Great Weapon Fighting 5e

Published on February 29, 2024

Heft your greataxe, it’s time to fight with some heavy weapons.

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The Great Weapon Fighting Style

When wizards are slinging spells and rogues are stabbing backs, everyone has a special place in their heart for those who throw caution to the wind to get up close and personal with something big, heavy, and preferably sharp.

Great Weapon Fighting is a fighting style option for fighters and paladins, and can help these mighty melee combatants fuel their weapon damage. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s dive in.

What is Great Weapon Fighting?

Great Weapon Fighting is a fighting style option that allows you to reroll 1s and 2s on damage dice when wielding a melee weapon with two hands. The downside is you must take the new roll, even if it’s another 1 or 2. Seeing as it applies to any weapon wielded in two hands, heavy weapons like greatswords, mauls, and halberds are all fair game, as are versatile weapons like longswords and battleaxes.

How Good is Great Weapon Fighting in D&D 5e?

On paper, Great Weapon Fighting increases your average damage output. Here’s how it breaks down for each weapon damage type:

  • For a d6 weapon (greatsword), the average damage goes from 3.5 to 4.17.
  • For a d8 weapon (greatclub), the average damage per die goes from 4.5 to 5.25.
  • For a d10 weapon (glaive), the average damage per die goes from 5.5 to 6.3.
  • For a d12 weapon (greataxe), the average damage increases from 6.5 to 7.33.

This is a meager +0.8 damage to each roll in the best-case scenario (using a d12 damage dice).

Its bump in damage can feel great when it changes your greataxe’s d12 from a 1 to a 12, but on average, it won’t make a substantial difference. Plus, it competes with other fighting styles like Defense, which gives a +1 to AC, or Dueling, which gives you a flat +2 bonus to damage rolls.

How to Use Great Weapon Fighting Effectively

So, you’ve seen that Great Weapon Master isn’t necessarily optimized and decided to fully invest in pumping your two-handed weapon damage anyway. I applaud you. Here are some tips for making the most out of this fighting style:

Choose Your Weapon Wisely

Pretty much the only choice that’s worthwhile with Great Weapon Master is a greataxe, as it offers the highest boost in damage on average (see the breakdown above). I’d heavily caution against using a greatsword because you’ll see the smallest boost in damage potential, even though you get to roll 2d6.

Get Lots of Attacks

More attacks mean more opportunity for the boost in damage to make a substantial difference.

This can be easier said than done if you’re not a fighter with up to four attacks and Action Surge. But there are feats that you can pick to help materialize extra attacks:

  • Great Weapon Master: Not be to mistaken for Great Weapon Fighting, GWM is an incredibly potent feat that synergizes with this fighting style’s need for two-handed weapons. Not only can you get an extra +10 damage for a -5 to your attack roll, but you can net extra attacks as a bonus action after you down an enemy or land a crit.
  • Polearm Master: Another feat that works well with Great Weapon Master’s need for two-handed weapons is Polearm Master. This feat requires a quarterstaff, spear, halberd, or glaive, all of which are either heavy or versatile weapons. Plus, it gives you the ability to make opportunity attacks when creatures enter your reach, resulting in a ton of extra attacks.

Who Can Use Great Weapon Fighting?

Fighters and paladins are the only classes that naturally gain access to this Fighting Style. But, if you’re dying to boost your greataxe damage by an average of 0.8, you can pick this ability up using the Fighting Initiate feat.

Final Verdict

While it’s not entirely without use, Great Weapon Fighting unfortunately pales in comparison to other fighting styles.

That said, it does have a place for builds who love the image of wielding massive weapons and want a bit of extra oomph in their swings. Just remember, it’s not going to turn you into a one-person army overnight. Like any good thing in D&D, it’s all about how you use it—and a little bit of luck.

So, grab your oversized weapon of choice, take aim, and strike true!

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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