Rules Clarification


Rules Questions

Scarab Sages

What is the official rules clarification about sneak attack and damage reduction? Does DR cancel sneak attack? The way I read the rule is that sneak attack is additional damage not special effect. I've read a few of the other threads about this, but I haven't been able to find a ruling from Josh.


DR does not cancel sneak attack. Sneak attack increases the damage the attack deals; it does not wait to see if that attack dealt damage and then the target takes extra damage.

Scarab Sages

That's how I read the rule, but we've got several players that say otherwise. Has Josh or Jason or James made an official ruling though?


My search-fu didn't turn up anything really official, but here's a fairly old answer from James Jacobs that comes really close:

Almost but not quite.

And here is a much newer thread with a good discussion about this.

Scarab Sages

Strong is your search-fu. I've been following the second thread. I just didn't go far enough back to find the first thread. Hopefully, our rogues will now be able to do their jobs.

Sovereign Court

I don't know if I should post this here or at the other thread... but I am lazy, and already here...

Sneak Attack interacts with DR the same way a Crit does (remember back to 3.0 and 3.5 where ability to be crit and ability to be sneak attacked were intrinsically tied). Elemental weapon damage (i.e. a "flaming" greatsword), and even Vital Strike, seem to also work in the same way. They are increasing the damage done during the attack, and thus, likely increasing the amount of damage that gets passed the DR.

As for a tiny rogue's dagger getting past a big DM_Blake's thorny hide, well... anyone that has worn jeans around kittens will tell you that sometimes the smalled barbs can penetrate the deepest.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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DR does not negate sneak attack damage. The sneak attack damage is not a special effect that accompanies the attack, it is part of the damage roll.

Hope that clears it up.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Jason Bulmahn wrote:

DR does not negate sneak attack damage. The sneak attack damage is not a special effect that accompanies the attack, it is part of the damage roll.

Hope that clears it up.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Good to hear. That sounds official to me. I was of that opinion, myself, and I wouldn't want to play a rogue in a campaign where the DM ruled otherwise. Any chance of that ruling finding its way into an official FAQ or the next printing/PDF update to the core rules? The way it's written now, I can honestly see a case for either interpretation.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

Christopher Dudley wrote:


Good to hear. That sounds official to me. I was of that opinion, myself, and I wouldn't want to play a rogue in a campaign where the DM ruled otherwise. Any chance of that ruling finding its way into an official FAQ or the next printing/PDF update to the core rules? The way it's written now, I can honestly see a case for either interpretation.

This is the sort of thing that is perfect for the FAQ, which will be starting up here on the boards very soon.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Previously when this question came up (pre-PF that is) the stance was that you had to damage a creature before sneak attack as added. Hence a rogue unable to overcome DR would have his entire attack negated. I'm not sure if that was EVER intended, but it was dealt with that way in the past.

This is crap for rogues, so yeah just add up all damage and compare THAT number complete with sneak attack damage to the DR if you don't have the right material to bypass it.


meatrace wrote:

Previously when this question came up (pre-PF that is) the stance was that you had to damage a creature before sneak attack as added. Hence a rogue unable to overcome DR would have his entire attack negated. I'm not sure if that was EVER intended, but it was dealt with that way in the past.

I never dealt with it that way, whether in 3.0 or 3.5, nor did anyone mention that way to deal with it.. But I must admit I didn't follow this type of forum that much back in those days either. Did anyone official actually say that was how it worked?


meatrace wrote:

Previously when this question came up (pre-PF that is) the stance was that you had to damage a creature before sneak attack as added. Hence a rogue unable to overcome DR would have his entire attack negated. I'm not sure if that was EVER intended, but it was dealt with that way in the past.

This is crap for rogues, so yeah just add up all damage and compare THAT number complete with sneak attack damage to the DR if you don't have the right material to bypass it.

No, it's not crap for rogues. It's cha-ching! for rogues.

It's crap for Tarrasques - those rogues will have their pay-days stabbing me in the lung even though thir puny little toy daggers cannot penetrate my armored hide.

(I'm not saying it's not RAW, and I haven't said so before - I'm just saying the RAW rubs us tarrasques raw...)


That's not the rogues -- it's the boiling vat of freezing acid I've got you stuck in -- just enough to keep you staggered so you quit trying to eat my tower!

Silver Crusade

Jason Bulmahn wrote:

DR does not negate sneak attack damage. The sneak attack damage is not a special effect that accompanies the attack, it is part of the damage roll.

Hope that clears it up.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Okay, you say here that DR does "not" negate Sneak Attack but you say that it is a part of the damage roll.

Let's say my total roll for damage with sneak attack is a 9 and I am fighting something that has DR 10.

Now lets say 4 points are from my dagger and 5 are from Sneak Attack, do I still do the 5 points from Sneak Attack since you said DR does not negate Sneak Attack even though my total damage was less than 10?


shallowsoul wrote:
Jason Bulmahn wrote:

DR does not negate sneak attack damage. The sneak attack damage is not a special effect that accompanies the attack, it is part of the damage roll.

Hope that clears it up.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Okay, you say here that DR does "not" negate Sneak Attack but you say that it is a part of the damage roll.

Let's say my total roll for damage with sneak attack is a 9 and I am fighting something that has DR 10.

Now lets say 4 points are from my dagger and 5 are from Sneak Attack, do I still do the 5 points from Sneak Attack since you said DR does not negate Sneak Attack even though my total damage was less than 10?

Calculate total damage first, then apply DR. In your example, damage sustained would be 0. If you did 8 normal damage and 12 sneak attack damage against something with DR 10, what he was saying was that DR (overcoming initial damage) does not negate the sneak attack damage. The total damage sustained in this example would be 10, NOT 0.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
shallowsoul wrote:


Okay, you say here that DR does "not" negate Sneak Attack but you say that it is a part of the damage roll.

DR reduces damage, which SA is part of. It does not negate SA as it does injury poisons and other special effects that only happen when a target is damaged.

Damage Reduction wrote:
Whenever damage reduction completely negates the damage from an attack, it also negates most special effects that accompany the attack, such as injury poison, a monk's stunning, and injury-based disease. Damage reduction does not negate touch attacks, energy damage dealt along with an attack, or energy drains. Nor does it affect poisons or diseases delivered by inhalation, ingestion, or contact.

Jason is saying that SA is not a special effect, it is part of the damage.


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Simplest way to read the ruling: Sneak attack increases the damage of an attack. It does not cause separate damage.

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