Another Take on Sneak Attack

I took David’s post on Sneak Attacks and the Executioner and incorporated some of the comments from our conversation below it.

I do still like the token mechanic, but in this case I think there might be a better approach.  Sneak Attack provides its own resource (sneak attack dice) that can be spent to pay for the various effects.

From the current working document (David, get me your Dropbox ID and I’ll grant access; if you don’t have one let me know and I’ll send you a referral) I have the following talents.

It may be reasonable to allow a character with these talents to spend additional talents to increase the Difficult Class of any saving throws required.  This addition might be restricted to a number of sneak attack dice equal to the highest tier talent held by the character.

Backstabber [Cornerstone, Martial Tradition]

Tier Effect
Basic +1d6 sneak attack
Expert +2d6 sneak attack, Hindering Cut
Heroic +3d6 sneak attack, Armor-Piercing Strike
Master +4d6 sneak attack, Bleeding Cut
Champion +5d6 sneak attack, Improved Hindering Cut
Legendary +6d6 sneak attack, Improved Bleeding Cut

As a Martial Tradition, this gives +1 Martial Training Bonus per tier, which does not stack with similar bonuses from other Martial Traditions.

Associated with finesse weapons (light weapons, etc.); may only be used with light weapons and related combat styles.  Often taken with with fast, sneaky, or precise combat options (Lightning Reflexes, Hide and Move Silently skill-based talents, and so on).

Hindering Cut

As a Martial Tradition, this gives +1 Martial Training Bonus per tier, which does not stack with similar bonuses from other Martial Traditions.

Reduce your sneak attack dice by up to two; if your opponent fails a Fortitude save you may impose a -1 penalty to the opponent’s attack and defence, or a -1 square penalty to speed, for each die spent, until the end of combat.

Armor-Piercing Strike

Spend any number of sneak attack dice to gain a bonus to hit your opponent equal to the number of dice spent.  This bonus only counters your target’s armor bonus; any additional dice spent are lost. This does not apply to shield bonus, but can overcome any enhancement bonus on the armor.

Bleeding Cut

Spend up to four sneak attack dice to cause a bleeding cut.  If your target fails a Fortitude save he will take that half that many dice damage at the beginning of each of his turn until the end of combat.

Improved Hindering Cut

As Hindering cut, but you can spend up to five sneak attack dice and split the penalties between attack/defense and movement.

Improved Bleeding Cut

As bleeding cut, but the bleeding damage is equal to the number of dice spent.


Spend six or more sneak attack dice. On a failed Fort save reduce the target’s speed to zero for a number of rounds equal to the number of sneak attack dice spent.

Sneak Attack

Tier Effect
Basic +1d6 sneak attack
Expert +2d6 sneak attack, Flanking Attack
Heroic +3d6 sneak attack, Create Distraction
Master +4d6 sneak attack, Universal Sneak Attack
Champion +5d6 sneak attack
Legendary +6d6 sneak attack, Brazen Attack

Basic sneak attack can be made against flat-footed opponents. This common talent focuses on an increasingly broad set of circumstances under which an attack can be made.

This talent overcomes any Uncanny Dodge granted by another talent at a lower tier.

Incomplete, I’d like to see something at the Champion tier.

Flanking Attack

You can make sneak attacks when the opponent is flanked.  Your target need not be flat-footed.

Create Distraction

Spend three sneak attack dice. If your attack hits, the opponent makes a Spot check with DC 10 + your level bonus + number of tokens spent or loses track of you until his next action. He does not threaten you, and you may make sneak attacks against him. If you move away you can make a Hide check to evade his notice.

Universal Sneak Attack

Spend four sneak attack dice. You may make sneak attacks against creatures otherwise described as “immune to sneak attacks.”

Brazen Attack

Spend six sneak attack dice. You may make a sneak attack at any time, not just when the target is flat-footed or flanked.

Executioner [Capstone]

Tier Effect Prerequisite
Basic Execution 1d6 +1d6 sneak attack, Basic Lore
Expert Execution 2d6 +2d6 sneak attack, Expert Lore
Heroic Execution 3d6 +3d6 sneak attack, Heroic Lore
Master Execution 4d6 +4d6 sneak attack, Master Lore
Champion Execution 5d6 +5d6 sneak attack, Champion Lore
Legendary Execution 6d6 +6d6 sneak attack, Legendary Lore

The Lore prerequisite may be met with a Lore talent suitable for assassination.  Venom Mastery is an obvious choice, but Lore talents based on Knowledge skills may be applicable: a Demon Slayer might take a talent based on Knowledge: The Planes in order to better hunt his prey.

For some kinds of Executioners (possible capstone talents derived from this one, or just ‘social groups’ that share this talent) it may be appropriate to require other talents as well.  I can easily imagine particular combat styles (weapon choices) or even Perform-based talents (kunoichi, female ninja, might pose as performers or geisha or the like in order to approach their targets).

This talent feels incomplete.  It is fairly easy to get into, and it does have a useful benefit, but I don’t find it particularly interesting.  I’d like to see it do something besides “make you better at what you already do”.


Reduce the cost of sneak attack special abilities by a number of dice equal to your tier with this talent.

Closing Comments

I like the options these talents provide for character design and application at the table.  They still aren’t quite complete, there are a few places a little more could be added, but I think they’re headed in a good direction.

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