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While enjoying my morning coffee, I stumbled upon a Baldur's Gate 3 Barbarian build guide. The author claimed, as you can see from the title, that Great Weapon Fighting (GWF) and Savage Attacker don't work well together.

Unfortunately, I don't have the video URL, so I'll paraphrase the context. The author suggested a 3-level Fighter dip after taking 8-9 Barbarian levels for Action Surge and either Champion or Battle Master benefits. However, they specifically stated:

"I don't recommend taking Great Weapon Fighting if you are taking Savage Attacker as one of your feats because they don't play well together."

This is the first time I've heard this, and my understanding was that more re-rolls lead to better outcomes.

If anyone can clarify the interaction between GWF and Savage Attacker and why it wouldn't be beneficial in this particular build, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2

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Adding a second re-roll effect has less impact than the first, especially if it’s Great Weapon Fighting, and taking either option has an opportunity cost

Note: I made a faulty assumption that Savage Attacker would trigger first, but this is not the case according to players who have investigated the interaction directly. See for example this Reddit post. As such I’ve revised my answer.

Great Weapon Fighting (GWF) is a fighting style:

When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack with a two-handed melee weapon, that die is rerolled once.

Savage Attacker is a feat:

When making melee weapon attacks, you roll your damage dice twice and use the highest result.

This is effectively the same as advantage, but for damage dice.

In Baldur’s Gate 3 both of these are always on effects: the re-rolls are mandatory. This differs from the tabletop game in which the player chooses whether they re-roll or not in both cases, and can also use GWF both before and after using Savage Attacker (see “How does Savage Attacker interact with Great Weapon Fighting style?” on RPG.SE for more info). The BG3 versions also include some kinds of bonus damage which are not included in the tabletop versions.

A character who has both of these features and hits with an attack using a two-handed melee weapon will roll their damage dice. Great Weapon Fighting then re-rolls each die with a 1 or 2 result, using the new roll for each one even if it’s lower. Then Savage Attacker rolls a second die for each damage die, using the higher of the two results. GWF does not trigger again on any new values rolled by Savage Attacker.

With a Greataxe, which rolls 1d12 for damage, the normal chance of rolling 2 or lower is 2/12 or 1/6, so 16.666%.

A Greatsword is not quite as bad; it rolls 2d6 for damage, and each dice is considered separately for both effects. For each d6 the normal chance of rolling 2 or less is 1/3, 33.333%. The odds that at least one of them will come up 2 or less is normally quite high: 55.555%.

So you get more use out of GWF with weapons that provide smaller or a greater number of damage dice, and Savage Attacker always re-rolls and gives you the highest result, which makes it strictly better.

How much damage will this add? It will vary a lot, but on average if you have both the style and the feat, it will increase damage for the dice rolled by about 35%. For a detailed breakdown of theoretical damage bonuses from each effect, including in combination, see this Reddit post.

As the linked post points out, this is more useful at lower levels when more of your damage comes from the dice roll than the bonuses added to it. By sixth or seventh level when a fighter or barbarian character is probably adding as much as +10 to a damage roll from Strength, Rage and magical bonuses, the extra 35% to dice damage matters less unless you have a weapon with lots of smaller damage dice.

Choosing the Savage Attacker feat when you already have GWF makes more of a difference than the reverse scenario, but taking either is an opportunity cost.

By taking the Savage Attacker feat you are missing out on an Ability Score Increase (ASI) or another feat. This is an opportunity cost - most classes in BG3 only get three ASIs or feats, though Fighters and Rogues get more, and so the cost is lower for them. An ASI can boost your Strength bonus by +1, which adds to ability checks, saving throws and attack rolls as well as damage, increasing your chances of hitting a foe (and thus reducing your chances of doing zero damage). This is particularly useful in the early game, as are other feats, but the linked analysis above suggests Savage Attacker may be powerful choice.

Taking Great Weapon Fighting as a style is an opportunity cost for other styles which can improve your defence or ranged attacks (useful if the character’s Dexterity is low), or provide other benefits that might be more consistently useful. This is particularly true in BG3, where the Karmic Dice setting (on by default) ensures you don’t have long unlucky streaks of very low rolls.

The final advice of the detailed analysis seems to be that which is worth taking will depend on the size and number of damage dice used by your weapon, but in general Savage Attacker is good for most scenarios, and it’s probably not worth taking GWF if you already have Savage Attacker.

Of course none of this takes into account the feelgood factor of having another chance to avoid rolling low damage with a big weapon, but that’s considerably lessened when the re-rolls happen automatically under the hood.

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    Same question here, have you tested that this is actually how the game resolves the two effects? Different game but for example in Pathfinder: WOTR Favorable Magic and Persistent Spell would force an enemy to have disadvantage on two disadvantaged dice, so they had to pass a save 4 times instead of 3 as the descriptions would make it seem. Dec 12, 2023 at 14:50
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    You’re right - I hadn’t tested it, but others have. I’ve linked to that testing and revised my answer. Dec 12, 2023 at 14:56
  • Something to note: GWF also grants access to the All In stance, which takes a -5 to your attack roll in exchange for a +10 to damage. Dec 14, 2023 at 13:29
  • @Shadur I had this in an earlier version of my answer, but it’s not considered that strong in the later game when enemy AC is higher and there are lots of other bonuses to damage available. So I cut it out. Dec 15, 2023 at 12:26
  • @Shadur Great Weapon Master adds -5 to attack roll and +10 dmg we are talking about great weapon fighting style available from a dip in fighter (or I think ranger too but fighter is more natural choice for action surge at lvl 2 )
    – Zchesus
    Dec 16, 2023 at 14:09
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Savage Attacker rerolls work on individual Dice.

Let's say you got a 2D6 first dice rolls a 2 and the second rolls a 4 (total 6).

Then you re-roll a 2D6 using Savage attacker to get a 4 and a 3 (total 7)then the damage will be an total 8 8 seeing it picks the highest of each roll instead of taking the newest total

Great Weapon Fighting only re rolls your dice if you roll a 1 or a 2 (even has the chance to lower a 2 to a 1 with really bad luck).

Meaning that:

  1. 1 Great Weapon Fighting is less good than Savage Attacker.
  2. GWP only procs if you roll less than a 3 2 times in a row if you also have SA. chances of that are rather low
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  • Assuming "GWP" is supposed to mean GWF, this is not correct: In case of having both SA and GWF, GWF is triggered if the first roll is <3. And the additional roll, that is always made by SA, is not subject to GWF (sadly). Feb 10 at 18:47

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