D&D 5E Musings about weapon damage.

I have been re-reading the big three MM, PHB, and DMG (something that I honestly never did even when I got all three of these books back in the day).

Something struck me - I was kind of wondering with all the changes why the creators did not leverage the rules for weapon damage differently.

I noticed that a longsword for example still does 1d8 and a two-handed sword does 2d6 despite the pretty massive increase in hit points that monsters now have. I wonder if adjusting the amount of damage heavier weapons do might be a way of balancing the scales. Since the game has the built in class based proficiencies might not a martial character who has the proficiency in heavier weapons benefit from this without taking away from any other classes specialties. I'm thinking maybe double the damage from martial melee weapons only. This would allow martial characters to really own their niche in combat without further complicating things.

Just a thought.

M
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
We give martial weapons advantage on damage for one thing, and all martial weapons have a secondary damage type.

Second, fighters eventually increase the damage dice by one step.

Our weapons are slightly different from RAW, but you could apply the same changes if you want to improve the weapons for martials especially.

Other options we've employed include special rules on critical hits depending on damage type.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The higher hit points are part of the bounded accuracy system - to make level scaling primarily HP and damage instead of primarily attack bonus and AC. Weapon damage is low, but martial characters get multiple attacks per turn and casters’ cantrip damage dice multiply at higher levels.
 
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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
'advantage' as in 2d20k1, or as in perks for martial weapons?
Sorry, I updated the post to be more specific.

We give martial weapons advantage on damage rolls.

Other rules are:

Finesse is rolled into Light
Two-handed is rolled into Heavy
Light weapons get +1 to attack rolls
Versatile weapons used with two hands gain either +1 to attack rolls OR increased damage.

And more... more rules for using nets and whips, flails are special, etc.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yeah because if you published a game where a longsword did a d12 of damage to a dragon that would be ridiculous...wait...
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I have been re-reading the big three MM, PHB, and DMG (something that I honestly never did even when I got all three of these books back in the day).

Something struck me - I was kind of wondering with all the changes why the creators did not leverage the rules for weapon damage differently.

I noticed that a longsword for example still does 1d8 and a two-handed sword does 2d6 despite the pretty massive increase in hit points that monsters now have.
Because then they would have to increase the HPs more.

This starts with a false assumption - that the damage and HPs aren't already intentional. That is mistaken. The developers have discussed how with bounded accuracy and streamlining of resistance (so we don't have a lot of small time damage reduction on more powerful creatures), that HPs were the primary knob left to control how long foes would last in combat.

And they tuned it where they wanted it.

Upping weapon damage would mean upping spell damage and HPs equally, to have the exact same effect but slowing combat as more dice need to be tallied. And reducing the relative effect of ability modifiers for things like damage and healing, but keeping them the same in terms of how they affect d20 rolls.

In other words, things are where designed, the idea that they missed on leveraging them is wrong, and increasing them moves the game in the wrong direction by slowing combat.
 

We give martial weapons advantage on damage for one thing, and all martial weapons have a secondary damage type.

Second, fighters eventually increase the damage dice by one step.

Our weapons are slightly different from RAW, but you could apply the same changes if you want to improve the weapons for martials especially.

Other options we've employed include special rules on critical hits depending on damage type.
That is a pretty cool idea! I was just looking at a way of adjusting martial character's melee damage without increasing the time spent in combat significantly. In my opinion this is one aspect of combat in 5e that doesn't scale appropriately.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I just want to point out that if you go back and look at older editions, spell damage hasn't really changed much, but hit points totally have. Case in point, the humble Fireball. In AD&D, it did 1d6/caster level. Monsters had d8 Hit Dice and rarely added any bonus to this number. Players had at max 10 Hit Dice of varying sizes and other than Warriors (who only got 9), the maximum bonus was +2 per die.

2nd Edition capped fireball damage at 10d6 at 10th level.

3rd Edition was exactly the same as 2nd, but now players got up to 20 Hit Dice, and larger monsters had grossly inflated Constitution scores. I mean, just to compare, a 2e Ogre had 4+1 Hit Dice, for an average hit point total of 19. The 3e Ogre had 10 more hit points.

Now in 5th edition, a Fireball does 8 dice of damage. And that's that. (Yes you can upcast it, but at that point, it's no longer a 3rd level spell). And oh hey, an Ogre? FIFTY NINE hit points. And his CR is 2 instead of the 3e Ogre's CR of 3.

So don't tell me that they couldn't have increased damage to compensate.
 

Weiley31

Legend
Closet thing I do, in regard to increasing weapon damage, is that if a Race has a "Weapon Familiarity/Racial/Heritage Weapons" then those races have the ability to spend downtime training to increase that weapon's damage die by one step. So, Elves for example, if they train/find a trainer, could train their longsword Damage from a 1D8 to a 1D10, a Shortsword from 1D6 to 1D8, etc etc etc. Now the thing though, that I keep on going back and forth on, whether such a thing should be done only once or twice. Meaning should Elves only be able to raise the damage die up to two times or just the one time. (of course that means the Versatile trait of Longsword would also auto upgrade once their Damage Die has been raised up by a step.)

But I hear some asking in the background, wait: how would that work with races that don't mention they have Weapon Familiarity/Racial/Heritage Weapons in their PC write-up in 5E you ask? Well, that's when I turn to Pathfinder 2E, older editions and other 5E 3PP, such as Midgard, to see what some races can get.

So, for example:

Tabaxi have Weapon Familiarity: Hatchet, Kamas, Kurki, Scimitar, Sickles, and proficient with "any" uncommon weapons that have the prerequisite/tag of Catfolk/Tabaxi. They not only count as Simple Weapons for Tabaxi but they also have the option of training the Damage Die of these weapons by one Step (or two Steps.)

Hobgoblins have Weapon Familiarity: Glaives, Longbows, Shortbows, Longswords, and proficient in "any" uncommon weapons that have the perquisite/tag Goblinoid to them. They not only count as Simple Weapons for Goblinoids but they also have the option of training the Damage Die of these weapons by one Step (or two steps.)

Gnolls have Weapon Familiarity: Flails, War Flails, Khopeshes(longswords according to the Amonkhet Planeshift web article), Mambeles(Daggers/Handaxe: pick whichever you prefer), Spears, and proficient in "any" uncommon weapons that have the prerequisite/tag Gnoll to them. This also includes the Flindbar. They not only count as Simple Weapons for Gnolls but they also have the option of training the Damage Die of these weapons by one Step (or two steps.)

Following this guideline, that means Dwarves get to add Picks/Heavy Picks and Mattlocks to their repertoire including any weapons that have the word/tag Dwarven in them. Kobolds get War Picks/Picks/Light Picks/Crossbows/Spears. The Great Pick from the 3.5 Kobold Web Article could be refluffed as a Great Sword, but then you're dealing with 5E's Heavy/Small Race disadvantage thing there.

As the reasoning why about doing something like this? Well, the original 5E NEXT playtest rules actually did something like this where a race, that had Weapon Familiarity/Racial Weapons, actually did increase the damage die of said weapons by one Step. And I legit hella liked the idea a lot as I thought it made a ton of sense. (Plus coming from 3.0/3.5 and Neverwinter Nights 1 on the PC, I was always big on Weapon Familiarity/Racial Weapons.)

Humans, being humans, can choose to train/specialize in any one choice of weapon to focus on, which would allow them to increase a weapon by one or two Damage Die steps.

This probably only really helps Martials/Melee focused characters. But hey, how cool would it be to see a Minotaur Wizard using a Great Sword and spells?
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Racial weapons is a neat idea, and it preserves some flavor, though not all lists are created equally- Elves have solid choices, Dwarves have an incredible list, while Gnomes, Halflings and Half-Orcs need some love. The only problem with the idea is that, obviously, not all Elves are going to care about wielding a bow or a sword, so there should be an option for magicians as well.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
That is a pretty cool idea! I was just looking at a way of adjusting martial character's melee damage without increasing the time spent in combat significantly. In my opinion this is one aspect of combat in 5e that doesn't scale appropriately.
We dropped HP across the board. With all the HP bloat, weapon damage was usually second or third to things like sneak attack, smite, and other bonus damage, etc. By dropping HP on characters and monsters, fights are shorter (less Bags'o'hit points to wade through), and monster attacks (CR 12 monster claw attack doing d6 +3) might then matter a tiny bit.

The other thing we did was remove gaining weapon proficiency based on ancestry, and gave ancestral weapons a bump in die, along with selecting 1 from a range: Dwarf: Battleaxe, HandAxe, Warhammer. So a Dwarf who picks battleaxe as their ancestral weapon gets d10 damage, Handaxe gets d8. Elf has Sword (d8, one handed, not versatile), Longbow, Spear: becomes d10 for Sword, d10 for Longbow, d8 for Spear. (We also tweaked ranged Feats and such to lower their overall power level). Hasn't hurt anything in our application. The extra points here and there don't overbalance anything, and result in more varied weapons in use. We also run very low magic items, and use weapon and armor crafting that grants non-magical bonuses to AC, hit, damage, etc.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I just want to point out that if you go back and look at older editions, spell damage hasn't really changed much, but hit points totally have. Case in point, the humble Fireball. In AD&D, it did 1d6/caster level. Monsters had d8 Hit Dice and rarely added any bonus to this number. Players had at max 10 Hit Dice of varying sizes and other than Warriors (who only got 9), the maximum bonus was +2 per die.

2nd Edition capped fireball damage at 10d6 at 10th level.

3rd Edition was exactly the same as 2nd, but now players got up to 20 Hit Dice, and larger monsters had grossly inflated Constitution scores. I mean, just to compare, a 2e Ogre had 4+1 Hit Dice, for an average hit point total of 19. The 3e Ogre had 10 more hit points.

Now in 5th edition, a Fireball does 8 dice of damage. And that's that. (Yes you can upcast it, but at that point, it's no longer a 3rd level spell). And oh hey, an Ogre? FIFTY NINE hit points. And his CR is 2 instead of the 3e Ogre's CR of 3.

So don't tell me that they couldn't have increased damage to compensate.
It seems you were not aware that high level casters were considered much more powerful than equal level martial characters. Martials basically only do damage. Having casters that can keep up with (or exceed) them for damage and do everything else there magic allows is poor design.

And again, there's a lot less "Fire resistance 5" and such around since they streamlined Resistance to just "take half damage".
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Except they really didn't increase player damage in any meaningful way, except for maybe Smite- it's pretty good, but has a limited resource- and if they'd given Paladins more reason to cast spells, it would be used less often.

EDIT: I was just pointing out a big damage attack with Fireball. It's not like Martials are doing any better in the damage department than their older edition counterparts. They definitely do less damage than 3e Fighters, and 2e Fighters would still be competitive if dropped into a 5e game (after calculating Thac0 into a positive attack bonus, that is).
 
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Stormonu

Legend
Adding damage would just create a treadmill effect.

Besides, martials already get additional attacks as they level*. Improving chance to hit, upping damage plus extra attacks might be a bridge too far.

* I'd rather extra attacks - if you down your opponent, with extra attacks you can move the next attack to a different foe, rather than lose the damage to overkill.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It really doesn't when you consider that hit points were increased but damage wasn't. Fighters have had extra attacks since 1974. I'd offer some clear numbers on damage for evidence, but some assumptions would have to be made and I know people would be like "oh but you arbitrarily gave them this ability score or that fighting style" lol.

EDIT: Oh fine, here, I did it. I decided to use Feats and Variant Human (Optional Content) for the 5e Fighter, and then grabbed an option from The Complete Fighter's Handbook for the 2e Fighter.

Fighter 1 (2e Sword Guy)

Race: Elf

Strength: 16 (it's what a 5e Fighter starts with, even though ability scores work a lot differently today).

Weapon Proficiencies: Longsword, Weapon Specialization Longsword, Ambidextrous, Two Weapon Style Specialization.

Attacks: 2 Longswords +2 to hit, 1d8+3 damage (15 average damage per turn). Extra sword attack every even round.

Over the course of 3 rounds, 52,5 damage.


VS.

Fighter 1 (5e Sword Guy)

Race: Variant Human.

Feat: Dual Wielder

Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting

Strength: 16.

Attacks: Longsword + bonus Action Longsword: +3 to hit, 1d8+3 damage (15 average damage per turn).

Over the course of 3 rounds, 45 damage.
 
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Cruentus

Adventurer
* I'd rather extra attacks - if you down your opponent, with extra attacks you can move the next attack to a different foe, rather than lose the damage to overkill.
In my mind, extra attacks (not that fighters don't need it, they absolutely do) begins to slow down the game (combat specifically), when a fighter type is attacking 2 and 3 times per activation, plus the potential of a Bonus Action, plus then maybe a Reaction based on Feat or Opportunity Attack. Its the same thing with spellcasters and the action economy of 5e. Not only do we have the hit points at ridiculous levels, but the damage, as pointed out by @James Gasik, hasn't kept paced, aside from "forced" stuff like sneak attack and smite, and upcast spells, etc.

Streamlining combat is a lot easier when a fighter gets 1 or 2 (or 3/2 a la 2e) tops, and they all take place on their activation.

Thats why limiting HP helps immensely.

I'm also playing now in a DnD Basic game (d8hp at first level - I have 5! as a fighter), with no bonuses for any stats, and one attack for the foreseeable future (forever?). Its so much faster and easier to manage from a player perspective, and I have to look for answers to things off the character sheet.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Yeah, I do wish that hit points at higher levels weren't so bloated. I do wish that HP gain was slowed after 9th level/CR or so. Chewing through 200+ hp monsters isn't much fun and after a few rounds, gets redundant.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
I'm still trying to figure out how to remove those damage multipliers from classes to get at some sort of manageable baseline (i.e. removing novas) but its a lot of work to tweak a chassis like this. Things like removing the Paladin Smite ability, and allowing the Smite spell, maybe, last until the next attack to deal bonus damage (or make it a Bonus Action cast). Have Sneak Attack be back to an "occassional" thing if set up properly, remove damage resistance from Barbarians, etc. Just basically lower the temp on damage output for everything (including monsters), and then set HP where they can be challenging, but not sacks, and encounters can be longer or shorter depending on turning a few dials.

Nothing wrong with a combat lasting 5-6 rounds and getting dicey from my perspective.
 

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