32
\$\begingroup\$

Optimizing a character build for ridiculous Movement in order to break the sound barrier or even the speed of light is a well-tried source of fun with numbers in DnD. Such speed optimizations usually incorporate lots of magic and possibly additional help by allies. But I'd like to learn more about what the human body is capable of within the rules of DnD, so I'm more interested in what can be achieved without magic.

A high level Monk with two levels in Fighter and the Mobile Feat can still become ridiculously fast. If I didn't mess up the calculations, they can run 100m in less than 7.4 seconds (see my answer below). This is even 2 seconds faster than 9.4s, which scientists think is the human limit (in our world, that is). But hey, it's a Level 20 character, so becoming somewhat superhuman does kind of make sense in the world of DnD, I guess.

This raises the question: At what point in the game can human adventurers become superhuman without using magic? This is of course a more vague and general question (one could ask the same e.g. in the context of lifting strength), but let's stick to running speed for the moment. So, my question in precise terms is:

What is the minimum level at which a human character can run 100m in less than 9.58 (or: 9.4) seconds and thus break the current world record (or: become superhuman)?

Contest Rules:

  • The character is in a wide open field with no allies, enemies or other threats that are of any relevance to them. In particular, outside help is not allowed.
  • The character simply wants to run 100m as fast as possible. Running as in putting one foot in front of the other on the ground. No jumping, no flying, no teleportation, no other shenanigans. Assuming the ground to be flat, there must exist a continuous curve in space that connects the plane that contains the starting line and is orthogonal to the ground with the plane containing the finishing line and orthogonal to the ground such that each point of this curve intersects with the body of the runner at some time. Usually, a straight line at the height of the runner's chest should be a possible choice.
  • Setup rounds are allowed, but they must not depend on circumstances the character cannot influence.
  • Assume that Movement translates into speed and that time is not limited to the discrete grid of full rounds. For example, a Movement of 60 feet per round corresponds to a speed of 10 feet (or 3.048 metres) per second, as a round represents 6 seconds. With this speed, you need roughly 33 seconds for 100m. Different Movement in different rounds is handled in the same way: If your first turn grants you a Movement of say 210 feet and your consecutive turns each only grant you 150 feet, you will move at 35 feet per second for 6 seconds and at 25 feet per second afterwards, meaning that you cross the 100m mark after $$ 6+\frac{100-210\cdot0.3048}{25\cdot0.3048}\approx10.723 $$ seconds, where the factor 0.308 comes from transferring feet into meters.
  • No magic, i.e. no spells/cantrips or magic items. Monk Features (including those that require Ki points) are allowed since they are not magic in terms of game mechanics, although they are described as "background magic" in flavour text. The same reasoning applies to any similar feature (such as the Barbarian's Totem Spirit or the Wizard's Bladesong).
  • No epic boons.
  • No UA (but any official rule book).

PS: This list of constraints was expanded and made more precise with the help of lots of clever and insightful comments and answers from other users. Some of the answers may no longer cover all of these conditions (but they explicitly say so anyway), but that does not make them the least bit less relevant or even interesting.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 46
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the real takeaway here is going to be that Usain Bolt is a high-level monk. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Nov 7 at 14:05
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ What counts as "outside help"? Is another creature ending its turn within 5 ft of you help, or a creature making an attack? \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Nov 7 at 15:11
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It’s potentially worth noting that 5e lacks the “run” option that was present in 3.5e, and quadrupled (or quintupled, if you had the relevant feat) your movement speed. That allowed a human barbarian (who had +10’ fast movement at 1st) to break the record at 1st level. The lack of a “run” option suggests that these speeds aren’t really accurate reflections of characters’ sprint capabilities—this is how quickly they can move tactically in combat, not their absolute fastest speeds. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 7 at 19:34
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @MarsPlastic Lorewise it is a "secret elven magic called the Bladesong". Mechanically it is just a character ability and I was just thinking you meant no spells. Your call. In any case a Monk 2/Fighter 2/Bladesinger 2 with mobility could accomplish the goal at level six. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Nov 7 at 21:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Benjamin Olson I was actually not sure and it seems like you're absolutely right: The Bladesong is no more magic than the Monk Features or the Totem Spirit. Which makes your build a great contender. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Nov 7 at 23:47
35
\$\begingroup\$

7 levels.

Variant Human (30ft) with Mobile Feat (+10ft) with 2 Monk levels (+10ft from Unarmored Movement, and Step of the Wind) + 3 Totem Barbarian levels (+15ft Elk Totem during Rage) + 2 Fighter Levels (Action Surge).

Mr. Bolt has to run 100m in 9.4/s, or 328ft in 9.4s, or 210ft/turn (average speed). His base speed is 50ft.

As a setup, Bolt rages to achieve 65ft base speed. On his first turn, Bolt can use his movement, Dash as an Action, Dash as a Step of the Wind bonus action, and Dash as an Action Surge, he has 65ft*4 of movement to use, and covers 260ft (68ft missing). He loses his rage since he did not attack anyone. On his second turn, he uses his movement, Dash as an Action, and Dash as a Step of the Wind bonus action (with his last Ki Point) for 50ft*3 for 150 additional feet. Since he only had to cover 68ft, he did so in 68/150*6=2.72s, for an incredible 328ft (100m) in 8.72 seconds.

Congratulations, Mr Bolt! No magical Wild Shapes were necessary, and no help. Also no shenanigans with doing multiple Action Surges, or sustaining Rage without making attacks. If a prep round for activating Rage is not allowed, the Barbarian can be level 5 for Fast Movement and beats the world record in 8.93s (thanks to goodguy5 for the Elk tip). If the Barbarian is level 5 and can prep the Rage, he beats the record in 6.93s.

Addendum: a Tabaxi with half his levels can do the same with Feline Agility. Darn cats!

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pilchard123 I agree. I guess, on the preparation round, you'd have to Rage as a bonus action and attack something as an action, or drink a vial of poison, or immolate yourself, or find any way to maintain the Rage going. \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Nov 8 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 Self-flagellation? \$\endgroup\$ – chrylis -on strike- Nov 10 at 9:11
11
\$\begingroup\$

TL;DR: 6 Levels are enough

If you dislike math and only want to know how it works at level 6, you can skip to part 3.) right away. Thanks a lot to the other users who contributed to this answer.

1.) A Fighter 2 / Monk X strategy requires a Character Level of 12 to achieve superhuman speed.

Take Mobile as a Human Variant Starting Feat, take two Fighter Levels to get access to Action Surge, then take Monk Levels for Unarmored Movement. You can then use Action Surge and Step of the Wind to Dash three times in one round, which gives a total movement of

$$ (6+2+k)\cdot4 $$

squares where \$6\$ is the Human base speed, \$2\$ comes from the Mobile feat and \$k\in\{2,3,4,5,6\}\$ from Unarmored Movement (the amount of which depends on the Monk Level which we would like to leave open in order to determine the least amount needed to break the world record). A round is \$6\$ seconds long and a square corresponds to \$5\$ feet which is \$1.524\$ metres. Hence, even if you have the maximum of \$k=6\$, this will only take you

$$ (6+2+6)\cdot4\cdot1.524\approx85.344 $$

metres in one round. Thus, we need another round to cover the remaining

$$ 100-((6+2+k)\cdot4)\cdot1.524 $$

metres. In this round however, Action Surge will no longer be available, leaving us with

$$ (6+2+k)\cdot3 $$

squares of movement, which is a speed of

$$\frac{((6+2+k)\cdot3)\cdot1.524}{6}$$

metres per second. Putting things together, this strategy lets you run \$100\$ metres in

$$t(k)=6+\frac{100-((6+2+k)\cdot4)\cdot1.524}{\frac{((6+2+k)\cdot3)\cdot1.524}{6}}$$

seconds. Plugging in the possible values of \$k\$ yields

$$ t(2)\approx 11.123, \quad t(3)\approx 9.93, \quad t(4)\approx 8.936, \quad t(5)\approx 8.095, \quad t(6)\approx 7.374.$$

Hence, a Monk 9 / Fighter 2 is still quite a bit away from beating the world record, while gaining another Monk Level already makes them superhuman at a total Character Level of 12.


2.) A Fighter 2 / Barbarian 3 / Monk 2 does the same at Level 7, provided that they can find a way to sustain their rage.

What follows is a more detailed and precise elaboration of the idea suggested by user48255 (who, in their calculations, ignores the fact that Action Surge can't be used twice in a row). Again, take Mobile as a Human Variant Starting Feat, take two Fighter Levels to get access to Action Surge, take three Barbarian Levels to get access to the Elk Totem Spirit, then take two Monk Levels for Unarmored Movement. While raging, you can then use Action Surge and Step of the Wind to Dash three times in one round, which gives a total movement of

$$ (6+2+3+2)\cdot4 = 52$$

where \$6\$ is the Human base speed, the first \$2\$ comes from the Mobile feat, \$3\$ is the Elk bonus and the second \$2\$ is the Unarmored Movement. Again, the second round without Action Surge allows only

$$ (6+2+3+2)\cdot3 = 39.$$

Thus, this strategy lets you run \$100m\$ in

$$6+\frac{100-52\cdot1.524}{\frac{39\cdot1.524}{6}}\approx 8.095$$

seconds. You do have to take care of sustaining your rage, though. As pointed out by ShadowRanger in the comments, this can be achieved by smashing a vial of Alchemist's Fire on yourself in a setup round. Whether this would be considered as doping in an official contest is a different question... Setting up some kind of relatively harmless trap (a small fire for example) on the way to step into is also an idea that could be worked with, as long as it does not turn the ground into difficult terrain.


3.) But Monk 2 / Fighter 2 / Wizard 2 does the job already at Level 6, provided that a human is allowed to become a Bladesinger.

The next build follows an idea that was expressed by the user Benjamin Olson in the comments. Again, take Mobile as a Human Variant Starting Feat and take two Fighter Levels to get access to Action Surge, but then add two Wizard Levels for Bladesong (assuming the campaign relaxes the racial requirement) before taking two Monk Levels for Unarmored Movement. Note that just like Ki Features or the Totem Spirit, Bladesong itself does not count as magic for gameplay mechanics. Using Action Surge and Step of the Wind to Dash three times in one round while Bladesong is active gives a total movement of

$$ (6+2+2+2)\cdot4 = 48 $$

squares, where \$6\$ is the Human base speed, and the \$2\$'s come from the Mobile feat, the Bladesong and the Unarmored Movement respectively. In the second round, without Action Surge, this is reduced to

$$ (6+2+2+2)\cdot3 = 36$$

squares of movement. Hence, this strategy lets you run \$100m\$ in

$$6+\frac{100-48\cdot1.524}{6\cdot1.524}\approx8.936$$

seconds and thus achieve superhuman speed at a Character Level of 6.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: Alchemist's fire solves the damage problem. It does 1d4 damage per round until you take time for a DC 10 Dex save, so don't take the time. Smash a vial on yourself before you begin raging/running, and your rage lasts indefinitely. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Nov 8 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger Great idea, thanks! I've included a corresponding remark in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Nov 8 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarsPlastic: I feel like it's probably okay, doping-wise, so long as you don't ingest the alchemist's fire. Which I'd strongly caution against in any event. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Nov 8 at 12:29
10
\$\begingroup\$

Fighter4 if we can find a herd of Brontosauruses

We take the Cavalier archetype for Fighter, which lets us mount and then dismount a creature with 10 feet of movement rather than all of it.

We take the Kessig human subrace from Planeshift: Innistrad, which gives us a 40' walking speed and negates difficult terrain. This means we can at level 4 take the mobile feat which stacks.

We run across a herd of Brontosauruses. Because we are a Kessig cavalier, this takes no extra movement for difficult terrain and mounting and dismounting each creature takes only 5' of movement for each step. We can mount a creature from any adjacent space, and dismount into any other adjacent space, so running on brontosauruses (20'X20' squares) this way lets us go 25 feet using 10 feet of movement. This lets our 50' of movement carry us 125'.

We can use our action to dash, which puts us at 250'. Then we can action surge to dash again and make it over the finish line, to 375'.

Barbarian 6 with Mobile if not, but we're allowed more than 1 round

At 6th level the Elk Totem Barbarian's speed is doubled when doing non-combat travelling stuff like in this question. This lets us trivially go 300' in a round just by dashing with our Mobile Kessig Elk Barbarian. Unfortunately, 300' is not quite 100 meters. We need to use about 10% of our next round's movement to cross the finish line, which the question seems to allow, but which is very dubious.

Barbarian 6/Sorcerer 1 if we need to do it in one round and magic that doesn't increase our speed is okay and we can use non-IAAF rules

There are a lot of ways to cross the finish line in 7 levels in one round, but they all need either UA or magic or not being human or other creatures. We can sort-of do this, however, if we are a Storm Sorcerer.

After running the 300' as per above we cast feather fall (or any other reaction spell) as a reaction and blast ourselves forwards nonmagically via our Tempestuous Magic sorcerous origin feature. At 320' (our travel distance is doubled, remember), we fall prone in an adjacent square and can reach one square further than that. This means we can just barely reach from 325' to 330' and put our hands over the finish line. These rec center rules for 100m dashes, and many like them, specify that when any portion of a runner's body crosses the plane of the finish line they have finished the race. The IAAF, who govern e.g. the Olympic rules, specify that it has to be the torso. Either way, blasting oneself over the finish line is totally allowed

Barbarian 6/Rogue 2 otherwise

With cunning action, finishing is easy instead of dramatic.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @MarsPlastic I think it makes more sense to use the Chase mechanics for a running contest. The fact the smallest breakdown for travel pace is in minutes seems to lend credence to this. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 7 at 20:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Reaction spells have to be in response to a trigger. I can't think of any level 1 spells that would trigger without outside help. "If a spell can be cast as a reaction, the spell description tells you exactly when you can do so." \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 7 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Featherfall says "which you take when you... [fall]". Jumping costs no movement. That's why I picked it as an example. Absorb Elements also works if you light yourself on fire before you run. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 7 at 20:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron the Elk totem doubles your speed while travelling, not necessarily just the mechanical construct termed 'travel pace'. I think a thorough discussion of that and in what playstyles/rules interpretations this works would be best on another question, though. Suffice it to say that "Assume that Movement translates into speed and that time is not limited to the discrete grid of full rounds. " makes this sort of application very very likely allowed for this frame, even though it is not the most RAW way of handling travel v.s. combat v.s. chase. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 7 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ While there is some meme about "Questions that are absurd without context" in Arqade SE, answers starting by things like "Rogue2/Fighter3 if we can find a herd of Brontosauruses" should be a thing of their own. \$\endgroup\$ – Nahyn - support Monica Cellio Nov 8 at 10:47
4
\$\begingroup\$

A Barbarian 3/Monk 2/Fighter 2 can do it.

100 meters is about 328 feet.

If you take path of the Totem Warrior (PHB) and choose the Elk Totem (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide), your movement speed increases by 15 while raging. With the Mobile Feat from Variant Human, that adds another 10 feet. 2 levels of Monk adds another 10 feet and the Step of the Wind Feature. 2 levels of Fighter gives Action Surge.

Now, your movement speed is 65 feet if you're raging. In a single round (6 seconds), you can move, Dash as an action, Dash again with Step of the Wind, and Dash a third time with an Action Surge. This is 260 feet in 6 seconds, or about 43.3 feet per second.

At that rate, you would cover 100 meters (328 feet) in 328/43.3 seconds, or 7.58 seconds.

There is some finickiness to this, as you can only Action Surge once per rest, and you need to take some damage to sustain your rage, but this will allow you to break the limit under the right circumstances.

If you don't want to worry about sustaining Rage, a Barbarian 5/Monk 2/Fighter 2 will suffice.

At level 5, Barbarians get Fast Movement, adding 10 to their movement speed. Plus 10 from Mobile and 10 from Monk Unarmored Movement at level 2 gives you a movement speed of 60 feet.

In a single round, with movement, an action to Dash, an Action Surge to Dash, and a bonus action Step of the Wind Dash, you'll cover 240 feet, or 40 feet per second.

At that rate, you'll cover 100 meters (328 feet) in 328/40 seconds, which is 8.2 seconds.

TLDR: Level 7, if sustaining rage is not an issue, or level 9 if it is.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Using the Barbarian Features is a great idea! However, as you pointed out yourself, you're simplifying things a bit by not taking into account that Action Surge can't be used twice in a row. Also, being able to sustain rage would be a bit tricky. Maybe use a free object interaction to poke you with a needle in order to take damage. :-D \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Nov 7 at 14:31
3
\$\begingroup\$

You can manage it at level 12, even under hostile rules interpretations, with a bit of help.

If we're going to be really finicky about it, D&D doesn't let you slice turns in half. It doesn't matter what you can get done in 9.4 seconds. The only thing that matters is what you can get done in 6 seconds... but you can do that with a little help from your enemies.

Our hero is a Variant Human (30 feet) with Mobility feat (+10), level 2 monk (+10), level 5 Elk barbarian (+10, +15 more while raging), level 2 fighter, level 3 scout rogue. Total distance is 75. He's in an orcish footrace, and the orcs don't like him very much.

The turn before the starting flag is thrown, our hero goes into his rage, and then punches a nearby fan, riling them up (and preserving his rage for the next turn).

On his turn, move(75), then dash(75), then cunning action dash(75), then Action Surge dash(75). 300 feet. On his off-turn, One of the fans (possibly upset at his earlier behavior) invades his personal space, and scout rogue lets him use his reaction to move half his speed(32.5). 332.5 feet. He's traveled over 101 meters in a single six-second round.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't really see how rounds limit the concept of time itself. Is there any reason not to assume that when you are running in a free field your movement just translates into your speed which can then effortlessly be applied to arbitrary amounts of time? \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Nov 7 at 15:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @MarsPlastic D&D is distinctly non-simulationist. A round takes 6 seconds, but in that round, each person acts in frenzied bursts in turn. You can grab a target and then drag them at half speed to the maximum of your limit of movement, and then have someone else grab them and drag them in turn, until you run out of people to drag with. If our man here can run 100m in 6 seconds (with assistance from enemies), then four of him with well-timed assistance of the same variety and lucky initiative rolls could run a 4x100 relay race in the same period. Splitting a turn in half gets real dubious. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Nov 7 at 16:19
3
\$\begingroup\$

Just because the monk's abilities are at least thematically magical, I wanted to post an answer that didn't use the monk at all.

Since 9th level scout, 2nd level fighter, 5th level barbarian, mobile feat is just the same as Blue Moon's answer, but with 7 more levels, instead I propose:

Rogue (Thief) 17, Barbarian (Totem - Elk) 3, Mobile Feat

I will be taking my prep round to Rage and hit myself or something.

Round 1: Current speed = 55
Move, Action Dash, Bonus Action Dash for a total of 165 feet.
Rage ends

Round 1 - 2: Thief's reflexes kick in; current speed = 40 Move Action Dash, Bonus Action Dash for 120 feet; a total of 285 feet.

Round 2: Current speed = 40
43 feet left to go. 43/120*6 = 2.15 more seconds, bringing our total up to 8.15 seconds.


In response to "you can use mundane equipment, such as alchemist fire"

This build completes the 100m in 5.96 seconds

If you're able to keep the rage going from damage (alchemist fire)

That changes round 1-2 to:
Round 1 - 2: Thief's reflexes kick in; current speed = 55 Move Action Dash, Bonus Action Dash for 165 feet; a total of 330 feet.

328/330*6 = 5.96

\$\endgroup\$
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ So... monk is magical, but the intervention of the elk totem is not? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Nov 7 at 17:57
-1
\$\begingroup\$

The 5e rules are not precise enough for this sort of calculation.

"A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world." -- D&D Basic Rules, pg 72.

If this question wants to assume that a round is exactly 6 seconds in this game world, that's fine, but such house rules should be specified up-front.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You are right and this is indeed a good point. However, the assumptions under the fourth bullet point in the Contest Rules should explain quite clearly which (necessarily house-ruled) interpretation of the passing of time is the basis for this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Mars Plastic Nov 8 at 16:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.