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Backstabbing and darkness go together in most RPGs that I ever played. However, in Pathfinder you actually have to see what you're doing if you want to sneak attack. How else are you going to hit the gap in the armor to get to the heart?

The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. A rogue cannot sneak attack while striking a creature with concealment.

I learned that blind fight doesn't help at all, and that blind sense is only available to monsters. Low light vision helps somewhat, dark-vision works great, but how would you even get those?

Is there a simple way just to be able to sneak attack in the dark?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer to the actual question, but I'd like to comment that the easiest solution is just to use a race with Darkvision. Darkvision is normally a mediocre racial trait, but its value is inflated when you're playing a Rogue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ernir
    Jun 1 '13 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unlike magical Darkvision racial one usually comes with the "but if it's light out you'll get dazzed"... \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jun 5 '13 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Play a Dwarf, get Darkvision. But in addition to that, I was struck by the hilarious mental image of the guards spotting an assassin in the kings chamber and swiftly dousing the light so he cannot kill the king in a single stroke. \$\endgroup\$
    – shieldfoss
    Jul 4 '13 at 18:05
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Play an Unchained Rogue

The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. A rogue cannot sneak attack while striking a creature with total concealment.

It seems they don't have the same problem.


Ignore partial concealment

Feat -> permanent

The Shadow Strike is a simple solution available to anyone at the cost of a feat.

"You accurately strike even those you cannot clearly see [...] You can deal precision damage, such as sneak attack damage, against targets with concealment (but not total concealment)."

Doesn't grant vision, but can allows stabbing anyway and overcomes not only low-light but also fog, rain, blur effects, displacing effects, etc. Note, this won't work for complete or magical darkness, or any form of total-concealment.


See in the dark

Race -> permanent

Elves, Half-elves and Gnomes have the Senses Racial Trait Low-Light Vision allowing them to see twice as far as humans in the dark.

Characters with low-light vision can see outdoors on a moonlit night as well as they can during the day.

Dwarves' Senses Racial Trait darkvision grants "perfect" sight up to 60 ft (still black and white?).

Darkvision is the extraordinary ability to see with no light source at all, out to a range specified for the creature.

Class: Dip -> permanent

  • 2 lvl in Umbral Weaver (bard) gets low-light vision.
  • 1 lvl in Wild Stalker (ranger) gets you low light vision.
  • 2 lvl in Shadowdancer (prestige class with many prerequisites) gets you darkvision, and improves its range if you already have it.

Item: Money/Use -> 3h / 90 gp

You can avoid paying for it with a feat, if you're willing to pay with cash instead. As KRyan points out you can get darkvision with a wand (4,500 gp/50 uses * 3 h/use). If you plan on using darkness a lot (more than 150 h), you can alternatively go through a really complicated process to make it permanent for just a little bit more.

Spell: Money(~7k)+Plot -> until dispelled (by an even more powerful wizard)

To do this go search for a powerful wizard (10 or higher CL), to make a scroll of Permanency (level of the spell (5) × the creator's caster level (10) × 25 gp + 5000 gp to the cost for the diamond dust = 6250 GP), then get his apprentice to cast Darkvision on you (Caster level (2) × spell level (2) × 10 gp = 40 gp), and then UMD to cast the scroll yourself. The DC is 20+SL=30. Also if your intelligence is less than 10+SL=20 you'll have to make a separate check DC 35. With an int of at least 16 you could have the apprentice cast Fox's Cunning (+4 int) at you for another 40 gp. Either way Eagle's Splendor (+4 cha) will should be worth it for the +2 bonus to UMD and get a custom UMD masterwork tool for +2 (a bargain for 50 gp). Maybe the wizard is willing to "aid " you by explaining how finishing the spell (which is really all you're doing) would normally work. Maybe you can get ahold of some other temporary boosts. Maybe you can roleplay some of the preparation (that perhaps took days), and a cool ritual in which you read the scroll... However it is possible, with significant effort and at the cost of the equivalent of about 1.5 wands of Darkvision - if you don't mess up and destroy the scroll...

Item: Money -> permanent until lost or destroyed

-Mask of the Mantis costs 6,000 for 3h of darkvision / day. To be exact it has 5 charges per day, 30 min each that can grant 60 ft darkvision or a choice of some other things like +5 to Perception. You can activate multiple effects at the same time.

-Goggles of Night cost 12,000gp and grant 60 ft darkvision.

-Darksight Goggles cost 20,000gp and grant 120-ft darkvision, also when underground: +4 competence bonus to perception and tracking (survival).

If dispelled they're just deactivated for 1d4 rounds, so very permanent. Not super complicated. Ideal if you can afford it and your game has magic items easily accessible.


Let there be light

Alternatively, don't stab in the dark.

Light -> until dispelled

Have someone cast Continual Light on your weapon (60 gp);

Flank or feint or deny dex bonus another way.

Stab away.

Note: Sneaking might still work as long as you keep the dagger hidden until you attack; certainly don't go sneaking around like a glowing x-mas tree...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actual darkness is total concealment, so you need to note that the feat doesn't work in that case. \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Jun 1 '13 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ The 10th-level spellcaster need not make a scroll; you can hire him to just cast the spells on you. It's a lot cheaper that way. Dispel magic is a huge problem, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 2 '13 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Goggles of night cost 12,000gp; for the premium, you don't have to make high-DC UMD checks and find a friendly 10th level wizard, and it can't be dispelled. While we're throwing money at the problem, darksight goggles give you 120-ft darkvision for 20k. \$\endgroup\$
    – user3829
    Jun 30 '13 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that shadow strike (and similar abilities) are helpful on all situations where your target has concealment (but not total), such as fog, rain, blur effects, displacing effects, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Dec 7 '16 at 10:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually you don't need 10+CL int to cast from a scroll but 10 + spell level (so for Permanency you need 15, not 20). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25 '17 at 13:30
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A wand of darkvision is 4,500 gp, for 50 charges of 3-hours-a-pop Darkvision. Which is affordable, though personally I think it’s overpriced. Still costs less than a feat to most characters.

As a Rogue, max ranks in Use Magic Device are always recommended. If you don’t have them, though, you could easily buy the wand and have your allied antipaladin, sorcerer, ranger, or wizard cast it for you. With a 3-hour duration, it’s pretty easy to use this before you need it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 90 Gold/use, 30 gold/hour... a common slave costs 75 gold. A day with two super popular lawyers and an evening with a high end escort total 30 gold. Also the action economy (of having to use a wand, which by the way has a verbal component - good luck doing that silently) before you can sneak attack makes it slightly annoying for sudden use (like waking up in the dark). However, you can use a permanency spell on darkvision for 5000 GP! Didn't think of that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jun 2 '13 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I did think of it before, and figured out it didn't work, because I'd require a caster level of 10, since you can only make that one permanent yourself. :-( - Is there a way of getting a wand of permanency? \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jun 2 '13 at 8:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Julix Permanency only needs to be cast once, so you can just hire a spellcaster to cast it on you. So hire a 10th-level spellcaster, pay 200 gp for CL 10 darkvision, then 5,450 gp for permanency on it (total 5,650 gp). The problem is that permanency gives the spell a Permanent duration, which leaves it painfully vulnerable to dispel magic. Anyway, yes, mundane services are extremely cheap compared to what adventurers typically see in Pathfinder. The action economy is a bit of a problem, but most of the time you should be able to cast it ahead of time. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 2 '13 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Darkvision targets creature touched. Permanency target Target see text. "You can make the following spells permanent in regard to yourself. You cannot cast these spells on other creatures. This application of permanency can be dispelled only by a caster of higher level than you were when you cast the spell." The CL for darkvision doesn't matter as the only level dependent variable is "Duration 1 hour/level". "You first cast the desired spell and then follow it with the permanency spell." - Which I have to cast myself, which is why I need the scroll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jun 5 '13 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the upside, at lower levels it's unlikely to encounter a dispell magic with a CL that high. \$\endgroup\$
    – Julix
    Jun 5 '13 at 8:08

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