The barbarian roars, charging at his newest foe. He hefts his greataxe up and brings it down in rapid succession, two mighty chops that cleave the poor goblin in twain — bellowing in excitement, the barbarian turns, shifting his weight to the other foot and following through with the momentum of his swing to slice deeply into the flank of nearby hobgoblin.
Normally, Barbarians don’t get an extra attack on their bonus action, but this one took the Great Weapon Master feat. When he reduced the goblin to 0 hit points, he could take a bonus action to attack an adjacent enemy.
Let’s break down everything this feat has to offer and whether it could help your next character.
Great Weapon Master Feat Description
Great Weapon Master is listed as a damage or combat feat. The text from the Player’s Handbook reads:
You’ve learned to put the weight of a weapon to your advantage, letting its momentum empower your strikes. You gain the following benefits:
- On your turn, when you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with one, you can make one melee weapon attack as a bonus action.
- Before you make a melee attack with a heavy weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.
GameCows Tip: Melee weapons must have the heavy property to work with this feat. This includes glaives, greataxes, greatswords, halberds, mauls, and pikes.
Great Weapon Master Feat is Most Useful For
Great Weapon Master is fantastic for classes that routinely wield weapons with heavy property. Typically, that is reserved for Barbarians, Paladins, strength-based Fighters, Artificers, Hexblade Warlocks, and some rare Clerics. Essentially, anyone who fights in melee combat with a two-handed strength-based weapon will likely qualify.
However, just because you qualify doesn’t necessarily mean the Great Weapon Master feat is right for you. Let’s take a closer look at some of the classes that might benefit from this feat below.
Barbarians are great at one thing: combat. This feat enhances their effectiveness in combat and gives them something to do on their bonus action.
Barbarians probably get the most out of this feat because of their otherwise poor action economy. Newer Barbarian subclasses have started getting some bonus action options, but most Barbarians Rage and then do nothing outside of actions and reactions for the entirety of combat.
If they’ve taken the Great Weapon Fighting Fighting Style, they can also reroll 1s and 2s on their damage dice. With the addition of Divine Smite, the bonus action attack from the feat could be devastating.
They are a MAD class, so Great Weapon Master will work better for Paladins who focus primarily on Strength since you need a high attack bonus to offset the -5 to your attack roll.
Oath of Conquest Paladins can use their Channel Divinity Guided Strike if you roll particularly low for an attack to gain a +10 bonus to the roll.
Alternatively, Oath of Devotion Paladins have the Sacred Weapon Channel Divinity to add their Charisma modifier to all attack rolls with their specified weapon. Oath of Vengeance Paladins have Vow of Enmity to give them advantage on attack rolls against one target.
Fighters (except for Arcane Archers) were practically made for the Great Weapon Master feat. They get two extra ASIs, so they won’t need to worry as much about spending one on this feat, and by level 20, they can make a whopping four attacks in one action. With Action Surge, that’s eight attacks!
Given that large number of potential hits, taking a -5 penalty isn’t terrible (since you’ll likely hit with a few attacks), and the extra damage can really add up. Having another attack as a bonus action is just icing on the cake.
Champion Fighters can benefit from their Improved Critical and Superior Critical features since they’re more likely to crit on attack rolls.
This feat is not typically recommended for Artificers, although Battle Smiths could use it if they start with a high Intelligence score. The Battle Ready feature allows Battle Smiths to wield weapons using their Intelligence modifier and the Arcane Jolt feature adds even more damage to strikes.
The Hexblade Warlock single-handedly rewrote the narrative for what was possible in D&D. Yeah, it’s that good.
Hexblade’s Curse lets you crit on a 19 or 20 and already gives you bonus damage against your selected target. If that target dies, you regain hit points and can raise (humanoids) again as specters under your control.
Warlocks indeed have a few more options for bonus actions, but this feat still works often enough to be meaningful, primarily once you’re concentrating on a spell like hex.
However, it’s crucial to note that you need to take the Pact of the Blade feature. The standard rules state that you can only use your Charisma modifier for a weapon’s attack and damage rolls if it lacks the two-handed quality—Pact of the Blade lets that extend to all weapons, regardless of type.
Great Weapon Master Feat is Least Useful For
Spellcasters, Monks, and other classes who don’t use weapons won’t even be considered here since this feat revolves around using a weapon. Similarly, although there are heavy crossbows and longbows have the heavy property, those are ranged weapons and incompatible with this feat.
Technically, there is no prerequisite for this feat that you have to wield a heavy weapon, so if the first aspect (having a bonus action melee weapon attack whenever you crit or drop an opponent to 0 HP) is enough of an investment for your build, you could put this on a character who doesn’t routinely use heavy weapons. That could open this up to melee Rangers, Rogues, Monks who use weapons, and Dexterity-based Fighters.
Remember, whenever you take a feat, it’s usually in place of an ASI (Ability Score Improvement). If you haven’t hit the cap for your primary Ability Score, you should carefully weigh whether the feat is worth delaying increasing your score.
Next, be sure to read our full Feats 5e Guide.