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This question stems from looking at the rules on Critical Hits:

When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra dice for the attack’s damage against the target. Roll all of the attack’s damage dice twice and add them together [...]

[...] If the attack involves other damage dice, such as from the rogue’s Sneak Attack feature, you roll those dice twice as well.

Are Sneak Attack's dice part of "the attack's damage"?. An example where this matters is the Piercer feat, which states (emphasis mine):

[...] Once per turn, when you hit a creature with an attack that deals piercing damage, you can reroll one of the attack's damage dice, and you must use the new roll. [...]

So a specific example of my question could be this: Does the Piercer feat allow you to reroll a Sneak Attack damage die?

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2 Answers 2

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All damage that flows directly from a successful attack is "the attack's damage"

This includes weapon damage, magical damage (like the cold damage of a frost brand), class abilities like sneak attack or divine smite, spells like Hex or Hunter's Mark and so on. Basically, if the damage can be done simply by succeeding on the attack roll, it's "the attack's damage". Even the poison damage from a Giant Spider's bite is part of "the attack's damage" because even though a successful saving throw reduces it, the damage comes directly from the attack.

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The feature is called Sneak Attack.

I think that asking for a clear answer with precise argumentation using the rules of the game is bringing to bear an unrealistic expectation on both the reader of the rules, and the rules themselves.

How do we know the Sneak Attack dice are part of the attack's damage dice or something else? Obviously, the rules aren't terribly concerned with spelling this out for us, since we don't have an applicable general rule, and features generally make no habit of saying "this is part of the attack's damage" or "this is not a part of the attack's damage". So we use other means to figure it out.

In this case, let's just read the name of the feature:

Sneak Attack

It's got the word "attack" right there in the feature name. My attack did more damage because I exploited my target's vulnerability:

you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe’s distraction.

It is not as though my dagger did its usual damage, but my sneakiness brought about some additional trauma that is separate from my dagger's stabbiness. No. My attack did more damage because I stabbed the dude in the neck when he wasn't paying attention, rather than having to fight fair against an alert opponent. One attack, one damage roll, it's all damage dice from the attack.

And if I get a feat that makes me even better at stabbing, you bet it is going to make me better at stabbing people while I'm being sneaky.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, 3e and 4e both had “sneak attack” features where the rules were explicit about the damage being part of the attack (both saying that the attack did extra damage, rather than 5e’s “you can deal...” which could go either way). So I don’t really buy that this is “an unrealistic expectation on […] the rules,” it’s just some sloppy wording on WotC’s part. Your conclusion is right but this could have easily been avoided. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 19, 2022 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I mean that it is an unrealistic expectation to expect the 5e rules to not be obtuse. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2022 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ For that matter, does it explicitly say that the weapon's damage is part of the attack instead of some other outside modifier? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2022 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I note that WotC has prior form clarifying that a feature allowing you to reroll some of an attack's damage dice actually is only supposed to mean the normal damage dice associated with the attack, not any extra damage dice you got stacked on there. (Though I suspect that because of the somewhat broader applicability of the Piercer feat, it wouldn't get interpreted in the same way by the designers, and anyway it would be daft to rule it doesn't apply to Sneak Attack here, regardless of what the designers think.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Jan 19, 2022 at 23:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth pointing out that the question's quote of the rule on critical hits in the question leaves out the first part of the second paragraph, which starts "For example, if you score a critical hit with a dagger, [...]" This makes it clear that that paragraph (including the bit about Sneak Attack) is just an example of the rule given in the first paragraph (which says "Roll all of the attack's damage dice twice [...]"), supporting the idea that damage from Sneak Attack is part of "the attack's damage [dice]". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 20, 2022 at 4:56

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