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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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    \$\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 '19 at 19:52
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The best I could come up with is 2,084 damage.

  • Use an Oathbow (1d8+3d6)

  • Drink a Potion of Giant Size from SKT (Oathbow now deals 3d8+9d6)

  • Use an Arrow of Slaying (+6d10)

  • Have Dexterity 20 then use Dex Tome (+6 dmg)

  • Paladin 3 - use Branding Smite (+2d6) also gives you Martial Prof to use the Oathbow

  • Rogue Assassin 17 - get "Assassinate" "Death Strike" and 9d6 Sneak Attack. Get Sharpshooter feat while you're at it. (auto-crit and double damage, +9d6 +10)

  • Have a Battlemaster Fighter use Commander's strike on you (+1d12)

  • Have a Red Dragon Sorc with 22 Charisma cast "Flame Arrows" on you (+4d6 +6)

  • Have a Valor Bard cast "Elemental Weapon" on you and give you Combat Inspiration (+3d4 +1d12)

  • Have a Paladin cast "Magic Weapon" on you (+3)

  • Have a Grave Cleric cast "Holy Weapon" on you and use "Path to the Grave" on the target (+2d8, vulnerability to attack)

  • Have a Wizard cast "Enlarge" on you (+1d4)

So that works out to:

  • 5d8 + 18d6 + 6d10 + 4d4 + 2d12 = 40 + 108 + 60 + 16 + 24 = 248

  • Doubled for critical hit = 496

  • Damage bonuses total = +25 = 521

  • Double that for Death Strike = 1,042

  • Double that for Path to the Grave = 2,084

If you rule that the Potion of Giant Size doesn't increase the Oathbow's extra damage, then the 18d6 becomes 12d6 and the total is adjusted to 1,796.

I don't think there are any other questionable rulings in the calculation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Both the magic weapon and elemental weapon spells require the caster to touch a nonmagical weapon, which then becomes a magic weapon. RAW, they have no effect on the oathbow, and even with a mundane weapon, only the first one cast on it would have any effect. (Holy weapon, on the other hand, will work on a magic weapon.) \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Feb 13 at 17:52
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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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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you quote RAW on each item and reference which official book/resource it is taken from? For instance I would like to know where it is defined that a trebuchet counts as a ranged weapon that you can apply sharp shooter to, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Jun 11 '19 at 8:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on Can siege weapons trigger sneak attack and other weapon based class features? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 11 '19 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with using 5 copies of the Manual of Quickness of Action. It doesn't list a limit to how many times you can benefit from any number of Manuals, so with (theoretically) infinite money and set-up time, you can have infinite dexterity, and any number picked for damage is arbitrary. I think you should include the bonus only once, as the odds of someone getting the benefit out of the same tome more than once is pretty low unless you're an elf, and the odds of getting more than one is even lower. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Feb 5 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon 30 is the hard cap of the Attribute values even with magic items. Also the question did not ask for realism or average damage, so I mentioned the best you can do regardless of how unrealistic the scenario, as long as it's within the rules... \$\endgroup\$ – fabian Feb 5 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The 30 point cap in the DMG is only related to Epic Boons specifically. This item circumvents that by raising the cap by 2. Jeremy Crawford has tweets out saying the intended hard cap is 30, but his tweets are not considered official rulings. Only rulings from Sage Advice are official now. The general rule is PCs can't have a stat higher than 20, and Monsters can't have a stat higher than 30. The Manual is specific, and specific trumps general. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Feb 5 at 19:33

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