Obviously, rogues are near and dear to my heart. I make rogue tricks on a regular basis, as they’re small bits of development for a class that could really use more options. Here is one of my most recent rogue tricks:
Go for the Throat (Ex)
Prerequisite: 2d6 sneak attack
Benefit: When a rogue with this ability scores a critical hit, she adds additional precision damage equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1 die) to the damage dealt. A rogue may add these additional dice even when she is already performing a sneak attack.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Come up with the idea
My husband and I were talking about fighters, rogues, barbarians, and rangers, discussing what makes them work or not. I made the observation that rogues are especially hurt by the fact that they’re Dex-based, so their crits just don’t do a lot of damage. Sneak attack doesn’t multiply and against non-sneak-attackable foes, even rogue crits are pathetic. So then I thought: well why not? It seems like a good trick a combat-focused rogue would want to learn.
Check power level
My first thought was a straight 1:1 ratio on sneak attack dice when a rogue crits. That would mean a rogue who critted and sneak attacked would get 2x sneak attack dice. I’ll spare people the math right now, but suffice it to say that double sneak attack on any hit is just too much damage. ½ dice round down is the next easiest math, and it’s significantly less powerful.
But is it good enough? I compared it to Precise Strike, a teamwork feat that adds +1d6 of precision damage while flanking with an ally who also has the feat. Precise Strike is a teamwork feat, which means it requires two people to make the feat investment for it, and only applies when those two are flanking the same target. It does impact every hit when its conditions are met, while GftT only impacts crits, but GftT adds more damage on a crit than PS ever does AND doesn’t require a buddy. This is something of a gut comparison, but it seems to be about right. Add 1d6 to crits at levels 3-6, 2d6 at 7-10, 3d6 at 11-14, 4d6 at 15-18, and 5d6 at 19+. It’s a nice, steady progression of damage that’s enough to be meaningful but not so high as to be overpowered.
Figure out exact wording
This is the hardest part. I don’t know how other developers do it, but I start with a general statement of what the ability does and then turn it into more technical and specific language. This leads to multiple iterations of wording until I feel the wording is both concise and clear. Then I come up with a name.
The first iteration of GftT was:
When a rogue with this ability scores a critical hit, she adds ½ her sneak attack dice (round down) to the damage dealt.
The second clause was a problem. I’ll bold the changes to make them stand out and run down my thought process for each change.
1) she adds ½ her sneak attack dice (round down) to the damage dealt. This is not specific enough as to what dice are needed or what “1/2 her sneak attack dice” means. I also need to add a minimum number of dice to let people know
2) she adds additional dice equal to ½ her sneak attack (round down, minimum 1d6) dice to the damage dealt. This seems more specific, and the language fits better with Paizo-style mechanical language. “dice” seems too vague though, I should make it clear what kind of dice need to be rolled.
3) she adds additional d6’s equal to ½ her sneak attack (round down, minimum 1d6) dice to the damage dealt. Oops, i need to move dice before the parentheses. It’s much more clear that way. It’s a minor cosmetic change, but it improves readability a lot.
4) she adds additional d6’s equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1d6) to the damage dealt. Dagger rogues! Aargh! They get d8s or d4s, and if they crit should get more d8s d4s! Back to “dice” and I need a clarification on d4s/d6s/d8s.
5) she adds additional dice equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1d6/1d8) to the damage dealt. Now that’s just confusing. Changing the minimum to refer to dice ought to fix it though.
6) she adds additional dice equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1 die) to the damage dealt. Oh hell, that looks weird and feels confusing still. Minimum 1 is obviously referring to sneak attack dice- so it should still be clear
7) she adds additional dice equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1) to the damage dealt. Now I need to make clear it’s precision damage, which defines what is and is not vulnerable to the additional damage.
8) she adds additional precision damage equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1) to the damage dealt. The “minimum 1” looks like minimum damage instead of minimum number of dice. It’s time to add back in “minimum 1 die”.
9) she adds additional precision damage equal to ½ her sneak attack dice (round down, minimum 1 die) to the damage dealt. And now we have our final form. It makes clear how much damage gets added and what type of damage it is.
10) For clarification, I need to add that a rogue can sneak attack and still gain the benefits of GftT. That’s a fairly easy sentence though- adding “A rogue may add these additional dice even when she is already performing a sneak attack” should cover it.
And then I had a thought! This ability should have a prerequisite. It’s quite powerful to give a 2nd level rogue a whole additional 1d6 of damage on crits when they only have 1d6 of sneak attack. If a rogue had to be 3rd level before taking GftT, that would solve that problem. So I added Prerequisite: Rogue level 3rd. That’s not what I really mean though- I want a character to have 2d6 sneak attack before taking this trick, so that’s what the pre-req should be. Thus, the final pre-req: Prerequisite: 2d6 sneak attack.
Finally we arrive at naming. I’ll be honest, I suck at this part. Here’s some of the names I came up with. I picked Go for the Throat as the best one, but if any of you guys have a better idea I’d love to hear it.
1) Critical Sneak
3) Go for the Throat