31 Jan, 2019

Top 20 Greatest Gameplay Tools – #20 Power Attack Calculator

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a selection of 20 all-time greatest gameplay tools. A gameplay tool is any kind of application that enhance the gaming experience in some way. It can help a player make better decisions, make it easier for a person to communicate strategy, or just help a person have more fun. People have been using them for decades without realizing it. It’s about time we popularize the concept!

To start out our list of greatest gameplay tools, we’ll be focusing on a classic tool for a classic game, Dungeons and Dragons. Anyone who has played Dungeons and Dragons knows that making intelligent decisions about skills, tactics, and dice rolls is critical to the success of one’s party. Picking the wrong ability, or mistakenly modifying roll can be the difference between looting epic treasure and saying goodbye to a character you’ve fallen in love with over the span of multiple campaigns (depending on how ruthless your DM is).

Power Attack is a fighter bonus feat in DnD 3.5e that enables a fighter to improve their melee attack damage by taking a reduction in melee attack rolls. This feat adds a powerful dynamic to the fighter class and adds complexity that allows smart players to really make the most of their abilities. Of course, it also opens the door to players making huge gambles that have a low probability of paying off. The Power Attack Calculator is a simple, yet mighty tool that takes the guesswork out of deciding whether or not to apply a Power Attack modifier, and helps one determine how large of a modification one should make to their attack.

Power Attack:

  • Subtract a number from all melee attack rolls
  • Add the same number to all melee damage rolls for a round
  • This number may not exceed your base attack bonus
  • When using a two-handed weapon or one-handed weapon wielded with two hands, the attack damage bonus is twice the attack roll reduction

Although this skill is incredible, some to-hard-to-do-in-your-head calculations are needed to make sure one is using it most effectively. If a Fighter doesn’t feel confident in their ability to make the right choice, it may lead them to underutilize this important feat. If they are too rash with their decision-making they may end up doing less damage in the long run, or missing their attacks when the stakes are high.


By inputting a character’s attack parameters, including information about what type of weapon is being used and how it will be wielded, the Power Attack Calculator will give a quick picture of how to maximize damage without going overboard. For instance, using the attack parameters above against an enemy with an Armor Class of 15, the best modifier to use over time would be -7, as it would result in the highest possible average of 35.47. However, when facing an enemy with an AC of 16, it would actually be better to choose a -6 attack roll modifier. This table clearly demonstrates that against enemies with higher AC, it’s best to be less risky with your modifier.

What makes this gameplay tool so great is its ability to simplify an equation with quite a few parameters and generate an output that can be easily interpreted by anyone. The fact that it’s a practical tool, and not one that shows off vanity metrics, makes it even better. The blue highlighting to represent the highest average damage per Armor Class is an elegant solution that helps a player with quick decision making.

I would personally be interested to see an additional chart or graph that represented the probability of certain scenarios. For instance, using the same parameters above, against an enemy with an AC of 20, what are the chances I would deal between 35 and 40 damage? What are the chances I would deal 0 damage? This could influence my decision based on the context of the battle. Is it the beginning of a battle, where all of my characters are at full health and are feeling a bit risky? Am I the last adventurer standing and this Displacer Beast has only 7 health left? Maybe I don’t need to get crazy and go for max damage, maybe just a little high-probability doink would do the trick. Even without that additional chart, this is truly one of my favorite tools of all time, and is part of such a prodigious game in Dungeons and Dragons. That’s why it deserves a place on this competitive list of twenty!

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