Weapon Mods: +1d4 damage

Tired of the same old +1 weapons? Consider adding a more magical touch! For the low cost of one d4, you can add a little elemental spice to your next homebrew magic item! After all, players love rolling dice (we’ve said it before).

Now, the cautious DM might be worried about throwing the balance of their game out of whack. That’s why we’re here today! We’re going to take a look at the power of a +1d4 modification, compared to standard +1/+2/+3 weapons.

Power Level

The power level of a +1d4 damage modifier is:

  • Almost always stronger than a +1.
  • Better vs. lower AC opponents.
  • Worse vs. higher AC opponents.
  • More pronounced by advantage (and diminished by disadvantage).
  • Outshined by Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter.

Case Study

As usual, we’re going to dive into a bunch of graphs to get an idea of how this comparison works for different character builds. But first, I’ll give you the tool to perform your own analysis:

+1d4 Damage Chart
d4 - Disadvantage

Standard Progression

Let’s take a standard character that invests their ASIs in their primary attack statistic. In this case, we’ll take a simple longsword fighter:

The general trend here is that the benefit of a +d4 damage modifier decreases against higher ACs, relative to a standard +1/+2/+3 weapon. This is true across nearly every observation.

With this progression, note how even after your primary attack score is maxed out, further increases to your proficiency bonus makes it even stronger against low AC foes. However, it’s consistently close to a +1 weapon against higher AC foes.

Remember the trends above to keep the analysis in context. Moving forward, we’ll use a character at Level 4. We’ll assume they took an ASI, unless they took a feat for the sake of that example.  Feel free to tinker with the chart for different assumptions (i.e. Variant Human).

Advantage vs. Disadvantage

Generally, the +1d4 damage modifier is better when rolling more dice, since the standard +1/+2/+3 mods experience less benefit from the increase in attack bonus.

Advantage makes the effect of the +1d4 damage modifier more pronounced:

d4 - Advantage

This is even more true with Elven Accuracy:

d4 - Elven Accuracy

Conversely, disadvantage drags down the power of the +1d4 damage modifier:

d4 - Disadvantage

Dueling Fighting Style

The Dueling Fighting Style doesn’t have much impact on the relative strength, since its damage is a flat bonus. The standard modifier comes out a shade better, since its more likely to hit and take advantage of that extra two damage. Here’s the progression for the Longsword character with Dueling Fighting Style:

Archery Fighting Style

The Archery Fighting Style boosts the power of the +d4 damage modifier. Standard modifiers enjoy less marginal utility from their attack bonus. Here’s the progression for a Longbow character with Archery Fighting Style:

Great Weapon Master & Sharpshooter

Characters using these (overpowered?) feats benefit more from the +1/+2/+3 weapons, which offset the penalty to attack.

Here’s the greatsword user with Great Weapon Master (and Great Weapon Fighting):

Here’s a longbow user with Sharpshooter (and Archery):

For players cheesing the GWM/SS feats, they’re actually going to see a smaller benefit than a +1 weapon against most AC ranges. Watch powergamers squirm as their optimization backfires.

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