5e Gimmick Build – 2 – Consecutive normal punches


The build I am highlighting today is about maximizing a burst of damage. It’s likely not the best version of this kind of build, but I did want to try to get it to at least a decent level of effectiveness. In 3.5 optimization, there was a concept called the “Nova,” which was a measure of a character’s optimization in output in a short period of time. This is intended to make the most of that.

This blog is going to be a little different because I’m going to post an alternate build first. The issue with the first build I’m going to show you is that, technically, it may not work the way I’d intend. It involves the racial ability of Duergar to Enlarge themselves once a day. Technically, Enlarging causes weapons to grow in size, therefore dealing +1d4 damage. However, unarmed attacks(the consecutive normal punches) don’t technically count as weapons. You can make a “melee weapon attack” with an unarmed strike, but they are technically not weapons. That was a clarification in the PHB Errata, but I feel as though it requires clarification in itself. Regardless, keep that in mind when looking at this build. But enough technical talk, let’s go to the stats:

STR 15 (9 points)

DEX 13 (5 points)

CON 14 (7 points)

INT 9 (1 point)

WIS 13 (5 points)

CHA 8 (0 points)

As I mentioned earlier, this version of the build is for a Duergar character, so you’d add +1 to STR and +2 to CON, giving you 16/13/16/9/13/8. The main reason you need DEX 13 and WIS 13 is to qualify to multiclass out of Monk. Oddly enough, if you were going to stay in Monk, you wouldn’t face any requirements, but in order to multiclass, you’d need to meet the requirements.

Moving past stats, this build focuses on making a lot of attacks and empowering those attacks. That means focusing less on damage which could be considered one-shot damage, like Sneak Attack or Divine Smite, but abilities that affect all the attacks made. That’s the reason for the Enlarge trick, which, if it works, adds a d4 of damage(which translates to 2.5 average damage) to every hit. It’s also the reason to go at least 3 levels into Monk, where you can take Fangs of the Fire Snake, which gives you a d10(5.5 average damage) to each of your unarmed strikes. Going full Monk wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but for the best possible results, you can take a minimum of 2 levels of Fighter to get Action Surge, or 3 for either Battlemaster abilities or go Champion to chase crits(more on that in the other version of the build). So the build would look something like this:

Required level: 7

Classes: Monk 5, Fighter 2

AC 12(Can’t wear armor and do martial arts, apparently)

HP 59

STR 18 DEX 13 CON 16 INT 9 WIS 13 CHA 8

Relevant Abilities

Duergar Magic

Dueling Style

Action Surge (1/SR)

Martial Arts (d6)

Ki (5 points)

Flurry of Blows

Fangs of the Fire Snake

Extra Attack

With this build, each main hand attack(which unfortunately has to be a weapon attack) deals d4+d6+6 damage, an average of 12 damage. With Action Surge, that is 4 attacks. But on your Nova turn, you can drop your weapon and activate Fangs of the Fire Snake instead, leading to d4+d6+4 damage(10 average), but up to 3 of them can add d10 fire damage as well. Ultimately, if you get to Monk level 8, you can add that fire damage to all the hits. You could also go up to Fighter level 11 for 3 attacks on the attack action, meaning 8 with Action Surge.

But that build is predicated on Enlarge working with unarmed strikes, which RAW, doesn’t seem to work to me. The alternate route doesn’t really have a racial requirement, but for the sake of argument, let’s build it with the same stat array as our previous build.

This build uses Barbarian Rage as the source of extra damage instead of the Enlargement. They are incompatible with each other as Enlarge requires concentration and Rage disallows concentration. While essentially the same, this build uses the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack and the Monk’s many attack attempts to chase critical hits.

Required level: 10

Classes: Barbarian 2, Fighter 3, Monk 5

AC 14

HP 80

Relevant Abilities

Dueling Style

Action Surge (1/SR)

Martial Arts(d6)

Ki (5 points)

Flurry of Blows

Fangs of the Fire Snake

Extra Attack


Reckless Attack

In this version, the extra damage from Rage would take the place of the Enlarge bonus, and you would get the benefit of Reckless Attack, since you already have low AC. That’s 4 quarterstaff attacks at +8, with advantage, for d6+8(11.5 average) and 2 unarmed attacks with the same for d6+6(9.5 average). And your true Nova turns end up even better, as you can choose to save your ki for when you hit a crit. That’s 2d6+2d10+6(24 average) on a 19-20. Not too shabby.

Overall, like most of my gimmick builds, this one isn’t actually optimized for play. More of a narrow specialized build to do one thing. But that’s sort of the fun of these things, isn’t it?


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