As I was reading about the Assassin rogue at higher levels, this question occurred to me.

Does a surprised target (that fails the Constitution save from Death Strike) take 4 or 3 or 2 times the regular damage against it?

Because under Assassinate, any hit you score against a surprised target is automatically a critical hit (which is double the damage). Then under Death Strike, if the target fails a Constitution save, then it says the damage is doubled.

If this is the case, and a Rogue attacks a surprised target (with a rapier attack and 10d10 Sneak Attack damage), how much damage would it do?

  1. (20d10 + 2d8 + Dex mod)*2
  2. 40d10 + 4d8 + Dex mod
  3. The double bonuses don't stack, so just 20d10 + 2d8 + 5

Critical hit means, for each damage die you would roll for a non-critical, you roll it twice instead of once.

Death strike means you take the damage you would have dealt if it were not a death strike (which would still be a critical hit), and you double that.

The order of operations is:

  1. Decide which damage dice, and how many of them, to roll.
  2. Roll them and add them up.
  3. Add any relevant damage modifier, e.g. your dexterity modifier or the +10 modifier from the Sharpshooter feat.
  4. Multiply that sum by any relevant multiplier, e.g. multiply by 2 for Death Strike.


  • Normal rapier damage = 1d8 + dex mod
  • Rapier damage + sneak attack = 1d8 + 10d6 + dex mod
  • Critical (rapier damage + sneak attack) = 2d8 + 20d6 + dex mod
  • Death strike (critical (rapier damage + sneak attack)) = 2 * (2d8 + 20d6 + dex mod)

Assassin is a highly specialized class archetype, and it is a huge investment to put 17 levels into it that you could have put into other classes. The reward for that investment is that the assassin is unmatched in the amount of damage it can inflict on a surprised target. If you ask me, an average of 168 damage (on a failed save) is the least the game could do to reward that investment.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea, I am thinking how often do targets get surprised... When they are asleep maybe and I guess if you have sharpshooter and weapon master for long bow you could hit a target not expecting it from 600' \$\endgroup\$ – Progredi Jul 26 '15 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MC_Hambone this question is not about sneak attacks in general; it is specifically about attacks on surprised targets. That is when a level 17 assassin can not only get a sneak attack, but effectively quadruple the damage from that sneak attack by rolling the damage dice twice, adding a damage modifier, and doubling that sum. \$\endgroup\$ – Jordan Jul 26 '15 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ yep, i realized that... then came back to delete my comment and saw it was gone... now i see it is back. will delete. I just jumped the gun. I actually asked a question based on this question to determine how often you can surprise a creature (me thinks only once at the start of combat, but we'll see...) \$\endgroup\$ – MC_Hambone Jul 26 '15 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention that the whole point of an assassin is to straight up kill it's unsuspecting target in one hit. This most definitely fits the character class. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jul 26 '15 at 19:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Progredi according to the answer recieved to my question that confirmed my suspicions, in order to surprise a creature the rogue only needs to use stealth to beat the creature's passive perception, and Surprise can only happen once during the first round of combat. Here's the question I asked for your own referencing. rpg.stackexchange.com/q/65273/10263 \$\endgroup\$ – MC_Hambone Jul 26 '15 at 21:23

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