I am looking at building a Swashbuckler, and I had the idea of using Butterfly's Sting to pass my critical hits to an ally, after regaining a point of Panache.

I have done some Google'ing and there seems to be a split on whether Butterfly's Sting will overwrite the regaining of Panache. I used to play Magic: the Gathering, so on reading both, they both seem to be effects that trigger on confirmation of critical hit. As such, the regaining of Panache should be ignorant of the Butterfly's Sting, because it is not an effect of the critical hit itself. Butterfly's Sting would only prevent bonuses for critical hits. For example: Confirming a critical hit with a Flaming Burst weapon would deal only an extra 1d6 fire damage, not 1d6 + 1d10.

Does this logic make sense, and is it the generally accepted practice? If not, why do I not get to apply my own effects in my choice of order, when they occur from them same source?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious about the counter case. If the next ally automatically confirms a critical hit, and that ally is a swashbuckler, do they regain a point of panache? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20 '15 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I saw a Reddit post about that. (Sorry, don't have the link handy.) The argument was who got the panache point. Based on the wording of Butterfly's Sting, you would assume both, since you confirm critical hit to activate Sting, and Sting lets the next ally automatically confirm critical hit. Since panache checks if critical was confirmed, it finds it true in both cases. A savvy GM may just say if you take the panache, the ally doesn't get it, or if you don't, they do. It is really open to interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21 '15 at 20:53

The feat Butterfly's Sting is originally from Faiths of Purity (May 2011), part of the Player's Companion series about which Paizo typically neither answers questions in its FAQ nor issues errata. (Also, in its original appearance, the feat is deity-specific, having as an additional prerequisite worshiper of Desna, that prerequisite omitted from the d20PFSRD site because of the OGL, just so you know.) In other words:

Ask the GM how restoring panache and Butterfly's Sting combine

An official answer isn't forthcoming. However, I can present some arguments and offer an opinion.

So we're on the same page, the swashbuckler extraordinary ability panache says, in part, that

Each time the swashbuckler confirms a critical hit with a light or one-handed piercing melee weapon, she regains 1 panache point. Confirming a critical hit on a helpless or unaware creature or a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the swashbuckler's character level doesn't restore panache.

And the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting says

When you confirm a critical hit against a creature, you can choose to forgo the effect of the critical hit and grant a critical hit to the next ally who hits the creature with a melee attack before the start of your next turn. Your attack only deals normal damage, and the next ally automatically confirms the hit as a critical.

Here are two readings.

Option 1: The swashbuckler restores panache even if the swashbuckler opts to employ the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting

The swashbuckler must confirm the critical hit in the first place for either ability to activate, but the extraordinary ability panache checks only that a critical hit is confirmed not what happens after that critical hit is confirmed. That is, an attack roll is made to determine failure or success, if necessary a critical roll is made to determine failure or success, then the player decides what to do with his critical hit as per the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting, the panache having already been restored with the successful critical roll.

In short, the effect of having confirmed the critical hit restores the swashbuckler's panache, but the effect of the critical hit itself has been forgone.

Option 2: The swashbuckler does not restore panache if the swashbuckler opts to employ the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting

The benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting must be activated precisely when the swashbuckler confirms a critical hit, and, if it is, it removes any other effect caused by the critical hit. That is, the swashbuckler makes a choice when he succeeds on the critical roll:

  • If the swashbuckler picks to employ the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting, the swashbuckler must forgo any other effect generated by the critical hit and the swashbuckler's attack deals normal damage.
  • If the swashbuckler picks not to employ the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting, he gains the effect of the extraordinary ability panache and any additional effect from having scored a critical hit.

In short, succeeding on the critical roll mandates a choice: either the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting or the standard effects generated by the critical hit.

Initially, I gravitated toward Option 1, but the word effect as used in the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting is enormous and undefined, covering pretty much everything in Pathfinder, including the extraordinary ability panache, and that leads me to believe Option 2 is likely more correct strictly according to the rules. However, the swashbuckler class isn't, like, an arcanist or even a hunter, so were a player to pitch Option 1 while in a party with likewise optimized characters, I'd have no problem allowing simultaneously the benefit of the feat Butterfly's Sting and the restoration of the swashbuckler's panache.

This is an infrequently discussed topic, with a lone Reddit thread. The feat Butterfly's Sting has been by users flagged for the FAQ in this 2013 thread, but it's about using the feat to confirm automatically one's own critical hits later, not this issue.

I suggest if you're serious about forcing the issue that you start a thread on the Paizo messageboards about this specifically. Further, I don't know if this combination is allowed in Pathfinder Society organized play yet or currently, but if it is, a DM to whose table you bring such a character might be forced to ask for an official ruling (although it's possible a hand forced in such a manner will simply ban the combination).

  • \$\begingroup\$ In regards to the first option, listed unnder the rules for a critical hit: "A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together." This would mean that the regaining of panache would come from the confirmation. The effects of the critical "hit" would be the extra damage and any effects, from feats or otherwise, that happen upon a critical hit. So you would regain panache, deal damage as if you hit normally (applying no critical feats or effects to the attack), and then the ally would gain their bonus from Butterfly's Sting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Abu
    May 18 '16 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Abu I'm not sure if you're clarifying, confirming, or criticizing. I thought that Option 1 already addressed pretty much exactly that. Or are you disputing that because of what you're saying in your Comment, Option 2 shouldn't exist? (I think the timing issues remain vague enough that Option 2 should remain an option, but you're of course welcome to post your own answer that supports Option 1 better than mine.) \$\endgroup\$ May 18 '16 at 8:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant for it to be in favor of Option 1 using the RAW of Critical rules. Option 2, I feel, would be an option for a GM to consider if the system is being "abused" by two swashbucklers alternating their usage of Butterfly's Sting each round. \$\endgroup\$
    – Abu
    May 18 '16 at 17:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Abu Option 2 exists, though, because of timing issues. Confirming a critical hit is part of an attack, and usually isn't interrupted. Even a critical hit follows the attack-and-deal-damage model of an attack but with an additional roll in the middle; no guidelines exist as to when decisions are made during an attack as it's usually discrete. However, agreeing: Most campaigns won't see 2+ panache-abusing, butterfly-stinging swashbucklers and, instead, 1 swashbuckler and, like, a wizard that can snap the campaign. (Note I still support you crafting an answer favoring Option 1.) \$\endgroup\$ May 18 '16 at 18:23

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