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I want to build a character with max damage dealing capabilities.

What is the highest damage a character can deal in a single round with the following constraints:

  • character is level 1
  • only official WotC content is used
  • single round burst with no prior setup
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for Average Maximum Damage? Or Highest Potential Damage? Is this against any enemy, or a specific foe, like fiends? Are you concerned with expendable slots (such as spells?)? \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ And just because someone asked me the same question once... Can the Damage be dealt to yourself? \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Was the character Rolled Up with dice or created by Point Buy? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2018 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ What information is available about the target of this damage? If nothing else, knowing the AC lets us adjust average damage from attacks based on how likely they are to hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Without magic items or buffs, I pressume? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:17

2 Answers 2

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If you rolled up the character with dice and got hot

  • Variant Human Pole Arm Master with 18/19 strength:

    Maximum possible damage presuming you hit on all attacks:
    Two handed attack does 1d10 +4; bonus action attack does 1d4+4; if the enemy then moves away you get an opportunity attack that does 1d10+4.
    If all three hits maximize damage that's 36 damage (Not likely but theoretically possible)
    If all three critically hit add 2d10 + 1d4. If all of those max out it's 60. (Even more unlikely but theoretically possible)

    Average damage presuming that you hit on all three attacks:
    5.5 + 4 and 2.5 + 4 and 5.5 +4 = 25.5
    Add various bursts of 5.5, 2.5, or 5.5 if one of the hits is a critical hit.
    Combining possible combinations of critical hits adjusts to 28, 31, 33.5, 35.5, or 39 depending on how hot your dice get on attack rolls.

If you created with point buy:

  • Variant Human Pole Arm Master with 16/17 strength:

    Two handed attack does 1d10 +3 and bonus action attack does 1d4+3; if the enemy then moves away an opportunity attack 1d10+3. If all three maximize damage that's 33 damage (Not likely but possible)
    If all three critical hit add 2d10 + 1d4. If all of those max out it's 57. (Again, not likely)

    For average damage presuming you hit on all three attacks:
    5.5 + 3 and 2.5 + 3 and 5.5 + 3 = 22.5 with various bursts when you crit.
    Combining possible combinations of critical hits adjusts to 25, 28, 30.5, 32.5, or 36 depending on how hot your dice get on attack rolls.

How often you hit will depend on the target's armor class

Since you didn't indicate what Armor Class is the presumed "to hit" target, the average damage was not adjusted for 'how often do I actually hit?'

A practical advantage of this approach

At first level, getting more than one attack is not that common, whereas using the pole arm mastery offers two attacks per turn: one action and one bonus action. This increases doing any damage on a given round.

Situation Dependent, but 20d6 can be inflicted

Successfully push an opponent off of a 200' high cliff/tower/building. 20d6 averages 70 points of damage, and maxes at 120. Any character can try to do this, but one with Athletics proficiency and high strength has a greater chance of succeeding in the attempt at a shove. (Thanks to @sirjonsnow for pointing that out in a comment).

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Reliable: 13.4 damage per round - Max 32 to one target

Unreliable: 11.96 (or more) damage per round - Max 37 to one target and possibly to another

Variant Human Fighter
(assuming you're buying stats)
Stats: Str16, Dex8, Con14, Int10, Wis14, Cha12 (Feel free to move anything other than Str)
Fighting Style: Great Weapons
Feat: Charger (or Great Weapon Master, if you know the targets have low ACs)
Weapon: Great Sword
Versus AC 10


Charger
Your to-hit is +5; If you use your action to dash and attack with your bonus action, your damage is increased by 5.
Expected damage is:
(8.33+3+5 + .05*8.33) = 16.75; multiplied by to-hit chance of 80% = 13.4.
With a Theoretical Maximum of 32 damage to one target.


Great Weapon Master
Your to-hit is +0 (from the -5 to-hit penalty)
(8.33+3+10 + .05*8.33) = 21.75; multiplied by to-hit chance of 55% = 11.96;
And if you fell a target (likely when you hit at level 1), you make another weapon attack as a bonus action.
With a Theoretical Maximum of 37 damage to one target, then potentially dealing another 37 damage to a second target... nearly impossible, but still technically doable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On the bright side, rolling a 20 renders the -5 irrelevant. :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2018 at 14:52

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