Melee weapon damage is the main job of Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, Rangers and Rogues. To a certain extent, we can also include certain Favored Soul, Cleric or Bard builds that have invested in meleeing. There are multiple different categories of fighting style in DDO:
Single weapon fighting
- Single Weapon Fighting: While Single-Weapon Fighting, you gain +10% Combat Style bonus to attack speed and +3 Combat Style bonus to Melee Power. Requires fighting with a single one-handed weapon, and wielding only an orb, runearm, or nothing in your offhand. Feat Requirement: 2 ranks of Balance.
- Improved Single Weapon Fighting: Your Single-Weapon Fighting bonus is increased to a +20% Combat Style bonus to attack speed and the bonus to Melee Power is +6. You now apply 25% more of your appropriate ability score to your damage instead of just your ability score. Feat Requirement: 4 ranks of Balance, Base Attack Bonus +6
- Greater Single Weapon Fighting: Your Single-Weapon Fighting bonus is increased to a +30% Combat Style bonus to attack speed and the bonus to Melee Power is +10. You now apply 50% more of your appropriate ability score to your damage. Feat Requirement: 7 ranks of Balance, Base Attack Bonus +11
- Perfect Single Weapon Fighting: While Single-Weapon Fighting, both natural 19 and natural 20 are treated as vorpal roll.
Swashbuckling is a variant combat style similar to single weapon fighting supported by the Bard's Swashbuckler enhancement tree. Swashbuckling requires wielding a finesseable or thrown weapon in your main hand, wielding a Buckler or nothing in your off hand, and wearing Light Armor or no armor. Enhancements allow you also to wield orb or rune arm.
See also the list of Swashbuckler weapons with improved crit profile.
Tempest's second core ability makes Scimitar a light, finesseable weapon and allows you to swashbuckle with a scimitar. Your critical range or multiplier does not change. You do qualify for other effects that require swashbuckling. You don't benefit from Tempest's dex to hit (that requires TWF).
Sword and Board
Sword and board is the name that is commonly used to refer to using a weapon and a shield during combat, as opposed to using a weapon that requires both hands to wield and use effectively. Although the expression uses the word sword, the weapon in question can be any one-handed weapon. Fighters, Barbarians, Bards, Paladins, Rangers and Clerics are proficient with shields. Among these class, only fighters are proficient with tower shields without requiring to expend a feat.
At low level, it can be useful to equip small or heavy shield to minimize the damage you take. Even characters that are not proficient, (such as rogues), should carry a shield should a situation arise that the character is required to turtle up. Monks should refrain from using shields as they lose their centered bonuses. Damage mitigation with a shield is achieved by increasing the armor class or damage reduction. A heavy shield can add +2 to +7 to the armor class. This may increase the armor class of a character to a meaningful point to cause some misses. When blocking with a shield, the character's blocking damage reduction is increased. This is especially useful when one is besieged by a host of monsters.
As you gain level, most characters gain more capacity to inflict damage and attain more feats, more spells, better weapons, etc. The healing ability of clerics and favored souls also increases, particularly when they gain access to the heal spell. These coupled with increasing monster to hit values will mean that maintaining armor class at a meaningful number becomes increasingly difficult. This usually happen around level 12 to 14, when you start running quests in the Ruins of Gianthold and in the Orchard of the Macabre. In these quests where your armor class is lower than the to hit value of the monster, using a shield is futile as your opponent can hit you on a natural 2. Your armor class becomes meaningless (a natural 1 being an automatic miss). This is why you see many high level melees walking around carrying two-handed weapons or with two weapons.
However, it would not be accurate to say that armor class is totally meaningless at high level, but it is a fact that it takes greater focus on it for it to be effective, or at least, effective enough to be worth the sacrifice you make. For this reason, the two most likely classes you see walking around with shields at higher levels are usually paladins and fighters. Fighters get Tower Shield Proficiency, enhancements like Fighter's Armor Mastery and Fighter's Tower Shield Mastery and, mostly, their amount of feats allow them to pick up Combat Expertise and Dodge easily. These fighters are also likely to pick up the Stalwart Defender prestige class to make full use of the shield based abilities. Paladins that are gear towards defense are likely to be a Defender of Siberys which grants a more powerful aura as well as well as a higher armor class when in stance.
Heavy shields are the basic shields, the most common used as most classes are proficient with them. A heavy shield adds +2 to the armor class of a character. Enhancements can further raise this bonus by +1 to +5 up to a total of +7 armor class. Because they are not proficient, rogues prefer to use to use mithral heavy shields to avoid suffering the Armor Check Penalty on their attack rolls.
Light shields are mostly used by bards, wizards and sorcerers who seek some Armor Class while not not suffering the Arcane Spell Failure are preferred as made of mithral as they have zero ASF when made of this material. They have lesser shield bonus than a heavy shield.
Tower shields grant 2 more armor class than heavy shields, however, they also reduce their wielder's attack rolls by 2 because of their size. They are almost only used by fighters as they are the only class that is proficient with them since creation, all other classes have to get Tower Shield Proficiency to be able to wield them without the huge penalty to attack rolls! Their mithral form is much more popular as it allow higher maximum dexterity bonus to AC.
Two-handed fighting is, simply put, using a two-handed weapon. While wielding a two-handed weapon, your strength modifier to damage rolls is multiplied by 1.5. So, the higher your strength is, the more you will benefit from this fighting style. A character need not invest in dexterity if going two-handed fighting. This almost always means the dumping of dexterity and loading up constitution for more hit points.
The drawback you have from selecting Two-Handed Fighting is the loss of the shield slot, and thus, lower armor class. In addition, due to carrying one weapon, it means there is a reduction of the number of weapon effects, i.e. a two weapon fighter can carry a vorpal and a paralyzer but a two handed weapon fighter can only decide on one of the two.
While fighting with a two-handed weapon, you get glancing blows (which are additional numbers dealt to other opponents around you). The damage and frequency of glancing blows is increased by these feats:
Two Weapon Fighting
Two weapon fighting is the art of fighting with a weapon in each hand. Normally, when wielding a weapon in each hand, you suffer a -6 penalty on attack rolls on your primary hand and -10 on your off-hand. Taking the Two Weapon Fighting feat reduces those penalties to -4 for each hand. Finally, if the weapon in your off-hand is a light weapon, the penalty is also reduced by 2. Taking the Oversized Two Weapon Fighting feat allows a character to use a regular weapon in the off-hand without incurring additional penalties.
While leveling up your character, you may gain access to feats that increase your number of attacks per round; rangers get those feats for free.
While two-handed fighting rests on having a high strength score, two weapon fighting does not require high strength to be effective. A player can build a two weapon fighting character that relies more on weapon effect that happens on hit (like Wounding), effects that happen on critical (like Puncturing), or damage that is applied on the two weapons like Backstabbing and Sneak Attacks. That said, many players will still go for a high strength score for more damage.
Some two weapon fighters decide to get a very high dexterity score and to rely on Weapon Finesse. This is really popular with Rogues and Rangers as it also allow them to meet the dexterity requirements on the Two Weapon Fighting feats or to achieve a high unarmored armor class. Rogues deal most of their damage from their Sneak Attacks while Rangers will rely on their favored enemy damage.
In almost all situations, these dexterity-based characters will be using rapiers as their primary type of weapon as it has the largest base damage and threat range among all finesseable weapons. Apart from sneak or favored enemy damage, dexterity-based characters often rely on ability damage, i.e. wounding or puncturing, or weapon enhancements, i.e. holy or flaming, to kill the enemy.
The second way to build a two weapon fighter is to go Strength-based. This path is usually chosen by frontline melees. Such a character will often start at 14-17 dexterity and all level up points will go to strength. In the pass, only a dexterity-based character can garner enough to hit to reach a meaningful number. In recent times, with more strength stacking effects, strength-based two weapon fighting characters have an easier time, i.e. +8 strength power surge of kensei, +8 strength frenzy and death frenzy of frenzied barbarian.
As DPS is the main concern of the strength-base two weapon fighting characters, most of these will be wielding khopeshes, dwarven axes and scimitars. Ability damagers and power five weapons, such as vorpals, are also carried for situations that calls for it.