To say that I’m a min-maxer would be a bit of an overstatement. Whenever I’ve got the time to worry about maximizing my D&D characters’ effectiveness, I do it more as a mental exercise than anything. Occasionally I make a decision based on such number-crunching, but more often than not I opt for the in-character decision despite my analysis. What can I say; I’m just one of those weird dorks who really likes math.
My most recent excursion into min-maxing centered around one question. Which does more damage, a scimitar or a longsword? The question is fairly straightforward for most D&D veterans. A scimitar has a larger crit range (18-20) but lower base damage (1d6), while a longsword has a smaller crit range (19-20) but greater base damage (1d8). This will no doubt sound tedious and unnecessary to a casual player, but most of us who excel in the fine art of “character optimization” have pondered this question once or twice.
To get at the answer, I designed a d20 weapon comparison tool. Just input the damage stats of the two weapons you’re considering and see which is better. It doesn’t take other factors into account yet, but it’s pretty good for answering the base damage versus crit debate.
As for the scimitar versus longsword question, it depends on your damage bonus. You have to have a pretty hefty damage bonus (+19 or greater) to make the scimitar deal better damage on average. If it’s a choice between two keen swords, however, you don’t need nearly as much of a damage bonus (+9 or greater) to make the scimitar deal better damage. The whole debate is pointless, of course, if your target is immune to critical hits, but we min-maxers still like to argue about it nonetheless.
Of course, the program can help shed light on other weapon choices for your character. In testing it, I came across these interesting findings.
- Dagger versus Punching Dagger – As you can see, there is practically no difference here except for a slight damage increase against opponents with ACs so high that you have to roll a 20 to hit them. It’s not worth giving up the versatility of a normal dagger, in my opinion.
- Dagger versus Kukri – Even with a high damage bonus to take advantage of the increased crit range, you’d be hard-pressed to get the kukri to dish out more than an extra point of damage on average than an ordinary dagger. As with the punching dagger, I don’t think an infinitesimal damage boost is worth losing the dagger’s versatility as a thrown weapon.
- Longsword versus Bastard Sword – The only difference between these two weapons stat-wise is a one-point increase in average damage. For fighters and other characters with spare feats to burn on Exotic Weapon Proficiency, that’s not bad, although it’s still sub-par when compared to staples like Weapon Specialization. Take the good feats first; save bastard sword proficiency for when you haven’t got anything better to use them on.
- Scythe versus Greatclub – Don’t let that x4 crit multiplier tempt you; the scythe dishes out damage about as well as a greatclub, which is arguably one of the worst two-handed weapons in the game. Even if you have the damage bonus to make those rare crits really worthwhile, you’d still be better off using a greatsword. It’s a shame, I know, but a scythe just isn’t worth using unless you’re in it for character reasons.
I’m interested in hearing what other people learn from my weapon comparison tool, or whether anyone else even finds it useful for that matter. Suggestions for improvement are, likewise, quite welcome.