It has come to my attention that I could be using sneak attacks wrong.

I know how many times does sneak attack damage apply is similar, but its asked for 5th. It might word what Im asking better however.

Now sneak attacks clearly work when you are flanking for all attacks made disregarding fortification, uncanny dodge, and other things. So thats not what I am asking about.

What I seem to be getting wrong is sneak attacks when coming out of flat foot (such as invisible or surprise rounds). My confusion is partly highlighted by the commentary under this answer in a past question I made. They felt that only the first attack made on a person is what they are flat footed to and not all attacks made by that character until they acted.

Could someone point out where some more clear rules are since I seem to be missing them?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/22425/14988 (it's for D&D 3.5, but close to PF) \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Sep 11, 2015 at 0:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that it is related, but theirs deals with already flanked foes. Mine deals with someone you've made unaware. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Sep 11, 2015 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of different ways someone can be denied their DEX bonus to AC, so "it depends." So the first thing you need to note is that


The rogue's attack deals extra damage anytime her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target.

You do NOT need an opponent to be flat-footed in order to sneak attack them. Now, being flat-footed does deprive you of DEX bonus to AC, so it also triggers sneak attack, but

a) flat-footed does more than just that, like prevent you from making AoOs, so read the condition and

b) there's a lot more ways of being deprived of your DEX bonus short of being flat-footed (blinded, stunned, the opponent being hidden, about a dozen feats, etc).

Confusing flat-footed with denied DEX to AC will lead you astray in many cases. When a rule says one that's what it means, and while flat-footed also means deprived of DEX to AC the converse is NOT true.

Surprise Rounds

During a surprise round, an opponent is flat-footed, and does not lose the flat-footed condition until their first action. So they may be sneak-attacked with impunity by multiple attackers, or multiple times by you if you can somehow do that in the one action a surprise round gives you.


Unless you have improved invisibility, with normal invisibility you become visible as soon as you attack, so the target is only denied their DEX bonus to AC for the first attack. They are NOT flat-footed, so can take attacks of opportunity if they know where you are. If they know you're there from a DC20 Perception check, I'd say it's a little ambiguous RAW-wise whether they'd get an AoO from, for example, you attacking from invis with a combat maneuver that provokes (grappling them without Improved Grapple for example) - most GMs would rule not, but be advised that invis isn't perfect and has a lot of caveats in its description.


There's a lot of ways to lose DEX to AC and they're all different, and whether they persist for one attack or one round or forever is all based on the specific power.

Also see

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So, invisibility does not behave the same was as a surprise round like I have been treating it. Thats very important to know. Thank you for a good break down. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Sep 11, 2015 at 4:37

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