On GWF and a versatile fighting style

Laurefindel

Explorer
Ok, I'm thinking out loud here and would appreciate your input.

About a versatile fighting style...

Versatile is a cool concept that evokes many heroic fiction characters like Aragorn, Mad Martigan, Conan, Wulfgar, or Thor to name a few, as well as archetypes such as the katana wielding samurai or the battleaxe swinging dwarf. Unfortunately, from an optimizing point of view*, you’re better off pretending that Narsil/Anduril is a two-handed sword and that Mjolnir is a maul. While this works, I wish there would be more support specifically for versatile weapons.

Versatile weapons are just that: versatile. Therefore, let’s play on the theme of flexibility:

Versatile Weapon Fighting
When you are wielding a versatile weapon with two hands, you gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls. In addition, at the beginning of your turn, you gain a +1 bonus to AC or a +1 bonus to attack rolls (your choice) until your next turn.

The +1 to damage only brings the average of a d10 versatile weapon on par with a d8 weapon with dueling fighting style (1d10+1 = 1d8+2). At 6.5, the average is still equal or under that of a great axe/sword.

The +1 to AC somewhat compensate for the loss of a shield. It's still inferior to dueling + shield, so the compensating power is an optional +1 to hit should you choose to lower your AC. A flexible style for a flexible weapon; sounds fitting.

The defense fighting style does not lose its niche since defense alone allows that +1 bonus to AC to stack with shields, with this new fighting style, with heavy and two-handed weapons, with range weapons, and with the dual wielder feat.

Alternatively, instead of borrowing from multiple styles, we could look for a mechanical effect not yet represented by existing fighting styles. Archery increases accuracy on attack rolls (archery), dueling increases total damage, great weapon fighting increases the reliability of damage rolls (without increasing damage maximum), two-weapon fighting enhances an option for your bonus action, protection give an option for your reaction, and defense increases your AC. That pretty much only leaves reliability on attack rolls (without increasing total) as the only unused avenue.

(alternate) Versatile Weapon Fighting
When you are wielding a versatile weapon with two hands and roll a 1 on the d20 for an attack roll, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.

About GWM and Sharpshooter
The TWF thread had me thinking how this combat style is often seen inferior because, among other things, it monopolizes your bonus action. Now in itself that is not a bad thing – there wouldn’t be any tactical choices if you could do everything all the time – but it does have to compete, some would say unfairly, with other combat styles that do not require that bonus action.

So building on the (debatable) parental principle that “when you can’t make them equally happy, make them equally unhappy”, let’s see if what would happen if Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter feats also required a bonus action to be activated:

Great Weapon Master
* Once on each of your turn, when you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with one, you can make one additional melee weapon attack as a bonus action.

* Before you make a melee attack on your turn with a heavy weapon with which you are proficient, you can use a bonus action to choose take a -5 penalty to any of your attack rolls until your next turn. Anytime you do so and the attack hits, it deals +10 damage.

Sharpshooter
* Attacking at long range doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.

*Your ranged weapons ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.

*Before you make a ranged attack on your turn with a ranged weapon with which you are proficient, you can use a bonus action to take a -5 penalty to any of your attack rolls until you next turn. Anytime you do so and the attack hits, it deals +10 damage.

This makes the power attack part of GWM incompatible with the bonus attack granted by Polearm Master, which cuts a bit on the cheese that devalues TWF so much. On the other hand, it enables the cleave part of GWF to work with the butt-end attack of Polearm Master (and TWF for what it’s worth).

This works pretty well... until the berserker barbarian shows up.

*I know not everything is about optimization. Still, it is satisfying to know that your character is not handicapped by a mostly cosmetic choice, especially one that is rather iconic in fantasy.
 
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Horwath

Explorer
Versatile fighting style:

When you wield one-handed, non-light, non-finesse melee weapon in two hands, you deal +2 damage.

You can wield two-handed, non-reach melee weapon in one hand by taking -2 penalty to damage.


As for GWM and SS I would remove -5/+10 part and turn it into half-feat with +1 str or dex bonus.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
The best solution I've seen for a versatile fighting style is one that relies on the character switching between 1H and 2H each round. An example would be:

At the start of your turn you may shift your grip on a versatile weapon you're holding. If you are now holding it 1 handed, you deal +1 damage with it until the start of your next turn (or until you change your grip). If you are now holding it 2 handed, you gain +1 on attack rolls with it until the start of your next turn (or until you change your grip).
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
The problem with any "versatile" style is that there are too many members of the party around you fighting to make "switching forms" unnecessary. Once you get into combat, attack bonuses, damage rolls, and AC all just meld together into whatever melange the entire party has... and no monster you fight is so distinct in what they can do that a player can accurately determine at the drop of a hat "Oh, yeah, for this creature I definitely need the extra AC point, rather than the bonus damage point!"

Instead, the players are going to do what they always do... decide on a single form and just play it-- expecting and relying on their fellow players who use different forms to be the ones to pick up the slack for those forms. If a monster is hitting really well... it's not going to be the "versatile" PC stepping up to it while boosting their AC a point... it's going to be the dedicated tank PC in platemail and shield with the high CON mod doing it. So what does that versatility actually bring? Very little.

You know what "versatile" fighting is? It's the Bard of 2E.

Fairly good at lots and lots of roles... which would be wonderful if they were the only one available to do those roles. But as soon as you have enough others in the group to have a specialized person for those roles... the jack-of-all-trades become less and less necessary and they fall further and further behind everybody else. Specializing in versatility means you are always second-best. So you end up having to hope you're the only one who's there, because at least then you're second-best to nobody else. ;)
 
I would prefer something like Shiroiken's example. I'd want a versatile fighting style to promote using it one-handed and two-handed, depending on the situation. Rather than just giving a bonus when it's used with both hands.
My first draft would be +1 damage when using it with 2 hands and +1 AC when using it with 1 hand. Something along those lines.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Nice. We added a lot of features for weapon properties.

Versatile Weapon: when you wield a versatile weapon with both hands, you can grant it the finesse property or the heavy property. You can change which property you choose at the beginning of your turn.

Finesse: you can choose to use your Dexterity modifier for your attack rolls instead of your Strength modifier.
Heavy: when you wield a heavy weapon with both hands, you add half your Strength modifier (round down) to your damage (in addition to your normal Strength modifier)// basically it is 1.5 x Str Mod.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I'm a little confused as to how the cleave and -5/+10 part play nicely together. You have to take the bonus action before the attack action to gain the -5/+10 bonus. The extra cleave only triggers on a kill or crit, but requires the bonus action as well. Is it intended to be an either/or thing, or is the intent that the kill/crit allows you to take an additional bonus action?
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
The problem with any "versatile" style is that there are too many members of the party around you fighting to make "switching forms" unnecessary. Once you get into combat, attack bonuses, damage rolls, and AC all just meld together into whatever melange the entire party has... and no monster you fight is so distinct in what they can do that a player can accurately determine at the drop of a hat "Oh, yeah, for this creature I definitely need the extra AC point, rather than the bonus damage point!"
I'm not sure if this was meant as an answer to my OP or to another poster, but I was suggesting +1 to AC or to hit, and weapon must be held two-handed. Otherwise I agree with you that choices, if any, must be equivalent and relevant. I'm not convinced about the irrelevance of having a choice, but I hear you about +1AC/to hit not being significant enough to be worth the question. By curiosity, what's you opinion on the alternate versatile style?

DEFCON 1 said:
Instead, the players are going to do what they always do... decide on a single form and just play it-- expecting and relying on their fellow players who use different forms to be the ones to pick up the slack for those forms. If a monster is hitting really well... it's not going to be the "versatile" PC stepping up to it while boosting their AC a point... it's going to be the dedicated tank PC in platemail and shield with the high CON mod doing it. So what does that versatility actually bring? Very little.
You can't use a shield if you hold a versatile weapon two-handed. The party's dedicated tank takes defense fighting style instead because that's the only style that stacks with a shield and isn't dependent on specific weapons. Otherwise, the intention behind a versatile weapon style is to make the handling of a versatile weapon on its own as attractive as heavy weapons or 1-handed weapons. Not every single weapon need its little special niche, but I believe that versatile weapons are so present is fantasy culture and iconography that they at least deserve an honorable mention in the optimisation guides. Or at least not feel that it is suboptimal to everything else.

DEFCON 1 said:
You know what "versatile" fighting is? It's the Bard of 2E.

Fairly good at lots and lots of roles... which would be wonderful if they were the only one available to do those roles. But as soon as you have enough others in the group to have a specialized person for those roles... the jack-of-all-trades become less and less necessary and they fall further and further behind everybody else. Specializing in versatility means you are always second-best. So you end up having to hope you're the only one who's there, because at least then you're second-best to nobody else. ;)
I hear you, but like the bard who does shine in some situations, I wish there would be an occasional advantage to weapon versatility. Many of the "real-life" advantages of a shorter, lighter weapon are moot in D&D (probably for the better), but right now, Conan, Aragorn, Wulfgar and Thor are commiserating at their club. I heard they have cookies, but The GWF and dueling clubs have better ones. And bigger ones.
 
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Laurefindel

Explorer
I'm a little confused as to how the cleave and -5/+10 part play nicely together (snip) or is the intent that the kill/crit allows you to take an additional bonus action?
I understand the confusion, the strike-through didn't transfer like the bold and italic. I corrected the OP

Here's the intent:

On your turn, as you make an attack roll, you can use your bonus action to enable the "power attack" feature until your next round. You are not bound to use it on all (or any of) your attacks, but that would be the only way to use the -5/+10 on a reaction attack.

The cleave feature is free however, with a limit of once per turn
 

Xeviat

Explorer
I think I would have liked it if all the fighting styles utilized bonus actions, but that would compete with paladin and ranger spellcasting.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
As it stands currently I find the versatile weapon is really the best weapon for a grappler. They use it in one hand when wanting to grapple, and 2 when not wanting to (Fighting creatures more than one size larger, or that are immune to being grappled like a water weird).

I'd actually want a fighting style (and a feat) that would expand on that niche.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
As it stands currently I find the versatile weapon is really the best weapon for a grappler. They use it in one hand when wanting to grapple, and 2 when not wanting to (Fighting creatures more than one size larger, or that are immune to being grappled like a water weird).

I'd actually want a fighting style (and a feat) that would expand on that niche.
That'd be nice because at the moment, take duelist and at 1d8+Str+2, you're still better holding your weapon in one hand than "downgrading" to 1d10+Str versatile damage. 1d10+GWF is about the same as 1d8+duelist, so in that sense it's pretty balanced, but the perceived issue remains; even in this ideal case the versatile quality of the weapon is mechanically useless.

I guess versatile weapons do have a niche in the hands of a halfling who really wanted GWF in a feat-less game.

[edit] clarified my thoughts on the last part
 
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Hawk Diesel

Explorer
I think the main problem with a versatile fighting style is that from round to round or even encounter to encounter, things don't change enough that switching between one or two hands on a weapon will make any difference. If you don't already have a shield, there's no reason (except attempting a grapple) not to use two hands to maximize damage. If you do have a shield, then dropping it in exchange for a +1 average damage doesn't make sense, since it is not likely to make or break an encounter. And honestly, I don't see any mechanical bonus that would encourage switching between holding a weapon in one or two hands. With existing mechanics, only a champion fighter or fighter multiclass with ranger or paladin could be effective with versatile weapons, if they took Dueling and GWF. But even then, I don't see a lot of situations that would encourage someone to switch things up.

But as I'm thinking about this, maybe instead you can do something like the Protection fighting style, that adds a whole new mechanic. Perhaps something like this:

Versatile Fighting Style
When you are wielding a versatile weapon in your hands and no other objects, you gain the following abilities:
-When an enemy you can see hits you with an attack that only targets you, you can use your reaction to deflect the attack and reduce the damage you would take. You reduce the damage by an amount equal to your one handed weapon damage plus your proficiency bonus. After this reaction, you can only make one handed attacks until the end of your next turn.
-When you kill an enemy while wielding your weapon in two hands, you can cleave through them, damaging a nearby enemy. If an attack's damage would reduce an opponent to less than 0 HP, you can deliver the remaining damage plus your proficiency bonus to a creature you can see within your reach.

The above example is complicated and unwieldy compared to other fighting styles, but I feel like this is the kind of mechanic we would need for a versatile weapon fighting style.
 
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IDK, maybe:

Versatile Fighting Style
You gain the benefit of Greatweapon Fighting Style when wielding a versatile weapon two-handed. Choose a second fighting style useable with a one-handed weapon, you gain the benefit of this style only when using a versatile weapon one-handed - you must still meet any other requirements of that style.

Yeah, that's versatile.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
IDK, maybe:

Versatile Fighting Style
You gain the benefit of Greatweapon Fighting Style when wielding a versatile weapon two-handed. Choose a second fighting style useable with a one-handed weapon, you gain the benefit of this style only when using a versatile weapon one-handed - you must still meet any other requirements of that style.

Yeah, that's versatile.
You know, I was about to reply something like “that’s dumb, who would *not* take versatile as a fighting style?”, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The best way to avoid stacking fighting styles (which is a concern of mine I haven’t addressed in this thread yet) is to give already existing fighting styles. This way you can’t stack them with themselves.

So, who would take dueling on its own? Everyone going for finesse weapons would.
Who would take GWF on it’s own? Everyone going after heavy weapons would (for GWM, polearm master, reach, high damage dice etc).
Who would take defense on it’s own? Dual weilders might, so would 2-h weapon users or Dex-based characters.
Who would take protection on it’s own. Hum that’s a good question. But who *does* take protection in the first place anyway? This way you might actually see some use of it...

This all holds true as long as no upcoming versatile master feat gives versatile weapons the finesse or heavy property however.
 
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dnd4vr

Adventurer
This all holds true as long as no upcoming versatile master feat gives versatile weapons the finesse or heavy property however.
LOL and this is exactly what our house-ruled versatile property does!

I don't see the need for a feat for versatile, but that is just me.
 

jaelis

Explorer
FWIW, my take on versatility is this:

Fighting Style: Brawling: If you have a free hand while you take the Attack action on your turn and attack using a melee weapon or your unarmed strike, then you can attempt to grapple or shove an opponent as a bonus action.

Feat: Versatile Fighter
  • - Increase your Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • - When attacking with a versatile weapon held in one hand, deal damage as if you were wielding the weapon with two hands.
  • - When attacking with a versatile weapon held in two hands, gain a +1 bonus on melee attack rolls.


I've been happy with it.
 

Toledo

Visitor
I understand the confusion, the strike-through didn't transfer like the bold and italic. I corrected the OP

Here's the intent:

On your turn, as you make an attack roll, you can use your bonus action to enable the "power attack" feature until your next round. You are not bound to use it on all (or any of) your attacks, but that would be the only way to use the -5/+10 on a reaction attack.

The cleave feature is free however, with a limit of once per turn
If you make the "power attack" a bonus action, you're going to completely nullify certain sub-classes. Currently I have a level 8 Samurai in a campaign, and she has the Defense style and has Great Weapon Mastery feat.

The Fighting Spirit component of Samurai requires you to use a bonus action to activate the advantage and temp HP components. I normally only use the -5/+10 component when I have advantage. However, if I want to use the -5/+10 component, I'd not be able to use Fighting Spirit. As it is, when I use Fighting Spirit, I don't get to attack another foe if I kill an opponent (or get another attack on a critical), as I've already used my bonus action.

What is proposed would seriously weaken the Samurai subclass. Other than flavor, why wouldn't I wish to go to Battlemaster, where I'd be able to augment my -5/+10 with one of the Battlemaster's maneuvers?

As I mentioned, the Samurai already is somewhat limited with Fighting Spirit with GWM. I wouldn't want to nix my character any more. She's still fun to play this way...with the suggested changes, I wouldn't have anything "special".

A well played high level assassin with the damage reducing element for defense already can go insane on damage, and can be as good as a fighter (I haven't analyzed the high level ranges yet - but the highest level I've ever reached on another character in two years of play is Level 12). Why do we wish to weaken the fighter moreso? Dexterity is such an important skill for for all characters and especially assassins, they are already only down one point of AC over fighters (17 with studded leather, 18 for fighters in plate). What does that leave fighters if you take away their abilities to damage? The assassin in our group does have fewer HPS than my fighter, but the assassin (often but not always) doesn't need extra HPs because uncanny dodge is so great versus the big bad foes.

In short, leave the fighters something that makes them great. They don't get high level spells or super nova strike capabilities. Just let them hit pretty hard (but not smite or assassin hard) when they use the tools they have (maneuvers, fighting spirit, familiars positioning themselves, etc.).

If you really want to see something crazy when maxed out, look at a ranger with the crossbow feat and a hand crossbow. My fighter just sits back in amazement when the ranger goes to town!

Right now Clerics, Bards, Wizards, Sorcerers, Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues, Barbarians, and Monks all have elements which make them super fun to play. Don't take away their toys! I've not seen enough Druids to give a fair assessment of how fun they are to play. The one class which I've found no fun to play is the Warlock. They need so many short rests to do anything exciting, it isn't fun at all. Taking away GWM from a fighter would make so many fighter builds unfun like the Warlock. Let the big guys and girls swing a mighty stick and have some fun too! Don't be a hater!

:D
 
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Laurefindel

Explorer
If you make the "power attack" a bonus action, you're going to completely nullify certain sub-classes.

(snip)

Let the big guys and girls swing a mighty stick and have some fun too! Don't be a hater!:D
Nah, I moved away from the bonus-action power attack as soon as I got to the berserker barbarian, which is literally the first class/subclass presented in the PHB!

It never was about hate; it was an exploration on approaching the Two-Weapon Fighting conundrum (which cannot do any of the things you mentioned above) from a different angle. (BTW, your Crossbow Expert ranger is also dependent on its BA, as it basically is TWF for ranged weapons). But posting here usually triggers new ideas, or at least brings me further, aside, or above my original train of thoughts.

Nevertheless, in the present set-up, other combat styles have a hard time competing with GWM (and its little brother Sharpshooter), partly because it specifically doesn't monopolize your bonus action.
 
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