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D&D 3E
Telling Blow - is this a little /too/ good at higher levels? 
17th-Jun-2006 11:09 am
sunshine
Now, I know that at higher levels there are going to be plenty of encounters against constructs/undead/elementals and other such critical-immune creatures, but there seems to be a, well, balance issue with this feat.


Let's start out with the feat description, taken verbatim from the source (Players Handbook II -- it really should be Player's Handbook II... that's driving me nuts) for the purpose of debating it.


Telling Blow
When you strike a an opponent's vital areas, you draw on your ability to land crippling blows to make the most of your attack.
Prerequisities: Skirmish or sneak attack ability.
Benefit: When you score a critical hit against a target, you deal your skirmish or sneak attack damage in addition to the damage from a critical hit. Your critical multiplier applies only to your normal damage, not your skirmish or sneak attack damage. This benefit affects both melee and ranged attacks.


Now, the powergamer in me likes this feat -- it's a good way to allow a rogue the chance to do their 'normal' damage on a target they're unable to feint or flank.

The, er, problem (and I used that term very loosely), is that, in the RAW (rules as written), they stack -- you can hit a flat-footed opponent and score a telling blow while doing so. This can seriously ramp up damage, especially with someone with 'hot dice' and a keen 18-20 weapon (or, say, improved critical in a similar weapon), especially if they have some way to greatly improve their odds of hitting.

Case in point -- in our Monday night D&D game, we've hit the level 20 range recently (like I said -- high level) and I play a Rogue/Fighter/Assassin/Tel'flammar Shadowlord who runs around with a Keen, Deadly Precision, Kukri of Subtlety (I was going to go with the sword, but the kukri is just so much more stylish) in her offhand, and a sentient rapier in the offhand (also with Deadly Precision, but sans keen and other such cheaty mechanisms).

With this build, I've only got a base of 5d6 sneak attack (Tel'Flammar does not get any sneak dice, to my chagrin), but Deadly Precision bumps this up to 7d6 and a Rogue's Vest bumps it up to 8d6 (putting me on par with a straight 15th level rogue).

I may be overestimating it, but in the surprise/first round of combat, I can (and, so far, have) cranked out a pretty crazy amount of damage since snagging this feat (at my fifteenth hit die). Granted, my d20 is pretty hot whenever sneak dice are included in the result (and not so hot at everything else -- saving throws included), so I tend to get a lot of these "double sneaks". It just seems so overpowered, especially if you can find a way to guarantee that your critical threats will land and become critical hits against most foes (a wraithstrike spell, brilliant energy weapon, or using something like a flesh ring of scorn).

Doing some reading over at the Wizards boards, the people seem to be split into two camps -- the RAW folks, who think that it's a powerful feat but should work as written, and those who believe the 'real intent' was simply to increase the set of conditions under which you can make a sneak attack to include 'successful critical hit'. The latter also use the justification that since the feat doesn't explicitly say that they do stack, they don't stack (which seems backwards -- WotC books are usually pretty clear when things should not stack).

My GM, to provide a counter point, can visualize the effect of a 'double sneak' from a flavour point of view -- not only do you hit the organ your sneak attack was aiming for, but you hit in an extremely brutal manner (either twisting and making the wound worse, or, to use his example, puncturing one lung and blowing through and puncturing the other).

Since there hasn't been an official word on this (nor any errata that I've seen), I just wanted to throw it out there.

a) Do you think this feat, as written, is too good?
b) If so, what would do to "fix" it?

**** EDIT TO ADD ****

Compare,

Sneak Attack Of Opportunity [Epic] [link]
Prerequisites: Sneak attack +8d6, opportunist class feature.
Benefit: Any attack of opportunity you make is considered a sneak attack.


**** END EDIT ****

To be honest, I think the sheer number of attacks I'm getting off in a round (two weapon fighting, shadow stride + shadow pounce, shadow jump 5' + shadow pounce) is the problem moreso than this feat, but the feat in and of itself seems pretty harsh.


What are your thoughts?
Comments 
17th-Jun-2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
Personally, you're talking about something I won't run into in my games very often. Into epic levels my players are ready for something new as 1st to 20 is a long, satisfying haul. But your character as you show it is deadly no matter how you alter or use Telling Blow, and should be! In the 'reality' of the game, you're a bad ass and there's no two ways about it.

But, in my opinion (and my games) the effects will not stack. You get Sneak Attack or Skirmish damage once with each shot. Telling Blow was written, in my mind, to add the chance to get in some extra Sneak Attack/Skirmish damage. You crit something, the obvious result would be additional damage. You crit something and pretty much specialize in additional damage?Now you have a feat to be able to stack your crit and Sneak. While I could allow the RAW thought, I doubt I would.
17th-Jun-2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
*nod* We've decided to keep it working as per the RAW, until there's errata or an FAQ that addresses it (or the GM decides it's too good, in which case he'll let me swap it out for the Deadly Precision feat.
17th-Jun-2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
I don't think it was intended to stack with normal Sneak Attacks, but I agree that the way it's written certainly provides the ability to abuse it as such.
17th-Jun-2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the wording certainly leaves it very open to interpretation.

I'm sure I've seen a feat that gives you your Strength bonus to damage on a charge. You get your Strength bonus normally, but the feat gives it to you again, although the feat doesn't explicitly state you get it again.
17th-Jun-2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not familiar with that feat.

The argument that they don't stack because it doesn't say that they stack isn't a good argument, though.

The argument I would use is that Wizards is unlikely to allow one feat to allow for a 10-60 increase in damage, even conditionally.
17th-Jun-2006 07:59 pm (UTC)
I can agree with you on that, although sometimes... I don't know exactly what they're thinking.
18th-Jun-2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
The argument I would use is that Wizards is unlikely to allow one feat to allow for a 10-60 increase in damage, even conditionally.

How about Power Attack?

A rogue at level 19 with this feat would get a 10-60 point increase in damage (conditional, needs to be a crit), which averages to 35 damage. A fighter at level 19 with Power Attack and a two-handed weapon would get a 38 point increase in damage (conditional, needs to hit by at least 19). Those sound about equal to me--the fighter's condition can be offset by True Strike (a 1st level spell), whereas I don't believe it is possible for the rogue's condition to be met more than 30% of the time (improved crit with a rapier).

The more I think about it, the more it seems like it's not that bad a feat. Powerful, maybe, but not much more than others.
18th-Jun-2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
Improved Critical is passive, though, making fully 25% of the Rogue's attacks possible criticals + sneak attack damage.

A Fighter would either need one level of Wizard to pick up the spell, and even then his usage of it is severely limited.
17th-Jun-2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
Bonuses from the same source never stack.

The bonus from telling blow is inherently from sneak attack. So it doesn;t stack with sneak attack. (Now, if Sneak attack would have applioed but skirmish wouldn't, on a telling bow, you'd get both. if you had both.)

Also, bonus dice never multiple, and having them stack would be effectively multiplying. So either way, IMO, they do not stack as RAW.
17th-Jun-2006 06:18 pm (UTC)
See, I would kind of disagree with you on that.

I don't think that, as per the RAW, they are the same.

The feat wouldn't be that good for a skirmisher if that were the case, in my opinion.

To compare,


Sneak Attack Of Opportunity [Epic] [link]
Prerequisites: Sneak attack +8d6, opportunist class feature.
Benefit: Any attack of opportunity you make is considered a sneak attack.

Telling Blow
When you strike a an opponent's vital areas, you draw on your ability to land crippling blows to make the most of your attack.
Prerequisities: Skirmish or sneak attack ability.
Benefit: When you score a critical hit against a target, you deal your skirmish or sneak attack damage in addition to the damage from a critical hit. Your critical multiplier applies only to your normal damage, not your skirmish or sneak attack damage. This benefit affects both melee and ranged attacks.


If they hadn't intended for them to stack as per the RAW, why not simply reword it to "Any successful critical hit you make is considered a sneak attack"?

Maybe I should add that to my original post. :o
17th-Jun-2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
because the wordings of D&D books are often poor. Despite Magic training us to play with rules exactly as written, the RPG side of R&D still writes stuff in not quite that specific wording unfortunately.
17th-Jun-2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
I won't disagree with you on that, but based on what I recall reading, feats, moreso than spells and class features, tend to be very explicit in stating that they don't stack with something different if it's not intended that they do.
17th-Jun-2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
The way it's worded isn't "every critical hit you get counts as a sneak attack", though, it's "you add your sneak attack damage to your critical hit".

That's what makes it ambiguous.
18th-Jun-2006 12:55 am (UTC)
iawtc
17th-Jun-2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
What book is that out of, so I can add it to my list of banned materials.

I would definately not allow a doubling up of Sneak Attack damage. As it is, you're doing more raw physical damage than the paladin with the two-handed weapon, the strength in the high twenties, and Divine Sacrifice who's charging and power attacking for 10. IMO, there is a such thing as too much of a good thing.
17th-Jun-2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
As mentioned in the post, Players Handbook II. :p
18th-Jun-2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Totally disallowed from my games at least.
18th-Jun-2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
I would think that the intent is for it not to stack with normal sneak attack damage--if you're worried about it being too powerful, you could house-rule it that way.

However, even having the damage stack doesn't seem unbelievable--basically it allows you to do double sneak attack damage on a critical hit. So you take a feat, and now you can count your precision damage in the "x2" of the crit. It may be powerful, but at least it sounds reasonable in concept. And in a way, it makes sense. The rogue who uses a dagger does 1d4 + xd6, on a crit he does d24 + xd6. So criticals for a rogue are pretty much meaningless, as they don't affect his main source of damage. This remedies that, at the cost of a feat (which are in pretty short supply for rogues).
18th-Jun-2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
You can take feats in place of Special Abilities. Rogues aren't as crippled on feats as you might think.
18th-Jun-2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
Indeed, but it does hurt anyone who multiclasses (and has feat prerequisites) moreso than someone who does not. :)

A straight rogue will fare fairly well.
18th-Jun-2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Very true.

*considers an Invisible Blade with Weapon Focus: Kukri and Telling Blow*
18th-Jun-2006 05:57 pm (UTC)
*laughs* That was my first thought. :p

Unfortunately invisible blade didn't fit my character's concept when we 'rebuilt' for plot reasons. So, assassin it was.

Tel'flammar Shadowlord not having sneak dice was so painful, but it's still one of my favourite prestige classes.
18th-Jun-2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
i would allow it.. and also thats why im not a fan of epic level play.if you make it to l20 and chose all the right feats,your bad ass,thats how it works. personally i think the entire game starts to break down and become unbalanced at about tenth level so your no more unbalanced than any other class at that level,fighters are sick,barbarians "more so frenzied berzerkers" are freaking retarded and a L20 bard could single handedly take out a party of 14L players
18th-Jun-2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
I feel the game becomes unbalanced as soon as the Epic Level Handbook hits the table.

We've done games where we started at ~17 and ran up to ~25 using normal rules and it wasn't too bad (essentially using the old FRCS spellcaster slot progression).

But the second we started tossing in Epic Monsters (ugh), Epic Spells (even more ugh), and Epic Items (M-M-M-MONSTER UGH)...

I hated it :/

For me, 15th level is a good cut-off point.
19th-Jun-2006 07:06 pm (UTC)
I wish there were a "Normal:" section, like "Normal: Skirmish or sneak attack damage applies when the target is flat-footed or... etc..." Because quite honestly, Telling Blow screams for one.

It's a good idea for a general feat, but only (in my opinion) if it expands the availably of sneak attacks or skirmish attacks. Otherwise we are getting into Epic territory.
20th-Jun-2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
Reading it at first, that's where it seems that first sentence should go. Because... normally, if you score a critical hit while delivering a sneak attack, don't you get to use your sneak attack dice?

Or maybe my brain's in another planet (having been unable to play for the last almost 2 years)?

If I'm a rogue. I sneak attack. I crit. I roll damage, multiply the base damage as appropriate and then add my xd6 sneak attack damage... right?

Or am I SO off my nut here? Which is entirely possible. Not only not playing for nearly 2 years, but having never played a rogue for more than a couple levels...

So I'm confused and/or missing something?
21st-Jun-2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
Normally, if you score a crit on a target that is a sneak attack candidate, you do

(base damage * multiplier) + sneak attack

With this feat, if you crit on a target that is not a sneak attack candidate, you do

(base damage * multipler) + telling blow [i.e. sneak dice]

Not sure if I'm following what you're saying or not. :)
25th-Jun-2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
OH! You explained exactly what I was missing. Thanks!
"a target that is not a sneak attack candidate"

For whatever reason (brainfart most likely), I wasn't getting that.
25th-Jun-2006 04:25 pm (UTC)
Perfect.
21st-Jun-2006 06:27 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
My point was that Telling Blow should have a "Normal:" section to specify that if you crit while doing a sneak attack, it doesn't mean you get to apply your sneak attack damage twice.
21st-Jun-2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
My point was that Telling Blow should have a "Normal:" section to specify that if you crit while doing a sneak attack, it doesn't mean you get to apply your sneak attack damage twice.
22nd-Jun-2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
This is of course assuming that was their intent. If their intent WAS for it to stack, well...
22nd-Jun-2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
Either I'm dumb, or I'm not making myself understood.

A rogue (without Telling Blow) wins the initiative against a human fighter. He attacks, and gets a confirmed critical. So he rolls for critical damage, and then rolls for sneak attack damage.

But if he has Telling Blow, what changes? He still rolls for crit damage and sneak attack. Telling Blow doesn't instruct anyone, "and then you roll for sneak attack damage twice." You already get sneak attack damage. Regardless of intent, everything is as per the feat.

The only thing that changes, as far as I can tell, is that the rogue gets to roll sneak damage if he gets a confirmed critical later in the battle, without having to successfully feint, or flank the fighter, or use any number of feats such as Flick of the Wrist.
24th-Jun-2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
The problem is that the wording is horribly ambiguous. You're of the camp that reads a Telling Blow attack as simply being another enabler for a sneak attack. There's a precedent for the wording of an enabler feat that offers another type of sneak attack condition, as I put in the original post.

Sneak Attack of Opportunity, from the SRD, which has mechanics text that reads...


Any attack of opportunity you make is considered a sneak attack.


The difference is Telling Blow does not read in this manner. It reads:


When you score a critical hit against a target, you deal your skirmish or sneak attack damage in addition to the damage from a critical hit. Your critical multiplier applies only to your normal damage, not your skirmish or sneak attack damage. This benefit affects both melee and ranged attacks.


If they had intended for it to be an 'enabler' for sneak attack, couldn't they have followed the wording for sneak attack of opportunity? The text could have simply been "any attack you make that is a successful critical heat is considered a sneak attack or skirmish attack" and the bit about it not being multiplied on a critical could be left out (as that is covered in the rules).

If interpreted to not stack, I feel it's pretty worthless for a skirmisher. If a skirmisher gets their skirmish dice for moving, and at high levels this can actually provide a better damage boost that making normal iterative attacks, isn't it kinda wasted for a skirmisher?

You can buy one feat and lose on out skirmish dice with the one attack you would normally get while skirmishing, for a chance to get your skirmish dice on all of them. Just doesn't seem to jump out at me.

I don't disagree that it's a powerful feat (which is why I made the post), but the wording leads me to believe it works that way. I believe it's not only too good, but true.

Personally, I can't wait for some errata or clarification officially.

I'm going to run some numbers comparing it to a feat like Power Attack and see what I get.
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