I'm going to play a half-orc Barbarian (with a STR modifier of +4) in a soon-to-begin, pure PHB D&D 5E campaign, starting at level 1, and I'm wondering what the best overall attacking style is, combined with the corresponding feat: one great weapon (d12) or two regular weapons (2d8)?
I've almost always seen barbarians played with Great Weapon Master and a two-handed weapon (usually a greataxe), exploiting the advantage on attack rolls granted by Reckless Attack as a mean to both counteract the -5 to the hit and increase the likelihood of a natural 20, by which the feat also grants another attack.
- Altogether, at level 1, I could deal a maximum of 28 damage (12 + 4 STR + 2 rage + 10 GWM), increasing to an utterly disgusting - also thanks to the half-orc's Savage Attacks - 104 damage (2x 3x12 + 2x 4 + 2x 2 + 2x 10 GWM) when critting both the regular and the bonus action attack granted by Great Weapon Master. However, that comes at the cost of a reduced probability of hitting or, when using Reckless Attack after level 2, a higher chance of being hit.
The Dual Wielder feat caught my attention both for the free +1 AC when weilding two weapons and the ability to use two non-light weapons at the same time, e.g., battleaxes. When weilding two weapons, one can use a bonus action to attack a second time, without adding the ability modifier to the damage.
- The output is lower, at maximum 24 (2x 8 + 4 + 2x 2), or 56 when critting with both attacks (6x 8 + 4 + 2x 2), but the chance of hitting is higher and that of being hit is lower thanks to the bonus AC, even with Reckless Attack.
Also, when Extra Attack becomes available, one can regularly attack three times in the same turn (2 with the action and 1 with the bonus action), increasing (?) both the average damage done without critting and the chance of critting even more (as far as I understand, the more attack rolls you do, the more you might crit in a turn), possibly allowing not to rely on Reckless Attack to consistently deal damage.
Overall, while Great Weapon Master opens the possibility of dealing an insane amount of damage even at low levels, Dual Wielder appears to be more reliable for both attack and defense. I'm afraid that I may be missing something though, as I'm ignorant in statistics and my understanding of probability is quite poor.
May I ask for your analysis? Is the potential damage output (DPR) with Great Weapon Master too good to be traded off for less damage, but a bit more reliability and defense? Getting the "to hit" chance factored into the expected output may help me see the advantages more clearly.
My Barbarian will follow the path of the Totem Warrior, probably picking bear all the times. After 5 levels of Barbarian to reach Extra Attack, I am considering multiclassing up to 3 levels of Fighter to add the complementing class feature (Great/Two Weapon Fighting) and to exploit Action Surge and the Champion archetype critical bonus, but that might as well be another question.