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With Basic's release the Fighter is given six different Fighting Styles to choose from at level 1. Each fighting style offers a solid mechanical benefit to the fighter, but both Great Weapon Fighting and Two-Weapon Fighting leapt out at me as providing the strongest mechanical benefit.

Great Weapon Fighting When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the two-handed or versatile property for you to gain this benefit.

Two-Weapon Fighting When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.

At level 1 which feature is optimized to deal more damage? Which at level 20?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

At L1, Two Weapon fighting (TWF) is more optimized. At level 20 the preference switches to Great Weapon Flighting (GWF).

Let's look at why. We're only going to go with a brief snapshot here of L1 and L20. I'm going to assume that Str is 16 at L1 and 20 at L20. Our TWF will wield dual Scimitars (or short swords), and our GWF will wield the Maul or Great Sword.

We'll use the Ogre from the starter as our jousting dummy at L1 (AC 11) and the Nothic (AC 15) at L20 (the Ogre is a near auto hit and thus relatively uninteresting for this particular comparison). The hit chance for our L1 bout is 75%, and the hit chance for our L20 bout is 80%. When a better study of monsters is available to me, I'll update our hit chances here.

To explain the concepts here the TWF gets to add their stat bonus to their bonus action attack, whereas our GWF gets to reroll any 1s and 2s on their first pass of die rolls. We'll be using the following formula for the average die for the GWF:

  Avg(2d6) = 2(2/6 * 3.5 + 4/6 * 4.5 = 25/6) = 8.33

To calculate crits in 5e, you simply multiple the dice rolled by the crit chance. Since nothing is maxed, there is no need to subtract the crit term from the main roll in this edition.

L1 AC 11:

 GWF: 2d6 + 3 = 11.33 * .75 + .05*8.33 = 8.914 DPR
 TWF: 2*(1d6+ 3) = 2*(6.5*.75 + .05*3.5) =  10.1 DPR

As you can see, at L1, the TWF has an edge of about 1 DPR. Let's look at L20. At L20, our stats go to 20, the fighter makes 4 attacks per round plus the TWF gets his bonus action and the crit range is 18-20 or 15%. Our attack bonus is +11 and our hit chance is 80%

L20 AC 15:

  GWF: 4*(2d6+5) = 4*(13.33 * .8 + .15 * 8.33) = 47.65
  TWF: 5*(1d6+5) = 5*(8.5 * .8 + .15 * 3.5) = 36.63

At this point the TWF is heavily outclassed by the GWF. It's not even really close. It becomes a bit closer when the hit chance is lower. But, ultimately, the problem is that the TWF only ever gets that single bonus action attack, and it's not going to be enough to compete with the GWF's big single attacks.

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You should mention that twf only applies once per round no matter how many attacks you have. – GMNoob Jul 11 '14 at 9:21
@GMNoob: Wait, I think like I had missed something. Do you mean that TWF only ever get you one more attack per round ? In 3.5e where with expensive feats you get iterative attacks on the off-hand as well, so could it simply be that the current material is lacking this aspect ? – Matthieu M. Aug 13 '14 at 17:36
@MatthieuM. that's correct. No matter how many extra attacks you get, you only ever get 1 bonus action attack. – wax eagle Aug 13 '14 at 17:41
@waxeagle: Since I also read somewhere that Sneak Attack only applied once per round, it seems to me that a TWF Rogue suddenly lost a lot of wind between 3.5e and 5e. In 3.5e it was a feat intensive path (for a feat-starved class), but it had potential; here it seems not to be so interesting. – Matthieu M. Aug 14 '14 at 6:10
@MatthieuM. the verbiage is "once per turn." That seems to indicate that you can do it more than once per round. But it might be good to ask that as a question! Note that this question is specifically related to the fighter's class features. A TWF rogue stays competitive with a rapier rogue 1-19, but falls off the table a bit at 20. – wax eagle Aug 14 '14 at 10:12

A note: if you get the feat "Dual Wielder" the stats become like so:

L20 AC 15:

  GWF: 4*(2d6+5) = 4*(13.33 * .8 + .15 * 8.33) = 47.65
  TWF: 5*(1d10+5) = 5*(10.5 * .8 + .15 * 5.5) = 46.125

TWF has a much higher chance of hitting, but the average damage is much lower

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Hi xealous; your answer needs to provide a decent answer to the question independently (see this meta Q). Merely adding minor notes or additions is not sufficient for an answer. Are you able to speak more to the general situation? (If you don't want to repeat what's already been said, the answer to the question I linked has some advice on doing so succinctly.) – doppelgreener Oct 17 '14 at 5:12
@doppelgreener I suspect this could do better as a comment on the existing answer, except that as a new user, xealous can't make comments. – Miniman Oct 17 '14 at 5:25
@Miniman I've left a note on wax eagle's answer. – doppelgreener Oct 17 '14 at 5:27

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