OK, maybe can't do without is a bit strong, but seriously. If you're using 3ds Max and don't know about these tools read this article. I just wanted to write about my top free scripts, but I needed to expand it to plugins also. Over the last few years, I've tried many different scripts and tools to help me in production, here are my top favorites.
The Bercon Maps are a set of procedurals for 3ds max that are superb. The noise is so versatile, you can throw away every other noise procedural that came before. The best part about these is they look very realistic, but have all the benefits of being procedural. (just check out the images on the website) Shane Griffith over at Autodesk should really just buy this set so we don't have to chase them down every release.
If you've ever used the modifier in max called Attribute Holder, to store custom attributes on an object, this is an awesome version of that. This is very dear to my heart since I wrote the original "Attribute Holder" modifier that's still in max today. This version actually does something, unlike mine. My version was a hack to an existing modifier in which I hid it's UI. The PEN Attribute holder captures applied custom attributes and saves presets as sliders that you can use to call the attributes back. I use it on all my characters hand controls, as a way to store finger poses. First I connect all the finger rotations to custom attributes on the PEN modifier. Once the data is instanced as a rotation and a custom attribute, Paul's modifier stores the values together as one preset. (If anyone wants me to explain this more, let me know.)
Blur was developing shaders and procedurals for 3ds Max since it first came on the scene. Many of these are re-compiled each release and given away for free. Splutterfish now hosts them since those are the guys that originally wrote them. Thanks guys, for recompiling these every release.
This is a great tool written by Martin Breidt. It allows any modifier transform to be linked to another 3D object. For example, you can use this to set up a UV Map modifier that can be rotated with separate control object. Martin has some other greats tools on his site. Check them out here.
And as always, Script Spot is a great source for finding new scripts. Let me know if you come across something cool!