What is the highest possible consistent melee damage a 17th level character could inflict with the following restrictions:

  • Role: Melee damage dealer capable of doing the same damage in at least 5 encounters without a long rest (short rests are not a problem).

  • Sourcebooks: Any official hardcover sourcebook for D&D 5 is usable as a source.

  • Race: Preferably non-human, but there are no restrictions.

  • Class: No multiclassing, otherwise no restrictions.

  • Attributes: Point-buy

  • Feats: Permitted

  • Equipment: 1 legendary, 2 very rare, 3 rare, 4 uncommon magic items. No other equipment.

  • Level: 17th

Encounters are assumed to be against a single very high CR creature, optionally with several much weaker ones. So assume at least moderately high AC and saving throws. No fixed expectations about encounter length. Increased HP compared to standard on the creature’s part is propable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @IanDrash You note "short rests are not a problem", as opposed to long rests which you state happen no more than once every 5 encounters - should this character be optimised for a short rest after every combat, after every two, or something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Jun 30, 2018 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


Starting with items

Most classes are well balanced against each other, but not items.

Belt of Storm Giant Strength

An item that truly deserves the Legendary rarity. +9 to your attack and damage rolls is huge. Of course it is only +4 if you already have Str 20, but why would you, when you can have this item instead.

Now we just have to find the class that can make the most attacks with this item.

+3 Glaive

This is only rare, does not require attunement, and with the right feat (Polearm Master) enables an additional bonus action attack.



A 17th level Fighter can make 3 attack per turn, with Polearm Master it is 4. They also get the Great Weapon Fighting Style.
So the base damage without spending any renewable resources is 69.9.


Only 3 attacks per turn with with Polearm Master, but in exchange they can add 1d8 with Improved Divine Smite.
This is not enough however to compensate for the lower number of attacks.


A Pact of the Blade Hexblade can attack 3 times with Polearm Master, but in exchange they can add their Charisma with the Lifedrinker Invocation.
They are even behind Paladins, while unable to wear heavy armor, and have fewer HP.


\begin{array} {|r|r|r|r|} \hline &\text{Fighter} &\text{Paladin} &\text{Warlock} \\ \hline \text{Weapon} &6.3 &6.3 &5.5 \\ \hline \text{Strength} &9 &9 &9 \\ \hline \text{Magic + 3} &3 &3 &3 \\ \hline \text{Lifedrinker} &0 &0 &5 \\ \hline \text{Improved Divine Smite} &0 &4.5 &0 \\ \hline \text{Secondary Attack} &3 &3 &2.5 \\ \hline \text{Attack/action} &3 &2 &2 \\ \hline \text{Sum} &69.9 &65.1 &64.5 \\ \hline \end{array}


Polearm Master


Great Weapon Master

Against ridiculously low ACs, and when you have advantage.


For out-of-turn attacks, but competes with Polearm Master for your reactions.

Other considerations

You did not give us number of rounds between short and long rests, and target AC, so it is basically impossible to calculate with renewabale resources, so I will just list them without any numbers.


Most of your damage comes from static values, will not be doubled on crits, so Champion is not great.
A Battlemaster can use the maneuver Ripost (again, competing with Polearm Master for your reactions), Trip Attack and Precision Attack to increase DPR.


Divine Smites are great, but they only come back on a long rest.
The Holy Weapon spell from XGtE might also be good.
Probably Oath of Conquest iis the best option for you.


Hex looks good on the surface, but you have to sacrifice your bonus action attack for it. That one does 19,5 damage, so you need 6 hits with Hex to come out ahead. Hexblade's Curse is a bit better, you only need 4 hits. Eldritch Smite is a great invocation, but 4 slots per short rest. 20d8 per short rest sounds great, but turning 6 misses into hits with Precision Attack (Battlemaster Maneuver) is actually more.
Pact of the Blade, obviously, the Patron matters much less, probably Fiend and Hexblade are the best for your purposes.

Fighter Build


You only care about Strength, and it comes from a magic item, so you can pick any race, Ability Score Increases do not matter.
Constitution and Wisdom are probably the second most important abilities because of saves, so I pick Hill Dwarf. It even gives you 17 HP.

Starting Abilities

Str 10
Dex 12
Con 14
Int 10
Wis 15
Cha 11


4 Polearm Master
6 Great Weapon Master
8 Resilient (Wis)
12 +1 Con +1 Wis
14 Durable
16 +2 Con


Legendary: Belt of Storm Giant Strength
Very rare 1: +3 Glaive
Very rare 2: +2 Full Plate
Rare 1: Cloack of Displacement
Rare 2: Neclace of Fireballs (against mobs)
Rare 3: Brass Horn of Valhalla (against mobs)
Uncommon 1: Winged Boots (against flying enemies)

The rest does not really matter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just wondering, for single target damage, can't Monk with Quivering Palm be considered, or is it simply too unreliable? \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 30, 2018 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm also not used to high level optimization, but any reason Barbarian is not considered? \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 30, 2018 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Quivering Palm uses Ki points, which are per short rest. Without spending Ki points, they are way behind even Paladins. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Jul 1, 2018 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ A raging Barbarian does a bit less damage than a Warlock (rage +4, lifedrinker +5). A Warlock can go higher with Eldritch Smite, but the Barbarian's damage ends there. Without target AC we can't know how much the advantage from Reckless Attack is worth. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Jul 1, 2018 at 10:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .