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Vorpal on the Loose (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Stub Logo.png This page is incomplete and/or lacking flavor. Reason: Lead text is wrong. A single strike is not a 5% chance of instantly winning, because you also need to confirm the critical. This significantly reduces this percentage (in the example of a 1st level character vs. a great wyrm red dragon, it is 0.25%)

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It is well known how overpowered the weapon property of vorpal is. 20 hits with a vorpal weapon can kill nearly anything. Go up against a great wyrm red dragon at 1st level with a single vorpal dagger and the circumstances to strike first...and you have a 5% chance of actually winning the combat. Look at how puny a 1st level character is. Look at how powerful a Great wyrm red dragon is. If the wyrm even wakes up the character will automatically panic, but send in 10 of these guys who strike first and wham the dragon has a 40% chance of getting killed.

My uncle, who taught me DND, has been playing for decades. And he has never had a DM who would permit the vorpal ability. I wonder why?

This is not a character optimization, but a list of amazing tricks to use if you have a vorpal weapon or two.


So far, only Core rules, the Eberron Campaign Setting and Races of the Wild.

Game Rule Components[edit]

Spells, Powers, Soulmelds, Stances, etc...[edit]


The Vorpal weapon enhancement, "snakehead" (Serpentstongue) arrows, the swordbow


#1: As many attacks as possible[edit]

This is fairly self explanatory. The point of getting many attacks in one round with a vorpal weapon or two is that there is a chance of a natural 20 on each attack. Here are some routes.

Monks. They have flurry of blows
Two weapon fighting
Whirlwind attack, if you fight multiple foes
Great Cleave, if you fight multiple foes

#2: Getting instant vorpal weapons[edit]

Get an artificer of high level to cast Greater Weapon augmentation on your weapon for vorpal. This is good if you want to only use vorpal occasionally, such as for assassination attempts.

The "Flesh ring of scorn" Magic item compendium pg. 100 automatically confirms critical hits three times per day, doing minor damage to the wielder. It is up to the DM's discretion if this ability works with a vorpal weapon.

#3: Vorpal archery[edit]

Although anybody could think of the other two tricks, this one is more complex. One of the dangers of the vorpal weapon is that you may not gain an ideal opportunity for attack, but archery is great. A ranger who specializes in archery could launch several arrows at someone in one round from outside swatting distance. However, there are two reasons why vorpal archery is impossible:

Bows cannot have vorpal enhancements.
Arrows deal piercing damage.

I would say that that guarantees vorpal archery would never take place, right. Wrong. Dead wrong. There are two items in Races of the Wild which eliminate these two problems. The first is the swordbow. It is, obviously, a sword that can turn itself into a bow and back again as a free action. Obviously, it is very powerful. But what about it's vorpal properties? Apparently, you can put vorpal on the swordbow. This trick runs up short, however, because it says explicitly in the swordbow description that if you add an enhancement which only applies to a sword or a bow, it doesn't count in both versions. So, the hope is lost. Isn't it? Wrong again. Enter the snakehead/serpentstongue arrow. Stated bluntly (pun) it is an arrow that deals slashing instead of piercing damage. This means vorpal can be used on the individual arrows, even if not on the bow itself. Fire snakehead arrows from a swordbow and you might convince your DM to give you vorpal archery. If not, have someone make the arrows themselves vorpal. Sure, it's more expensive, but sometimes we must pay prices.

Snakehead/Serpentstongue Arrow is on p. 164 of Races of the Wild.

#4: Gaining 10% Chance of Your Vorpal Ability To Occour[edit]

For this you just simply take the 'Better Lucky Than Good' Feat from the complete scoundrel book this feat allows you to once per day treat a natural 1 as instead a natural 20, obviously this is useless against trash as its only a 1/day ability however this feat comes into its own against a boss. ;)

Other Components[edit]

<- anything not covered by the previous sections ->


<- How and why this build works ->

Munchkin-Size Me[edit]

Surge of Fortune (CChamp), a cleric spell, can be expended to cause a roll to function as if you had rolled a natural 20.

Side Notes[edit]

<- overview of additional info about this build ->


<- conditions of when this build works ->

"this entire article is ludicrous!

you must understand how vorpal and criticals actually work before writing an article on the matter.

vorpal activates on a critical, and no level 1 can critical a great wyrm dragon. Rolling a natural 20 is NOT a critical. You rolling a 20 simply yields the possibility for a critical, and you must make another roll and beat the opponents armor class with your new roll added to your attack bonus. Although I do agree that vorpal is an overkill ability, it is not quite as powerful as you state in this article

so in other words you'd have to roll double twenties, which is a chance of .25%. considering that most house rules consider triple twenties an instant kill, this is only .1875% better than the average lvl. 1's chance, considering the dragon is, i suppose, asleep."

--No. I also thought the same as you at first, but sadly, criticals function in the following way: If you roll a natural 20, you will hit, no matter the target's AC(although you'll have to confirm the threat normally afterwards). However, if you roll a natural 19(with threat-range 19-20 or more) you will have to hit the target(19 in this case + atk bonuses must exceed target AC) before you can confirm the crit. A natural 20 will auto-hit no matter what, but you still have to roll a threat to confirm. A nat-19 will NOT auto-hit, and threat-confirmation depends on both hitting the target, and threat-range. The deal with vorpal is, you don't have to confirm a critical hit for it to work. It doesn't activate upon scoring a critical hit at all(that would make keen vorpal scimitars CRAZY), but it activates upon rolling a natural 20 on your attack roll, which auto-hits. So to speak, vorpal really has nothing to do with crits.

-"Upon the roll of a natural 20 (followe by a successful roll to confirm the critical hit)..." [Pg. 226 DMG] looks like you have to roll a nat 20, then roll another d20, and if the second roll beats the enemy AC, then the defender is beheaded.

This is all moot anyway. If the Dragon is asleep, just use a coup-de-gras.

DM Counters[edit]

Magically fortified armor protects against critical hits and sneak attacks (DMG p219). I think it is up to DM discretion whether this armor would also provide protection against vorpal weapons.

As a DM when my players are facing a larger creature such a dragon, I determine where the dragons head is, and what squares a player must be in to reach it. In my mind, a fighter slashing at the tail of a 30 foot long dragon has 0 change of cutting off it's head, no matter how magical their sword is. With that said, the dragon (intelligent enough to know the potential threat of a high level fighter with a vorpal sword) usually turns and moves to keep space between the fighter and it's own neck. For letting the fighter get a full attack could prove devastating.


<- Any other side notes that don't fit in the above sections. ->

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