.

NOTE: My question is not about how the rule works as written. My question is about what would happen if I make the more permissive ruling and allow the two options to stack.
if you mean the fighting style that lets you reroll 1’s and 2 then priority enemies die just a bit faster. The bigger take away is it makes it very unlikely that a player will roll really low smite damage which can feel like a waste of a spell slot (that paladins don’t get a ton of).

The bigger concerns would be, it makes that fighting style be arguably the best. It also makes one of the best martial classes just a little better, which might cause issues in spotlight.


While objectively looking at the numbers, your analysis of the damage difference difference between no-GWM and GWM is accurate, it's not true to table experience, IME.

Because players aren't dumb (well...unless falling damage or treasure-in-risky-places are involved). They quickly learn how to strategize to minimize the decreased accuracy imposed by GWM – buffs, getting advantage, focusing on lower AC foes.

So if the player is gaming the game to manipulate that % chance to hit, your initial number comparison no longer holds.

That and you roll a 20 so decide to smite. Added bonus vs undead.


In a white room yes. In a real game bard dice, advantage, bless, low ac opponents etc.

IME it is worse in the real world.

Most of the time you need to go NOVA it is a boss, not a low AC opponent and bless is not likely to be the spell of choice for your cleric at level 8+, it is early in the fight usually and this is before you consider the real world implication of needing to use a polearm vs wielding that +2 Morning Star or Sunblade you found.

GWM/PAM will add flexibility and will keep up with sustained damage (magic item availability notwithstanding), especially considering the reaction attack. But for single turn NOVA on a Paladin at level 8+ with all his spell slots, TWF or using a smite spell with a follow up attack action is going to be the best Nova.

I probably wouldn't take both however and there's also multiclass abuse eg hexblade.

Oh yes, if we are looking at mutliclassing the best mix for Nova is only 2 levels of Paladin and then something else at virtually every level.

With Hexblade you still run into the ASI problem if you are talking GWM/PAM. Whether you are Charisma or Strength or Dex you are not boosting it because you are taking feats instead, so unless you rolled well enough to start with a 20 at level 1 you are going to be behind.

You can also smite once you've hi/crit.

Yeah, but that is not Nova, or at least not planned Nova.


Real-life optimization is all about understanding the specific game, the DM, and your specific situation.

Do you roll instead of point-buy? What rolls did you get? Does the DM allow flanking? Does the DM run monsters more by the book, or do they tend to customize? What kind of monsters do you expect to encounter in the campaign? What capabilities do you anticipate the other party members bringing?

Normally, I wouldn't recommend GWM outside of barbarians. But in one of my recent games, the DM said they were using the DMG flanking rules. That's such a commonly used rule, and changes the build calculus towards melee so heavily, that I always ask at session zero if it's in use. Combine that with rolling stats and doing well (17-15-14-14-10-9). And knowing that one of the other players was playing a buff-focused twilight cleric, so bless and extra survivability would be frequent. That pushed me towards one of my favorite concepts, the Elven Accuracy boosted melee flanker with GWM. (Specifically, a shadar-kai battle smith artificer.)

Flanking does make GWM a lot better. It also makes Barbarians a lot better (as enemies flank too and that raises the value of hit points and damage reduction as compared to AC).

I don't see it used very often though.


Barbarian with early GWM is really good. One of the few cases that’s significantly better than an ASI.

Agreed. Barbarian is a pretty weak class overall though, at high levels it is the weakest class and in tier 2 it is probably 2nd weakest after Monk.

Not being able to concentrate or cast spells while raging makes it difficult to really patch those weaknesses with races, feats or multiclass options. GWM is probably the one thing they can get.


IMHO, "power attack" should be it's own separate half-feat.

+1 STR or DEX
-1 attack, +2 damage(+3 damage for heavy melee weapons, +1 damage with light weapons)

at 5th level:
-2 attack, +4 damage(+6/+2)

at 11th level:
-3 attack, +6 damage(+9/+3)

at 17th level:
-4 attack, +8 damage(+12/+4)

That is just too many modifiers. IMO just pick one and stick with it for all levels and all weapons.


I cast invisibility
I believe that it is likely that the OP is asking about the Great Weapon Fighting Fighting style, not the feat.

Re-rolling 1s and 2s when you're adding more dice like smites or sneak attack is a significant boost, but not excessive I think.
If so, that makes MUCH more sense why the OP would post about it...

That being the case, applying the GWF style raises each die for smite from an average of 4.5 to 5.25, so at hardly a notable increase at all, at best typically 2 or 3 points.

Not a big deal at all since smites are limited, and even at 11th level Paladin, with IDS, it is just the 4.5 to 5.25 bump. 🤷‍♂️

And, of course, unless you house-rule it, GWF style doesn't work with sneak attack (might be an exception or two, but nothing springs to mind).
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The problem is not that the feat in isolation is powerful. The problem is that it combos with absolutely anything that boosts your accuracy, and the more accuracy boosts you can scrounge, the better it gets.

This is true, but it is true for a lot of feats and it is easier to boost accuracy with other feats and with many of them you don't have the all or nothing problem you have with GWM.

Getting Hex with Fey touched is going to be a damage boost any time you have that hex up, which should be a lot as long as you have even a few spell slots and you won't suffer an accuracy penalty.

Also when we are talking about a Paladin going Nova the damage boost you get from your smite is better than the extra damage from GWM and even with those accuracy enhancements you are generally going to be better not using that damage boost.

Add that your saving throws and ability checks are worse and the feat is not overpowered at all. It is below average generally.

Take a 5th-level barbarian with 18 Str, a greatsword, and a 65% base chance to hit. Reckless Attack improves your hit chance to 87.75%, with a 9.75% chance of a crit. You average 2d6 (base greatsword) +4 (Str) +2 (rage) = 2d6+6 or 13 damage per hit, +7 on a crit, with two attacks. Factoring in accuracy and crits, you average 24.18 damage.What happens if you drop Str to 16 and pick up GWM instead? Base chance to hit drops to 35%, but Reckless Attack brings it back up to 57.75%. Average damage per hit is 22, +7 on a crit. Crit chance is still 9.75%, but in addition to damage, you get a bonus attack on a crit; with two attacks, this has an 18.55% chance to trigger each round. (Bonus attack also happens on a kill, but I'll assume that cancels out the times you don't have a bonus action free.) Work it all out and you get 29.26 damage per round, or a 21% increase. That's the baseline for what you, the barbarian player, can get from the PHB on your own, and it's already quite respectable.

Yeah, now run those numbers on a 5th level Rune Knight who is getting an extra damage from Giants Might or a 5th level Paladin throwing out smites or a 5th level Hexblade with Hex and Hexblade's curse.

GWM works great with reckless attack, I am not saying doesn't, but to do that you need to play a weak class and you need to reckless attack which means you are going to go down quick.

What if you find a magic weapon? With a +1 greatsword, it's a 25% DPR advantage for GWM; with a +1 greatsword and bless, it's 42%.

If you find a magic melee weapon there is probably about a 90% chance it is not heavy. And if you find a vorpal shortsword or a sunblade the feat is useless.

The biggest problem with GWM in published campaigns is the lack of magic weapons that work with it.

The most common magic items are Staffs and daggers and there are some pretty awesome ones available in published adventures at relatively low levels.

In all the WOTC adventures I only know of one very rare magic heavy melee weapon (Harizawn from Tyranny of Dragons).

IME what actually happens in play is the GWM guy is doing half damage most of the time in tier 2+ or if he is lucky late in game he is swinging a +1 Glaive while the rest of the party is using awesome weapons.

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