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Looking at the D&D 3.5 Player's Hand Book and seeing the progression of rogues, I saw:

Level 1 ~ Sneak attack +1d6

Why do they need to put the plus there, to show that you are adding +1d6 to the attack roll if you succeed in a sneak attack?

I have this much:

My Rapier 1d8 rolled an 8, and Sneak Attack +1d6 Rolled a 6. Therefore,
the total damage to attack from level 1 Rogue is 14 damage before modifiers.

I still don't understand however, how the "+2d6" from a level 3 rogue interacts with all of these bonuses. Is is that the rogue only gets a 2d6 to damage or are we using that + symbol for a reason?

Which of the following is true for a level 3 rogue:

  • Rapier 1d8 Rolled an 8, Sneak Attack +2d6 rolled 12. Therefore, a level 3 rogue total damage is 20 damage before mods

OR

  • Sneak attack ( From level 1 = +1d6 ) Rolled a 6, and Sneak Attack ( from lev 3 = +2d6) Rolled a 12 giving us 8+6+12 = 26 damage before mods?
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Welcome to the site! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! –  BESW Aug 30 '13 at 13:20
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Yes, the + would be telling you to add things. It's a common thing in the gaming system, just like +1 weapons add 1 to some rolls (beware of non-stacking bonuses) –  Zachiel Aug 30 '13 at 13:21
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I want your dice. –  Sconibulus Aug 30 '13 at 13:49
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Potentially relevant: sneak attack can also apply multiple times per round if you continue to meet its conditions and have multiple attacks. –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 14:09

3 Answers 3

This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and it increases by 1d6 every two rogue levels thereafter.

The damage bonus is not cumulative. It increases every odd level, 1d6 at 1st 2d6 at 3rd and so on. Your first guess is correct.

P.S : Rapier is 1d6 not 1d8 if you are medium sized.

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The plus sign is there because Sneak Attack is a form of bonus damage, added on to a damage roll.

So, for example, a rapier does 1d6 damage. Say the wielder has 12 Strength (a +1 bonus) and for some reason took Weapon Specialization (rapier) (a +2 bonus). On a normal attack, that person does 1d6 damage (base rapier damage), +1 damage (for above-average Strength), +2 damage (for Weapon Specialization), or 1d6+3.

Sneak Attack works in much the same way, except the bonus is rolled. So if the person above was a Rogue 1, he or she can add +1d6 to that damage when the conditions for Sneak Attack are met, so the total damage is 1d6+3+1d6. At Rogue 3, the Sneak Attack damage increases to +2d6, so the total is now 1d6+3+2d6. Every odd level, the amount of bonus Sneak Attack damage increases by another 1d6.

It’s important, in 3.5, to consult the text; the tables are usually only for the purposes of a quick summary. If you see “Sneak Attack +1d6,” “Sneak Attack +2d6,” without knowing that Sneak Attack is defined as bonus damage (which is the reason for the +), and furthermore that the amount of Sneak Attack damage you do is based on the following rule:

This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and it increases by 1d6 every two rogue levels thereafter.

That’s what can lead to confusion. This is actually quite important: by the official rules, if there is a contradiction between rules text and what’s listed in a table, the rules say that the text takes precedence; this is often termed “text-trumps-table.”

When you find a disagreement between two D&D® rules sources, unless an official errata file says otherwise, the primary source is correct. One example of a primary/secondary source is text taking precedence over a table entry.

For example, in Complete Divine, the Rainbow Servant prestige class has a table that shows “+1 level of arcane spellcasting class” only at levels 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 (missing 1, 4, 7, and 10), but the actual text of the class’s Spellcasting class feature states

When a new rainbow servant level is gained, the character gains new spells […] This essentially means that she adds the level of rainbow servant to the level of whatever other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day accordingly.

If you did not read the text, the error in the table would lead to this prestige class being basically useless, instead of quite good.

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I know this phrase, and I should have looked more carefully at the text. Awesome response and response time. I was expecting answers in days not minutes. This will add and expand my outlook on rogues a bit. For Example Prestige Class Aerialist gets a sneak attack +1d6 at first level and 1d6 every 2 levels following. But if you look at the table you might be led to believe that your Sneak attack resets, or adds to your previous. And this was the thought process that pushed the discussion of stacking Sneak Attacks damage. this is often termed “text-trumps-table.” Will be thrown at someone –  Catbeller Aug 30 '13 at 13:57
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@Catbeller For reference, the “text-trumps-table” rule is established in the introduction of the Player’s Handbook errata. –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 14:02
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One extra note for Sneak Attack is that it stacks from other sources. If you take a second class that has Sneak Attack +1d6, you get to add that to what you already have. –  Tridus Aug 30 '13 at 15:50
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@Tridus Super-strictly-speaking, that’s only true if the text says so, because usually the same-source rule would prevent stacking by multiple class features named Sneak Attack. Notably, the Rogue’s does not say it stacks, which is fine as long as all your other sources say they do (and, to my knowledge, the only other cases that don’t automatically stack are the Swordsage’s Assassin’s Stance, which has somewhat weird rules, and the Factotum’s Cunning Strike, which simply doesn’t mention stacking). –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 15:58

To quote the rules:

The rogue’s attack deals extra damage any time her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target. This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and it increases by 1d6 every two rogue levels thereafter.

For example, a third level rogue sneaks up on a guard and attacks with a rapier. He deals 3d6 damage in total: 1d6 from the weapon's damage, and 2d6 bonus damage from sneak attack.

Some things worth noting:

  • Sneak attack applies once per attack, not just once per round. If you have multiple attacks (e.g. from Two-Weapon Fighting or a high base attack bonus), you can make multiple sneak attacks (see this question).
  • You can use sneak attack any time you flank your opponent, or your opponent is denied his Dex bonus to AC. This includes a great number of circumstances: if the opponent is blinded, cowering, flat-footed, climbing, balancing, surprised, grappling someone other than you, stunned, paralyzed, pinned, bound, sleeping, unconscious or unable to see you. You can sneak attack on the surprise round of combat, and on the first round if your opponent hasn't taken his turn yet. (See this question).
  • One level on fighter gives you greatsword proficiency, increasing your damage to 2d6. Rules-as-written, there's no penalty for sneaking with a greatsword, and you gain +2 Fortitude, +1 base attack and a handy feat too. However, most powergaming rogues go the Two-Weapon Fighting route.
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