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D&D 5E Philosophy of Greataxe vs. Greatsword


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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
About 100 percent of the players I've played with don't care about that .5 damage difference. They choose what they want to use because they think it looks cooler.
100% of my players don't realize that there's a damage difference between a Greataxe/Lance and Greatsword/Maul. They just see that the maximum damage on both is 12, and make their choice there (well, at least one of my players realizes that Great Weapon Fighting is better on the Greatsword than on the Greataxe, because 1's and 2's are much more common on d6's than d12's. That's just about as far into statistics they can go).

Now, if only we had a 3d4 Two-Handed, Heavy Weapon and we'd have a complete set of "the most you can roll is 12 for the base weapon's damage"-type weapons. Maybe a Great-Trident or something like that? The closest thing we currently have to this is the Double-Bladed Scimitar, which is 2d4, but lets you make a bonus action attack that's just 1d4.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Yes I get the numbers and no I won't pick the Greatsword if the Great Axe is what I think that character should have. The picture in my head is more important than the damage numbers, at least for me in this case.
 

Mordhau

Adventurer
100% of my players don't realize that there's a damage difference between a Greataxe/Lance and Greatsword/Maul. They just see that the maximum damage on both is 12, and make their choice there (well, at least one of my players realizes that Great Weapon Fighting is better on the Greatsword than on the Greataxe, because 1's and 2's are much more common on d6's than d12's. That's just about as far into statistics they can go).

Now, if only we had a 3d4 Two-Handed, Heavy Weapon and we'd have a complete set of "the most you can roll is 12 for the base weapon's damage"-type weapons. Maybe a Great-Trident or something like that? The closest thing we currently have to this is the Double-Bladed Scimitar, which is 2d4, but lets you make a bonus action attack that's just 1d4.
Why not 6d2?
 


I don't see how greatsword/axe can compete with sword and board. 2-2,5 on average more damage compared to up to +5 AC difference. In a system that toutes bounded accuracy and growing rate of hit points as features, how are twohaded weapons ever thought to compete?
In 3X, at least you dealt 1.5 str bonus with twohanded. Should 5e have such a rule as well (plus perhaps, an ekstra damage die on a crit?)?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't see how greatsword/axe can compete with sword and board. 2-2,5 on average more damage compared to up to +5 AC difference. In a system that toutes bounded accuracy and growing rate of hit points as features, how are twohaded weapons ever thought to compete?
In 3X, at least you dealt 1.5 str bonus with twohanded. Should 5e have such a rule as well (plus perhaps, an ekstra damage die on a crit?)?
1. Using a two handed weapon allows for casting somatic spells (sword and board requires putting up your weapon till next turn or taking the warcaster feat).
2. GWM is very good and there's no sword and shield feat comparable.
3. One can't assume any particular magic items in 5e. Meaning the AC difference being considered s mostly likely 1-2.
4. Offense tends to be better than individual defense.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't see how greatsword/axe can compete with sword and board. 2-2,5 on average more damage compared to up to +5 AC difference. In a system that toutes bounded accuracy and growing rate of hit points as features, how are twohaded weapons ever thought to compete?
In 3X, at least you dealt 1.5 str bonus with twohanded. Should 5e have such a rule as well (plus perhaps, an ekstra damage die on a crit?)?

It competes because a lot of people only look at DPR and ignore defense. After all that greatsword is going to slightly more than .5 damage more per round for a fighter with great weapon fighting than a dueling sword and board fighter. Whether great weapon master significantly increases damage is going to depend on a whole host of options, but with a barbarian that can go reckless it can add up.

I'm sure someone can give actual numbers on DPR - my point is just that most times the analysis doesn't include defense. It really comes down to personal preference, style and game.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It competes because a lot of people only look at DPR and ignore defense. After all that greatsword is going to slightly more than .5 damage more per round for a fighter with great weapon fighting than a dueling sword and board fighter. Whether great weapon master significantly increases damage is going to depend on a whole host of options, but with a barbarian that can go reckless it can add up.

I'm sure someone can give actual numbers on DPR - my point is just that most times the analysis doesn't include defense. It really comes down to personal preference, style and game.
It's not that they don't value defense, it's that adding 1-2 AC isn't worth the tradeoff in not being able to have GWM or ability to cast spells with weapon drawn.

If I was in a campaign where I knew magical shields would be fairly common and that finding a +2 or +3 shield wouldn't be out of the question - I'd gladly choose Sword and Board and recommend anyone else in that style of campaign to do so as well.
 

1. Using a two handed weapon allows for casting somatic spells (sword and board requires putting up your weapon till next turn or taking the warcaster feat).
2. GWM is very good and there's no sword and shield feat comparable.
3. One can't assume any particular magic items in 5e. Meaning the AC difference being considered s mostly likely 1-2.
4. Offense tends to be better than individual defense.
One can't assume feats either, so if you assume GWM, you got to assume magic items.
Duelist fighting style gives great offense as well, leveling that field.
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
I don't see how greatsword/axe can compete with sword and board. 2-2,5 on average more damage compared to up to +5 AC difference. In a system that toutes bounded accuracy and growing rate of hit points as features, how are twohaded weapons ever thought to compete?
In 3X, at least you dealt 1.5 str bonus with twohanded. Should 5e have such a rule as well (plus perhaps, an ekstra damage die on a crit?)?

One can't assume feats either, so if you assume GWM, you got to assume magic items.
Duelist fighting style gives great offense as well, leveling that field.
On the subject of should two-handed weapons get 1.5*str, the answer IMO is a hard NO. As simple as multiplying by 1.5* is, it is an unnecessary complication in a game that tried to strip away such things. If 2H weapons need a boost, just give them a boost (2d8 instead of 2d6, or heck just an actual +2 damage).
*plus rounding, such that Str 18 has even more of a leg up on Str 16 than it already does, re-igniting the 'point buy and array don't let me start with an 18' debates.

On the subject of magic items and feats--yes, one-handed weapon, shield, and dueling fighting style works very well in feat-less and magic-item-less* games. We can go back and forth on frequencies but I doubt anyone has any hard numbers. Suffice to say, I don't see that many feat-less games. Regardless, the answer can be different between those games and others.
*Or games where the DM places magic items specifically helpful to the party, so if everyone plays a Dex-based character, there will be lots of magic rapiers and few if any magic greataxe/greatswords.
**and in those that do, there seem to be a lot more paladins and full-casters than barbarians and fighters and such


As to how they can compete, they do just fine in many instances. A reckless-attacking half-orc barbarian* with a greataxe does very well. As does the character that finds the flaming greatsword while the dex-based duelist** is fighting with the party rogues and bards over the one magic rapier that dropped. Also worth noting is that the 14-Dex-and-high-strength medium armor character can drop their 2H weapon and draw out their bow in a way that sword and board has trouble doing (because of shield don/doff rules). Honestly, greatsword/axe vs. sword&board seems like a pretty fair tradeoff. It is when PAM halberd (or, even moreso 1H quarterstaff or spear, potentially with shield and dueling fighting style) comes into play that I find them finally losing their luster.
*possibly multiclassing into fighter3 for GWF fighting style and 19-20 crits
**Yes, there are str-based sword and board options too, but 'why bother with a greatsword if you can be a dex-based duelist character and also get the 'better' stat' is something of a theme I've seen.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's not that they don't value defense, it's that adding 1-2 AC isn't worth the tradeoff in not being able to have GWM or ability to cast spells with weapon drawn.

If I was in a campaign where I knew magical shields would be fairly common and that finding a +2 or +3 shield wouldn't be out of the question - I'd gladly choose Sword and Board and recommend anyone else in that style of campaign to do so as well.
How do you get a 1-2? A shield is +2.

GWM is very dependent on opponents so probably something I'd choose for a reckless barbarian, not so sure that I'd do it for a fighter. But that's partly just because it fits my image of a barbarian. The comparison also depends on how your DM handles shield master, if you can do it before your other attacks knocking opponents prone can be quite beneficial.

In any case, it's personal preference. I think either option is reasonably close.
 

Mordhau

Adventurer
Without feats it seems clear the issue is that Duellist style is too good comparatively.

Whether it's too good overall is a different question (doesn't seem to be).

The big issue there is it seems pretty clear, from what I've seen in the playtest, that duellist style was never meant to be used with a shield, it was originally intended to enable the swashbuckling rapierist.

With feats great weapons are considerably better. This really is an issue. They shouldn't be differently balanced depending on whether an optional rule is in play (and it's not good design to have a feature that is overly weak unless you take a specific feat).

Great Weapon Style is generally a 1AC tradeoff because if you're using a greatweeapon and don't take it, you would probably take Defence Style.
 

ECMO3

Hero
On the subject of should two-handed weapons get 1.5*str, the answer IMO is a hard NO. As simple as multiplying by 1.5* is, it is an unnecessary complication in a game that tried to strip away such things. If 2H weapons need a boost, just give them a boost (2d8 instead of 2d6, or heck just an actual +2 damage).
*plus rounding, such that Str 18 has even more of a leg up on Str 16 than it already does, re-igniting the 'point buy and array don't let me start with an 18' debates.

On the subject of magic items and feats--yes, one-handed weapon, shield, and dueling fighting style works very well in feat-less and magic-item-less* games. We can go back and forth on frequencies but I doubt anyone has any hard numbers. Suffice to say, I don't see that many feat-less games. Regardless, the answer can be different between those games and others.
*Or games where the DM places magic items specifically helpful to the party, so if everyone plays a Dex-based character, there will be lots of magic rapiers and few if any magic greataxe/greatswords.
**and in those that do, there seem to be a lot more paladins and full-casters than barbarians and fighters and such


As to how they can compete, they do just fine in many instances. A reckless-attacking half-orc barbarian* with a greataxe does very well. As does the character that finds the flaming greatsword while the dex-based duelist** is fighting with the party rogues and bards over the one magic rapier that dropped. Also worth noting is that the 14-Dex-and-high-strength medium armor character can drop their 2H weapon and draw out their bow in a way that sword and board has trouble doing (because of shield don/doff rules). Honestly, greatsword/axe vs. sword&board seems like a pretty fair tradeoff. It is when PAM halberd (or, even moreso 1H quarterstaff or spear, potentially with shield and dueling fighting style) comes into play that I find them finally losing their luster.
*possibly multiclassing into fighter3 for GWF fighting style and 19-20 crits
**Yes, there are str-based sword and board options too, but 'why bother with a greatsword if you can be a dex-based duelist character and also get the 'better' stat' is something of a theme I've seen.
Two-handed weapons are fine as is and do not need further boosting IMO.

It is not just the flaming greatsword either, what about the flaming longsword or even the legendary warpick? In a high magic campaign, strength-based fighteers have the advantage of using any melee weapon effectively, and they can change their fighting style every 4 levels to make it work if they find something that doesn't work with their old style. That is one of few advantages to a strength build.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Without feats it seems clear the issue is that Duellist style is too good comparatively.

Whether it's too good overall is a different question (doesn't seem to be).

The big issue there is it seems pretty clear, from what I've seen in the playtest, that duellist style was never meant to be used with a shield, it was originally intended to enable the swashbuckling rapierist.

With feats great weapons are considerably better. This really is an issue. They shouldn't be differently balanced depending on whether an optional rule is in play (and it's not good design to have a feature that is overly weak unless you take a specific feat).

Great Weapon Style is generally a 1AC tradeoff because if you're using a greatweeapon and don't take it, you would probably take Defence Style.
Dueling is ok but not great IME. It is a reliable damage addition that is somewhat countered by the fact you are using lower damage weapons.

It is not among my favorite styles. I have not taken it since very early in 5E and since Tasha's there are many other equal or better options IMO.

I have not played a sword and board in a while, but if I was I think I would go with thrown weapon fighting, protection or superior technique first.

One of the big problems with a sword and board martial is they can only make 1 ranged attack per turn, because they can only use thrown weapons, RAW they can't use any other missile weapons while holding a shield. I think I would give up the +2 bonus in melee to solve this problem and be able to fling 2 handaxes or fling 1 and then pull out a sword and go stab someone for your second attack.
 
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I figure that a sword gives you consistent damage, even if you miss slightly, because no matter where along the blade you strike the target with, it's a sharp bit that does damage. Axes should have more chance of high damage and more chance of low damage, because An axe if you miss slightly then you risk striking the target with the handle instead of the head.

So…
Axes do 1d8 (versatile 1d10) damage, swords do 2d4 (versatile 1d4+1d6) damage. Greataxes do 1d12, greatswords do 2d6.

Barbarians only get to roll one additional die on a crit, thus encouraging the trope of "barbarians use axes."
 



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