[DDD Guide] Understanding the Damage formula and how to Min/Max

UVHM is here and we are getting some sort of difficulty and what once seemed like a strong build might now start to feel weak. I’m going to attempt to explain how to get the most out of your skill trees and gear to better min/max and have success in UVHM.

Let’s start with the damage formula.

Output = (NormalHit * SpecMult * CriticalHit + SplashDamage) * ElemBonus * TypeMod

That is from @Sljm math wizardry in his Basic Gun Damage Formula. I’m not going to go into extreme detail how each of these work, read Sljm’s linked thread for that because he already nails it.

How ever I will touch on Cryo since that is not in that thread. From the DDD master thread found here

Cryo DOT gives +200% Type A Critical Damage.
Cryo DOT gives +200% Explosive Damage (multiplier)
Cryo DOT gives +250% Melee Damage (multiplier)

What I want to touch on in this thread more deeply is Multiplicative bonuses vs Additive bonuses. A lot of you know these terms and understand them but a lot of people do not. Even with the people that know these many don’t really understand them that well either. I see a lot of people dismiss additive damage skills because of Multiplicative ones and that is a mistake.

What do these terms mean in relation to Borderlands?

Multiplicative means to multiply other numbers.

Additive means to add to other numbers.

Lets go back to the damage formula again

Output = (NormalHit * SpecMult * CriticalHit + SplashDamage) * ElemBonus * TypeMod

Here is Normal hit from @Sljm thread

NormalHit = (BaseDamage * (1 + GunDamage) + AmpDamage)

Base is your gun damage and .GunDamage is the following these are typically what you call Additive

  • Most skills, will detail later
  • Gun damage from Oz kits
  • Bar gun damage
  • Gun damage from Com’s

Multiplicative boosts are much more complex

  • Critical Hits are multiplicative to Normal hit + Amp damage
  • Splash Damage is multiplicative to Normal hit + Amp damage as well
  • Spec Multipliers are multiplicative to normal, amp, and crits or multiplicative post crit damage and some can be post splash some are not, more details will be later in the thread.
  • Elemental Bonuses are multiplicative to everything before them, Noramal + amp, Critical hits, Special Multipliers, and Splash damage
  • Cryo bonuses are a mixed bag, crits go into the crits, explosive goes at the end of everything.
  • Some Splash Damage gets grenade buffs and those grenade buffs are Multiplictive to splash damage only.

If critical hits are multiplicative why do people call them additive?

This has caused confusion in the past, there are three types of critical hits
The formula is as follows

Crit Damage = 2 * (1 + .TypeA) * (1 + .TypeB) / (1 + .TypeC)

  • TypeA is also what is Additive critical hits are since the vast majority of Critical hits are these and they add to other critical hit bonuses. Any Critical hit bonus from Bar, Oz kits, Com’s, Accessories, Luneshine, or your skills are type A,
  • TypeB is most commonly found on Jakobs AR’s, Pistols, and Shotguns. A few others guns like the Gwen’s head has this. These are considered to be Multiplicative since they will multiply your other critical hit buffs.
  • TypeC is a divider which lowers your critical hit bonus that is found on Non Jakobs Assault rifles and is a 20% penalty.

For more information on critical hits read @Chuck80 guide, Critical hit bonus sources

Next lets look Splash Damage

Splash Damage is not really part of the gun damage but post gun damage. When you shoot an enemy you will see 2 numbers, the damage from your bullet and the damage from the splash. Now if the bullet kills the enemy outright you will not see the splash damage show up. There have not been any Splash damage testing threads done yet for TPS, mostly because without a test dummy its a massive pain in the ass. So go sign or like this thread for a test dummy.

Splash Damage is based on your Normal hit + Amp damage but can be multiplied by more here is the formula from @Sljm thread linked at the top of this thread.

SplashDamage = NormalHit * SplashAmount * (1 + GrenadeDamage)? * SpecMult?

What is missing here because this is still figured into the total damage formula is they Also get buffed by elemental damage.

There are 2 main types of Splash Damage

  • “Splash”
  • Benefits from Grenade Damage. Usually comes attached to a normal bullet impact, such as on most basic Torgue weaponry. Some Uniques/Legendaries break this rule.
  • “Radius”
  • Does not benefit from Grenade Damage. Usually occurs on its own without a normal bullet impact, such as with Rocket Launchers or Grenadier Assault Rifles. Some Uniques/Legendaries break this rule.


Some skills also add Splash Damage to your guns

Elemental Bonuses are one of the big ones

Many people that played bl2 are familiar with the Bone of the Ancients and for good reason it’s damage bonus was huge because it was elemental.

Here is the formula for elemental bonuses

ElemBonus = (1 + ElementalDamage + [SpecificElement]Damage) * FreezeBonus?

It’s not the formula that makes it so good, its where it comes in the total formula which I will post again

Output = (NormalHit * SpecMult * CriticalHit + SplashDamage) * ElemBonus * TypeMod

You see here that elemental bonuses multiply pretty much everything before it making all of your numbers that much bigger.

Elements that get these bonuses are

  • :fire: Fire
  • :zap: Shock
  • Corrosive
  • :snowflake: Cryo
  • :boom: Explosive

Last but not least Special multipliers!!!

So these are the fun part, what separates Borderlands from most shooters and many games in general.

I like to separate these into 2 classes

  • Total multiplicative, these come at the end of the formula and multiply everything, much like elemental but separate from them.

  • Athena’s Omega Senshu and Clear! are both examples of this

  • Claptrap’s One Last thing is also Total @Exotek made a thread about it here

  • Partial multiplicative are ones that come before splash damage but after critical hit damage
    -Athena’s Tear is an example of this

Jacks skills still need to be tested to know if he has any of these

So how to put all this together?

Finally after all that I’m back to my starting point. Now that we understand all that (hopefully) how do you get the most out of your gear. One reason I decided to take the time to write all this up is I see people making the mistake of ignoring Additive skills and just picking Multiplicative skills. Yeah Multi are your Michael Jordans’, they are the stars but Jordan is not Jordan with out the players around him. Let me show you what I mean using Athena.

For simplicity I’m going to use a level 9 build and an elemental gun with 100 damage and lets say 300 stacks

100 x (1 + 120%) = 220 damage or x 2.2 to your gun damage on card

Now change Invictus to Ephodos in this level 9 build

100 x (1 + 20%) x (1 + 120%) = 264 damage or x 2.64 to your gun damage on card

So by adding 20% to your base damage you received a 44% buff instead.

Let’s do it again but this time on a critical hit, no crit bonuses

Build 1

100 x 2 x (1 + 120%) = 440 damage or x 4.4 to your gun damage on card

Build 2

100 x (1 + 20%) x 2 x (1 + 120%) = 528 or x 5.28 to your gun damage on card

Now that 20% has turned into difference of 88%. Now the pattern is clear the more multiplicative buffs you add to base damage buffs your numbers start to sky rocket.

I hope this is clear enough to not underestimate Additive gun damage skills, 20% additive might not sound like a lot on paper but it is. Multiplicative skills are not enough, they need role players or a base to build off of. Don’t skip the base skills for the flashy skills.

Getting the most out of Critical hits

Damage can be much more important than Critical hit buffs when it come to crits. A base rule that even “experts” of this game get wrong is that a Damage acc on a sniper adds more damage than a Critical hit acc does. The critical hit acc adds 20% crit damage to a sniper while a damage adds 15% base damage. So lets look and understand this one

Crit acc on a Jakobs sniper

100 x 2 x (1 + 160% + 20%) = 560 damage or x 5.6 to your damage on card

Damage acc on a Jakobs sniper

100 x (1 + 15%) x 2 x (1 + 160%) = 598 or x 5.98 to your damage on card

So that 15% buff is more than the 20% buff because it is multiplied twice by 2 other buffs, while the 20% is not.

This leads to a larger point, if you have a crit build Base damage skills once again are very important. Going back to bl2 again a lot of people would think to make the lady fist better adding critical hit skills would be important but that was a bad idea since it had a tiny base damage and a massive crit bonus. The same rules apply to this game because the formula is the same.

The bigger the critical hit bonus is on a gun, the more important base damage is to it.

But not only skills, adding base damage with BAR, Oz kits, Com’s, etc… But also don’t over stack your damage and ignore other skills that keep you alive, there is such a thing as a “Damage ceiling” where you are wasting points with overkill damage and sacrificing survival. That is a topic for a another thread…

Spreading out your buffs and avoiding diminishing returns

When you are building a character some get too involved with stacking a buff to that theme instead of spreading out those buffs.

For an example lets say you have 5 buffs that are all 20% the best way to use those would all be seperate.

100 x (1 + 20%) x (1 + 20%) x (1 + 20%) x (1 +20%) x (1 + 20%) = 248

compared with

100 x (1 + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20%) = 200

Now I know the first doesn’t exactly fit into the damage formula but it’s as an example but its not as far off as it seems. To use Athena as an example.

  • Ephodos, Prepare for Glory, and Gun Kata are all Normal hit skills
  • Tear is a Partial Multiplicative Special Multi skill
  • Maelstrom is a Elemental Buff skill
  • Omega - Senshu is a Total Multiplicative Special Multi skill

So that is 4 separate buff categories you can put buffs into, then you can use an Oz kit to expand that to 5 to maybe a grenade buff if you are using a gun with splash damage that is buffed by grenade damage.

Now not saying every time you should try and spread it out to the max like that, each case is different and some guns have more limitations. Non Elemental guns like Jakobs you can only really buff Normal hit and Critical hit. But even with those the theory remains true to spread your buffs around.

More on the Diminishing returns side of it lets go back to this example

100 x (1 + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20%) = 200

So here you have 100% worth of buffs and you got a 100% buff from those skills right? Wrong.

100 x (1 + 20%) = 120

That is a 20% damage increase on a 20% damage buff.

100 x (1 + 20% + 20%) = 140

Now sure that is 40% buff from the card damage but from the 120 you had above its only a 16.6% increase when you keep doing this each buff is a lesser % increase do your damage.

100 x (1 + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20%) = 200

So doing all 5 like that the 5th 20% is only adding 11% to your damage.

By spreading them out you avoid the diminishing returns and max out your damage.

Again to emphasize its not always best to spread them out in a certain way, it always depends on your gun stats, the size of each buff and more.

Please give me some feed back if this isn’t clear, if you want more sections, or better examples, etc…


Very informative, Thank you Derch

They are looking into adding a color text plugin for Discourse. Hopefully this thread would get a lot more awesome!

Added a bit to getting most out of crits on the bottom as well

I am bored once again and hungry for knowledge.
I’ll do some testing in a bit and see if I can figure out were his stuff fits into the formula.

The only one I’m not sure on is the tier one left skill on the greater good, but its also bugged with sniper crits currently so I’ve been hesitant to test it much further.

@Derch I calculated 598 or 5.98 multiplier with the Damage Acc on a Jakobs sniper. But your point is still correct regarding Damage versus Critical accessory.

You’re right, must of hit a button wrong somewhere. Fixed and thanks

Good to know, I shall focus my attention on Integrity.
I’ll report back soon with some numbers probably.

Added one more section at the bottom to address spreading out buffs and avoiding diminishing returns.

Ah, I do need to update that equation. I can see some issues with it already.

If I may make some semantic suggestions in the mean time:

Special Multipliers: Rather than “all or partial,” try “pellet and/or splash”. The implication being that some can apply to Splash, some can apply to Pellet, and some can apply to Both. I can help this thread more by simply making a new damage thread for TPS.

As for Splash damage, I’ve been referring to normal, additional splash as “Splash” and pure-splash as “Radius.”

Reasoning is simple. The term splash implies spill over, or extra damage, while Radius just means normal damage, over an area. Which is basically how these two things manifest. It’s worth noting that Splash usually gets Grenade Damage buffs while Radius usually doesn’t. When I get around to this game’s thread on the matter I’ll have more info as to whether any particular guns deviate from this, but I expect some might. Maliwan Snipers were “+X% Additional Damage as Radius” in BL2, for example.

Yeah I can change those around, most likely tomorrow. I know my way of wording often makes more sense to me than it does to others.

also if you have anything else you think I could add to this let me know.

and maybe if you felt so ambitious you could possibly do a dps thread in similar fashion for people… Or if someone else was up for that.

I am back with some numbers, it took a little longer than expected.
I posted the results over here.

This took soo long to read/almost understand but I thank you very much Mr @Derch I have been confused by the additive and multiplicative…

So should’ve paid more attention at school…

If only schools taught Borderlands math… One can dream, also any schools looking for a math teacher I’m available

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I just added a link to @Exotek OLT thread to the OP as well.

Might wanna update this with the new formula (and colors!) at some point.

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I’ll get on that in the next few days

I’ll try to get a Splash Damage guide done soon too.

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Better now? I guessed on some of the colors you used but I think I got them close, more important the numbers match and the formulas.

Now we just need one of these explaining DPS… hint hint