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View Full Version : [3.5e, DMing] Replacement for Sneak Attack for Stealth Campaign?



Fax Celestis
2008-10-08, 09:43 PM
Like the title says, I'm going to be running a stealth-based campaign for two players in the coming weeks. If you've ever played the game Thief, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

If you haven't, well, then go play it here's the basic idea: The Players™, rather than doing your typical Kick-In-The-Door™, are instead forced to sneak around obstacles (traps, guards, and otherwise), steal stuff, and then get out.

I've done a few things to make this move more fluidly: Combination of many similar skills into metaskills (ie: Hide and Move Silently into Stealth, Listen and Spot into Awareness); "passive" Stealth and Awareness scores; etc.

My main issue at this point is that I'd like to find a replacement for Sneak Attack that is both stronger and weaker. In short, I'd like to make it more akin to 2e's Backstab, except letting it apply to any target.

Why, you ask? Because I want the PCs to be capable of one-shotting any foe that they need to: occasionally a guard cannot be avoided. But I also only want it applicable when the opponent does not know that their foe is present. I was thinking that d6s aren't the best way to represent this, and that a fixed damage multiplier would be a better method.

Another option I considered was merely replacing all forms of Sneak Attack (including Sudden Strike) with Death Attack, which would require three rounds of concentration but would also allow a save or die effect. This might be easiest to do since there are rules already existent for it.

The last thing I thought of was just to leave Sneak Attack as it is and let the players have a harder time of it...but, like I said, I'd like the PCs to be able to take out a target quickly and quietly if they absolutely have to.

Now, for a general guideline, the game starts at ECL 6 and progresses upwards from there. Ideas?

AstralFire
2008-10-08, 09:46 PM
Why not use VP/WP? I find that variant only gets... odd... with spells, and a sudden strike (yeah, the ninja version) would allow applying damage directly to WP.

sonofzeal
2008-10-08, 09:46 PM
I'd say combine the two - used Death Attack, but if the save SUCCEEDS then bring out the d6's for damage. Otherwise, just narrate as thematically appropriate. You're the DM, you decide what works and what doesn't.

ocato
2008-10-08, 09:49 PM
Make flat-footed attacks automatically crit? This is sort of the Elder Scrolls style. If your opponent doesn't know you're there, you do a multiplied damage based on your sneaking. Instead, just make them all crits (and apply sneak attack to the crit multiplier, obviously). You pop out and two-weapon pounce a guard with your two Punching Daggers? He's going to feel it. At L6 you're looking at 3d4+strengthx3+9d6+weapon enchantx3 per dagger. If that doesn't take the guard out quickly and quietly, you might just drop some HP on your guards to make it more conducive to the type of game you're running.

Siosilvar
2008-10-08, 09:49 PM
when the opponent does not know that their foe is present.

This is likely grounds for a coup de grace - auto-crit plus save vs. instant death. They're flat-footed, too, so your sneak attack dice (assuming you don't replace them with something else) apply, too. That should be enough, depending on the level of the game, to kill a guard.

Fax Celestis
2008-10-08, 09:51 PM
Why not use VP/WP? I find that variant only gets... odd... with spells, and a sudden strike (yeah, the ninja version) would allow applying damage directly to WP.

Brilliant! I hadn't even considered that. Just make a sneak attack applied to an unaware target damage VP directly... That could work.

Still, I like hearing ideas. Anyone else?

Mr.Bookworm
2008-10-08, 09:57 PM
I'd say combine the two - used Death Attack, but if the save SUCCEEDS then bring out the d6's for damage. Otherwise, just narrate as thematically appropriate. You're the DM, you decide what works and what doesn't.


This.

Though IMHO, I would change Death Attack to just needing a single attack, as opposed to the whole study thing (I mean, you never had to wait 18 seconds to take your target down in Thief, did you?). Failed save, you insta-die. Successful one, you take normal sneak attack damage, or maybe 1d6 for every Rogue level, if you want to make it more lethal. Also, I would probably add opposed Stealth and Awareness checks. If you succeed, you can pull off the attack. If you fail, the guard notices you and combat starts, with you automatically going first in Initiative. Just my opinion, of course.

DrizztFan24
2008-10-09, 09:01 AM
If you do use Death Attack please make it harder for the attacked to lose. I've played an Assassin before and anything at your level+ and slightly under can make the save without flinching. But what about boosting the dmg form sneak attack? I've heard there is a feat that boost the dmg from 1.75 per level to 2.75 per level, that might work. But be sure to describe cool takedowns, it makes the players feel good.
And I must agree with

Though IMHO, I would change Death Attack to just needing a single attack, as opposed to the whole study thing (I mean, you never had to wait 18 seconds to take your target down in Thief, did you?).
If you know enough anatomy to do a sneak attack I don't think you need 18 seconds to do the attack. Almost anything on two legs has a vital organ in the same spot. Maybe require the three rounds for something exotic, like a bug or such, something without a similar anatomy.

Otherwise the previous suggestions are all good, just make sure the rules don't punish the player for not min-maxing his sneak attack, that would become very un-fun very quickly.

Saph
2008-10-09, 09:07 AM
Assuming the PCs have a few levels under their belt, make the following change:

• Sneak Attack can only be used like the Assassin's Death Attack, ie it requires 3 rounds of target-unaware study. However, the damage from Sneak Attack is boosted to 1d6 per level.

So a 7th-level rogue doing a Sneak Attack with a dagger would do 1d4 + 7d6 + Strength bonus damage. That's enough to one-shot most guards, but makes Sneak Attack pretty much useless once the alarm is raised and the guards know you're there. How's that?

- Saph

Vva70
2008-10-09, 09:20 AM
One thing from the original post that I recommend against implementing lightly is a damage multiplier as part of sneak attack. One of the main reasons that (as I understand it) this was changed is that damage multipliers scale with base weapon damage, and thus punish sneaky weapons like daggers while disproportionately rewarding big honking weapons with big honking damage dice. That's not to say such a method is completely irredeemable and should never ever be used, but if you do decide to use it, consider the implications. :smallsmile:

mangosta71
2008-10-09, 09:47 AM
Seems like it would be easier to just rule that an attack made from stealth always kills the target if it hits. If you've played through Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, that's essentially what the backstab ability is. Which is why I always put at least 2 points into stealth, no matter what type of character I'm building. Also, there's already a mechanic for such an ability in game - you could give your PCs the assassin's Death Attack, which goes along with the Thief motif as it can be used to paralyze instead of kill.

Mark Hall
2008-10-09, 09:50 AM
I'd go with death attack, but where each additional die of sneak attack damage adds 1 to the DC (in addition to other modifiers).

Tsotha-lanti
2008-10-09, 10:05 AM
This is likely grounds for a coup de grace - auto-crit plus save vs. instant death. They're flat-footed, too, so your sneak attack dice (assuming you don't replace them with something else) apply, too. That should be enough, depending on the level of the game, to kill a guard.

It's not. You can only CDG helpless opponents. You are not helpless if you aren't aware of an opponent, you're just surprised and flat-footed. (Helpless opponents aren't flat-footed; they lose Dex to AC by virtue of being helpless, making them subject to sneak attack.)

Hal
2008-10-09, 11:31 AM
No idea what the VP/WP is, but I'd just treat it like a CDG rather than the assassin death attack.

So, if the target is unaware, then cut sneak attack damage down but make it a CDG (fort vs. death). Perhaps instead of sneak attack bonus, you get a damage bonus of your Dex/Int modifier, or perhaps however much their sneak check exceeded the target's perception check.

However, if the target is simply flat-footed, just use normal sneak attack. The whole "study for three rounds" thing seems unnecessary.

Cuddly
2008-10-09, 11:41 AM
I like the WP/VP idea best, as it's the most organic, with fewest modifiers, dice rolls, and multiplication.

Death attack with +1 DC for each SA dice is also a great idea. You could get a serious save-or-die with that.

AmberVael
2008-10-09, 11:42 AM
No idea what the VP/WP is, but I'd just treat it like a CDG rather than the assassin death attack.

VP = vitality points
WP = wound points

Essentially it is a system that marks a difference between how much you can avoid and get away from, and how much damage you can actually take. Vitality points are abstract- dodging or letting hits graze you or generally not do damage. Wound points are your life. You lose Wound points, you die no matter how many vitality points you have.
Typically you lose vitality points before taking wound points, but in the case of a critical hit (or, in this suggestion, a sneak attack) someone can directly damage wound points and possibly kill someone with only a little bit of damage.

I have to say I love the idea for making sneak attack deal wound point damage. Makes it so much more lethal and flavorful.

AstralFire
2008-10-09, 11:43 AM
No idea what the VP/WP is, but I'd just treat it like a CDG rather than the assassin death attack.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm

Created for Star Wars d20. Doesn't mesh in perfectly with the default D&D ruleset (D&D characters when given enough rein can do way more damage than SW could hope to, and SW's damage scales more closely to linear) but when you're doing things like running single-class near-core melee, it does a fine job of representing the volatility of combat.

Person_Man
2008-10-09, 12:03 PM
I already let my players trade Sneak Attack for Backstab, where you get your full Sneak Attack damage against anyone you flank (no exceptions), but its not triggered by being denied your Dex bonus. But that really doesn't work for your purposes. How about this as an alternate class feature:

Dispatch (Ex): As a standard action, make a single attack against a Flat Footed Enemy who is unaware that you are a threat (either because you are hidden, or because they don't believe you to be an enemy). If you miss, your attack has no effect. If you hit, the effect of Dispatch depends on the hit die of your enemy. If the enemy has a number of hit die equal to 1/2 your Rogue level or less, they are automatically slain. If not, then your hit automatically deals 1d6 extra damage per Rogue level, and ignores damage reduction of all types. (This may also force the enemy to Save vs. Massive Damage).

This mechanic automatically kills mooks, and should knock off a large number of hit points from non-mooks, without the capriciousness of Saving Throws. And unless the player also has Hide in Plain Site, Invisibility, or some similar mechanic, it can only be used just before combat. And because its a standard action, it'll be hard to abuse even if they can use it during combat.
This puts a much greater emphasis on using your Skills and smarts to solve problems, rather then just killing everyone you come across as quickly as possible.

Darrin
2008-10-09, 12:30 PM
Still, I like hearing ideas. Anyone else?

Just thinking out loud... but instead of using Hit Points, why not use something like Awareness Points? Each guard/creature has a certain number per HD. Each square a PC traverse via move silently/hide gives them something like an attack roll versus an "AC", in this case a spot DC. A failed move "attack" means the PC has to quickly withdraw, spend an action to hide, or something. A successful attack does a certain number of d6 as "damage", the closer you get, the more d6 you get. Once the sneaker has acquired enough Awareness Points (or reduced them to zero), automatic death attack.

Hmm. Very klunky.

Fax Celestis
2008-10-09, 02:04 PM
So the thought as of this point is to use Vitality/Wound Points in conjunction with an addition to Sneak Attack:


When attacking a foe unaware of your presence, you may make a special attack as a standard action. Rather than dealing your damage to their Vitality Points, you deal damage to their Wound Points. You forgo all your Sneak Attack dice when attacking this way, but deal 2 extra points of Wound Damage for each die you forgo in this manner.

This is, of course, coupled with Hex Facing.

AstralFire
2008-10-09, 02:29 PM
Sounds good to me.