I've been discussing critical strikes with a friend. He states that there is no way to get more than 11-20 range in any D&D version, but he refuses to explain how he gets there, and it's based on a game that implements D&D 3e (the first two games in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series).

However, in a game as expansive as D&D, I'm fairly sure it should be possible to get a bigger range than 11-20 in 3rd edition D&D.

What combination of race, class, equipment, feats, buffs, debuffs, etc gives the largest possible melee critical range? Assume that all sourcebooks are available for D&D 3e and 3.5e.

Note: I'm talking about consistent melee critical ranges. Temporary effects that only last a few rounds, or "your next spell/attack crits" effects, which can only be used once in a while, should be avoided — unless something can help to keep them up. I'm looking for something that can feasibly be consistently applied to an entire encounter.


4 Answers 4


Easy: 9-20.

Let's start by disproving that 11-20 is the highest threat range possible in D&D 3.0/3.5.

Take the Improved Critical feat, which doubles your threat range. Also take Disciple of Dispater (Book of Vile Darkness, 3.0) up to 8th level, which triples it. These abilities explicitly stack. D&D multiplication rules turn this into a quadruple modifier.

Use a weapon (which must be iron or steel for DoD to work) with a natural 18-20 threat range. Quadrupled, that's 9-20 from one 3.0 book and the Player's Handbook.

Combining 3.0 sources: 7-20 or even 1-20?

Sticking with 3.0, we have the Weapon Master class (Sword and Fist). Its 7th level Ki Critical ability increases a weapon's threat range by +2. If this stacks multiplicatively with DoD (which it probably does), we have (3+2)*4 = full 1-20 crit range. If it stacks additively with DoD, we have a comparatively unimpressive 7-20.

Answering the question of whether it's possible to get both DoD and WM to the required levels pre-epic in 3.0 is left as an exercise to the reader.

There is also the 3.0 Stump Knife (also Sword and Fist), which has an interesting property:

Against foest to whom you have dealt damage during the course of a continuous melee, the stump knife's critical range is doubled (17-20).

So for the small price of losing a limb, we can increase the multiplier to x5.

3.5 and 3.0 together: Very hard to tell.

3.5 did lots to nix the range-stacking that was rather popular in 3.0. Muddying the waters are changed critical stacking rules, how those interact with DoD, and whether the Exotic Weapon Master from Complete Warrior counts as an update to the 3.0 Weapon Master.

One specifically 3.5 crit-enhancer is the 7th level of Streetfighter Barbarian, which grants a +1 to your threat range when charging.

Honorable mentions: Things that don't apply

Taking up to the 7th level of Psychic Weapon Master (3.5) is frequently mentioned. This doesn't actually work with DoD, as PWM works with crystal weapons and DoD with weapons of metal. (The Aptitude weapon enhancement from Tome of Battle also doesn't work, as that one applies to feats rather than class features.)

Serrated weapons are also frequently mentioned in discussions (increase threat range by +1). These are 3rd party additions, not from D&D books. Chainblades (a native 17-20 range) fall in the same boat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth mentioning that DoD still works in 3.5e because 3e material that was never reprinted is said to be still valid but the wording on the PrC, that was intended to just distinguish between Keen and Improved Critical probably needs to be reworded according to the new rules (where the two don't stack). Also, there's precedent on declaring that effects apply on whichever order the owner deems more useful, therefore multiplicative stacking does not always happen but is perfectly legit if the wielder so chooses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Rules Reference article "Feats, Prestige Classes, and Spells" lists those items that have been officially updated to D&D 3.5, therefore no longer available. The prestige class disciple of Dispater remains valid, but SF's prestige class weapon master isn't, having been unfortunately subsumed into CW's prestige class exotic weapon master. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… but as a shiv. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 17:59

Actually, in case you are still curious about this topic, so long as you are okay using the Rokugan Campaign Settings for 3e, you can get 100% critical hit chance, or 120%. depending on how you look at it.

The scorpion clan has a feat that says that whenever you catch an enemy flatfooted, or in a situation where its Dex modifier to AC has been denied, your attack is an automatic critical threat.

Ergo, you also get the Scorpion clan feat that lets you feint in combat as a move action (instead of a standard action) and now you can use a 5' step to feint, then attack for an automatic critical threat attack.

If you get the right feat, you get +4 to confirm your critical, which means that you are already going upwards of 100% chance for crit. In fact, you are going upwards of a base 100% chance to hit.

Note, for extra hilariousness, the Scorpion clan also has a feat which raises your crit multiplier by x1 vs opponents who've had their Dex bonus to AC denied for whatever reason, and another which lets you feint for free to hide after every successful attack against enemies who had their dex bonus to armor denied for whatever reason.

Step 1. Walk to someone in the middle of the street, looking badass with your scythe on your shoulder.

Step 2. Surprise sneak attack! (not sure how much of a surprise it is considering you have a freaking scythe out. I recommend mixing this with liberal use of the Disguise skill to pass yourself off as a peasant).

Step 3. Free feint to hide. Ninja vanish!

Step 4. Wait for normal combat to start. Attack from hiding. Your enemy has its Dex bonus to AC denied, so free feint to hide.

Repeat at nauseum. Assuming he survived the 1st strike, of course.

And there's an Oriental Adventures Prestige Class, the Kensai, which raises your crit multiplier with your weapon of choice. Personally, my weapon of choice is a scythe, and my clan of choice is scorpion, whenever I feel like getting critical on someone.

Also remember, flanking is your friend. And you can also sneak attack from up to 30'. Sadly though, I doubt you can throw a scythe that far, and ranged weapons are just not as awesome.

Also, Bayushi's Method (A feat from, you guessed it, the Scorpion Clan, since the Bayushi's are its main family) gives you +1d6 extra damage whenever you hit an opponent that has been denied its Dex bonus to AC. You can take that feat up to 5 times. Just saying.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. 3.5 answers tend to confine themselves to official material, but licensed material—like the Oriental Adventures line—, as seen here, can be a hoot. However, I'm having difficulty tracking down the feat. I think you mean The Pincers Hold, the Tail Strikes (Rokugan 53), but Shiotome-do Advanced (Way of the Open Hand 86) comes close, too. (The former an auto threat after feinting, the latter an auto threat upon the prone.) If this answer could be updated to reflect the correct feat, that'd be great. Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 1:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ (You also might be interested in this question.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oriental Adventures is actually first party. Remember, WotC owned L5R for a few years overlapping with 3E before they sold it back to Alderac. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 18:01


The terms of the question allow any combination of official 3.0 or 3.5 sources, and require only that the threat range reliably apply to every attack an encounter. I'm going to assume that all relevant errata applies (but see later for what happens if we ignore it).

D&D 3.0

The question doesn't require us to use D&D 3.5 as the base game, but allows us to use 3.5 books if necessary, so we may avail ourselves of 3.0's more generous stacking threat ranges.

  • A fighter wields a scimitar with a base threat range of 18-20, or three numbers.
  • At fighter level 8 he takes Improved Critical, which doubles that to six numbers, or 15-20.
  • He takes four levels of Disciple of Dispater, whose Iron Power ability doubles as if by a keen weapon. This stacks with Improved Critical (but not an actual keen weapon, so unfortunately we can't use one of those). In D&D 3e, a double doubling is a tripling, so he threatens nine numbers, or 12-20.
  • He takes another four levels at Disciple of Dispater, improving his double to triple. Again, as per the multiplier stacking rules, this adds another 1x the original threat range. He now threatens twelve numbers, or 9-20.
  • He takes seven levels in Weapon Master (Sword and Fist) for Ki Critical, for another +2, bringing it to 7-20. The errata make it clear that this bonus applies last after all other multipliers.
  • He takes two levels in Mythic Examplar (Complete Champion p.87) and perhaps some other classes to meet that prestige class' requirements if necessary. He gains the power of his paragon Sunyartra and increases his threat range by 1, which specifically stacks with other sources. At this point, our character is certainly epic level, but that's not forbidden by the terms.

There are numerous other ways to extend the threat range, but they're situational, temporary, or only appear in third-party sourcebooks, and are thus disqualified by the terms of the question.

You could tenuously increase this to 5-20 by using the Urban Barbarian's +1 threat range vs flat-footed opponents if you had a sufficiently high-level epic character who could Hide and Move Silently so impossibly well that he is invisible for all intents and purposes and his opponents were always flat-footed. However, you always run the risk of encountering some opponent with epic Spot and Listen bonuses or some other ability, so I haven't counted it.

I also haven't counted the Psychic Weapon Master as I don't believe Riedran crysteel or another mineral can fairly resolve the weapon material requirement clash between Dispater (iron/steel) and Psychic Weapon master (standard crystal), but you could perhaps push another +2 out of that with a sympathetic DM or the right material. In particular, nephelium (Sunless Citadel p.32) is a ferrous metal crystal.

Optional: Ignoring errata

Technically, the question didn't say we had to use all the errata. I would assume that using the most correct and up to date rules is a requirement, but what if your group chooses not to do that?

  • Our fighter instead takes a bladed gauntlet from Sword & Fist, which prior to the errata has a natural threat range of 17-20.
  • By applying our previous character track, which multiplies the threat range by four and adds two and one, we now have a threat range of 2-20.
  • It's absurd to lower this any further since a natural 1 is an automatic miss anyway. However, by ignoring the requirement that the Weapon Master apply his +2 bonus to threat range last, we may apply the bonus in whichever order is most beneficial, according to the official D&D 3.5 FAQ, p.51. Doing this will give us a threat range of effectively 1-20.

D&D 3.5

Note that if we were using only D&D 3.5 content and following the rules strictly, then the reliable maximum is 12-20: scimitar 18-20, Improved Critical or Keen for 15-20, Psionic Weapon Master's +2 for 13-20, and Mythic Exemplar for an additional +1 for 12-20.


I would like to add that there is a way to have a metal/crystal weapon, with Reidran Crysteel From Eberron p 126 with the special property that as long as you have 1 power point in your reserve, the weapon/armor functions as if it has a natural +1 enhancement and costs +1500 gp... This would allow you to be either DoD, PWM and Weapon Master, and if you want ranged weapon bonuses along the same line, check out Deepwood Sniper.

I would suggest Fighter 2 levels, Barbarian 1 level (For either Frenzy or Berserk, whichever you choose to give you the prerequisites for Exotic Weapon Master if you want to take that class, but it is a nice class), Psion 5 (this gives you the BAB, Feats, and access to 3rd level Powers that you require to enter PWM as well as more Power Points than any of the other psionic classes), and go from there, take 8 Psychich Weapon Master, Disciple of Dispater 7, and then Weapon Master (Kensai - Kensai from Oriental Adventure has yet to be Errattad, so it still gives the same benefits as the origonal) 7. By this time you are of course epic level, but with the threat range you have, you should be epic!

This is jumping through hoops, but you get an amazing critical threat range! Add Exotic Weapon Master 3 gives you proficiency with all exotic weapons, and 5 gives you the benifits of Weapon Focus (that stack with the actual Weapon Focus feat with a particular exotic weapon) and Weapon Specialization (that stacks with Weapon Specialization of a particular weapon) with all exotic weapons! as well as throw anything and Improved throw anything!

If Your DM allows different templates to be added to weapons, try and have Kaori, Jagged, Laminated, and Serrated, increasing the weapons threat range and critical multiplier. You should also check out the the splat book Planar Metals, that has Dwarven Blackrock (aka Godsteel). This increases a weapons damage by 2 sizes, increases the crit threat by 1, and multiplier by 1, as well as has a hardness of 30, and is described as "This masterwork material is a mixture of metal and stone." This could be taken to be crystal as crystal is a form of stone, and metals take on a crystaline structure (gotta love material sciences). This same splat also givs info for 3 levels of Masterwork for both weapons and equipment. I've found other sources that give more templates that could be added to equipment but I'll leave that up to you to discuss with your DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you discuss what the critical threat range actually is? Answers must stand alone. We're not a normal forum. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend looking at the tour and the help centre to gain an understanding of the requirements for answers on this site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm familiar with Katori weapons from the Random Encounters column, but unfamiliar with the weapon modifications jagged, laminated, and serrated (except from an issue of Dragon magazine). Planar Metals, for example, appears to be an 8-page unlicensed, unpublished homebrew PDF. I urge updating the answer to provide sources and note their official or unofficial status. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Crysteel is official being in the official Eberron Campaign setting. Though if a DM is willing to allow it is another matter. Another option could be to try and use Glassteel from Champions of Valor. Being a clear crystal metaloid (combining glass and adamantine) could do something similar. But you would have to talk with your DM about that... Jagged, and Serrated are from Arms and Armor 3.5; Laminated and Serrated are from AEG Mercinaries. Many splats are unliscensed, from other companies that use a similar system so things can be crossovers. \$\endgroup\$
    – AOKost
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 1:02

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