Weapon scaling is tied to four attributes; the grade indicates its effectiveness. Increasing that attribute, as well as utilising weapon improvement materials will increase damage.
Been playing Dark Souls 3 a while and still scratching your head attempting to understand weapon scaling? Bemused at how weapons never seem to be as effective as you desire? This guide has you covered.
To begin with, let's go over some simple things first, such as what weapon scaling is.
Weapon scaling is tied to something you're probably already familiar with; they're tied to your character's attributes. There are many character attributes, sure, but scaling definitely only applies to a small portion of them.
See the above image? Vigour, attunement, endurance, vitality and luck aren't really the attributes you need to be concerned with. The only attributes which apply to weapon scaling are strength, dexterity, intelligence and faith.
Now, it's important to attempt to remember the images alongside the four attributes which apply to weapon scaling, because they are the key to recognising which weapon applies to which attribute. The muscled arm indicates strength, the hand indicates dexterity, the book indicates intelligence and the star indicates faith.
When you're in the game and looking at the weapon section of the inventory, you should notice this screen.
The area surrounded by a red box, in the "Attribute Bonus" section, showcases the four attributes from earlier. Notice the four images? They are the images from the character attribute screen mentioned earlier.
Continuing to analyse this section, next to the four images indicating attributes, you'll notice a letter next to one, or more of the attributes (in the above image, there are two next to strength and dexterity). These are scaling grades.
Scaling grading is extremely straightforward and operates similarly to School grades, with one small exception. There are six, beginning with E, the pauper of scaling, to S, the supreme overlord of scaling. Really, it's as simple as that.
Another simplistic way of determining whether or not the weapon might be effective, is noticing the requirement to wield it (the "Attribute Requirement"). A high strength requirement, for example, often indicates good weapon scaling.
The letters are indicative of the type of weapon it is. You've probably heard about strength weapons and dexterity weapons for instance; they are simply known as that because they scale well.
The table below indicates a few weapons which are orientated towards certain attributes and therefore scale well; each scales to an individual attribute best. Those are highlighted in blue:
As a rule, large, slow weapons like hammers and greatswords scale best with strength; small, quick weapons scale better with dexterity; staves, or magical equipment, scales best with intelligence; and chimes and talismans scale best with faith. Furthermore, weapons can occasionally scale relatively well with two attributes; the longsword is one of them. This is where the term "quality build" comes from amongst the Dark Souls community.
In order to maximise your attacking efficiency, you need to increase the attribute that scales best with the weapon you choose. If you were wielding the dagger, you'd naturally need to increase dexterity consistently throughout your playthrough. It's that simple.
Throughout the game, you can collect weapon improvement materials which, if enough are utilised for upgrades, can dramatically improve the efficiency of scaling. Depending on the weapon, the scaling can rise one to several grades. Improving weapons this way, is generally more effective towards damage than levelling attributes, but if you combine weapon improvement and scaling the appropriate attribute for the weapons together, your chances of survival are much higher.
Good luck out there with the new knowledge you have acquired. Hopefully this will give you an edge against the undead horde and those menacing bosses.