[RPG] the most damage that can be done in a single melee attack

attackdnd-5emelee-combatoptimization

So, I was attempting to theory-craft a character that could deliver a massive amount of damage in a single melee attack. I know that there are builds to deliver a massive amount of damage in a single round that can most definitely out-damage this one, but I was specifically looking for a single melee attack.

So, my idea was a Half-Orc Paladin/Hexblade Warlock/Sorcerer multiclass. Using a combination of Divine Smite, the Warlock's Eldritch Smite Invocation, a +3 magic weapon, the Half-Orc's Savage Attack feature, Absorb Elements, and Hex, with max damage and crits, I got a lot of damage (I don't have the exact math's, I lost the paper I was doing my calculations on). I think it was over 100.

However, I'm sure that this is nowhere near as high as it can possibly be. So what is the greatest maximum amount of damage you can do with a single melee attack?

Anything from books published by Wizards is allowed, whether it be race, class, magic items, etc, as long as you make it a single melee attack. This includes 20th level characters and epic boons. UA should not be considered.

Best Answer

If you're looking at a single melee attack, you're absolutely going to need at least 17 levels in Rogue (Assassin) for Death Strike. I can't think of anything in the game better for increasing single-hit damage than the deadly combo of Sneak Attack (9-10 d6), Assassinate (automatic crit), and Death Strike (double damage). I'd take two levels in Paladin on top of that for smites, and then your final level could be Barbarian (for rage damage). Additionally, take the charger and martial adept feats.

Average Damage without items: 222

Max Damage without items: 364

Damage Breakdown

  • Rapier: 1d8 + 5
  • Sneak Attack: 9d6
  • Smite: 2d8
  • Rage: +2
  • Charger feat: +5
  • Maneuver (several choices): 1d6
  • Dueling fighting style: +2

This gives us a total of 3d8 + 10d6 + 14 damage. However, if we assume ideal conditions this Rogue will be attacking a surprised enemy that hasn't taken a turn yet, so the attack will auto-crit. That brings the damage to 6d8 + 20d6 + 14. That averages 27 + 70 + 14 = 111 damage (182 with max rolls).

Death Strike doubles that damage, for 222 average or 364 max.

Now let's add in weapons, items, and enchantments that could boost it above those numbers:

  • Vorpal Sword would add +3, as well as +6d8 on a nat 20
  • Enlarge: +1d4 damage (cast by a friend, or potion)
  • A library of Manuals of Gainful Exercise would add another +5 from STR

These would add a total of 1d4 + 6d8 + 8 to the numbers above. Auto-crit to 2d4 + 12d8 + 8, and double, and you get an additional 134 (average) or 224 (max)

Then add Purple worm poison for another 12d6 damage (that doesn't crit or double, thanks Jonatan) - 42 average or 72 max.

This gives us a total bonus from weapons & spells of 176 average or 296 max.

Average damage with items & spells: 398

Max damage with items & spells: 660