Can abilities that "forgo" sneak attack damage stack?


Rules Questions


Specifically, I'm going to be asking about features that improve poison DCs, but the discussion shouldn't be limited to that as there are other abilities out there that forgo sneak attack as well(should multiple abilities ever affect the same mechanic as these do poison).

I put forgo in quotes as the meaning seems a bit ambiguous RAW vs RAI...
RAW, it is clear that forgoing the sneak attack grants a benefit
RAI, this benefit seems to be intended as an X->Y exchange that is not express enough to directly count it as RAW (such an exchange prevents the same currency[X] from being exchanged again by another ability)

Examples:

At 5th level, when a Daggermark poisoner makes a sneak attack with a poisoned weapon, she may forgo some of her sneak attack damage to increase the save DC of her poison, increasing the poison’s save DC by 1 for every 1d6 points of sneak attack damage she forgoes.
Careful Injection (Ex) wrote:
At 4th level, an eldritch poisoner can forgo some of her sneak attack damage in order to increase the save DC of a poison or arcanotoxin on the weapon used to make the sneak attack. The poison’s DC increases by 1 for every 1d6 points of sneak attack damage forgone. This ability replaces the discovery gained at 4th level.
Pernicious Stab wrote:
When you hit an opponent with a poisoned weapon and would deal sneak attack damage, you can choose to forgo some or all of the sneak attack damage to increase the poison’s chance of success. For every 2d6 points of sneak attack damage you forgo, add 1 to the saving throw DC of the poison delivered with your attack. This increase to the poison save DC does not apply to creatures that are immune to precision damage.

Additionally, this talent

Accurate Poisoner (Ex) wrote:
A rogue with this talent delivers poisons with deadly precision. When the rogue successfully hits an opponent with a poisoned weapon and would deal sneak attack damage, she can forgo the sneak attack damage and increase the poison’s potency. If she does, the poison’s duration increases by 2 (for example, large scorpion venom lasts for 8 rounds instead of 6 rounds, and drow poison lasts for 4 minutes instead of 2 minutes).

Other abilities seemed to keep this potential stacking in mind

When you make a sneak attack with a poisoned weapon, you can forgo some of your sneak attack damage to increase the save DC of your poison, increasing the poison’s save DC by 1 for every 1d6 points of sneak attack damage you forgo. This can’t cause the save DC to exceed 15 + 1/2 your character level.
Powerful Poisoning wrote:
When you damage an opponent with a Power Attack while using a poisoned weapon, you can forgo the bonus damage from Power Attack to increase the save DC of the poison by 1. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the bonus to the poison’s save DC increases by an additional 1. This can’t cause the save DC to exceed 15 + 1/2 your character level.

So, the question is, RAW what stacks? and RAI what stacks?

What is the key language that indicates it must be an X->Y exchange if that is your position?


I don't see a reason why any of those things don't stack, but I bet each of those things has an activation cost, so that it costs d6s to activate each one. So if you have the d6s to spend on a bouquet of debuffing effects, you can pile them on just as you please.


Reviewing your examples, it does seem that Treacherous Toxin and Careful Injection would not stack in practice: if you have either one or both, you can forgo d6s of Sneak Attack Damage to increase the Save DC at a rate +1/1d6.

I think Pernicious Stab WOULD stack with TT or CI: Vicious Stomp stacks with Greater Trip because someone being Tripped is different from Falling Prone, so, it seems that spending 2d6 of SA Damage is different from spending 1d6.


Accurate Poisoner says you forgo the sneak attack damage. It doesn't specify an amount, so naturally that means all of it. That ability and anything worded like it would be an all or nothing.

Anything that says you give X to get Y means you can pay as much X as the ability says you can. If there is no limit placed on X, you can pay all of the X you have.

When it comes to forgoing d6s of sneak attack, you can only use each d6 to pay for one ability. You can't forgo the same d6 to activate two or more abilities, nor can you forgo your individual d6's of damage and also forgo your sneak attack damage (in total). You can't spend more than 100% of your total damage potential.


While in theory they could stack in practice they do not. When you forgo something you no longer have it. So when you use one of these abilities to give up some of your sneak attack you no longer have that portion of your sneak attack to use for the other features. If you have 4d6 sneak attack and you forgo 2d6 for one ability all you have left is 2d6. You could use the remaining 2d6 for something else, but unless there is some limit on how much you can give up it would not matter.

Powerful Poisoning would stack with the other abilities because you are giving up different things.


See, I tend to agree that what you all say is RAI, but I see nothing RAW that disambiguates the issue.

Each ability is it's own source, and it isn't asking to spend the sneak attack dice in a direct exchange (that part is implied), it is asking you give up the dice. Once the dice are sacrificed, it grants a benefit based on the amount lost.

This is more about it being poorly worded based on some convention set by precedent in some rogue abilities a long time ago(ie "forgo") and then sloppiness not accounting for the potential existence of similar abilities (as demonstrated by the feats that actually do account). The fact that some abilities restrict max DC while others do not typically implies that it is an intentional choice on the part of the author. Very murky here.


In programming, each feats/features would check the amount of sneak dice one at a time, subtracting the amount they need/want before passing the rest to the next one.
RAW is quite close to programming.

Also, the feats/features talk about forgetting dice to gain something, not gain something each time you "forgot" a dice.


That's assuming the act of forgoing is per feat. Both interpretations are valid here.

This is especially true in the case of Careful Injection which uses the past tense(it actually looks like the perfect tense to me) of forgo instead of the imperfect(this implies an ongoing action) tense like the others.

RAW, each ability can be read to only care how many dice were forgone rather than having its own greedy hand out waiting for dice.


Archaeik wrote:

That's assuming the act of forgoing is per feat. Both interpretations are valid here.

This is especially true in the case of Careful Injection which uses the past tense(it actually looks like the perfect tense to me) of forgo instead of the imperfect(this implies an ongoing action) tense like the others.

RAW, each ability can be read to only care how many dice were forgone rather than having its own greedy hand out waiting for dice.

While it may be arguable, it will never fly at most tables. DM ruling is the ultimate rule, so present your case to him, and best of luck. I would allow stacking per feat, but never allow your interpretation.


That's really sketchy logic.

All of them have the wording "forgo to do X". Not "X happens when you forgo"

You lose to do something specific. The word To is clear its use for a specific purpose not a nebulous loss from a pool.


I think we're finally getting to the crux of why this seems wrong (outside of blatantly doubling+ up on a benefit from a single resource); ie "lose X to gain Y", it is certainly how they read at first blush.

However, that is not how the benefit is mechanically generated, they say "for every X you lose, gain Y" and in the case of Careful injection it is much closer to "for every X you have lost, gain Y".

Further, I don't think this is particularly sketchy logic, it is just a very literal parsing of the language (and this is the rules forum).

To be more specific, the word "to" you are referring to is in the permissive statement (which can give us clues as to intended function), and appears nowhere in the mechanics description.

Quite frankly the real problem here is the word "forgo", because they almost certainly meant "exchange", which forgo is not (you can always forgo your sneak attack, you just won't always gain a benefit).

Simply put, you qualify for the conditions of each mechanic when you forgo, intended or not.

Getting into the weeds:
Poisons are awful, so this particular combo isn't really as bad as it sounds, and requires relatively heavy investment


Outside of powerful poisoner I don't see how any of those would stack. They all require you to forgo the use of sneak attack damage dice to add to the poison DC (or duration) if you have forgone the use of a dice from one feat they aren't there for you to use to apply to do sneak attack damage. If they aren't there for you to use for sneak attack damage, how can you use them for additional feats?


You can say "this is the rules forum" all you like, and bold the word "seems".

But it's still not right.

And saying the word to doesnt appear in the mechanics section? What mechanics section are you talking about? The one where it says forgo sneak attack TO gain a DC bonus? Because all of them say that. Seems pretty mechanical. In fact some of ones you linked is in the only sentence of rules given so I fail to see how it's not in the mechanics section of the only sentence.

RAW you've no case. And this is the rules forum. RAW.


I completely disagree that I have no case.

The benefits section includes a permissive description about what you can do, "forgo X to increase Y", it then includes a mechanics statement about the process, "if X forgone, then Y increased".

The problem as I see it is that people are approaching the text with assumptions and biases as to what it should do based on comparative logic and past experience.

The abilities all clearly state that you gain an effect if you elect to forgo sneak attack. There is nothing that directly indicates the abilities themselves buy that sneak attack damage, nothing at all (it is all implied).

Sure, implicit meaning has value, but it shouldn't have more value than explicit meaning. (<-This statement is not about RAW vs RAI, but a general comment on communications)


Forgo - "to go without or lose the right to".

When a term does not have an in-game definition you use the normal English definition. If you lose the right to something/or are without it it is no longer available - I really don't think you have a case at all. Plain English is simply not on your side.


Archaeik wrote:

I completely disagree that I have no case.

The benefits section includes a permissive description about what you can do, "forgo X to increase Y", it then includes a mechanics statement about the process, "if X forgone, then Y increased".

The problem as I see it is that people are approaching the text with assumptions and biases as to what it should do based on comparative logic and past experience.

The abilities all clearly state that you gain an effect if you elect to forgo sneak attack. There is nothing that directly indicates the abilities themselves buy that sneak attack damage, nothing at all (it is all implied).

Sure, implicit meaning has value, but it shouldn't have more value than explicit meaning. (<-This statement is not about RAW vs RAI, but a general comment on communications)

You may disagree about it. But you still have no case

And all of them state directly what the benefit is for forgoing the dice. It's right after the word "TO". There are no periods between the 2 things.

Implicit and explicit meaning in these statements are the same thing. It is both RAW and RAI.


dragonhunterq wrote:

Forgo - "to go without or lose the right to".

When a term does not have an in-game definition you use the normal English definition. If you lose the right to something/or are without it it is no longer available - I really don't think you have a case at all. Plain English is simply not on your side.

There's an 'or' there, and it's a stretch to claim you 'lose the right' to your sneak attack dice because it's voluntary, you do 'go without', which is the only stipulation of the abilities care about.

And again, this assumes the abilities consume sneak dice (they don't say they reduce your pool, you simply voluntarily "go without").

Everyone here is solely arguing RAI (which I do pretty much agree with).
Exploitative RAW is nothing new, I'd be surprised if this specific case was confirmed as RAI (and if it was, I know many of you would ignore it), but there have been many other cases where curious RAW interpretations have been confirmed to the dismay of some.

I stand by my statement that the text is ambiguous.


Archaeik wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:

Forgo - "to go without or lose the right to".

When a term does not have an in-game definition you use the normal English definition. If you lose the right to something/or are without it it is no longer available - I really don't think you have a case at all. Plain English is simply not on your side.

There's an 'or' there, and it's a stretch to claim you 'lose the right' to your sneak attack dice because it's voluntary, you do 'go without', which is the only stipulation of the abilities care about.

And again, this assumes the abilities consume sneak dice (they don't say they reduce your pool, you simply voluntarily "go without").

Everyone here is solely arguing RAI (which I do pretty much agree with).
Exploitative RAW is nothing new, I'd be surprised if this specific case was confirmed as RAI (and if it was, I know many of you would ignore it), but there have been many other cases where curious RAW interpretations have been confirmed to the dismay of some.

I stand by my statement that the text is ambiguous.

Of course there's an 'or' there. You have the choice every time.

Look, you aren't likely to get a ruling for your stunningly flimsy case, so the only one that matters is your DM. The forum consensus, if it matters at all is if it just removes one or two dice, it will stack, removing dice for each. If you forego all, you have none to remove.

I think we're pretty much at the take it or leave it stage with any posters who have bothered to express an opinion.

Good luck.


Archaeik wrote:


I stand by my statement that the text is ambiguous.

The other 9 people that have contributed to this thread seem to read it in a way that isn't ambiguous, and consistent with each other. If you want to insist you are correct, I can't stop you. If you want to follow your interpretation in a game you run, as a GM you are fully enabled.

I would caution that trying to convince other GMs that you are correct and that they should follow your interpretation may be exceedingly difficult. If they disagree with you, I'd suggest not pressing the matter. After all, your interpretation doesn't appear to match a lot of other people's expectations.

And a GM is correct at their own table.

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