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A former DM has had the same recurring NPC/GMPC since I started playing in his game. This was 20+ years ago and we started in 1st edition and slowly made our way through the years and editions. We updated our characters as we went to the new editions. Now this NPC/GMPC is the most reviled in his games, any time he shows up all the players immediately want him dead. We stick to character though.

The question will be broken up to hopefully get expert answers from each of the editions in which we played in this particular question it will be specific to 3.Xe. I am skipping 4e (as we all hated it and only played one session) and 5e because I know for a fact that it is not possible there (yet).

The question is as follows:

Give the following constraints what is the maximum number of attacks in this edition:

  1. NPC is an Elf (In this edition it is irrelavent I suppose).
  2. He was a Thief-Acrobat in previous editions and I assume multiclassed, probably Fighter-Thief, due to how 3.X prestige works let's assume just Rogue for this edition, although any official prestige class is fair game. Character focused on tumbling and thrown knife attacks.
  3. The weapon of choice was throwing knives.
  4. Assume unlimited ammunition as he had a bandalier that had the knives return.
  5. I know he could throw 3 knives at a time (pretty sure this was a thing for shuriken from Oriental Adventures).
  6. Assume all official sources and Dragon Magazine since the first issue are open.
  7. I know of this question and assume there is a variant with knives.
  8. If I recall he threw with both hands as well.
  9. Assume prestige classes are open, this DM even as a player had a tendency to stack multiclass options with min/max precision but assume Rogue is the primary focus.
  10. Assume Quick Draw.
  11. We were always between 8th and 15th level when I met this character.
  12. I do not recall spell-casting but not ruling it out entirely but main build would likely have been focused on mundane means.
  13. Assume focused magical item augmentation as well, just calling it out even though the aforementioned bandolier alluded to it, but for the most part official items other than that.
  14. Assume no flying invisible helpers as suggested by HeyICanChan or for that matter third party interventions or Aid Another.

The end result in game was quite literally at least 2 dozen attacks per round, perhaps more. Which I have questioned him multiple times about the build and legitimacy but he as refused to provide any answers. I know DMs do not have to justify but this, combined with a number of other things over the years has lead to distrust. I have since stopped playing his games altogether, so this is just a verification on whether I have overreacted.

This was broken into 3 questions for each of the editions.

AD&D, AD&D 2nd Edition, and Dungeons & Dragons 3.X.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I'm a bit concerned about the tone (that is, he "had a tendency to stack multiclass options to a munchkin level" is an unfair characterization of multiclassing—one person's munchkin level is another person's not-suck level), I look forward to answers, but is there any level limit? (D&D 3.5 goes as high as one wants.) Also, did the character ever evidence any ability to cast spells or use similar abilities, or was the character predicated upon being entirely mundane? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 24 '18 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Good points, I have edited a bit as well as the point I missed for 3.X specifically. Obviously we never knew his exact level but he would have been around our current level when he joined us, at least I would have hoped. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 24 '18 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: How to optimize TWF Barbarian Elf, which despite the different class, hits on a lot of things that will be relevant here. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 24 '18 at 14:36
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So rogue itself doesn’t offer much of anything for maximizing your number of attacks. Sneak attack rewards maximizing your number of attacks, so rogues often seek many attacks, but you have to get them elsewhere. They don’t come with the class.

Throwing daggers, on the other hand, is a pretty solid way to get many attacks, since you can combine two-weapon fighting feats with ranged-attack feats, both of which offer extra attacks. A basic combination of Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, and Greater Two-Weapon Fighting with Rapid Shot nets you four extra attacks. Throwing daggers also requires Quick Draw and, realistically, Far Shot and Precise Shot, plus Rapid Shot requires Point Blank Shot. That’s eight feats: a rogue can do that, using one of the talents for a bonus fighter feat, but that means the character is doing absolutely nothing else with feats.

Combined with rogues’ ¾ BAB granting a couple of iteratives, that’s seven attacks. Rogue is adding 10d6 damage to each of them if the target is missing its Dexterity to AC, so rogue benefits from the large number of attacks (or equivalently, a character with these attacks benefits from rogue levels), but it isn’t adding any attacks.

Obvious quick dips for more attacks include monk for flurry of blows and barbarian for whirling frenzy, two more attacks each paired with another −2 attack penalty. Monk isn’t generally compatible with barbarian, but you could go for a chaos monk, as detailed in Dragon vol. 335: that doesn’t get flurry of blows, but its flailing strike grants 1d4−1 extra attacks—as good or better 75% of the time. It means using a sai instead of a dagger, but they’re pretty similar (you can get out of that with another feat, but doesn’t seem worth it). While we’re looking through Dragon we should also note the targeteer fight in vol. 310, which can get ranged-attack-related special features not otherwise available as feats—including arrow swarm, which lets you get 2 extra attacks for a −5 attack penalty (RAW, it actually stacks with Rapid Shot, too).

A ¾ BAB character has a rough time with a −11 penalty, particularly when two of those attacks have a −5 penalty from being an iterative, and another two have a massive −10 penalty, both stacking with the −6. A couple levels of wildrunner from Races of the Wild are good for primal scream’s big +6 bonus to Dexterity, plus it’s a full BAB class. That requires yet another feat (Endurance), though, so at this point you’re looking at ranger or fighter for bonus feats (and more BAB), cutting into sneak attack and all-around “rogue-ness.” But still, all-told, that’s still going to be around 6-7 levels; 13 more can be rogue. (Rogue as a class really has very little to justify 13 levels to begin with.)

So a build like this:\$\newcommand{\d}{\mathrm{d}}\$ \begin{array}{l|l|l|c|l|c|l} & & & & & \textbf{Sneak} \\ \textbf{Lv} & \textbf{Class} & \textbf{BAB}^1 & \textbf{Attacks} & \textbf{Special} & \textbf{Attack} & \textbf{Feat} \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Rogue} & +0 & 1 & - & +1\d6 & \text{PBS}^2 \\ \hline 2^\text{nd} & \text{Targeteer}^3 & +1 & 2 & - & +1\d6 & \text{Rapid Shot}^B \\ 3^\text{rd} & & +2 & 4 & \text{Arrow swarm}^4 & +1\d6 & \text{Endurance} \\ \hline 4^\text{th} & \text{Barbarian} & +4 & 5 & \text{Whirling frenzy} & +1\d6 & - \\ \hline 5^\text{th} & \text{Chaos Monk} & +5 & 1\d4+4 & \text{Flailing strike} & +1\d6 & - \\ \hline 6^\text{th} & \text{Wildrunner} & +6/{+}1 & 1\d4+6 & - & +1\d6 & \text{TWF}^5 \\ 7^\text{th} & & +7/{+}2 & 1\d4+6 & \text{Primal scream} & +1\d6 & - \\ \hline 8^\text{th} & \text{Rogue} & +8/{+}3 & 1\d4+6 & \text{Penetrating} & +1\d6 & - \\ & & & & \quad\text{Strike}^6 \\ 9^\text{th} & & +8/{+}3 & 1\d4+7 & - & +2\d6 & \text{Imp. TWF} \\ 10^\text{th} & & +9/{+}4 & 1\d4+7 & - & +2\d6 & - \\ 11^\text{th} & & +10/{+}5 & 1\d4+7 & - & +3\d6 & - \\ 12^\text{th} & & +11/{+}6/{+}1 & 1\d4+9 & - & +3\d6 & \text{Gr. TWF} \\ 13^\text{th} & & +11/{+}6/{+}1 & 1\d4+9 & - & +4\d6 & - \\ 14^\text{th} & & +12/{+}7/{+}2 & 1\d4+9 & - & +4\d6 & - \\ 15^\text{th} & & +13/{+}8/{+}3 & 1\d4+9 & - & +5\d6 & \text{Quick Draw} \\ 16^\text{th} & & +14/{+}9/{+}4 & 1\d4+9 & - & +5\d6 & \text{Precise Shot}^B \\ 17^\text{th} & & +14/{+}9/{+}4 & 1\d4+9 & - & +6\d6 & - \\ 18^\text{th} & & +15/{+}10/{+}5 & 1\d4+9 & - & +7\d6 & \text{Far Shot} \\ 19^\text{th} & & +16/{+}11/{+}6/{+}1 & 1\d4+10 & \text{Special ability} & +7\d6 & - \\ 20^\text{th} & & +17/{+}12/{+}7/{+}2 & 1\d4+10 & - & +8\d6 & - \\ \end{array}

  1. Assuming sane fractional BAB. Ultimately it barely matters (difference of +1), but worth noting. Would delay Greater Two-Weapon Fighting to 15th.

  2. Point Blank Shot

  3. Dragon vol. 310, a ranged-attack-focused fighter variant.

  4. Special targeteer feature that replaces a bonus feat. Grants up to two bonus ranged attacks.

  5. Two-Weapon Fighting

  6. Dungeonscape, keep half your sneak attack damage against creatures normally immune to it. Evasion is nice but this is way better. Plus if you really wanted evasion you could always grab another level of monk.

As you can see, you end up with 1d4+10 attacks, for an average of 12.5 attacks. Your BAB is +17, and you have a big +6 bonus to Dexterity, so your accuracy isn’t too bad (at least three of those attacks are taking such massive penalties, though, that they’re unlikely to hit on anything but a natural 20). Assuming all-in on Dexterity (18 base, +2 from elf, +5 from levels, +6 from gloves of dexterity, +5 from wish, and then +6 from primal scream), we have 42 Dexterity: a +16 bonus. That makes our attack line look like this:

+22/+22/+22/+22/+22/+17/+12/+7 main hand dagger, +22/+17/+12 offhand dagger

With up to three more +22 main hand dagger attacks from flailing strike. A +22 is not good for 20th level, but maybe magic weapons and other things can improve on that.

There is still plenty of room for improvement here, but it means less rogue. Master thrower is a prestige class that can literally double your attacks here, for example, by using its palm throw feature—but only with smaller weapons like shuriken.

Tome of Battle can also help. For example, dipping swordsage for assassin’s stance gets you +2d6 sneak attack damage, and can also get you excellent Tiger Claw maneuvers like wolf fang strike and dancing mongoose, which unlike many maneuvers are not melee-specific, and grant more attacks. Sudden leap is good for repositioning without sacrificing a full-attack, too.

You could even go for more initiating, aiming for raging mongoose and time stands still, for even more attacks. If you totally ditched rogue, you could qualify for all ten levels of eternal blade—one of the best elf-specific prestige classes in the game—and gets amazing island in time for an immediate-action full-attack—a barrage of knives any time you want it.

Finally, we could get into real theoretical-optimization shenanigans. An “idiot crusader” build can literally deal infinite damage with a dagger. Using a +1 aptitude dagger is inferior to using an 18-20 weapon for a Lightning Maces/Roundhouse Kick build, but it would still work, and still deliver an infinite number of attacks (on average). Shapeshifting can grant all kinds of extra attacks; there’s probably some way to turn those into thrown daggers. And so on.

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Two dozen thrown weapon attacks is relatively easy (without shenaninagns!) in

had different rules for shuriken—that are easily refluffed as throwing daggers—than does , and these rules made making an obscene number of attacks possible, albeit each attack dealing little damage. The 3e description of the shuriken says

Up to three shuriken can be thrown per attack (all at the same target). Do not apply the Strength modifier to damage with shuriken. They are too small to carry the extra force that a strong character can usually impart to a thrown weapon. (Player's Handbook (2000) 103)

After a few years, this seemingly innocuous description was so steeped in controversy that it was removed by the 3.5 revision, shuriken returning to the normal routine of one attack per attack.1 However, until the 3.5 revision—that is, from about 2000 to 2003—a creature could take the feats Ambidexterity (Player's Handbook (2000) 80), Two-weapon Fighting (86), Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (83), and Rapid Shot (84) so that with a base attack bonus of +11 (like, for instance, that possessed by a wholly unoptimized fighter 6/rogue 7), the creature could take a full attack action and put into the air a total of 18 shuriken. Each extra attack—like that granted from being the subject of the spell haste, for instance—adds another 3 shuriken.2

This is more complicated—but hardly impossible—in

sees enough ways to get extra attacks and even to take extra turns that making two dozen thrown weapon attacks isn't particularly difficult. However, doing so is an exercise in Dumpster-diving and devoting everything to picking precisely the right tools for the job.

For example, an elf whirling frenzy barbarian 1/chaos monk 2/rogue 2/targeteer fighter 2/master thrower 1 that picks the right feats and special abilities, that wears gloves of the balanced hand and a belt of battle (Magic Item Compendium 105 and 73, respectively), and that expends some resources can make two full attacks during 1 round that puts in the air somewhere around a total of 40 shuriken.3

That elf suffers no XP penalties for multiclassing (Player's Handbook 60) if those rules are used and can continue thereafter in the prestige class thief-acrobat (Complete Adventurer 83–5), easily meeting the prestige class's requirements.

Normally, a DM would have to approve all those parts and also approve of all those parts working together—and there's enough parts that even a reasonable DM could deny one or more of them for whatever reason—, but, as the DM's pet NPC, that's probably not a concern.


1 The fukimi-bari (Arms and Equipment Guide 7) remains technically 3.5 legal, and that weapon has rules similar to 3e shuriken, although the weapon's subject to minor adjustments by the DM; see Why a Revision? (DMG (2003) 4). By the way, the fukimi-bari are—I'm not making this up—darts the user holds in his mouth that he spits at his foes. Obviously, this delivery method makes it impractical to combine fukimi-bari with, for example, two-weapon fighting.
2 See this question for more information on the 3e version of the spell haste. It's a little nuts.
3 The barbarian rage variant whirling frenzy (Unearthed Arcana 66) replaces rage and, while it's active, grants an additional attack when the creature takes the full attack action. The special ability flailing strike of the chaos monk (Dragon #335 89) grants 1d4−1 additional attacks that can be made with shuriken (and conveniently also grants proficiency with the shuriken). The fighter variant class targeteer (Dragon #310 38–9) can take the special ability arrow swarm that, despite its name, allows the creature to make 2 additional ranged attacks during a full attack action. Finally, the prestige class master thrower (Complete Warrior 58–60) can pick the special ability palm throw that allows throwing two little weapons—like shuriken—with each attack. Combined with the creature +6 base attack bonus, the feats Rapid Shot (Player's Handbook (2003) 99) and Two-weapon Fighting (102), and the feat Improved Two-weapon Fighting (96) via the gloves of the balanced hand, that's a total 2(8+(1d4−1)) attacks per round without activating the belt of battle so as to take another full attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I might be low balling the number of attacks but I also didn't want to exhagerate them either. I realize that 3.X was a min/max paradise but can you at least ball park a max number? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 24 '18 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth In 3.5 it'll depend a lot on how much of the dude's resources are devoted to emphasizing this one tactic and how many hoops the DM was willing to jump through on the dude's behalf. For example, a flock (?) of homunculi with access to the martial maneuver White Raven tactics can be made permanently invisible and hang out near the dude so that each homunculus can grant the dude an other full attack. Like KRyan's answer indicates, number of attacks approaches infinity if the DM's got your back… and, obviously, the DM is his own ally. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 24 '18 at 18:33
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Probably infinite if said character had levels in Disciple of Dispater, Master Thrower and Bloodstorm Blade.

He would need the following things to make it possible:

  1. Throwing knives would be Kukris to increase threat range.
  2. Improved Critical Kukri would mean that his critical threat range would be quadrupled so from 18-20, he would go to 15-20 (double), 12-20 (triple) 9-20(quadruple).
  3. He would need the feats to get Lightning Maces, that feat gives another free attack on a Threat with a mace.
  4. His kukris would need the Aptitude Weapon property from Tome of Battle, allowing him to apply any feats he has from any weapon to this one.
  5. Bloodstorm blade allows you to make a full attack with any throwing weapon as they instantly return to you.
  6. Master Thrower has the ability Palm Throw that lets you throw two weapons with the same attack.

With this you attack twice for every attack that you make, and they have a 55% chance each to generate a new attack, wich would again have 55% each to proc new attacks, so statiscally speaking you would get a finite but really large amount of attacks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan thanks to the help with formating, I'm kinda unversed in this fancy formatings that the best answers here have but I'll improve! \$\endgroup\$ – Victor May 10 '18 at 2:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ No problem at all, oops I even missed one. For the record, #. where # is a number is the format for a numbered list. It will start with whatever number you use for the first entry, and then just increment (by 1) from there (so I could have used 1. for all of them and it would have automatically increased the number, but that also means it will ignore if you try to skip a number on purpose). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 10 '18 at 2:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, if you add Roundhouse Kick to this combo (similar to Lightning Maces but for unarmed strikes), you have a 55% chance for each attack to generate two attacks—which means that your number of remaining attacks is more likely to go up than it is to go down. As a result, statistically the expected number of attacks is actually infinite. It’s possible for it to stop, but it’s more likely to literally never stop than it is to ever stop. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 10 '18 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah! But the trick with lightning maces it's that it generates new attacks on a threat and Roundabout Kick generates when you score the critical hit (meaning you have to confirm) so with lightning maces you would gain the attacks even if you miss the target AC, but since every roll has a 5% chance to score a 20 for an automatic success you would end up hiting anyways, with both feats and a enough attack roll you would be like you said generating even more attacks, thats insane! \$\endgroup\$ – Victor May 10 '18 at 12:48
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For knives specifically, it is actually possible to get a very large number of attacks relatively easily in 3.5.

The second level cleric and wizard spell cloud of knives from PHBII conjures a cloud of knives that flout around you in the air. Each round, as a free action, you can launch a knife at any target you can see within 30 feet (with an attack bonus of caster level + key ability).

Now, the duration of this spell is only 1 round/level, which is hardly terrible, but it has a range of personal. That makes it a candidate for persisting via the Persistent Spell feat (Complete Arcane). Persistent spell normally adds six levels, but you're not going to do that. You're going to get it for free.

Here's one way: You take five levels of wizard and five of incantatrix. Assume you start with an 18 in intelligence, are a gray elf, and put two increases and a +4 item into increasing intelligence, you have a +8 int bonus at tenth level. You need a high spellcraft check (13 ranks + 8 int + 2 synergy from knowledge:arcana + 3 skill focus: spellcraft + an additional 3 bonus scrounged from somewhere = a +29 bonus) and you need the Persistent Spell feat. Just for fun, you're also going to take Arcane Thesis (cloud of knives) so that all metamagic feats you apply to it are one level cheaper. As an incantatrix, you can try to apply a metamagic feat to an existing spell effect (3 + int mod = 11) times per day. to make that work you need a spellcraft check against a DC of 18 + 3x(spell level + metamagic level cost), which here would be 39. Cast a cloud of knives, next round take ten on the check to apply persistence to it, and all day long you get a free knife ranged attack. Burn all eight of your second-level slots, and three higher-level slots, and you have eleven free-action knifings per round every day.

But wait, there's more! If you take Craft Wand, you can burn additional charges to apply metamagic feats to spells cast from wands. Doing so takes a number of additional charges equal to the level cost of the metamagic effect (five additional here, from arcane thesis, for a total of six charges for an all-day effect). So for each wand of cloud of knives you light on fire, you can have an additional eight castings floating about for a day (with two charges left over). Altogether, 11 from normal spells and 8 from burning up a wand gives you 19 free-action knife attacks per round. At tenth level, the attack bonus is +18, and they each do 1d6+3 damage (19-20/x2).

Maybe then you start putting levels into rogue. Why not? After three levels of rogue, you have another feat and can put it into Quick Draw. You can then (badly) use both hands to throw an additional 3 knives each round with a full attack. More excitingly, you can cast greater blink, making your attacks all deny dex bonus, so all 19 of your free action attacks are now +18, 1d6+3 + 2d6 19-20/x2). You can throw your puny three extra knives, or you can just eat a sandwich every round, because your 19 attacks are free just for wanting them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While cloud of knives is a pretty good spell, and persistent cloud of knives isn’t bad at all, I’m not seeing how one knife per round is really adding up to the character as described. Moreover, the, ya know, cloud of hovering knives would have been a pretty significant hint that wasn’t mentioned in the question—I tend to think it would have been if it had been present. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 25 '18 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan One knife per round per persistent spell. He's suggesting you persist 19 copies of the spell per day, eating up nearly an entire wand of cloud of knives per day. Without the wand it's still 11, though, by his calculations \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 25 '18 at 4:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, of course: a summon isn’t an effect on you. The cloud, and the ability it grants you to fling knives, is. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 25 '18 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 25 '18 at 4:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I think that if you're a jerk NPC, you probably only eat wands on days when you meet the PCs. Wands are a sometimes food. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Apr 25 '18 at 4:58

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