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I'm running a Curse of Strahd campaign and one of my players just hit level 3. He told me he could do a blow causing 61 damage.

That just didn't feel right.

This is how you could do it assuming his blow would hit. Using a longsword: 1d10 (longsword) + 2d8 (divine smite) + 2d10+3 (poison strike - Oath of Treachery) + 2d6 (thundrous smite)

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Szega, okeefe, MikeQ, ZwiQ, V2Blast Nov 1 '18 at 21:34

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    \$\begingroup\$ What doesn't feel right about it? You provided the methodology yourself, which adds up to a maximum of 61. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Nov 1 '18 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ He is not even using Great Weapon Master with a Greatsword, not optimal at all ;P \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Nov 2 '18 at 5:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is fairly obviously "do all these effects really stack together like that?", I don't really see this as being an unclear question. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Nov 2 '18 at 12:07
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Sure, once per day, if they roll max on everything

This works. But there are some caveats:

  • They can only do this once per day at level 3, because they do not have enough spellslots to do the combo more than once.
  • They need to set up, because they can't apply poison strike and thundrous smite in the same round.
  • You are unlikely to roll the maximum on all your dice. This theoretical approach of 'if I roll max damage and hit x targets' could lead to a question along the lines of "My level 5 wizard says he can do 1000+ damage with a single fireball, this can't be right?"
  • You are essentially smearing out your damage over two turns. You're using one turn to set up the poison strike, and then attacking on the next, using two spell slots in the process. You'd likely do more damage if you spread the damage out over multiple turns. The "all eggs in one basket" strategy is more vulnerable to things like 'Shield' or 'Uncanny Dodge'.

If your adventuring day consists of exactly one enemy, this is a great idea. If it does not, they had better hope that the rest of the enemies they face are having an off-day because they've just blown basically everything they had on a single strike.

D&D 5e allows for a lot of crazy broken stuff if you allow your characters to rest after every encounter, because it allows certain classes to just blow their entire load of spells and abilities on a single encounter and then rest. But the adventuring day should have more encounters than just one, or the balance system breaks down, the DM manual does a pretty good job at explaining this principle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like it's worth noting: being that it's the max-damage calculation, it's also pretty close to the average crit-damage. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 1 '18 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that a Paladin can wait for a critical before he decides to use Divine Smite (or Hexblade with Eldritch Smite). \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Nov 1 '18 at 12:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would emphasize the 'set up' a bit more. This requires the Paladin to not attack on the first round where they are setting this up...if they do hit anyone on that first round, it expends the Poison Strike before they can get Thunderous Smite set up. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 1 '18 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nah that's not true, @guildsbounty. They can attack first, and then use their bonus action to activate poison strike "for their next hit in 1 minute". But they can't do this in one turn, they need to use their bonus action across 2 turns to get the full attack bonus. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Nov 1 '18 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik It still bears more mentioning. If you used the bonus action before attacking in the first round, you would do the same damage, but spread out across two attacks instead of all being on one. In other words, setting it up like this is very much arbitrarily warping your actions in order to maximize that single-attack number. It doesn’t increase your damage in the combat. The only way it’s actually relevant is if they cannot, for some reason, attack in the first round—in which case, it’s kind of just a consolation prize. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 1 '18 at 15:27
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Technically true, but--

  1. That's a maximum damage calculation, which actually has something like a 0.00004% chance of happening, or about 1 chance in 25 million. I know from the UA article that the poison damage automatically deals maximum damage if you had advantage on the attack, which boosts those chances to a mere 1 in 250,000. (For the record, the more dice you roll, the higher your chances of rolling a moderate value. 1d12 has, obviously, 1 chance in 12 to hit maximum, while 2d6 has only 1 chance in 36 to result in 12 damage, but a correspondingly lower chance of rolling a 2. Rolling five to seven dice makes it extremely unlikely you'll come up very far from the average value.)

  2. A 3rd level Paladin has three daily spell slots, and this trick expends two of them. It also burns his once-per-short-rest channel divinity. This is known as a 'nova', burning all your resources in a short time to do some fantastic damage. Paladins are very good at this, but that doesn't make them overpowered unless you have only one or two combats per day -- and in that case, the sorcerer and wizard should be much more concerning, since they're the ones who get really scary when they can blow all their high level spell slots in almost every fight.

  3. This requires the Oath of Treachery, which is Unearthed Arcana playtest material, which makes it highly suspect in terms of balance. The Oath of Conquest, which was presented in that same article, got an official release in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, but the Tyranny oath hasn't (yet) been printed officially.

  4. It takes two turns to power up for this attack, as both poison strike and thunderous smite are bonus actions. He could attack normally in round 1, use a bonus action, then in round 2 use a bonus action to complete the power-up, and attack; but it's somewhat unfair to then compare that damage output to anyone else's single-round damage. (You could theoretically power up prior to an ambush, but I still think it's disingenuous to claim this is "all in one hit" when it took several prior actions to prepare.)

So yes, this is something a paladin could do in theory, if they didn't mind blowing 2 of their 3 daily spell slots in one massive hit, if they can use potentially unbalanced UA material, if they make a damage roll with lottery-esque chances.

Paladins have more options than most classes for stacking up guaranteed "on a hit" damage boosts, so it shouldn't really matter if they're all stacked on one hit or spread out across several rounds. (Massive damage only matters if you drop the target to 0 HP, and if the target would make death saves, which monsters generally don't.)

I really want to emphasize the time required here. If you have to spend two spell slots in two rounds to deal this damage, you can't then compare it to another class's one-punch damage. You need to compare it to what anyone can do across two rounds. Sure, 60 is better than anyone else can do in a single turn, but a sorcerer or warlock can burn two spell slots to do about that much damage across two turns, with a similar chance of dealing maximum damage; and a 3rd level rogue who deals a maximum-damage sneak-attack-crit plus a maximum-damage normal sneak attack in the next round would come in pretty close to that damage total, and hasn't expended any resources to do it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like it's worth noting: being that it's the max-damage calculation, it's also pretty close to the average crit-damage. In any case, +1 for pointing out the truth of 5e classes: Paladin is the nova striker. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 1 '18 at 12:12
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While it is possible to get 61 points damage, it is unlikely since he'd have to roll max on 7 dice simultaneously.

His damage is more likely to be around the average which is 35 points damage.

Note: If he gets a critical hit, he will do about 61 points damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And, as noted in the other answer, he's shot his entire wad for the day in so doing. Sure hope he's got good armor and some understanding party members. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 1 '18 at 12:09
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Yes it is possible but at great cost

To do this you have to expend 2 (out of 3 per long rest) level 1 spell slots and 1 use of the channel divinity (once per long rest. it will also cost the use of 2 bonus actions to set up (1 for both thundrous strike and one for poison strike.

This means that he spends almost all his limited resources in one attack. So either he has to save all those resources for the chance to use them or he is out of options early on in the combat/day.

Also of note is that the max damage is 61 (or more if he has a STR mod that adds to the hit) the average is 35,5 = 5,5 (1d10) + 9 (2d8) + 14 (2d10+3) + 7 (2d6). This will be significantly higher if attacks with advantage as then the damage of poison strike changes into 20 + Paladin level. Resulting in an average of 44,5 = 5,5 (1d10) + 9 (2d8) + 23 + 7 (2d6).

On a related note is that he can lose the Thunderous Smite if he is attacked between the casting and his next hitting attack that uses it as it is an concentration spell. In opposition is that poison strike does not require you to hit but actually does damage to your attack target after you attack it hit or miss.

In conclusion yes he can have a high peak output but it is costly in terms of recourses and takes 1,5 turns (attack action + 2 bonus actions).

Chance of max damage

The chance to hit is as state in other answers very small. It is 0.000000434027777.. (0.000043403% or 1 in 2304000) to be more exact. This can be calculated by determining the chances for a max roll on individual dice. So a D10 has a 1 in 10 or 0.1 chance a D8 0.125 and a D6 0.16666...

If the Paladin attacks with advantage this chance becomes 0.0000434027777.. (0.0043403% or 1 in 23040) as the chance is removed from the poison strike.

And also remember that in all these case there is an equal chance of doing minimum damage which is normally: 10 (28 when attacking with advantage).

Play test Material

An important part of this damage is the damage by poison strike which is an part of the Oath of Treachery material which is currently only available as UA. As it has not been added to official material and has had no revision we can assume that there are balance issues with this ability.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland Here you go \$\endgroup\$ – Dinomaster Nov 1 '18 at 12:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ "chance to hit" is a confusing term here because usually in-game that just means "attack roll vs. AC" \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Nov 1 '18 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: with multiple dice you get a bell curve distribution with most values being around average and the extremes being less likely. \$\endgroup\$ – ravery Nov 1 '18 at 13:55
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Let's not mention critical hits

Not only is that possible but I have seen it a few time when my son plays his paladin (aptly named Kritias). Without a crit, that is one heck of a rare roll.

That being said, this is not something he will do very often, so while he may do this once or twice a day, he burns through a lot of his resources for the day...

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This is definitely possible... At [1:2,304,000] odds

According to a program that I wrote for evaluating the outcome odds on a roll, 61 damage is definitely possible from a single attack, but it does require literally every rolled die to hit their maximum value.

This kind of attack, when normally rolled, is far more likely to deal around 35 damage, and is 90% likely to deal between 25 and 46 damage. The 61 damage the player is describing only happens when every single die rolls its maximal value, which with 2.3 million possible outcomes (6*6*8*8*10*10*10 == 2304000) only occurs once.

//From my analysis program
Roll: d10+2d8+2d10+2d6+3
Mean: 35.500000
Median: 35
Mode: 35 (139320)
90% Range: [25,46]

This is less than their expected damage on a Critical Hit

Conversely, this damage is actually lower than their expected value on a Critical Hit, where all these dice (but not the flat +STR modifier) will be doubled. On a critical hit, the player will be expected to hit around 68 damage on average, with the 90% range being 53 to 83.

Also, on a critical hit, their theoretical max damage is 119, occurring once every 5.3 trillion trials, or in other words, having a 0.000000000018838% chance of happening.

//Also from my program
Roll: [d10+2d8+2d10+2d6]x2+3
Mean: 68.000000
Median: 68
Mode: 68 (230652631064)
90% Range: [53,83]
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