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Rogue archetype Skulking slayer specific for orcs and half-orcs has the following ability:

Underhanded Maneuvers (Ex)
At 1st level, when she could normally make a sneak attack, a slayer may instead make a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver with a bonus on her roll. This bonus is equal to her number of sneak attack dice for a dirty trick combat maneuver, or 1-1/2 × her number of sneak attack dice for a steal combat maneuver. This ability replaces trapfinding.*

Does this ability replace the whole attack, or just the bonus damage from sneak attack? Meaning can a character using this ability still roll for basic damage of the attack and just forego the bonus sneak attack damage dice? (Similar to the grab monster ability, in a sense)

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Underhanded Maneuvers replaces the attack with a dirty trick or steal maneuver, neither of which normally do any damage, so no damage will typically occur.

I think the ability assumes the utility of being to blind, dazzle, deafen, entangle, shake, or sicken a foe; or steal an item (including a sheathed weapon if you can overcome the +5 they get) as an attack with a potentially huge bonus at later levels, and additionally being able to do so multiple times in a round when both dirty trick and steal are normally standard actions, are worth the trade off.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m not sure it is allowing you to perform those maneuvers instead of an attack. The wording is ambiguous, but that benefit would be very large and thus I’d expect it to be spelled out more. (Though in all honesty this is not the wording I would use either way.) It looks more like “could normally make a sneak attack” just means “when the conditions for a sneak attack are met,” and “make a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver” includes the usual standard-action cost for doing so. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 26 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm on board. The game uses the phrase make a sneak attack as code for make an attack that would deal sneak attack damage pretty often. (Search "make a sneak attack" site:https://www.d20pfsrd.com for more.) (I think this answer could add value by also addressing if a skulking slayer can, for example, use underhanded maneuvers against a creature that's immune to sneak attack damage.) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan It's an interesting caveat. I would think you could do so - you still "make a sneak attack", the creature is just immune to the extra damage. It would add quite a bit to the usefulness of the ability, too, giving the rogue player something to do against enemies immune to normal sneak attacks. "Can't insta-gib these guys, so I'll flip my cape in their faces, throw sand in their eyes, and take these healing potions off their belts instead..." \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26 at 22:43
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Unhanded maneuvers is not clear

The wording on underhanded maneuvers is poor, because it’s not clear if it’s allowing you to do something you might not otherwise be able to do, or if it’s just applying a bonus to that thing if you do it (which you must therefore have been able to do).

However,

It’s definitely not just replacing damage

We can be confident that it does not replace only the damage, because there’s no damage to replace:

when she could normally make a sneak attack

(emphasis mine)

You are not performing a sneak attack at all—you merely have to be in a situation where you “could.” No sneak attack happens, so no damage happens, unless you have some special ability to damage someone with a dirty trick or steal maneuver.

But whether it allows actions you couldn’t otherwise take is unclear

when she could normally make a sneak attack, a slayer may instead make a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver with a bonus on her roll.

It’s not entirely clear what “could normally make a sneak attack” entails, or what, if anything, “may […] make a […] combat maneuver” allows.

For instance, in the middle of a full attack action, one can make multiple sneak attacks. One cannot—usually—perform a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver. Can you replace any one of those attacks with such a maneuver—because it says you “may make” one—even though you couldn’t ordinarily perform one of those maneuvers at that time? Or does “may make” simply indicate another condition: this bonus applies to something you might do, if the scenario otherwise allows for it?

This cannot be determined from the English language text alone: thus, the wording is poor. The author has failed to clearly indicate their intent and eliminate alternatives. Numerous forum posts and similar can be found of people who read this either way.

Better wording would have used something like “if you perform a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver against a target you could sneak attack, then you get a bonus […]” if the bonus is the only special thing you’re getting, or something like “you can perform a dirty trick or steal combat maneuver in place of one of your melee attacks, so long as that attack would be a sneak attack. If you do, you get a bonus […]” if it’s also enabling you to perform the maneuver with fewer action requirements. Compare the Quick Steal feat, for example.

But they didn’t write that. They wrote what they wrote, and we can’t determine what it means. You’ll have to ask your GM.

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