Sneak attack in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (OGL) Hardcover


Rules Questions


Once again a problem with the sneak attack and rogue seem to still exist since "The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot." so that means rogues can't sneak undeads, skeletons, constructs, can they ?

Sovereign Court

They can totally do those kinds of things, they just can't do them when a target is benefiting from concealment.

I believe the list of unsneakables are Oozes, Elementals and Incorporeal Undead. I'm 100% sure on the ghosts and oozes, like 80% on elementals.

Grand Lodge

You can be 100% on elementals, too. :)

Sovereign Court

I don't want to be 100% on elementals because I just know some GM somewhere will convert over the half-elemental template and try to say you can't sneak attack a slightly on fire elf or something.

It'll happen, I just know it. I hated those half templates from what seem like so long ago...

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

note to self: remove all flaming elves from the campaign world before inviting Morgen to play...call it the Deluge or something...might even become a plot hook?

sorry...couldn't resist, the idea of slightly on fire elves seemed like a good start

Sovereign Court

NOOOOOOoooooo!! KHAAAAAAAANNNN!!!

I knew this would happen. It's beginning again...

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oozes, Elementals and Incorporeal Undead are immune to precision damage (sneak attack, sudden strike, skirmish, thrust etc.) and criticals.

Everything else is a fair game. Including Plants, Constructs and Corporeal Undead. Yay for Rogues in AoW :)


How about the reach issue? Can a gnome Rogue sneak attack a Frost Giant? Or is it to be assumed that at any height there is a vulnerable spot (I guess in this case the calf or Achilles tendon)?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
BigWeather wrote:
How about the reach issue? Can a gnome Rogue sneak attack a Frost Giant? Or is it to be assumed that at any height there is a vulnerable spot (I guess in this case the calf or Achilles tendon)?

Femoral Artery, Inner Thigh.

That's also not even considering the other vulnerable spot that's in the same general area (regardless of male or female).


mdt wrote:
BigWeather wrote:
How about the reach issue? Can a gnome Rogue sneak attack a Frost Giant? Or is it to be assumed that at any height there is a vulnerable spot (I guess in this case the calf or Achilles tendon)?

Femoral Artery, Inner Thigh.

That's also not even considering the other vulnerable spot that's in the same general area (regardless of male or female).

Haha, true. I guess that the vast majority of sneak attack targets would have a vital / vulnerable spot suited for Rogues of any size.


I always thought that spells requiring attack rolls could be used for ranged sneak attacks in 3.5 (as they can be used for critical hits). The "Surprise Spells" ability of the Arcane Trickster seems to imply that this use of sneak attacks is now exclusive to the prestige class at 10th level. Any thoughts?

Shadow Lodge

ArchMorlock wrote:
I always thought that spells requiring attack rolls could be used for ranged sneak attacks in 3.5 (as they can be used for critical hits). The "Surprise Spells" ability of the Arcane Trickster seems to imply that this use of sneak attacks is now exclusive to the prestige class at 10th level. Any thoughts?

The Surprise Spell lets you add sneak attack damage to non-touch attack spells...

So its not saying that attack roll spells can't have sneak attack damage, its broadening the possibilities to include more spells...


Gully13 wrote:


The Surprise Spell lets you add sneak attack damage to non-touch attack spells...

So its not saying that attack roll spells can't have sneak attack damage, its broadening the possibilities to include more spells...

I think you mean "non-attack roll" spells, but I see what you're saying. I guess this means AoE spells are much deadlier. Its not explicitly stated to my knowledge, but I'm going to assume that this extra sneak damage is not intended to apply to recurring damage from spells like Acid Arrow. Thanks for the quick response.

Scarab Sages

For uncommon creatures, I would say rogue's should have to identify vital locations by a knowledge check...or have someone else identify those weak locations...such as a bard or a loremaster...

Rogue: "Gah, my weapons are doing almost nothing to this type of zombie."

Bard: "According to the Ballad of Jahnzahl, some zombies can only be destroyed by the destruction of their heads."

Shadow Lodge

ArchMorlock wrote:
Gully13 wrote:


The Surprise Spell lets you add sneak attack damage to non-touch attack spells...

So its not saying that attack roll spells can't have sneak attack damage, its broadening the possibilities to include more spells...

I think you mean "non-attack roll" spells, but I see what you're saying. I guess this means AoE spells are much deadlier. Its not explicitly stated to my knowledge, but I'm going to assume that this extra sneak damage is not intended to apply to recurring damage from spells like Acid Arrow. Thanks for the quick response.

Yeah .. thats what I meant ...

Happy to help ...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It makes me very sad that the issue of concealment denying Sneak Attacks wasn´t addressed. This means that, again, Rogues of races without darkvision or at least low-light vision have a definite disadvantage against ones of races who do have one of those two modes of sight.

It means that a human rogue can´t mug someone in a dark alley, because due to poor light conditions the victim is not sneakable.

It means that a level one spell ( Obcscuring Mist ) can deny the main class feature of a level 20 Rogue.

At the very least that restriction on Sneak Attack should have been lessened to Total Concealment.

Since that is my first post on the new rules, I want to state that with one other exception ( the Duelists Precise Strike being based on the prerequisites of the old Sneak Attack instead of the new one ) I am very happy with the book. But this particular lack of a change bugs me and will be houseruled.

Not because I personally like to play Rogues, but because I think they ( now that the Monk has been buffed ) have it worst of the melee classes, due to need of positioning and other combat issues, and that with those caveats they really do not need another hindrance to them being able to apply their main attack.


I was hoping the concealment issue would be resolved too, but at least now undead are no longer roguebane. Also...take a look at the new traits in the Council of Thieves player's guide. There's one in there that removes the miss chance for dim light...hello alleystalker rogue!

Grand Lodge

DitheringFool wrote:

note to self: remove all flaming elves from the campaign world before inviting Morgen to play...call it the Deluge or something...might even become a plot hook?

sorry...couldn't resist, the idea of slightly on fire elves seemed like a good start

if you remove all of the flaming elves you would eliminate elves from the game since all elves are flaming... which on second thought sounds just fine to me!

Grand Lodge

magnuskn wrote:

It makes me very sad that the issue of concealment denying Sneak Attacks wasn´t addressed. This means that, again, Rogues of races without darkvision or at least low-light vision have a definite disadvantage against ones of races who do have one of those two modes of sight.

It means that a human rogue can´t mug someone in a dark alley, because due to poor light conditions the victim is not sneakable.

It means that a level one spell ( Obcscuring Mist ) can deny the main class feature of a level 20 Rogue.

At the very least that restriction on Sneak Attack should have been lessened to Total Concealment.

Since that is my first post on the new rules, I want to state that with one other exception ( the Duelists Precise Strike being based on the prerequisites of the old Sneak Attack instead of the new one ) I am very happy with the book. But this particular lack of a change bugs me and will be houseruled.

Not because I personally like to play Rogues, but because I think they ( now that the Monk has been buffed ) have it worst of the melee classes, due to need of positioning and other combat issues, and that with those caveats they really do not need another hindrance to them being able to apply their main attack.

You know, I really never considered the rogue at any disadvantage in melee, since the Fighter and Paladin also need position to benefit the most. HOWEVER, Obscuring Mist eliminating a 20th level Rogue's Sneak Attack seems a bit extreme. Yet you are absolutely right. That really needs to be addressed somewhere. I just checked every combination I can think of, and I just don't see a way around it.

That will need addressing or houseruled.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Krome wrote:

You know, I really never considered the rogue at any disadvantage in melee, since the Fighter and Paladin also need position to benefit the most. HOWEVER, Obscuring Mist eliminating a 20th level Rogue's Sneak Attack seems a bit extreme. Yet you are absolutely right. That really needs to be addressed somewhere. I just checked every combination I can think of, and I just don't see a way around it.

That will need addressing or houseruled.

Maybe it was because the Rogue player in my last campaign didn´t recognize the need for high mobility and therefore didn´t do as much in combat as the other players, but that impression has ingrained itself pretty deeply in me by now.

As for the issue with concealment, just bump it up to total concealment and the problem is solved. I recognize quite well that a Rogue shouldn´t be able to Sneak Attack in what amounts to total darkness, but a 20% miss chance should not mess up his most important combat class feature, IMO.

That is how I´ll houserule it, anyway. :)


You're all right, but the fact is that the rule says that to sneak an opponent, a rogue must hit a vital strike, but for undead..they are already dead ;-D
The right way was to say that the rogue hit a weak point but that's not the case.
So DM can still forbid rogue to sneak undead, construct and skeletons just because of that!
What does the Paizo's team think about that subject ?

Grand Lodge

sempai33 wrote:

You're all right, but the fact is that the rule says that to sneak an opponent, a rogue must hit a vital strike, but for undead..they are already dead ;-D

The right way was to say that the rogue hit a weak point but that's not the case.
So DM can still forbid rogue to sneak undead, construct and skeletons just because of that!
What does the Paizo's team think about that subject ?

Yeah that is a very very very old topic. The Sneak Attack description does not list any types of creatures that cannot be Sneak Attacked. That because the rogue can sneak attack ANYTHING, unless the Bestiary specifically says it cannot be Sneak Attacked. The known creatures that will be immune to sneak attack are Elementals and Oozes. Just about all undead will be vulnerable.

Remember, there is STILL another core book to come out in October...


Are undead going to get a con bonus now. Ok, probably not, but how will they get around the extra damage other than by giving an extremely high amount of HD?

Dark Archive

concerro wrote:
Are undead going to get a con bonus now. Ok, probably not, but how will they get around the extra damage other than by giving an extremely high amount of HD?

They gain bonus hp according to their charisma score instead of their constitution.


Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

This will be my 1st houserule; keeping sneak attack like it used to be.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

BenS wrote:

Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

This will be my 1st houserule; keeping sneak attack like it used to be.

Watched many zombie flicks? Just loaded with crits-on-zombies. Their hard-to-kill aspect is reflected by their hp, they still have weak spots.

Plants definitely should be crittable too.

Shadow Lodge

BenS wrote:

Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

Not at all. I absolutely hate the idea. It is rediculous. Rogues are way to powerful already. Rogue are also not a tank class. Undead because that should be the divine players area to shine. To be honest, there shouldn't need to be any arguement after this point on that. That should speak for it'self, even though I know it will not.

Constructs because that means 1.) a sundering rogue far outclasses a +10 level fighter any day of the weak 2.) it's no fun. Many constructs are notoriously hard to kill, with spell immunity and high DR, unless your a rogue WTF!!!

Plants, I don't care so much. Plant fights are rare, so it doesn't completely switch the dynamic of the game, here.

Shadow Lodge

Russ Taylor wrote:


Watched many zombie flicks? Just loaded with crits-on-zombies.

See, that's the thing. Crits are perfectly fine. It works for everyone, is rarer, and fun.


Russ Taylor wrote:
BenS wrote:

Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

This will be my 1st houserule; keeping sneak attack like it used to be.

Watched many zombie flicks? Just loaded with crits-on-zombies. Their hard-to-kill aspect is reflected by their hp, they still have weak spots.

Plants definitely should be crittable too.

Zombies are just 1 type of corporeal undead, though. I can't buy into it for all corporeal undead. To me, sneak attack remains believable only if it's closer to the old backstab; it's against a vulnerable organ or headshot on a corporeal, living creature.

As for plant-type critters, I just don't see it, sorry.

Anyway, I like D&D where certain classes shine in certain moments. As Beckett alluded to w/ undead (we've already got clerics and paladins for them). Hence the houserule comment.

And now the obligatory "YMMV".

Shadow Lodge

Always wonders what YMMV was all about?

Liberty's Edge

Beckett wrote:
Always wonders what YMMV was all about?

Your Mileage May Vary.

Grand Lodge

This was debated ad nauseum for over a year. I can't believe it is coming up yet again.

YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary

Each individual monster (including undead) in Bestiary will indicate it's resistance to Sneak Attack. Some may have have resistance, some might have no resistance, some may be immune. Depends upon the monster.

Really, this is ancient history and been discussed and debated to death. Time for it to rest in peace.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Krome wrote:

This was debated ad nauseum for over a year. I can't believe it is coming up yet again.

YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary

Each individual monster (including undead) in Bestiary will indicate it's resistance to Sneak Attack. Some may have have resistance, some might have no resistance, some may be immune. Depends upon the monster.

Really, this is ancient history and been discussed and debated to death. Time for it to rest in peace.

Not everyone was here for every big argument during Beta. I was here and I was only able to absorb about a third (at best) of all the major issues and controversies.

So rather than snark at people who are coming in late, just lay out the conclusions and (if necessary) link to the relevant threads.


delabarre wrote:
Krome wrote:

This was debated ad nauseum for over a year. I can't believe it is coming up yet again.

YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary

Each individual monster (including undead) in Bestiary will indicate it's resistance to Sneak Attack. Some may have have resistance, some might have no resistance, some may be immune. Depends upon the monster.

Really, this is ancient history and been discussed and debated to death. Time for it to rest in peace.

Not everyone was here for every big argument during Beta. I was here and I was only able to absorb about a third (at best) of all the major issues and controversies.

So rather than snark at people who are coming in late, just lay out the conclusions and (if necessary) link to the relevant threads.

@Krome, I did not know this in detail, so thanks. That sounds more hopeful than blanket immunities. I'll wait for the Bestiary to check this out more before making my final decision.

And as delabarre indicated, not everyone was wrapped up in the Beta threads (I pretty much ignored them to be honest). So it was a surprising (and unwelcome) thing to read about.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

Beckett wrote:
See, that's the thing. Crits are perfectly fine. It works for everyone, is rarer, and fun.

I prefer them to go together, so I think of them that way. If you have weak spots, you can be snuck and critted.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Russ Taylor wrote:
If you have weak spots, you can be snuck and critted.

And EVERYONE has weak spots. Unless you're jelly. Or a living tidal wave. But pretty much everyone else.


Mosaic wrote:
EVERYONE has weak spots. Unless you're jelly. Or a living tidal wave. But pretty much everyone else.

Except Chuck Norris. And maybe Mister T. And Captain Kirk, pre-movies. And Conan.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
KnightErrantJR wrote:
And Captain Kirk, pre-movies.

Naw, he got nerve pinched a couple of times, didn't he? Non-lethal sneak attack?


Mosaic wrote:
Naw, he got nerve pinched a couple of times, didn't he? Non-lethal sneak attack?

Well, that, and the whole "scream like a girl while you get the salt sucked out of you" thing . . . may have to bump Kirk from the list, now that you mention it . . .

Dark Archive

BenS wrote:
Russ Taylor wrote:
BenS wrote:

Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

This will be my 1st houserule; keeping sneak attack like it used to be.

Watched many zombie flicks? Just loaded with crits-on-zombies. Their hard-to-kill aspect is reflected by their hp, they still have weak spots.

Plants definitely should be crittable too.

Zombies are just 1 type of corporeal undead, though. I can't buy into it for all corporeal undead. To me, sneak attack remains believable only if it's closer to the old backstab; it's against a vulnerable organ or headshot on a corporeal, living creature.

As for plant-type critters, I just don't see it, sorry.

Anyway, I like D&D where certain classes shine in certain moments. As Beckett alluded to w/ undead (we've already got clerics and paladins for them). Hence the houserule comment.

And now the obligatory "YMMV".

IIRC you could crit anyone and anything back in AD&D... even incorporeal undead. And even if I'm a simulationist, too, to me a crit doesn't directly mean a hit to an anatomically vulnerable spot, but rather a well-placed blow that deals extra damage due to luck and/or skill (for example, a sword stroke that slashes across and through the whole body and essence of a wraith). YMMV, of course, but I didn't think it ever felt "unrealistic".

In 3E I think the primary mechanical reason for making all types of undead immune to crits was due to their lack of the constitution score (and, therefore, the lesser amount of HPs).

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I've got a fighter/rogue who uses feint a lot to get opponents to drop their Dex-bonus, then "sneak attacks" them. In that case, I imagine the extra damage as being a result of them dodging left while I stab right. No actual sneaking going on, just bob-weave-feint-poke. I could even think of it as getting my knife between their ribs while they focus on my sword (even though it mechanically has nothing to do with a second weapon). In the end, to me, it's just the ability to do extra damage, however you want to explain it.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Actually, Undead were given d12 dice and no bonus hit points *because* of all their immunities - Skip thought that with all those no crits no sneak stuff they can do away with wimpy HP.

This was one of the worst monster design decisions in 3ed, honestly. Glad to see Paizo fixing it !


Beckett wrote:
BenS wrote:

Wow, am I the only one who doesn't like the ability to sneak attack (corporeal) undead, (some) constructs, and plant creatures? Guess I lean towards the Simulationist side of things.

Not at all. I absolutely hate the idea. It is rediculous. Rogues are way to powerful already. Rogue are also not a tank class. Undead because that should be the divine players area to shine. To be honest, there shouldn't need to be any arguement after this point on that. That should speak for it'self, even though I know it will not.

Constructs because that means 1.) a sundering rogue far outclasses a +10 level fighter any day of the weak 2.) it's no fun. Many constructs are notoriously hard to kill, with spell immunity and high DR, unless your a rogue WTF!!!

Plants, I don't care so much. Plant fights are rare, so it doesn't completely switch the dynamic of the game, here.

I also hate the idea of nearly everything being sneak-attackable, though I am not fond of immunities either. I remember that during the big BETA debates on this, I was always trying to come up with some compromise solutions, such DR against sneak attacks and crits for some monsters, or sneak attacks doing half-damage to formerly immune creatures, or giving the formerly immune creatures a saving throw against sneak attacks and so on and so on. Other posters also had a lot of good suggestions. It is a bit disheartening to hear (I don't have the book yet and so cannot check for myself - no availability here in Slovakia) that this area of concern seems to have been ignored entirely.

Dark Archive

Forgot to add swarms to the no crit no sneak list.

I don't think the cockroaches that are biting you all over take kindly to a kidney shot...

As for the justification, sneak attack is more than hitting vital organs, think f it from this standpoint. Corporeal undead has the same problem any other creature that is corporeal has. It doesn't matter how big and strong you are, if your knee cap gets smashed in, you're going to go down.

Defeating a monster isn't about killing it, its about removing its threat to you. Hence why AP constantly say "If you come up with a non-violent way to overcome these creatures, reward them an Ad-hoc experience reward equal to their challenge rating."

TO say Rogues were overpowered is a bit harsh. I see rogues as no more overpowered than Rangers or Bards. If anything they NEEDED sneak attack to work on more creatures, because they could not keep up in utility and no one likes getting relegated to "I'm the trap disabler, because after I hit level X the GM's unique monsters are just a bunch of uncrittable stuff."

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