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While we have a question for melee attacks, ranged attacks always seem to get left out.

What is the maximum damage that can be done in a single ranged attack?

  • Any official character options as permitted.
  • Only official rules should be considered.
  • Multiclassing and feats are permitted.
  • Magic items from any official source (including adventure modules) are permitted.
    • Additionally, temporary effects from the same sources are permitted.
  • Characters can be of any level and are permitted to possess epic boons.
  • You are permitted as much setup as required and can assume ideal conditions.
    • This includes things like surprise, target, and location.
  • Other characters can assist in the setup, but only one character can be involved in the attack.
  • Do not include "Unearthed Arcana".
  • Whatever you chose, it must be one ranged attack (i.e. you only perform one attack roll, unless a feature with multiple attack rolls is specifically referred to as one attack).
  • Only count damage that is caused by the single attack and occurs in the same round as the attack.
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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; quite a bit of conversation about what counts for this question has been moved to chat. Please, if you think something is unclear and want to clarify with OP, check the chat first. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 10 at 19:52
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1296 points of damage

The following setup is used

  • Trebuchet 8d10 damage (yes, this counts as ranged weapon, and takes 4 Actions to load and aim, but we're allowed to do this; not sure if you can load something more nasty into a barrel to launch it at the enemy)

    DMG, p. 256 (emphasis mine)

    Trebuchet Stone. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit.

  • DEX 20 + 5 x Manual of Quickness of Action (= DEX 30 [+10])

  • Commander's Strike by a Battlemaster with a d12 maneuver die
  • Sharpshooter +10 damage
  • Sneak attack (Rogue level 19+): +10d6 damage
  • Crit for doubling the damage dice (Assassinate helps with this)
  • doubled damage on a failed DC 24 CON save (Death Strike by Rogue's Assassin archetype) (Use Boon of Fate (DMG) and Bane (PHB spell) to decrease the target's chances of failing the saving throw)
  • Contagion (Flesh Rot) (PHB spell) for vulnerability to damage for the target doubling the damage again

$$ 4 \cdot (2 \cdot (8\cdot 10 + 10\cdot 6 + 1 \cdot 12) + 10 + 10) = 1296 $$

The only question here is, if loading and aiming the trebuchet can be done before combat starts. If not, you can still do half this damage ("just" 648 damage)

Using a non magical weapon that is not a siege weapon (heavy crossbow) decreases the max damage by \$7 \cdot 8 \cdot 10 = 560\$. That's still 736 damage without using magical weapons. (Multiply the flat damage dealt by the magic properties by 4 and the damage max damage on the damage dice by 8 to get the effect of a magic weapons/ammunition). In this case you can be sure Assassinate and Death Strike are applicable.

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