Weapon Versatility and Sap Adept / Master


Rules Questions


If a slayer who is wielding a katana uses the Weapon Versatility feat to have his weapon deal Bludgeoning Damage and he is able to sneak attack his foe dose he gain the benefit of sap Adept and sap master (if he has said feats)

(Assume he took Blade of mercy trait to deal non-lethal damage with his katana)


You would not be able to use the blade of mercy trait to make this work, Because of the way sneak attack functions.

Sneak Attack wrote:
With a weapon that deals nonlethal damage (like a sap, whip, or unarmed strike), a slayer can make a sneak attack that deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage. He cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual –4 penalty.

The trait removes the afforementioned -4 penalty but doesn't otherwise make any exception for precision damage.

As for the feat weapon versatility, expect table variation. Some will argue that though the feat would allow the weapon to do bludgeoning damage, this isn't the same as making the weapon a "bludgeoning weapon" and so it wouldn't work even if you had a katana with the Merciful enchantment. This is primarily because allowing it to change the weapon type like this has the potential to really mess with game balance.

What you're trying to do IMO seems fine and probably wouldn't cause any issues if the DM allowed it.


Basically, there is nothing in the rules about what constitutes a "bludgeoning weapon" et al. The only thing we have on the topic of weapon classification relevant to damage type is this section in the weapon rules:

"Type: Weapons are classified according to the type of damage they deal: (...)
In other cases, a weapon can deal either of two types of damage. In a situation where the damage type is significant, the wielder can choose which type of damage to deal with such a weapon.
" CRB pg. 144

In other words, for weapons like bec de corbin, the classification is done at the time of attack. It stands to reason that Weapon Versatility, which basiclaly does the same thing, behaves the same way. Thus, if you attack with the (Merciful) katana to deal bludgeoning damage, it counts as a bludgeoning weapon, including for effects like Sap Master.

LordKailas wrote:
This is primarily because allowing it to change the weapon type like this has the potential to really mess with game balance.

I seriously doubt this.


Derklord wrote:
LordKailas wrote:
This is primarily because allowing it to change the weapon type like this has the potential to really mess with game balance.
I seriously doubt this.

<shrug>

Its the most common argument I've seen against allowing it. If it actually does cause balance issues or not is completely different.


LordKailas wrote:
Its the most common argument I've seen against allowing it. If it actually does cause balance issues or not is completely different.

I have indeed seen that argument before, but never backed by any actually powerful build.

Because let's be honest, what builds do actually use weapon type destinction? Swashbuckler, one of the weakest classes in the game (and has Slashign Grace, which does exactly that). Rogues, Ninjas and others with Sap Adept/Master, generally weak classes (not the least because Sneak Attack is such a weak class feature). There are some feats, mostly crit-based ones, but those are pretty weak. In any case, we're talking about martials, that spend a feat just to broading out something they could already do. Since the weapon is only a single type at any given time, it doesn't help to use some bludgeoning-feat on a Swashbuckler or something.

I mean, there might be some combination that's actually nice, but if there is, I haven't seen it.


Yeah, Sap Master has some exciting potential, but it is seriously Feat intensive and severely limited.

Sap Master only works when your victim is properly Flatfooted, not just denied Dex Mod to AC, and it only works when you are inflicting nonlethal Bludgeoning Damage.

So the OP needs to take Weapon Versatility, Bludgeoner, Dazzling Dissplay, Cornugdeon Smash, and Shatter Defenses. There are ways around some of those Feats, but I think you still have to take a lot of them, and again, it commits you to nonlethal bludgeoning damage. But you get Double Sneak Attack Damage +1 point/die.

I was kind of thinking of doing something like this with levels in Monk, since Unarmed Strike Damage is already Bludgeoning and can be made nonlethal without penalty. Plus it makes you eligible for another Feat, Knockout Punch, which also gives you +1 Damage/Sneak Attack Die, making it Double +2 instead of just double +1.

The OP is proposing to spend a lot to get a lot. I hope he tells us how it works out.


There is something else to parse out:

Slayer, Sneak Attack wrote:
He cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual –4 penalty.


Another thing to consider, although this might be better as Advice than Rules discussion:

It seems to me that the purpose of taking Sap Adept is to increase your Sneak Attack Damage Dice. If that's what the OP wants, wouldn't it make more sense to not be a Slayer? Slayers get +1d6 SA dice every 3 levels. Ninjas, Rogues, and Vivisectionist Alchemists get +1d6 every 2 levels. That seems to be a much simpler and more versatile way to get greater Sneak Attack Damage.

If you really want to maximize your Sneak Attack, you multiclass: 1 level in Snakebite Striker Brawler, 1 level in Unchained Rogue, 1 level in Vivisectionist, 1 level in Cavalier taking Precise Strike as your Bonus Teamwork Feat, and 1 level in Magus with the Greensting Scorpion Archetype +5d6 Sneak Attack Damage in 5 levels.

And you can still take those Sap Feats later.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:
So the OP needs to take Weapon Versatility, Bludgeoner, Dazzling Dissplay, Cornugdeon Smash, and Shatter Defenses.

Correction: Enforcer, not Cornugon Smash.

Scott Wilhelm wrote:
It seems to me that the purpose of taking Sap Adept is to increase your Sneak Attack Damage Dice. If that's what the OP wants, wouldn't it make more sense to not be a Slayer?

I was thinking the same thing. At the least, that's another feat you really want, Accomplished Sneak Attacker.

And yes, if we're giving advice, my first one would be "Sneak Attack is the single most overrated class feature in the entire game even at full progression, the last thing you should do ist focus on a reduced version".

Scott Wilhelm wrote:
If you really want to maximize your Sneak Attack, you multiclass: 1 level in Snakebite Striker Brawler, 1 level in Unchained Rogue, 1 level in Vivisectionist, 1 level in Cavalier taking Precise Strike as your Bonus Teamwork Feat, and 1 level in Magus with the Greensting Scorpion Archetype +5d6 Sneak Attack Damage in 5 levels.

Vivisectionist only stacks levels, and not dice, and thus doesn't help. Greensting Slayer Magus needs to expend arcane points, which probably won't last a single combat.


Derklord wrote:
Correction: Enforcer, not Cornugon Smash.

Cornugon Smash would work, too: a free Intimidate with every hit, but I concede that Enforcer is the better Feat to take with Sap Master.

Derklord wrote:
Vivisectionist only stacks levels, and not dice, and thus doesn't help.

Ah. Oops. Vivisectionist might be worth considering for a Sneak Attacking Character, but you can't use it the way I suggested: to topload lots of SA Damage in a hurry. Nice, maybe, but not as nice as I thought.

Derklord wrote:
Greensting Slayer Magus needs to expend arcane points, which probably won't last a single combat.

It is fair to say that in most cases, Greensting Slayer is the least desireable way to gain Sneak Attack Damage among the ways I listed. It might be nice if you have some other reason to take levels in Magus. The fact that it's a temporary boost to Sneak Attack Damage and not a proper increase means that it would stack with Accomplished Sneak Attacker even if it would boost your SA Damage past 1/2 your level. There's probably an offset to the Arcane Pool problem like one of those Feats that let you spend Ki or Grit points or something as Arcane Pool Points.

I'm not strongly advising that the OP take levels in Greensting Slayer Magus. I was just thinking of all the ways a PC can dip levels and take Feats to get extra Sneak Attack Damage extra fast.

Derklord wrote:
"Sneak Attack is the single most overrated class feature in the entire game even at full progression

I seem to like Sneak Attack Damage better than you.

I'll grant that it's situational, but I don't think it is highly situational. Lots of players attempt to Flank naturally in melee, and the party Rogue will get to enjoy that often. And there are a lot of ways of varying cost and effectiveness of locking in your SA Damage: you must recall my list I've posted before. I think if you have 2 or 3 of them, you can usually get your SA Damage, which can add up to a lot.

Also granted, there are creatures that can't be Precision Damaged, but not a lot, and most of those can't be targeted regularly anyway, like Oozes and Swarms. Incorporeal Undead can't be Precision-Damaged and can be targeted. Some creatures can't be Flanked, but can still suffer Precision Damage. The Froghemoth comes to mind. In 3.5, all Undead and Constructs could not take Precision Damage, but in Pathfinder, they changed that, so I would not be uncomfortable advising a Sneak Attack character.

Also, bear in mind, that if you have a Small Melee PC, regular weapon Damage scales down with Size. Sneak Attack Damage does not scale down with Size. I really like Precision Damage for a Size Small Character.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:
I seem to like Sneak Attack Damage better than you.

Most people seem to, which is what makes it overrated! *smirk*

I'll try to keep this post thread-appropriate, i.e. not talk mainly about Rogue.

The whole thing is an 'investment vs. reward'-issue. If you only rely on flanking (and surprise/first round flat-footedness), Sneak Attack is indeed highly situational. If you use a bunch of feats or possibly even levels to ensure Sneak Attack, it becomes pretty reliable, but that's a lot of investment. Investment not spend on other things, like rounding out your character (like by working on saves, AC, counters to unreachable enemies, counters to unseen enemies, and counters to non-adjacent enemies).
Slayer is a bit of in an unusual spot because Sneak Attac is not the main class feature, but especially for classes where it is that (think Rogue, who's on par with an NPC class when not being able to sneak attack), you're still investing class levels, even if you don't take a single SA-supporting feat.
I don't actually really consider the non-sneak-attackable enemies when I talk about SA's unrealibility.

Moving into flanking position generally means no move-and-full-attack option (even if you somehow achieve one), as these tend to be charges or have a limited range. It should be obvious that having party members forsake most of their damage to enable your (not exactly overwhelming) bonus damage is a bad trade, which means you have to do the movement to flank. If you have other melees with no move-and-full-attack option, you'd be better advised to work on that, as in that case, Sneak Attack only works in the rare circumstance where your party is already at it's best.

There aren't any easy ways to ensure sneak attack, those carry pretty high costs. Multiple feats, multiple off-levels, forsaking an first attack, etc.; and then they're probably not fully reliable and you may need to further increasing your bluff or intimidate or something. Getting multiple means makes it more reliable, but increases the investment.

Slayer actually does it better than most (Menacing Ranger Combat Style grants Enforcer at 2nd and Shatter Defenses at 6th, removing the need for Weapon Focus or Dazzling Display), but that's still a notable investment. With Sap Master especially, that's 2 talents (Ranger Combat Style x2) and four feats (Bludgeoner, Sap Adept, Sap Master, Accomplished Sneak Attacker), without Weapon Versatility, and also without a boost to intimidate (except from Studied Target/Stalker), or something to fix your will save. If the enemy was a high be-intimidated-DC; or is immune against mind-affecting effects, or is immune agaisnt nonlethal damage, most of your investment is worthless.

Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Also, bear in mind, that if you have a Small Melee PC, regular weapon Damage scales down with Size. Sneak Attack Damage does not scale down with Size.

Weapon damage dice is another thing that's highly overrated. Sneak Attack and small size are actually unsynergetic - small size makes higher crit range weapons better, but guess what damage doesn't multiply on a crit...

­
Overall, people overrate rolling many or big damage dice. In reality, 1d4+12 is better than 4d6.

Also, "Sneak Attack" is a gross misnomer. Let's be honest, how high is the percentage of sneak attacks made where it's actually the character being sneaky that triggers it? Most of them are triggered by flanking, so shouldn't it be called "gang-up attack" or "teamwork attack"? Other common methods are Greater Invisibility (there's that teamwork again), Circling Mongoose (since when is "you circle around threateningly" sneaky?), and Shatter Defenses (intimidation is sneaky?). Sounds more like an "exploit-an-opponent's-position-of-weakness attack" than a "sneak attack" to me.

­

Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Cornugon Smash would work, too: a free Intimidate with every hit, but I concede that Enforcer is the better Feat to take with Sap Master.

It would work, but require another feat. I was presuming you actually meant Enforcer.

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