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Earlier today I was reminded of the very first D&D character I rolled up at a tabletop club in University. I had dreams for this character that were never realised, and they involved lots of arms and lots of axes.

I'd like to know if what I had planned for my character was viable at all: whether they were possible to build out, and whether it would've had any point or benefit.

Here was the plan:

  • I had a Half-Orc Barbarian. He wielded a two-handed +1 axe. (Half-Orc Barbarian seems to be a pretty popular newbie choice.)
  • One day, I would've wanted my Barbarian to get a second pair of arms (like Machamp). Then they would dual-wield two two-handed axes.
  • Far past that, I would've wanted my Barbarian to get something that let them wield two-handed weapons with one hand. Then they would be able to quadruple-wield four two-handed axes.

I'm aware of Powerful Build and Monkey Grip which are about wielding larger-than-normal weapons, but I'm not sure if there's anything about wielding two-handed weapons.

In D&D 3.5e's framework, within a span of levels 1–20, would a character build like this have been possible? Would there have been any benefit or point to it? Part of me is thinking that within D&D 3.5e there would never be much point to wielding more than one axe at a time. If no, a different race like Goliath (with its native powerful build) or class have made this possible & relevant instead?

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There are numerous playable approaches to achieving many arms.

Savage Species is probably the book best for it, since that has

  • the already-suggested girallon’s blessing, which will add three pairs of arms but only to a Large-or-larger subject, and then only at caster level 12th, so that takes some finagling. But you can officially permanency it once you’ve handled that.

  • the insectile creature template, which comes with six arms to begin with (the LA +2 is extremely costly, but still less than most other things that grant more arms permanently and without magic). Buy-off, or a gestalt game where you can put the LA on one side, makes this a vastly better option than it ordinarily would be.

    • also note that Savage Species has a ritual for gaining a template you’d normally have to be born with, so it was possible to gain insectile later in your career.
  • the non-psionic thri-kreen, which only has LA +1 and has four arms.

    • again, the ritual above can change your race, so a half-orc could have become a thri-kreen if he really wanted.
  • an entire section entitled Three or More Hands on page 42, which discusses using more than two hands to wield a weapon. So this half-orc could have considered dual-wielding four-armed axes instead of quad-wielding two-handed axes. Each extra hand adds another +½Str to damage.

  • Multiweapon Fighting, Improved Multiweapon Fighting, and Greater Multiweapon Fighting feats. Though note these feats are printed in numerous places, and always requiring the 3.0e feat Multidexterity, so some adaptation for 3.5e is necessary. Really, there is no particular advantage to separating Two-Weapon Fighting et al. from Multiweapon Fighting et al. in my opinion. Particularly awkward for people graduating from dual-wielding to quad-or-more-wielding.

Other places to consider include the totemist from Magic of Incarnum and the psychic warrior from Expanded Psionics Handbook, both of which can achieve many, many limbs—but for natural attacks rather than wielding weapons. Eberron also had a spare limb magic item somewhere, but it doesn’t allow weapon-wielding either.

Finally, polymorph magic could take on one of these forms, or even more powerful forms, without having to pay LA for it. Polymorph effects are probably some of the most broken effects in the game, and getting a whole bunch of arms is far from the most powerful thing they can do, but it is a powerful thing they can do.

Anyway, more arms are powerful, but they’re also very costly unless you’re abusing polymorph effects. LA hurts far, far more than it was given credit for, so both the non-psionic thri-kreen and the insectile template hurt a lot for what they do. Permanency leaves you painfully vulnerable to dispel magic, but ultimately that’s a far lesser cost. Once you’ve done it, though, more attacks, or larger damage multiplier on your Strength, are quite valuable and can deal a ton of damage. Definitely a workable character concept.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It is hardly a first time I see this suggestion to use Polymorph to get arms. Aren't Polymorph "functions like alter self, except [some random stuff unrelated to arms]", and doesn't Alter Self say "A body with extra limbs does not allow you to make more attacks (or more advantageous two-weapon attacks) than normal"? So one should be able to gain limbs for additional natural weapon attacks not weapon attacks, shouldn't one? You may adress this comment or ignore it as you feel right. I feel it may be a bit too much for a comment. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Mar 31 '18 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp I am not referring to the spell polymorph, but rather to the entire class of polymorph effects. It didn’t seem relevant or worthwhile to cross-reference all of them to figure out which ones could offer more arms. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 31 '18 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: the Obah Blessed template (Dragon #136, p. 60), can be taken at either LA +2 for +2 arms or LA +3 for +4 arms and includes ability boosts (Str, Dex, Con & Cha) and Multi-Weapon Fighting on top. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Apr 1 '18 at 11:03
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Girallon's Blessing is probably what you are looking for combined with permanency. The spell allows you to grow extra arms and it's only a level three spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @davidcoffron it can if and only if either spell says it can, or some expansion book says so. Probably you are right, looks so, but there is just too many books to be sure. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 31 '18 at 13:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Apparently permanency can be used on GB according to Savage Species. I went and double-checked. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 31 '18 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Describing how many arms girallon’s blessing can get you (is it enough to get a half-orc to eight arms?) would improve this answer. It’s probably also worth mentioning Multiweapon Fighting, and also possibly Savage Species’s rules for X-handed weapons for X above 2—as an alternative to quad-wielding two-handed axes, the character could have chosen to dual-wield four-handed axes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 31 '18 at 14:08

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