Today I’m tackling a theoretical character build that’s been floating around my head for some time:
A Fistful of Dice
Normally in D&D, if you want to roll a bunch of dice at one time you take one of three paths:
- Play a Rogue and sneak, sneak, SNEAK ATTACK! all day long
- Build a Nova character – A couple Paladin levels or playing a Warlock, traditionally
- Be a high level caster and just drop high level spells on enemies to your heart’s content
I grew kind of tired of these builds and I wanted to see if there was a 4th option.
But I’m never content with taking the easy path, so in addition to the “rolling a bunch of dice” requirement, the build also needs to use uncapped resources (resources that have no short or long rest recharge requirement) when applicable so that even when fighting wave upon wave of enemies, we never run out of fuel for our dice pool. If we can’t find enough uncapped resources, we’ll instead use short rest recharge resources.
Where to Start
While we could explore Race and Feat options, starting with a class-first approach makes sense. We have to answer the question: is this build even possible with officially published material, without going straight Rogue?
Uncapped Damage Resources
Fortunately, the release of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything provides us a good deal of uncapped, extra dice damage options. Looking through them all, and the Player Handbook, I came up with this list:
- Barbarian – Path of the Zealot – Divine Fury (level 3) – An extra 1d6 + half Barb level damage to the first creature we hit with a weapon attack each turn while raging.
- Ranger – Horizon Walker – Planar Warrior (level 3) – An extra 1d8 for our first attack on our turn (consumes our Bonus Action) and all damage is converted to force damage. Note* specifies on the turn the Bonus Action is used, so it cannot be used for Opportunity Attacks.
- Ranger – Monster Slayer – Slayer’s Prey (level 3) – An extra 1d6 damage the first time we hit our mark on each turn.
- Rogue – Inquisitive – Insightful Fighting (level 3) – Use a Bonus Action to attempt an Insight check vs target’s Deception. If you win you can use Sneak Attack against it for 1 min as long as you don’t have disadvantage.
- Rogue – Swashbuckler – Rakish Audacity (level 3) – You can use Sneak Attack if you are within 5ft of a creature and no other creature, except the target, is within 5 feet of you.
- Monk – Kensei – Kensei’s Shot (level 3) – Use a Bonus Action to deal an extra 1d4 damage to any target you hit with a ranged attack (using a Kensei weapon) until the end of turn.
All in all, it’s kind of a weak list. Divine Fury only technically counts as it depends on Rage (a limited resource) and the Rogue classes are only listed because they allow for nearly unhindered use of Sneak Attack which fits the goal of rolling a bunch of dice every time we hit regardless of circumstance.
A Sample Build
If we built a Zealot 5/Monster Slayer 3/Swashbuckler 3 we could have:
- 1 ASI
- 2 Attacks
- CHA and DEX to Initiative (from Swashbuckler)
- An extra 1d6 damage per turn (from Monster Slayer)
- An extra 1d6 + 2 damage per attack (from Zealot)
- An extra 2d6 damage per turn (from Rogue)
But we’re a very Multiple Attribute Dependent character, we’re short on ASI, and it doesn’t really come together until a very high level 11.
Assuming we have the stats to swing this build and we’re using a finesse weapon to gain Sneak Attack while raging, in this case a 1d8 Rapier, we deal:
1d8 (weap) + 1d6(Rad/Nec Zealot) + 1d6(MS) + 2d6(Rogue) +2(Zealot) +2 (Rage) + STR
For a total of 1d8 + 4d6 + 4 + STR for the first attack and
1d8 (weap) + 1d6(Rad/Nec Zealot) +2(Zealot) +2 (Rage) + STR for the second attack, making an average of
25.5 for the first attack and 15 damage for the second attack, assuming a +3 STR.
How does that stack up against a straight class rogue?
Using the same Rapier, a straight rogue could deal 1d8(weap) + 6d6(Rogue) + 5 (DEX) for an average of 30.5, putting our “Fistful of Dice” build a full 10 points of damage ahead.
If we add on an offhand weapon, then our Fistful of Dice build pulls farther ahead thanks to the Zealot and Barbarian extra damage. Even factoring in the 10% increased hit chance for the straight Rogue, our Fistful of Dice build pulls out ahead.
It’s possible, but only barely, to use officially published D&D 5e material to build a fistfull of dice character that is not A) straight rogue B) a Nova build or C) a high level caster. Utilizing the new options for the Zealot and the Horizon Walker/Monster Slayer we can produce a mid-tier build with solid and consistent damage output, above and beyond the expected damage for a straight-classed Rogue.
If we incorporated non-official material i.e. the Brute (a Fighter Subclass) or if we loosened our standards to allow Short Rest recharge abilities, we could round out the build and customize it a little more.
Would you include some Battlemaster or College of Swords instead of our Ranger levels? Perhaps you’d throw out the Rogue levels entirely?
Post your ideas in the comments below.
Till next time,
-Your Friendly Neighborhood Lizardman