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A few questions have arisen regarding enhancements to a "non-standard" damage type on attack for a concept I've been mulling over. I've gotten different answers from different knowledgeable and well-respected GMs, so I'd like to get some feedback from the Pathfinder community.
The specific situation I am interested in regards the Shadow (and Greater Shadow) creatures (seen here), although presumably other creatures exist that also directly deal ability damage or other non-standard damage with their natural attacks.
In the case of a spell such as Desecrate, would the Shadow benefit from the bonus to damage, thereby doing an additional point of STR damage?
As far as I've been apprised something like the Bard's Inspire Courage would not work because that specifies "weapon damage." What about, say, a +1 Ghost-Touch Amulet of Mighty Fists? Would the Shadow benefit from a +1 to hit only, or a +1 to their STR damage?
The Shadow can benefit from a Critical Hit, doubling their STR damage dealt. If they were receiving other bonuses as noted above, would those bonuses therefore be doubled as well?
I seem to remember that damage adders to a non-hp-damage attack add hp damage; maybe do a search for Enervation rulings?
Hm, it seems like Enervation (and say, something like Ray of Enfeeblement) don't really have anything to do with "damage", so I would think nothing would be added at all in that instance.
The Shadow's attack, however, is explicitly "damage", just ability score "damage" rather than normal "damage."
It seems like the opinions so far are that it seems strong to give the Shadow a bump to their STR damage, but no real data as to the RAW mechanics.
For example, I believe there is a Pathfinder Society adventure which features a Greater Shadow in an area of Desecration-- in that instance, should the GM be assigning an additional point of STR damage to its attacks, or no?
What about if a Shadowdancer, or a wizard sharing a Shadow Projection to their familiar, cast Desecrate near their Shadow?
This seems a lot like the question of whether a vampire's energy drain inflicts twice as many negative levels on a critical hit. If I recall correctly, it does. I'd rule the same way here; the touch attack is considered a weapon, same as unarmed strikes, claws, and so on.
There's a bit of a power difference between a multiplicative bonus and an additive one.
Multiplying the effect of an attack on a crit already accounts for the difference in effectiveness of HP damage vs ability damage vs drain vs negative levels, because attacks tend to do more base HP damage than ability damage or negative levels. Doubling a 20 HP attack to 40 HP is about the same effect as doubling a 1 negative level attack to 2 levels. The increase in effect is proportionate to the severity of the kind of injury.
Most damage bonuses, however, are additive. Adding +1 damage from Inspire Courage to a 30-HP attack is not a big difference. Adding +1 negative level to a +1 negative level attack is huge. A 5th-level vampire bard using Inspire Courage and Heroism would deal 5 negative levels with a single attack, which is disproportionate to the HP bonus, and completely unbalanced.
Hmm, that would be pretty nasty.
FAQing since something kinda like this question has come up before.
I will say that if something like inspire courage doesn't increase the shadow's ability damage, then I doubt any other generic damage increasing ability would either. But I'm not certain that inspire courage doesn't increase ability damage--though I'm going to go with that approach for the time being.
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I'm reasonably confident that when an effect talks about "damage" without any qualifiers, it's talking about hit-point damage.
If you fall 10ft, you take "1d6 damage". Does anyone here, upon reading that sentence, immediately wonder "Wait, what kind of damage? Hit point damage? If so, is it fire, cold, sonic, etc? Or maybe ability damage? If so, which ability? Why didn't they give us any more information than just 'damage'?"
Obviously, we all read something saying "1d6 damage" and know the rules to mean hit point damage.
Why are we suddenly ignoring that convention when discussing a damage bonus?
The problem, i think is in the simple cases of this Its not that bad. In the extreme cases its overpowered in the extreme. We have text saying if you add damage riders they are of the same type as the main damage type.
So if i sneak attack with a scorching ray its fire damage. This is simple and done every day when people play.
the problem is what happens when an rogue with a wand of enervate sneak attacks somone? im pretty sure 1d4+6d6 negative levels isnt intended. I read somewhere than in this example you should do the sneak damage as negative energy. But i dont know if that is in a book or just a common sense ruling.
Another example would be sneak attack with rapier of puncturing using its 1 per day ability.
Really, if you have riders on top of the alternate damage and it would seem to be a balance issue i would convert the damage to a logical associated damage type where you can.
So in my rapier of puncturing case i would just make it 6d6 piercing damage rather than con damage.
But honestly i dont know if any of this is clarified within the rules.
Speaking of Shadows, I'm doing a bit of Necromancy on this thread to see if 2019 Paizo-goers might have a bit more insight on this than the 2014 version of us did, if I were to put in my 2 cents Enervation and other level drain effects do not get a boost because negative levels are not a form of capital D Damage, even if it can be critted as a Ranged Touch attack since it's a Ray.
However, a Bard's Performance specifically calls out Weapon damage, which even if a Shadow was subject to it (it's not since it's undead and can't benefit from a Performance), its ability isn't counted as the type of weapon a Performance would enhance. On the other hand, Desecrate just boosts the Damage of undead without the specifier that it's for their weapons, which may indicate that non-standard types of damage (which undead are known for) get boosted as well.
Any help on this would be greatly appreciated as the aforementioned Published AP is what I'm running and my players are quickly approaching that combat, and I'd like to know if there is a consensus on this before I get to that.