Power Attack is almost always a damage decrease


Playing the Game


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Hi, I'm Jack the Lad. You might know me from some analysis I wrote about skeletons and fighters and wizards and things around the release of D&D 5e. I've been taking a look at Pathfinder 2e over the past couple of days and doing some similar analysis.

One of the main things I've been trying to do is work out how martial classes can do the most damage, and in the process of doing that I've come to realise that unless you're attacking something with resistance, Power Attack will almost always do less damage than two normal attacks.

You can calculate the expected damage of an attack by multiplying its chance to hit by the damage it does on a hit; if an attack deals 10 damage and hits 50% of the time, you can expect it to do 5 damage per attack on average.

Critical hits deal damage over and above this, but because they usually deal additional damage equal to the original hit, you can generally account for them by simply adding your chance to crit to your chance to hit.

In the example above, if we crit 25% of the time (included in the 50% of attacks that hit), we can add that to our 50% chance to hit and know that we'll deal 75% of the "on hit" damage per attack on average, or 7.5 damage.

It's also worth noting that there is a lower floor on your expected damage at 10% of the total of your weapon damage and stat mod, since as per page 178 a natural 20 is always a critical success/critical hit.

Of the creatures we've seen so far in the bestiary, the Ox (and the Hidden Pit) have the joint lowest AC at 10 and the Titan and Devastator have the joint highest AC at 47. I've made some tables of a Fighter's expected damage against these and every intermediate AC, assuming they use a d12 weapon and upgrade the weapon and their Strength at every opportunity. Using the Character Wealth table 11-2 on page 348 of the playtest rulebook, that means increases to their Strength modifier at levels 10, 15 and 20 and:

  • At level 5, a +1 magic weapon
  • At level 9, a +2 magic weapon
  • At level 10, a +2 magic weapon with +1d6 energy damage
  • At level 13, a +3 magic weapon with +2d6 energy damage
  • At level 17, a +4 magic weapon with +2d6 energy damage

As you can see in the table below, Power Attack becomes a damage decrease almost all of the time as soon as you start using a magic weapon:

Table 1

Interestingly it's mostly the magic weapon(s) that account for this, as even a Fighter with 12 strength and therefore minimal stat mod double dipping capabilities (perhaps one with strong opinions on the relative merits of roleplay and rollplay) is almost always better off making regular attacks and a Fighter without a magic weapon is almost always better off making Power Attacks:

Table 2

Power Attack also has significant downsides other than the obvious and purely numeric ones, too. Firstly and most obviously you only need to deal as much damage to an enemy as it has HP - overkill damage is wasted, while a weaker attack that kills an enemy lets you spend the rest of your turn doing something else and perhaps even killing another. Secondly and perhaps more importantly making two attacks dramatically increases your chances of dealing at least some damage on your turn rather than wasting it entirely with a whiff, which is important both in practical play terms and in player morale ones. Spending spend three or four turns trying to power attack something and missing is a very bad feeling.

Power Attack does improve your expected damage against enemies with resistances, though, against whom a single big hit is preferable to two smaller ones that each have a flat reduction applied to them, but it's not something people should blindly take and use assuming it will increase their damage, which is how it's mostly worked in other games and editions, and how I've mostly seen it being discussed so far.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is good to know. Do you think this was an intentional design choice to make Power Attack a situational ability rather than essentially a feat-tax as it had been in the previous edition?

Dark Archive

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It should probably be renamed to Vital Strike, because it's Vital Strike.


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This is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to see. Amazing work.


This is very interesting and what i was suspecting wasn’t being considered when people have been unhappy about power attack not being available to all melee classes

Effectively it seems like the assumption is:

-power attack must be as much of a no brainier as the previous version. It is essential for keeping pace in damage dealing stakes

It sounds like this is not guaranteed

Dark Archive

While this is interesting and useful, another analysis that could be informative is if you are spending all your actions to attack. Either doing a power attack and an attack at -5, or three attacks at -0/-5/-10.


Velisruna wrote:
While this is interesting and useful, another analysis that could be informative is if you are spending all your actions to attack. Either doing a power attack and an attack at -5, or three attacks at -0/-5/-10.

The attack after PA is at a -10, unfortunately.


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Ouranou wrote:
It should probably be renamed to Vital Strike, because it's Vital Strike.

I disagree. Other than the name being a holdover from 3.x I don't think vital strike fits the mechanics terribly well. A strike to someone's vitals would be easier to perform with a small, precise weapon like a dagger and would presumably hamper someone in a way damage doesn't. Vital Strike (from 3.x) helps very little if you are using a high-damage die weapon (like a greatsword), and is basically always a waste of a feat if you use a lower-damage weapon.


How effective would power attack be if iit could be used as the 2nd and 3rd action instead of the first. So you get a full attack then a -5 power attack. Currently you can’t do this because of the open trait.


Rek Rollington wrote:
How effective would power attack be if iit could be used as the 2nd and 3rd action instead of the first. So you get a full attack then a -5 power attack. Currently you can’t do this because of the open trait.

It works out precisely the same, just look 5 spaces to the right on the chart since the target's AC is effectively 5 higher.


Dot


Paradozen wrote:
Ouranou wrote:
It should probably be renamed to Vital Strike, because it's Vital Strike.
I disagree. Other than the name being a holdover from 3.x I don't think vital strike fits the mechanics terribly well. A strike to someone's vitals would be easier to perform with a small, precise weapon like a dagger and would presumably hamper someone in a way damage doesn't. Vital Strike (from 3.x) helps very little if you are using a high-damage die weapon (like a greatsword), and is basically always a waste of a feat if you use a lower-damage weapon.

Just a nit-pick, but using a small weapon to strike at someone's vitals is video game logic. In reality, going for vitals is more of a skill/techinque based action than having the right tool for the job.

Daggers are the "go to" sneak attack/back stab/vital strike weapon mainly because we imagine assassins slinking in the shadows to deliver a deadly strike, and assassins used daggers because bigger weapons are harder to conceal.

On the topic of this thread, the devs intent, from what I understand, was for power attack to not be a guaranteed better option than just attacking a few times. The old way of having a penalty to your attack doesn't work as nicely because of the new +10/-10 system and the only other real cost they have access to is action economy.

I'm not happy with the new power attack, but I don't have a better solution without scrapping the +10/-10 system or somehow changing how power attack interacts with it.

I would have liked something more along the lines of "add double STR bonus by taking a -2 to hit", but I don't know exactly how that effects all the math.


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If the math is correct and power attack vs normal attacks are basically equal but situational, and power attack is something you pay a feat for... then that doesn't seem like a good thing.

Especially when the fighter can just take a raw damage output feat like furious focus.


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N-Sphere wrote:

If the math is correct and power attack vs normal attacks are basically equal but situational, and power attack is something you pay a feat for... then that doesn't seem like a good thing.

Especially when the fighter can just take a raw damage output feat like furious focus.

I'd be interested in seeing the math done out, but Furious Focus is quite situational too. It's a Press attack so it can only be used on your second or third attack, and it only has an effect on subsequent attacks if the attack it's used on misses. The practical upshot is that it only modifies your third attack, so this has to be a turn where you're making three attacks, and only if your second attack misses and the +5 to the third attack would be enough to convert a miss into a hit or a hit into a crit.


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I think the only big variable missing from the calculation, on second thought, is how all this interacts with the new weapon properties like fatal, deadly, forceful, charge, and the like.

I'm not good at probability math, so I don't know how to calculate all this, but I'm curious if said properties make any differences.

EDIT: Well, that, and I think it's important to compare full-round output using good press attack options, rather than just the first two attacks. Weapon properties have a small effect on this, as well, but it's also important for comparing power attack to double slice etc.


Question for you: In your math for weapons with Potency runes, did you have Power Attack add just a single die (and two dice at level 10), or did you double the number of weapon dice?

For example, if you had a level 5 fighter with a +1 Greataxe using Power Attack, is the damage 3d12+str or 4d12+str?

A straight reading of Power Attack suggests it's 3d12, but by some logic, and things like the COUNTING WEAPON DAMAGE DICE sidebar on page 179 suggest it's 4d12.

Witch of Miracles wrote:
I think the only big variable missing from the calculation, on second thought, is how all this interacts with the new weapon properties like fatal, deadly, forceful, charge, and the like.

Sidebar of page 179 says that power attack's extra dice don't help things like forceful, fyi. I know that's not really what you were talking about but I wanted to point that out.


I have seen this come up on another forum.

A lot of the problem with this type of 'math' and other 'white room theorycraft' is it ignores 3 major variables.

1: Player choices outside of the targeted math.
Certainly power attack compared to magic weapons seems to be lackluster. What about 'Assists' from another player? If they are aware you are a power attacker and you don't hit often as you might want to, you can receive assists from characters who don't do much else during their turns. There are even ranged assists from other fighters, rangers, and rogues that take only a single action. This is a critical kind of variable.

2: GM actions.
Monsters aren't static piles of hit points in tabletop games. Every times i see something like this I have to wonder, "what if the monster is X and does Y?" What if the enemy is another PC based class? that changes variables wildly. No damage done is wasted against a monster because you may be facing weaker or stronger versions of the monster, and not all monsters of a given level will ahve the same hit points in any case. Resistance is a very real issue in the playtest.

3: Dice.
No math like this ever stands up to the actual test of rolling dice, because it can't. You can say "the probability of rolling this is this" but that doesn't matter because until the die is actually rolled, it's just a possibility - one of twenty of them as a matter of fact, and no amount of math and statistics is really going to change that.

There are plenty of people who can do this kind of math everywhere, but no one can say with absolute certainty what the players, GM, or dice will actually DO.


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Mnemaxa wrote:

I have seen this come up on another forum.

A lot of the problem with this type of 'math' and other 'white room theorycraft' is it ignores 3 major variables.

1: Player choices outside of the targeted math.
Certainly power attack compared to magic weapons seems to be lackluster. What about 'Assists' from another player? If they are aware you are a power attacker and you don't hit often as you might want to, you can receive assists from characters who don't do much else during their turns. There are even ranged assists from other fighters, rangers, and rogues that take only a single action. This is a critical kind of variable.

2: GM actions.
Monsters aren't static piles of hit points in tabletop games. Every times i see something like this I have to wonder, "what if the monster is X and does Y?" What if the enemy is another PC based class? that changes variables wildly. No damage done is wasted against a monster because you may be facing weaker or stronger versions of the monster, and not all monsters of a given level will ahve the same hit points in any case. Resistance is a very real issue in the playtest.

3: Dice.
No math like this ever stands up to the actual test of rolling dice, because it can't. You can say "the probability of rolling this is this" but that doesn't matter because until the die is actually rolled, it's just a possibility - one of twenty of them as a matter of fact, and no amount of math and statistics is really going to change that.

There are plenty of people who can do this kind of math everywhere, but no one can say with absolute certainty what the players, GM, or dice will actually DO.

I know I'm not going to convince anyone who believes this of anything, but statistical averages are all you can use to balance a mechanic by in a game like this. You want to know how the mechanic will perform over the vast majority of cases; how well it performs in outlier cases isn't a good indication of its strength at all, since those outlier cases almost never occur.

BEsides, if you have to choose what to do, are you going to choose what might get you better results a very miniscule percent of the time but is worse the rest of the time? Not only that, will you choose an option that potentially locks you out of better choices? Power attack, -based on this math-, is both of those.

EDIT: BAsically, power attacking is the equivalent of going to Vegas, playing roulette, and calling a single number over just calling red or black


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Witch of Miracles wrote:
EDIT: BAsically, power attacking is the equivalent of going to Vegas, playing roulette, and calling a single number over just calling red or black.

Not quite. In that case, if your number comes up, there is a huge payoff.

It's more like being able to double your money by betting on the right color, black or red, and there's a green slot so the house can stay ahead. You're always betting on black.

Then someone takes the time to count the colors on the wheel.

"Uhhh...there are 70 reds and 30 blacks. You'll make money over the long run if you bet on red."

"Ahhh...but you won't know what it will land on until the wheel spins!"


me wrote:

Messing around with ideas a little bit, not in any offical feedback manner, but in theorycraft to get something put together for comparison:

In writing this, I realized our math was off earlier, as Power Attack should be adding two dice by the time we can calc for +5 weapons.

PA: [13, 101] (range 88) {avg 57}
crit PA: [26, 202] (range 176) {avg 114)

Double Slice: [20, 80] (range 60) {avg 50}
crit' DS: [30, 125] (range 95) {avg 72}
crit''DS: [40, 160] (range 120) {avg 100}

This matters, because it shows PA with a higher average than DS with no crits, which means it relies on DS not landing a single crit for it to be better, but it still technically is so long as crits become difficult to land. Once you can crit somewhat often and the odds of crit'DS showing up increases (which it invariably will per the law of averages) you'll notice PA feels lackluster by comparison, as DS will have much better odds of doing roughly 50% more damage a proportionate amount of time more often based on the number of attacks you roll (which is doubled for DS obvsiously).

Idea 1: Power Attack stays exactly the same, but doubles STR to damage.
using the above figures: (8d12+5) -> (8d12+10)
old PA: [13, 101] (range 88) {avg 57}
crit PA: [26, 202] (range 176) {avg 114)
*PA: [18, 106] (range 88) {avg 62}
*crit PA: [36, 212] (range 176) {avg 124}

This raises the minimum values to come closer to, but still not exceed DS, and it yields a very slightly higher average, while maintaining the same distribution range. It solves one of my issues, but leaves the other exactly in tact, and it throws balance off slightly, which might not be bad unless you demand all combat styles do equal damage (I don't believe that should be a goal because different options should have different consequences).

Idea 2: Power Attack adds no additional dice, but instead adds a flat number to damage equal to your level. Assume 20th level characters using +5 weapons to compare
above figures: (8d12+5) -> (5d12+25)
old PA: [13, 101] (range 88) {avg 57}
crit PA: [26, 202] (range 176) {avg 114)
**PA: [30, 85] (range 55) {avg 57}
**crit: [60, 170] (range 110) {avg 115}

This one is more interesting in some ways. The average is the same for regular hits, but one higher on crits. That's small enough a difference to call them equal imo, considering there are distribution ranges to contend with here. Speaking of which, this cuts the range down significantly, thus improving your odds of reaching that average value and giving you ultimately higher minimums, and smaller ranges which is good, especially when the average is the same. The issues come from how good the feat is across your career compared to the original to see if it works better.

Compare some levels:
lvl 1 (2d12+5) vs (d12+6)
[7, 29] (range 22) {avg 18}
crit: [14, 58] (range 44) {avg 36}
[7, 18] (range 11) {avg 12.5}
crit: [14, 36] (range 22) {avg 25)

lvl 5 (introduce +1 weapons) (3d12+5) vs (2d12+10)
[8, 41] (range 33) {avg 24.5}
crit: [16, 82] (range 66) {avg 49}
[12, 34] (range 22) {avg 23}
crit: [24, 68] (range 44) {avg 46)

lvl 10 (introduce +2 weapons) (5d12+5) vs (3d12+15)
[10, 65] (range 55) {avg 37.5}
crit: [20, 130] (range 110) {avg 75}
[18, 51] (range 33) {avg 34.5}
crit: [36, 102] (range 66) {avg 69)

lvl 15 (introduce +3 weapons) (6d12+5) vs (4d12+20)
[11, 77] (range 66) {avg 44}
crit: [22, 154] (range 132) {avg 88}
[24, 68] (range 44) {avg 46}
crit: [48, 136] (range 88) {avg 92)

The conclusion to draw here is that adding level to damage instead of adding two dice overall yields results that end up ridiculously close to the same numbers, but with a huge difference in the size of the distribution range, by level 5 you can't tell the difference between adding dice and adding flat numbers. It also isn't overpowered at low levels, which is nice. How this compares to rolling multiple attacks will still most likely lead to Power Attack being a wasted feat, however. That's an issue I have still.


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Quadratic W wrote:
Witch of Miracles wrote:
EDIT: BAsically, power attacking is the equivalent of going to Vegas, playing roulette, and calling a single number over just calling red or black.

Not quite. In that case, if your number comes up, there is a huge payoff.

It's more like being able to double your money by betting on the right color, black or red, and there's a green slot so the house can stay ahead. You're always betting on black.

Then someone takes the time to count the colors on the wheel.

"Uhhh...there are 70 reds and 30 blacks. You'll make money over the long run if you bet on red."

"Ahhh...but you won't know what it will land on until the wheel spins!"

This is what I get for being lazy with my examples LOL

But yeah, that's more what I wanted to convey. ^^

Grand Lodge

Except you are not modifying dual strike by chance to hit, you are just assuming both hit.


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FLite wrote:
Except you are not modifying dual strike by chance to hit, you are just assuming both hit.

If you are using an agile weapon, the odds of hitting are exactly the same as with Power Attack, and the odds of landing crits are better because you get to make two attacks instead of one.

Just landing one crit with DS makes it mathematically superior to Power Attack. Landing two makes it roughly equal to a crit on Power Attack, which will happen less often.

In the example taken from my other thread above, the fighter in question was level 12, and had a +22 to hit (the enemy had an AC of 29 requiring a 17 or better to crit). In that scenario, DS is better. In most scenarios DS is better, and if it isn't then you're doing your math wrong because DS will always have a smaller and thus more consistent probability distribution, and it will always have the same chance to hit as Power Attack-ing, if not better by virtue of rolling two attacks.

It's not my fault that some readers on these boards want to deny basic mathematics.


master_marshmallow wrote:
FLite wrote:
Except you are not modifying dual strike by chance to hit, you are just assuming both hit.

If you are using an agile weapon, the odds of hitting are exactly the same as with Power Attack, and the odds of landing crits are better because you get to make two attacks instead of one.

Just landing one crit with DS makes it mathematically superior to Power Attack. Landing two makes it roughly equal to a crit on Power Attack, which will happen less often.

In the example taken from my other thread above, the fighter in question was level 12, and had a +22 to hit (the enemy had an AC of 29 requiring a 17 or better to crit). In that scenario, DS is better. In most scenarios DS is better, and if it isn't then you're doing your math wrong because DS will always have a smaller and thus more consistent probability distribution, and it will always have the same chance to hit as Power Attack-ing, if not better by virtue of rolling two attacks.

It's not my fault that some readers on these boards want to deny basic mathematics.

I still very much want to see these calculations done with weapon properties taken into account (charge, forceful, deadly, whatever else). I expect power attack will still end up kind of poor after, but I'd like to see it given a fairer shake.

I'd also like to see people start comparing full rounds wherein all actions are spent on level-appropriate actions. I haven't seen a single person take into account things like certain strike, desperate finisher (this especially seems big), brutal finish, etc. It's almost all just been "if I've got some d12 weapons or a d8/d6 set, what's the difference between double slice and power attack, or power attack and attacking twice?" And that's not actually what we're dealing with in-game when it comes to calculating our DPR.


Witch of Miracles wrote:
master_marshmallow wrote:
FLite wrote:
Except you are not modifying dual strike by chance to hit, you are just assuming both hit.

If you are using an agile weapon, the odds of hitting are exactly the same as with Power Attack, and the odds of landing crits are better because you get to make two attacks instead of one.

Just landing one crit with DS makes it mathematically superior to Power Attack. Landing two makes it roughly equal to a crit on Power Attack, which will happen less often.

In the example taken from my other thread above, the fighter in question was level 12, and had a +22 to hit (the enemy had an AC of 29 requiring a 17 or better to crit). In that scenario, DS is better. In most scenarios DS is better, and if it isn't then you're doing your math wrong because DS will always have a smaller and thus more consistent probability distribution, and it will always have the same chance to hit as Power Attack-ing, if not better by virtue of rolling two attacks.

It's not my fault that some readers on these boards want to deny basic mathematics.

I still very much want to see these calculations done with weapon properties taken into account (charge, forceful, deadly, whatever else). I expect power attack will still end up kind of poor after, but I'd like to see it given a fairer shake.

I'd also like to see people start comparing full rounds wherein all actions are spent on level-appropriate actions. I haven't seen a single person take into account things like certain strike, desperate finisher (this especially seems big), brutal finish, etc. It's almost all just been "if I've got some d12 weapons, what's the difference between double slice and power attack, or power attack and attacking twice?" And that's not actually what we're dealing with in-game when it comes to calculating our DPR.

This was my issue in the blog era, and the thing is when you account for those things, Power Attack gets worse not better.

Full attacks aren't supposed to be a thing anymore, but if the balancing factor on feat design is reinforcing old play styles from the last edition then the design is bad.

Think of it like this: why invent an action system that finally lets you move and attack twice, if you tax the players the ability to do that? It's recreating the old system artificially, and in a way that makes the game unplayable.

Someone wanted to ask about the math on Power Attack, there it is. Factor in critical hits and specializations? DS gets better not worse. Factor in full attacks? DS gets better, not worse. Factor in certain strike? Power Attack gets worse.

When it comes to calculating DPR, you need to consider not only the action cost, but the distribution spread of possible outcomes. The larger that spread, the worse off you'll be.

Grand Lodge

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If you are using one handed agile weapons, how are you getting 1d12 damage dice?


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FLite wrote:
If you are using one handed agile weapons, how are you getting 1d12 damage dice?

It's called "I'm dumb/sloppy and edited my post later to hide how dumb/sloppy I was, but someone had already quoted it."

The mortal blow of forums


So, I just started digging into the rules, was reading about Power Attack, saw this form post decrying it's uselessness.

I haven't thought deep enough to defend or argue whether Power Attack is mathematically worse than just swinging 3 times for a fighter, that might be true, but Power Attack makes huge gains in Action Economy (two weapon dice for the price of 1 action, sure you don't get the double the Strength Mod, but w/e).

I think there are situation where Power Attack is better than Double Slice, namely when you can front load bonuses to a single attack.

My Example is a character who can Power attack and can cast True strike with a Great Pick, where your chance to crit are much higher do to rolling two dice (wut you know about rolling 4d12 + 12).

Also... I just ran the number for Double Slice vs Power attack and Power attack does more average damage.

What people are forgetting about Power attack as well, is you only have to maintain the cost of 1 weapon. The power attacker is going to reach a +2 potency faster than the double slicer is going to achieve potency with both weapons.


The analysis is fatally flawed. Characters are never forced to Power Attack.

It has at least two significant benefits that are viable reasons to choose it:
1. It's more useful if the enemy possesses resistance of any kind.
2. Unless the enemy's AC is extremely low, you have a better chance of actually hitting with both attacks using PA.


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Maybe this isn't relevant, but what if there was a reason not to miss critically?

Like, if you critically miss with a strike action you leave yourself flat-footed until the start of your next round?

I am really starting to fall into the Tarik Blackhand camp that the possibility of getting 3 attacks per round + the new critical system necessitates there being a negative consequence for critical misses or else the issue of the "full attack" round is only made worse.

It seems like most monsters and probably characters too are better off carrying a ranged weapon like a short bow (which is also deadly) and never moving unless they absolutely have to.

It is such an overwhelming obvious strategy that I think it is making monsters equipped with a shortbow better monsters than any other monsters in their level group.


MongrelHorde wrote:
So, I just started digging into the rules, was reading about Power Attack, saw this form post decrying it's uselessness.

First, Power Attack uses to actions to make one enhanced Strike that counts as two for multiple attack penalties... you're losing economy not gaining it, and only in outlier conditions does your damage increase (such as when your only attack that round is an enhanced crit with a fatal weapon). The feat has niche value to shield masters and mounted warriors who have a better/other use for their Third Action, or don't want to bother with feats* that provide positive failure effects to your likely-to-miss third and forth attacks.

*Like Shatter Defences, Certain Strike, and Reeling Blow

Second, Two-Weapon Fighters can use Doubling Rings to spread their Rune Effects to a second weapon at discount.


Cantriped wrote:
Power Attack uses to actions to make one enhanced Strike...

Yea, I just figured that out, I missed the explanation of the symbols in the beginning of the book.

I'm slowly turning in favor of OP, I'm going to re-do my math.


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Crayon wrote:
The analysis is fatally flawed. Characters are never forced to Power Attack.

A feat you never use is just as good as a feat never taken.


My analysis did not confirm the original poster's premise. In fact it tended to show the opposite but the results are highly dependent on assumptions.

As an example, lets assume a d12 2H weapon, +4 STR, a 20% hit chance, and no magic bonus. For the first attack, we have an average hit damage of 10.5 which, including the critical, gives the average damage per round of 2.65. For the second attack, the average damage per round falls to 0.525 yielding a total average damage of 3.15 per round. With the power attack, the average weapon damage is 17 which yields an average damage per round of 4.25. So a power attack net 1.1 damage per round additional.

If you change the assumption to a +1 d12 weapon and a 45% hit chance, the results favor 2 individual attacks over a power attack by 1.0 damage per round.

These results make sense. When a target is hard to hit, you are better off with the extra damage on the first strike as the second is unlikely to land. Also, the magic damage decreases the importance of an extra damage die.

The average damage per round doesn't tell the whole story. If you are going up against a DR or trying to overcome hardness, the power attack has value. If you are trying to kill a bunch of easy to hit cannon fodder, then two strikes is better.

Personally, I wouldn't get too worried either way. We are talking about 1HP/round or less in most cases.


virtualjack wrote:
a 20% hit chance

Well there's your problem.

A 20% hit rate is super low against anything that would be on-level with you. Against a monster the same level as you, you should have a 50% hit rate.

As you showed:

Quote:
If you change the assumption to a +1 d12 weapon and a 45% hit chance, the results favor 2 individual attacks over a power attack by 1.0 damage per round.


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Draco18s wrote:
virtualjack wrote:
a 20% hit chance

Well there's your problem.

A 20% hit rate is super low against anything that would be on-level with you. Against a monster the same level as you, you should have a 50% hit rate.

As you showed:

Quote:
If you change the assumption to a +1 d12 weapon and a 45% hit chance, the results favor 2 individual attacks over a power attack by 1.0 damage per round.

20% is too low but 30% is about right for a 4 vs 1 boss type encounter according to the bestiary (party lvl +4 should work out to about 30%).


Bardarok wrote:
Draco18s wrote:
virtualjack wrote:
a 20% hit chance

Well there's your problem.

A 20% hit rate is super low against anything that would be on-level with you. Against a monster the same level as you, you should have a 50% hit rate.

As you showed:

Quote:
If you change the assumption to a +1 d12 weapon and a 45% hit chance, the results favor 2 individual attacks over a power attack by 1.0 damage per round.
20% is too low but 30% is about right for a 4 vs 1 boss type encounter according to the bestiary (party lvl +4 should work out to about 30%).

Thank you.

My point is two fold. The first is that power attack is almost always better than two attacks until you add magic weapons. The second is that we are talking about less than 1.5 DPR in most cases.

At 30%, power attack does 1.225 more DPR with no magic weapons, 0.575 DPR with +1 weapon, and 0.075 worse with a +2 magic weapon.

At 50%, power attack is 0.425 DPR better with no magic and 1.5 worse with a +1 weapon. And a 50% success rate against a big boss has never happened in our group (5+ years).

Your question might be, why take this feat? After all, 1.2 additional DPR is not a big deal.

Well our 2nd level party just fought a creature with legendary chain wrapped around it (hardness ~13). We had to destroy the chain to kill the creature (it took 4 dents). Power Attack was key - ranged attacks were useless and ordinary attacks were laughed at.

And that, my friends, is why my character has Power Attack. It isn't to do massive amounts of average damage. It is to break things.


virtualjack wrote:
My point is two fold. The first is that power attack is almost always better than two attacks until you add magic weapons. The second is that we are talking about less than 1.5 DPR in most cases.

Someone did full numbers in another thread (thought it was this one, it wasn't) but you're essentially right. There is a narrow window when Power Attack is better, but its pretty much levels 1 to 3 and then like level 10 when it jumps a die (but it's gone again just as quick).

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Cantriped wrote:
First, Power Attack uses two[sic] actions to make one enhanced Strike that counts as two for multiple attack penalties...

Where does it say that Power Attack causes a -10 multiple attack penalty on the next attack? It takes two actions but it is only one attack.

Pages 178 and 305 both say your second attack incurs a -5 penalty and your third and any additional attacks incur -10.

Are you saying that any attack action/activity that costs two actions would cause a follow up attack to be -10? Sudden charge is the other example that comes to mind.


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Rusty Ironpants wrote:
Where does it say that Power Attack causes a -10 multiple attack penalty on the next attack? It takes two actions but it is only one attack.

Right here:

Power Attack wrote:
This counts as two attacks when calculating your multiple attack penalty.

Power Attack is 'one' Strike (that happens to require two actions), so the subsequent attack would otherwise only be -4/-5, but thanks to this clause in the Enhancement it grants, the subsequent attack counts as your third attack (despite actually being your second) and suffers a -8/-10 penalty instead.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Cantriped wrote:
Rusty Ironpants wrote:
Where does it say that Power Attack causes a -10 multiple attack penalty on the next attack? It takes two actions but it is only one attack.

Right here:

Power Attack wrote:
This counts as two attacks when calculating your multiple attack penalty.
Power Attack is 'one' Strike (that happens to require two actions), so the subsequent attack would otherwise only be -4/-5, but thanks to this clause in the Enhancement it grants, the subsequent attack counts as your third attack (despite actually being your second) and suffers a -8/-10 penalty instead.

Okay thanks. Guess I got stuck looking at the description of multi attack penalty instead of checking the text for power attack. :(

Also it seems the P1 combination of Furious Focus and Power Attack doesn't even work in P2 because Furious Focus has the Press trait so you can't use it as your first attack. I guess Furious Focus is just designed to be used on your second attack if you plan on attacking three times? Am I missing something and there is actually a way to use them together? (other then pointlessly using furious focus at a -10 after using Power Attack when you have no other actions left to use after?)


No you're right, furious focus is terrible.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I did a bit of math myself. The numbers weren't identical because I didn't add elemental enchants but the trend-line roughly matches.

The thing that jumps out to me is that power attack works out strongest when you need to roll about a 15 to hit... which rarely comes up. Even most bosses are unlikely to have this kind of AC. 10 to hit is normally more common judging by equal-level bestiary entries (Most are actually a tad lower). Plus situational bonuses & flanks etc just move this further against power attack. You're probably always looking at a small decrease in damage against enemies you'll actually fight.

So essentially... power attack is only useful if your enemy has resistance to your attacks or a reaction that might interfere with follow-up attacks. Which while I was writing a rant I realized may not actually be so bad. We're all expecting power attack to be amazing because it was in 1E but perhaps this niche use is actually the right power for it as a level 1 feat. Is it really that bad as a utility option compared to the other level 1 fighter feats?


Could adding a failure effect balance things out? Str modifier damage on a miss or a single weapon damage dice +Str at 10th level.

If I chose Power Attack as my 1st level feat I want to be able to use it straight away, not wait until I meet a monster with resistance for it to be effective.


I'd rather Power Attack be a combat tactic that's always on, which shows my character's training and style.

I'd prefer to see more combat styles function like this instead of having combat spells that only work some of the time that still eat a feat slot, wasting that choice.

Flat footed matters, and Feint matters too, since you can expect to see it being more productive to feint then attack for increased crit chance and with swords this follows up into more crit chances on secondary attacks, but not tertiary.


master_marshmallow wrote:
I'd rather Power Attack be a combat tactic that's always on, which shows my character's training and style.

Would Power Attack work better as a Style Feat? Such that you spent an action entering 'Power Attack' style, which added the described enhancement to your subsequent Strikes.

Would that be overpowered compared to other 1st level feats? I ask seriously because I lack the patiance to run the numbers others have regarding this feat, but I trust the results, and ya'll have already gotten your formulae worked out.

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