Player doing sneak attack damage more than once in a round


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The Exchange

The players are getting near the end of the battle and they have established flanking positions around an unfortunate opponent in the prior round. A character with sneak attack class ability and two weapon fighting indicates that he can make both attacks and do sneak attack damage twice if he succeeds.

I've seen several posts indicating that many players and (possibly fewer) GMs interpret the rules that way, but I haven't found an "official" ruling on this. It "feels" wrong to allow it, but I'd like to know what the official PFRPG position is on this question. It pertains to something that actually came up in a PFS game I GM'd. While I personally have a couple of PCs who can sneak attack, I am still not in favor of stacking precision-based damage in one round.

This is a special case of the full attack action (a PC could get multiple attacks from two-weapon fighting, high BAB or other reasons). Although the PC is entitled to a full attack in this case, I don't feel that he could score precision-based damage more than once.

Missile attacks (c.f. Manyshot, Double Crossbow) seem to indicate that precision damage can only be applied once using these full-attack actions. Similar text about precision damage does not appear in Cleave, presumably because that multiple attack feat would more likely be used by fighter types and not sneaky types. There are comments in Vital Strike and Critical Hits which indicate you don't get precision damage more than once when extra dice are rolled in those cases.

There is a feat in UC called Sneaking Precision, which suggests to the contrary (that you can successfully sneak attack more than once per turn), but I don't see how this could come into play in PFS, as the prerequisites (BAB +9 and another feat requiring BAB +9) would not be met by a character with sneak attack and level 11 or under.

Technically, the rules for flanking say you can do it "when making a melee attack", which is not the same as "when making a full attack". Per the actions table, a full attack is not the same as a series of melee attacks (the first is a full-round action while each melee attack is a standard action). The distinction is important if you think about the timing and the fact that PFRPG is a "facingless" game:

Remember that a round is only 6 seconds long. Not a lot of time to land multiple precise attacks. The flanking ally (unless he has many attacks also) will only distract the opponent for part of that period, especially if the opponent starts taking a lot of damage from another direction. If the multiple attacks occur at different times, only one should get precision damage for this reason (most likely the first).

Once the sneak attacker has drawn attention to himself, the defender could pay more attention to him for the next few seconds in that round. I think the spirit of the rule was for flanking to provide a momentary distraction to allow one precise hit (per sneaky attacker), not to make an opponent totally unable to defend from multiple sneak attacks from two directions. The +2 to hit bonus for flanking matches the average used the average used in D&D 1st ed., where facings came into play: opponent in front had no bonus, back-stabbing thief had +4. Worst case you could choose which flanker to turn your back on.

But what if you have a two weapon fighting style? Can both blows land simultaneously and do sneak damage? I'd say no. Firstly, that precise spot that appears in a quick moment can only be occupied by one weapon at a time. You can't drive two swords or rapiers through one weak spot in the armor and into a small vital organ (heart, brain, etc.). And even with ambidexterity, unless the PC has two heads he can't see well enough to target two different vital spots simultaneously as precise attacks. The off-hand attack (by definition of off-hand) would receive secondary focus and should only do normal damage. For it to do more damage should only be by random chance (normal critical hit chances).


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Yes every attack that is from stealth or flanking will grant sneak attack dice to the damage.


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Yes. If you are flanking, you can do iterative and offhand and Hasted attacks and they all get Sneak Attack. There’s no doubt at all about this.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The information you need is in the text for Sneak Attack:

Pathfinder Core Rulebook wrote:


The rogue’s attack deals extra damage anytime her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target. This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and increases by 1d6 every two rogue levels thereafter. Should the rogue score a critical hit with a sneak attack, this extra damage is not multiplied. Ranged attacks can count as sneak attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. [emphasis mine]

That bolded term is anytime. Not once a round, but every time the conditions are met for the rogue's attack to fall when the target is denied his Dex bonus or is flanked. If the rogue gets more than one attack a round, sneak attack can apply to each of them.

Barrage attacks like manyshot are the specified exceptions to this but those exceptions are called out in the specific feats/spells/whatever that generate them. The general rule is covered in sneak attack and that is "anytime".


"The rogue's attack deals extra damage (called "precision damage") anytime her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target."

What part of that says "no"?

You do realize that even with sneak attack on every hit rogues still do less damage than fighters and barbarians...right?


why is fair for a barbarian to apply his strengh bonus for every hit and is unfair for the rogue do his sneak damage if every hit qualifies for it?


actually you're wrong, a sneak attack can stack on any attack that hits.

which means TWF gets it,

even from an RP perspective, the classes that gain sneak attack would be attempting to create an opening between attacks.


Yes, officially you get sneak attack on every attack that qualifies for it.

Would you prevent a fighter from adding his Str bonus to anything but the first attack?

So, yeah, especially if you're running a PFS game, get hip with the rules yo!


Ya sneak attack works on every attack even with two weapon fighting. Rouges need all the help they can get.


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The PF rogue is balanced around the idea of them able to get multiple sneak attacks per round if the situations fits. You won't find a "once per round" limitation for it in the rules.

This, of course, assumes you are flanking. If you aren't, generally the rogue is limited to a single sneak attack a round, but that's due to other rules (like you instantly becoming non-invisible once you attack, meaning enemy is no longer flat-footed.)

I believe it was the 4th edition rogue that had the limitation of one sneak attack per round, so we get this question fairly often (presumably, this explains the curtness of others).


People talk about how weak the rogue is even assuming multiple sneak attacks per round. I'd hate to think of what they would say if they were reduced to a max of one.

The Exchange

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.


Peter anytime an condition is met the activity in question takes place unless a limit is put in. This has come up before. SA is possible. I will also tell you that even with SA the rogue is close to the bottom when it comes to damage. You see all those dice, and it looks impressive, but a well built (almost any other martial class) will out damage rogue.

I will try to show you the proof, and asking for an official response wont get you one. The best thing to do is use the search function. This question is not new.


I will also add it was this way in 3.5 and the rules have not changed with regard to how many sneak attacks you can get in a round. Pathfinder is basically a copy and paste of the 3.5 rules except in certain places where they changed the rules. An example is grappling being a specific change.


I think someone read the 4e rule here. In 4e, a rogue cannot apply sneak attack damage more than once per turn.

This is very different from 3e and Pathfinder. All those attacks are sneak attacks in Pathfinder, which is why dual-wielding rogues are so common.


I understand your flavor based reasons for not liking multiple precision attacks in the same round.

Mechanicaly however it would cripple the class at higher levels.

There are house rule work arounds but that's not really what you're requesting here.

I wish you the best of luck getting an official response but am doubtful that one will appear. For most people this is a pretty cut and dry issue.

- Torger


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Peter Kies wrote:

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.

Actually it is an offical responce it says it right in the rules.

Core Rule Book wrote:
The rogue’s attack deals extra damage anytime her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target. This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and increases by 1d6 every two rogue levels thereafter. Should the rogue score a critical hit with a sneak attack, this extra damage is not multiplied. Ranged attacks can count as sneak attacks only if the target is within 30 feet.

It is saying anytime situation A happens OR situation B happens. It works for both.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Peter Kies wrote:

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.

And what is a full attack with a flanking rogue except a series of melee attacks that happen to occur in one round?

I might add that the multiple sneak attacks is perfectly in line with pre-PFRG sneak attacks in that they come directly from 3.0 and 3.5 by way of the open game license and system reference document. For 8 years before PF, rogues got sneak attacks for any attack that qualified, even multiple attacks in a round.


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James Jacobs, Creative Director wrote:

Nope; even two-weapon fighting doesn't let you sneak in an extra sneak attack. Essentially, once you make your first attack, the foe knows you're there and is no longer flat-footed after that. It takes things like greater invisibility that prevent a foe from noticing you even after you attack to get in a full round of sneak attacks.

That said... if it's the first round of combat and the assassin wins initiative, the victim is flat footed simply because the assassin goes before him. In this case, and assuming the assassin was in melee range, all 7 attacks would be sneak attacks. You really don't want to get jumped by a high-level sneak attacker and then roll low on initiative.

Basically this show that if you the conditions are met sneak attack happens..

link to the post


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Peter Kies wrote:

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.

By "pre-PFRPG" do you mean... D&D 3.5? You could definitely sneak attack as many times as you liked per round in 3.5, assuming each attack met at least one of the conditions required for sneak attack.

Also, what the heck does flanking have to do with "surprising an opponent"? What the heck does sneak attack in general have to do with surprising an opponent?

Sneak attack says:

Quote:
If a rogue can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from her attack, she can strike a vital spot for extra damage.

Nothing about surprise in there.

Quote:
The rogue's attack deals extra damage (called "precision damage") anytime her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target.

(Emphasis mine.) Nothing about surprise in there either! In fact, the "or" makes it clear that flanking a target lets a rogue sneak attack independent of even denying the target their Dex bonus to AC, much less "surprising" them.


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James Jacobs again..

sneak attack when there is a flank


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Separate the title of the ability from the mechanical workings of the ability. Your life will be much easier.

Liberty's Edge

I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?


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Also:

Peter Kies wrote:
Technically, the rules for flanking say you can do it "when making a melee attack", which is not the same as "when making a full attack". Per the actions table, a full attack is not the same as a series of melee attacks (the first is a full-round action while each melee attack is a standard action).

This is totally false. Evidence:

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/combat#TOC-Actions-In-Combat

See footnote 6 to Table: Actions in Combat; as well as Editor's Note: Multiple Sunder Attempts (which leads to an FAQ entry from Jason Bulmahn).

There is a standard action (action type) called attack (specific action) which lets you make a single melee attack (not itself an action of any sort, given that you can also make a melee attack on an attack of opportunity).

There is also a full-round action (action type) called full attack (specific action) which lets you make multiple melee attacks.

You can sneak attack when making a melee attack, which means that you can sneak attack on the one melee attack you get when you take the attack action (a standard action), or on any of the several melee attacks you get when you take the full attack action (a full-round action), or on the melee attack you get when you take an attack of opportunity.


Peter Kies wrote:

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this,

Paizo isn’t very hot on giving you ‘an official response” if the rules are right there in the book, and pretty much every poster sez so.

Nor should they be. The Official response is right there in the rules. We have quoted the rules.

JJ did go so far as to once post "Sneak attacks work each and every time you hit a foe who's denied his Dex bonus. If that means you stab them six times when you're flanking them, then you get six sneak attack damage.

It gets added to each and every appropriate attack, in other words."

which, on review, is what Wraithstrike linked to.


Coridan wrote:
I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?

Absolutely not. People were, and are, just being silly.


But didn't 3.x introduce the general mechanic and codification of how and if you notice someone and that if you don't you're flat-footed against another character's attacks?


No, 3.0 was multiple times per round. I believe the AD&D backstab rule was once per round, though (but don't quote me on that, as I've never played AD&D).


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In fact, let me just put this "wasn't it like this in 3.0/3.5...?" thing to rest by quoting from the official 3.5 FAQ:

Quote:

If a rogue gets multiple attacks in a round (such as from a high base attack bonus or the Rapid Shot feat), can she make sneak attacks for all of them?

Yes, but only if each attack meets a requirement to be a sneak attack. For instance, a rogue who flanks an enemy can deliver a sneak attack with every melee attack she makes. A rogue under the effect of a greater invisibility spell treats every attack as a sneak attack, since she remains invisible despite attacking. If later attacks in a round no longer meet any requirement to be a sneak attack, they aren’t sneak attacks. For example, a rogue under the effect of an invisibility spell would deal sneak attack damage only with her first attack in a round, because she turns visible as soon as she makes the attack.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Makhno wrote:
Coridan wrote:
I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?
Absolutely not. People were, and are, just being silly.

It might not have been a limitation in 3.0, but 'backstabs' in AD&D and v2 were limited to one per round, so that's part of why the idea has been around for awhile.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Coridan wrote:
I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?

Back in 1e/2e, thieves only got one attack per round, in general. Their backstab, the inspiration for sneak attack, could only be gotten with surprise and an attack from behind (1e/2e had facing rules) and, all together, that pretty much meant only once/round.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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Coridan wrote:
I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?

No, it's just a frequent mistake caused by a back-of-the-envelope determination of the rogue's power-level. The more egregious cases involve poorly reasoned arguments about the rogue's power level that assume one or more of the following (a) the rogue is always eligible for sneak attack, (b) the rogue lands with every attack despite their lower BAB, and (c) a fighter of comparable level does less damage because he/she is using a sharp stick and invested all feats in Skill Focus (Profession: Wanker).


And juuuust to hammer it home some more, here's the 3.0 FAQ:

Quote:

I don’t see any limit on the number of sneak attacks a rogue can make in a round. Suppose a high-level rogue is hiding. Two villains walk within 5 feet of her. Can the rogue use an attack of opportunity as a sneak attack and then, assuming she gets initiative, make as many sneak attacks as she has attacks? Can she sneak attack each of the villains? What if the rogue has a bow? If she has Rapid Shot, does this increase the number of sneak attacks she can make?

A rogue deals extra damage with a sneak attack anytime the target is denied Dexterity bonus to Armor Class or anytime the rogue flanks the target, no matter how many attacks the rogue makes. These conditions are not likely to occur during an attack of opportunity, but if they do (such as when the rogue is unseen), the rogue gets her sneak attack bonus damage. The same holds true for ranged weapons (but see the next question), provided that the rogue is within 30 feet of her target. Note that sneak attacks are never possible when the rogue cannot see her target.

And here's that "next question":

Quote:

Say a rogue attempts to perform a sneak attack on a target and the target is flanked and engaged with another character, but aware of the rogue. Does the rogue get the extra damage dice for the sneak attack? My DM believes that a foe that is aware of the rogue can protect itself and is not subject to sneak attacks. I disagree.

Whenever a rogue attacks an opponent that the rogue flanks, or who is denied a Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (such as when caught flat-footed), the rogue’s attack is a sneak attack. It makes no difference how many attacks the rogue makes or whether the opponent is aware of the rogue or not. (Note that opponents who are not subject to critical hits, such as constructs, elementals, oozes, plants, and undead, are not subject to sneak attacks.) Note that in earlier versions of the game only the first attack a rogue made in a round could be a sneak attack. That is no longer the case.

Quoting those last two sentences for extra special emphasis:

Quote:
Note that in earlier versions of the game only the first attack a rogue made in a round could be a sneak attack. That is no longer the case.

Are we done here?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I guess I'm a little surprised by the question, or let's say the request for an official response. As a GM I'm hard pressed to get my rogue doing anything like the damage my other PCs are doing. I can see how two rogues would be faaaaaar more effective than one, given the flanking possibilities, but so be it. A simple 5-foot-step is generally enough to keep two rogues from doing iterative attacks in the following round.

I only know 3, 3.5 and Pathfinder, so I don't recall ever hearing of a restriction.

If it throws off the balance of the game, then talk with the players and find a solution. Rule that it only works once per round, or once per opponent per round, or once per iterative attack and all attacks of opportunity that meet the conditions, etc.
Or think about how to redesign encounters so the non-rogues get their moments in the spotlight. Let the word get around about the party's tactics so intelligent foes choose more difficult or advantageous terrain.


Coridan wrote:
I was hearing this concept long before 4e came out. Was it only once per round in 3.0 or something?

No, it was not.


While it's not 100% related to your question, there is this post by a developer. In it, he explains that when you are invisible and attack, you lose the bonuses of invisibility for all future attacks that round. Now, this was answering a question of whether or not a full-attack sneak attack when invisible would give you multiple sneak attacks.

If there was a hard limit of one sneak attack per round, then the answer given by the developer makes no sense: you wouldn't be getting more than one anyway, so why does it matter when invisibility ends?

Oh, and this in particular.

Sean K. Reynolds wrote:
After your invisibility breaks, normal conditions of the attack apply. Sometimes that means you'll be able to continue getting sneak attacks (flat-footed, blind, helpless), sometimes it doesn't.

Emphasis his (which should be obvious, really, as it the emphasis doesn't help the issue at hand.)

Dev saying you can keep on getting more sneak attacks per round if the conditions are right :)

Shadow Lodge

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Peter Kies wrote:
The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack"

Peter, in the flanking rules, the "melee attack" is used in the generic "hitting the guy with something you are holding in your hand" sense to make the distinction with ranged weapons (which you can't flank with without some special ability that makes an exception.) Otherwise it would say "attack action" to make clear that it is referring to the standard action. Granted, the language in the rulebooks is regrettably inconsistent, but that it the dominant usage.

For example, an attack of opportunity is not a standard action (attack). Yet it is described this way: "An attack of opportunity is a single melee attack..."

Similarly, consider the Power Attack rules: You can choose to take a –1 penalty on all melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks to gain a +2 bonus on all melee damage rolls...and its effects last until your next turn. If "melee attack" meant standard action, there would be no need to specify "all rolls" or point out that its effects last beyond the end of the current turn.

Hope that helps!


Are wrote:

No, 3.0 was multiple times per round. I believe the AD&D backstab rule was once per round, though (but don't quote me on that, as I've never played AD&D).

Nope, it was also multiple times/rd (go Greater Invisibility helps as you are visible otherwise).

Backstab was usually 1/rd though for a Thief, but a Fighter could specialize in weapons so you had multiple attacks. Still a scroll of Grreater Invis or friendly mage casting (or ring of inisibility) meant major damage.

Backstab was multiples of damage (everything but Magic weapon bonuses multiplied so again Fighter/Thiefs rocked if you had 18/00 str or got a Belt of Giant Str so 19 or potion).

So a Level 5 Fighter/Thief with 18/00 (potion or natural) with a +1 long sword did on a backstab average 12+18+1 magic =31 damage.

A thief doing good damage shocks DMs into nerfing stealth/invis usually though. Thiefs have always been picked on even in rogue form.

Interestingly only in 4E is a Dex Rogue better than a Str Rogue. As every other edition rewards str more (well AD&D gave Exp fot Dex but combat meant Str still)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Yeah, trying to weaken one of the weakest classes primary ability is just, well, weak.


Peter Kies wrote:

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.

LONG WINDED RANT redacted....

Just play the game the way you want.


why is this even a question. it's clearly stated in the rules. if a rogue is flanking he gets precision damage dice, that don't get multiplied on critical hits.


Pretty much, Lab_Rat. Sneak attack has nothing to do with being surprised. Though, it helps to be surprised.

@ikarinokami, but it's called SNEAK attack!


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Can you apply sneak attack on every attack you make to beat a dead horse?


Only if you have an ability that lets you deal sneak attack to creatures with conditions and it doesn't exempt the dead condition.


But "dead" removes dex bonuses doesn't it?

Dark Archive

Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Can you apply sneak attack on every attack you make to beat a dead horse?

Nope! A dead horse is a horse with the Dead Condition, which means it's an Object. Objects don't have anatomy, and are thus immune to Sneak Attack.

Caveat: If said dead horse is actually an Undead creature which is not incorporeal nor a type of golem then go right on throwing more d6s at it!

...sorry. Ok, so bad humor aside, the OPs problem is that he sees lots of d6s and thinks it will equate to lots of damage. Rather than actually running some number comparisons with TWF Rogues and TWF Rangers, he's trying to nerf Rogues (which can't be easy, really) by beating around a bush like it insulted his mother.

I don't personally think a Paizo employee is going to post a response in here, and if one does, I don't think dozens of people are going to be wrong.


Ninten, I hear ya, but I'm pretty confident that beating this dead horse is giving sneak attack damage every single time.


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What is with the influx of "The rules don't matter, I don't care if other posters point them out to me, I want devs to come down and clarify every tiny clearly spelled out in the rules bit of stuff" people lately?

Dark Archive

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I believe the OP has left. You all can stop saying the same thing over and over again.

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