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I had recently been playing in a campaign, still at fairly low levels (4), and one of our players had rolled a new character for a plethora of reasons. The new character is an unchained rogue with 4 natural attacks. Claw-claw-bite-tailblade. Personally I think having 4 attacks at full bab at such a low level is already a little powerful, but what really made me think, is when all four attacks were rolled as sneak attacks in the middle of combat, adding 8d6 damage, ontop of the flurry of natural attacks, which were all made at full BaB.

Can a low level rogue, built around having multiple natural attacks perform as many sneak attacks as they have natural attacks?

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All of a creature's natural attacks can potentially deal sneak attack damage

A creature normally deals sneak attack damage to a foe that's vulnerable to sneak attack damage whenever the requirements for sneak attack are met and the creature makes a successful attack. It doesn't matter how many attacks the creature has; if the creature meets the requirements for dealing sneak attack damage, the sneak attack damage usually just happens.

However, broadly, to make more than one attack typically requires a creature to take a full-round action to make a full attack. This means the typical creature can't also move more than a 5 ft. (by taking a 5-ft. step) during that round. Thus foes that start the creature's turn adjacent to the creature will be in danger of experiencing multiple attacks from that creature's full attack, but foes 10 ft. or more away from the creature will continue their existence in relative safety. Whether these attacks are multiple natural attacks, multiple manufactured weapon attacks, or some combination of both also typically doesn't matter—a full attack's usually necessary to make more than one attack.

Further, some natural attacks—like a natural attack made with a tailblade during a full attack—are called by the game secondary natural attacks. Secondary natural attacks are made at a −5 penalty on the attack roll and deal their normal damage plus only half the creature's Strength bonus (instead of all of the creature's Strength bonus as with a primary attack).

Finally, damage reduction applies separately against each attack the creature makes. This means, for example, that a creature relying on a large number of little attacks that deal sneak attack damage may have difficulty dealing with a foe that possesses as little as DR 5/magic.

While four attacks that deal sneak attack damage can seem like a lot at low levels, wading into melee is usually really dangerous for the creature that deals sneak attack damage, and a foe's positioning can make it far more difficult to realize effectively all those attacks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hope you don't mind, I clarified the direct answer to OP because I felt like it was only implied by your first paragraph. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Sep 12, 2017 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso So long as you don't mind me editing your clarification, we're cool. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2017 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen that DR issue come up and bite players hard: one of mine rolled up a Tempest (?) that had something like 10 attacks, each of which did 1d6 + 5 + 1d6 <element> (+1 flaming short sword or something). He'd routinely do less damage in total than the Fighter would do per attack, after DR X/- kicked in. 3.5 doesn't really reward "death by a thousand papercuts" builds, especially at higher levels (probably not past 6 or so). The rogue will have fun eviscerating enemies now, but just a couple more levels and DR will start kicking in, plus more and more will be immune to sneak attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Sep 12, 2017 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can someone point me to the official ruling that states that a sneak attack must do damage to apply sneak attack damage? I cant seem to find it explicitly stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Sep 13, 2017 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki The closest you'll get is here: "Whenever damage reduction completely negates the damage from an attack, it also negates most special effects that accompany the attack, such as injury poison, a monk’s stunning, and injury-based disease. Damage Reduction does not negate touch attacks, energy damage dealt along with an attack, or energy drains. Nor does it affect poisons or diseases delivered by inhalation, ingestion, or contact." Sneak attack damage, however, adds real damage and should be unaffected. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 13, 2017 at 13:33
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Just to focus one one aspect of your question - unless you are missing details, at least the tailblade should not have been made at full BAB. The use of a tailblade is always considered a secondary attack.

Generally, natural attacks are broken into primary and secondary attacks. Primarys hit at full BAB, secondaries are made at -5 to hit. The multiattack feat can reduce the penalty for all secondary to -2, but as far as I know, nothing else will alter that penalty, or modify a secondary attack to be primary.

Since the rogue was using a tailblade, I presume they must be a Ratfolk (although it could be some sort of house rule or custom race). A Ratfolk can also have claw attacks and a bite attack, but each of these requires another feat - Sharpclaw and Sharptooth. So far, that is at least 2 feats dedicated to making natural attacks, and maybe 3, if they are using multiattack. Multiattack is a combat feat, so could be selected as a Combat Trick Talent. This is quite reasonable to do by 4th level, but the rogue won't have too many other feats.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The "only one type of natural attack is primary" thing is a 3.5e rule that does not exist in pathfinder. Pathfinder primary vs secondary is either specified by the ability that gave you the attack, or defaults based on the type of attack: a claw is primary, a bite is primary, therefore a claw and a bite are both primary. \$\endgroup\$
    – Topquark
    Sep 12, 2017 at 21:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are quite correct - I misunderstood that part. I will adjust. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Sep 12, 2017 at 21:54

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