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The Deadly Dealer feat has as a prerequisite Arcane Strike, which lets you treat weapons as magical, with a +1 to +5 enhancement bonus.

Now, the description of Deadly Dealer (use a deck of cards like darts) states "harrow cards are treated as masterwork when thrown using this feat," but that does not make sense to me, as normally a magical (+1 or more) weapon is necessarily masterwork. The +1 to hit bonus that a masterwork weapon enjoys is subsumed in the (+X to hit and +X damage) of a magic weapon. I was assuming that you may add the Arcane Strike bonuses to any card thrown this way.

So: if I use non-harrow playing cards, should I treat them as darts without any bonus? And harrow cards as non-magical masterwork darts? That seems like a very weak feat.

Secondly, I wonder if a character who is not proficient with darts (simple weapon) suffers the nonproficiency penalties when throwing these cards (because I play a wizard, I am not automatically proficient).

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your weapons deal +1 damage […]

(Arcane Strike description)

Note that this is +1 damage—not a +1 enhancement on the weapon as a whole, as offered by, say, the magic weapon spell.

[…] and are treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

(Arcane Strike description, continuation from above)

And again note “are treated as,” not “actually become.”

So Arcane Strike makes a weapon—including a card thrown using Deadly Dealer—deal extra damage, and overcome DR/magic. It does not give any bonus to attack rolls, and does not make the weapon count as magical for any other purpose.

Therefore, the +1 enhancement bonus to attack rolls that you get from a masterwork weapon—including a harrow card thrown using Deadly Dealer—is the only attack bonus on offer here. It isn’t “subsumed” by anything from Arcane Strike, because Arcane Strike only offers a damage bonus and not an attack bonus. Moreover, the damage bonus from Arcane Strike is untyped, rather than an enhancement bonus, and therefore stacks with actual enhancement bonuses—you could use Arcane Strike to increase the damage of a +5 longsword without difficulty.

Anyway, all that said, yes, Deadly Dealer is a very weak feat. You could very easily do better by just buying actual darts, to say nothing of the possibility of buying weapons that are superior to darts. The only way it could possibly make sense is if you already had a very good reason to have a deck of cards in hand during combat anyway—and since using this feat ruins a harrow deck, that reason can’t be anything to do with one of those. Even if you have such a reason, you’d further have to have a very good reason to feel the need to make mediocre ranged attacks despite whatever other things you’re doing with the deck in your hand, and then this need would have to be so pressing as to justify burning an entire feat, or possibly two, on it. I cannot think of any possible combination of requirements that could justify that.

For a wizard (or a monk), it’s that much worse—because, as you say, you need dart proficiency, and these two classes (and only these two classes) don’t have it automatically. That said, the Heirloom Weapon trait can get it without using a feat (though considering how powerful some traits are this is still a significant cost), or an opalescent white pyramid ioun stone could get it for 10,000 gp (again, that is quite a price, particularly compared to the 1,500-gp cracked version).

For that matter, Arcane Strike isn’t very good either—the damage bonus is small, and there is no attack bonus, so you don’t really get very much for your feat slot this way. Maybe a low-level character who has to worry about DR/magic but cannot, for some reason, get a magical weapon might want it, but that is a painful choice forced upon them by circumstances (substandard magical item access, or a particularly awkward fighting style like improvised or thrown weapons). Even then, there are much better, cheaper solutions, such as the aforementioned magic weapon which costs less and does more.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Aha! Insightful. It was going to be a flavour thing, but no amount of flavour is worth this it seems. Especially if it needs a third feat (Simple Weapon Proficiency), and. Do you have any insight on that? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 23 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nibood_the_slightly_advanced You throw it as a dart, so as long as you’re proficient with those you would not need an additional Simple Weapon Proficiency feat. Monk and wizard are the only classes that lack dart proficiency, for the record. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 23 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ For completeness sake: the advantage of the feat is of course that you can bring a weapon to any locale. It would work best in an urban intrigue setting. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 at 6:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a magus archetype dedicated to it called card caster which is considered to be a pretty good archetype. As such I wouldn't consider the feat itself very weak however it does require a certain archetype to be useful. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nibood_the_slightly_advanced I thought of that. Problem there is, feats are permanent things, and that’s a trick that will be hard to use more than a few times as you build up notoriety. If it were, say, a spell to make a deck into a weapon, it a cantrip to throw a card, that would be vastly more appropriate for something like that where you aren’t going to use it for your while life. Also, again, easier, better alternatives—like spellcasting itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 25 at 11:08

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