[RPG] required to be able to sneak attack with a spell or ranged attack


I'm playing a 3rd level rogue, and I'm looking at at taking a few levels of sorcerer for the Draconic bloodline's claws, and as a prerequisite for the arcane trickster prestige class. Since I'm going to be casting spells as a source of a lot of my damage, I'm curious about what is required to be able to add sneak attack damage to a spell. Since a lot of the sorcerer spells have a long range, I'd also like to know when I can add sneak attack damage to a ranged spell, and how this compares to the rules for sneak attack damage from a ranged weapon.

Best Answer

Sneak Attacks with spells follow the normal rules for sneak attacks

Specifically, the phrasing of sneak attack only specifies weapons in the section on nonlethal damage (which cannot normally be dealt with spells anyways). Touch attacks, ranged touch attacks and other such attacks caused as part of spells may therefore be used to deliver sneak attacks so long as they fulfill the normal conditions of a sneak attack.

In other words, sneak attacks with spells must meet the following conditions:

  • The spell requires an attack roll (otherwise, it is not an "attack" for the purposes of sneak attack)
  • You are flanking the target or it is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC.
  • Ranged attacks are made within 30 feet
  • The spell must deal damage

The 3.5 rule limiting volley attacks (such as scorching ray) to 1 sneak attack unless they are made using a full-round action is technically not a part of Pathfinder, though it is a perfectly reasonable ruling on the DM's part.

An Arcane Trickster's Surprise Spells ability is an exception to the above rules—one could, for example, cast a fireball in the surprise round and sneak attack a large number of opponents.

Damage Type: Sneak attack damage is of the same type as the original damage, with the added subtype of precision.