The primary assertion comes from the fact that Feinting in Combat is generally effective when the player has maxed out their Bluff ranks, but in the handful of encounters where the target has maxed out (or even just high) skill ranks in Sense Motive, it's tipped greatly in favor of the target. This seems a bit unfair to the character investing in the Feinting in Combat tactic.

For example, with a 5th level Rogue with a 10 Charisma, Bluff maxed is +8, or ~18 on average. Against a CR 5 target with 0 ranks in Sense Motive, the typical check is +6 for bab. This is pretty even given the Rogue has maxed skill ranks in Bluff. However, against a Djinni, with +12 for Sense Motive and +7 for base attack bonus, the check is +19 or ~29 on average. My assertion is that this is pretty unbalanced, considering both parties maxed out ranks in the opposing skills.

Given that assertion... What to do about it...

If you allow the feinter to add base attack bonus, this balances against Sense Motive, but then makes the feinter a shoe in versus target's without skill ranks in Sense Motive (which is most targets).

I'm tempted to house rule the target's check is the better of bab or Sense Motive, but still seems a bit off.

Demoralizing an Opponent is a bit awkward, but doesn't suffer this same swinginess because the target gets no ranks to add.

Per KRyan's comment, I have also considered the house rule of making a Feint in combat a move action, which goes to a swift action with the Improved Feint feat, and affects the all attacks against the target by the feinter until the feinter's next turn.

This would make feint more viable (and worth feat investment). I don't think it has a great impact on balance, since the alternative is flanking. It just opens up different strategies, and with a feat investment, counters the free flanking with cooperation. I'd appreciate arguments in support or against this.

Now that I think about it more, giving the feinter the bab bonus but NOT changing the action investment is fairly reasonable.. it's a shoe in most of the time, but costs an action and only affects one attack. You could add a "Greater Feint" which makes it a swift action that affects all targets for one round, and makes it a good, but feat costly strategy.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Feinting in combat is useless because of the actions involved; barring a high-level beguiler with Improved Feint, feinting cannot be done quickly enough to be effective in combat. Should answers address this, or is only the mathematical iniquity be addressed? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm open to whatever makes it a viable strategy and skill/feat investment. RAW makes it a poor choice. For Sudden Strike (that has no flanking) it's about the only option. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a specific reason feinting should be something other than a low-level tactic? That is, does the campaign need feinting to be a viable tactic to, like, (a la swashbucklers) maintain verisimilitude or something? Many things lose their luster at higher levels, after all. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 4, 2015 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Flanking is not always an option. It requires coordination and often puts at least one of the flankers in a poor position. It also can limit the ability of a party to block an entrance or exit. Besides, why put something interesting in the rules, then make it completely terrible tactic? \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Nov 4, 2015 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


OK, some analysis on feint:

  • The action usage is untenable. Even with Improved Feint, using a move action means not full-attacking, and full-attacking is critical to maintaining meaningful damage with Sneak Attack, Sudden Strike, et al.

    • A 6th-level beguiler with Improved Feint or a 3rd-level invisible blade (ECL 8th) can feint as a swift action or a free action once per round, respectively. This is better, clearly, because it allows them to full-attack after feinting. However, the feint still applies only to the first attack, and that still means only one application of Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike. This is also a massive investment.
  • The opposed roll is extremely awkward. As you say, anyone with full BAB and even moderate ranks in Sense Motive is going to have a huge advantage. Even without Sense Motive ranks, full BAB gives Bluff only a +3 relative bonus (for the three extra ranks above one’s level), assuming equal Wisdom and Charisma and no extra bonuses to Bluff. Optimizing Bluff is relatively easy, but nonetheless this is getting to be quite expensive, and overcoming a max-rank Sense Motive score on a full-BAB character (i.e. close to double your natural bonus) is going to be fairly difficult without spells or custom magic items.

  • On the other hand, making feint too easy is also somewhat problematic. Allowing precision damagers to trigger Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike on every attack is not a balance problem, but it is a narrative problem. These are supposed to be conditional sources of damage; making them guaranteed turns these classes into your typical front-line warriors, rather than sneaky, tactical types.

So, some suggested changes:


Feinting in Combat

You can also use Bluff to mislead an opponent in melee combat (so that it can’t dodge your next attack effectively). To feint, make a Bluff check opposed by your target’s Sense Motive check, but for the purpose of this check, the target may replace its Sense Motive ranks with its base attack bonus.

If your Bluff check result exceeds this special Sense Motive check result, your target is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) for the next melee attack you make against it. This attack must be made on or before your next turn.

Feinting in combat does not provoke an attack of opportunity.


A Bluff check made to feint in combat is a swift action.

By replacing Sense Motive ranks with BAB, you allow skill combatants to handle feints even if they’re not particularly skilled at detecting lies, while using Sense Motive remains advantageous because of the 3 extra ranks (and the possibility of not having full BAB).

Thus most combatants should have a reasonable chance to respond to a feint attempt, but those with poor BAB and no Sense Motive to speak of will have a very difficult time. Rogues et al. who focus on feint will have a decent advantage, however, since they will have maxed Bluff ranks and other bonuses on top of that.

Improved Feint


Cha 13


You can feint in combat by replacing one of your attacks. Any penalties, but not bonuses, to the replaced attack (e.g. from Two-Weapon Fighting, iteratives, etc.) apply to your Bluff check.

You may still feint as a swift action, instead of or in addition to replacing attacks with feints.


Feinting in combat is a swift action.

This allows someone to apply Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike damage multiple times through feinting, without letting feinting turn those sources of bonus damage into “always on” effects. Halving one’s damage output is a big deal, and makes flanking or otherwise denying Dexterity to AC remain important for keeping damage levels up.

Greater Feint


Cha 13, Improved Feint


When you feint in combat, the target is denied its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) for the next two melee attacks you make against it. Both attacks must still be made on or before your next turn.


Feinting denies the target’s Dexterity bonus for only one attack.

This allows a dedicated feinter to use feinting to maintain almost all of their damage, since a swift action will cover the first two attacks, and replacing one attack will cover another two, allowing someone with five attacks (e.g. BAB +11/+6/+1, TWF, and ITWF) to trigger Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike with four of them.

A third feat, to extend a feint to three attacks, could be worthwhile for a character with BAB of +16 or higher, as well as TWF, ITWF, and GTWF, or to someone not using TWF at all.


Sense Motive isn't a common enough skill to affect Feinting. Feinting is balanced by the fact that it takes a standard action to Feint, or a move action with the feat, which means that someone using feints in combat can't ever use a Full-attack action. Not to mention that Feinting is only really valuable as an aspect to trigger Sneak Attack during combat.

There are better things such as a Ring of Blinking or Flanking combined with tumble that are better at denying their enemy their dexterity bonus to AC than Feinting. Those are feats that could be used elsewhere for a rogue. It isn't the worst possible choice to take Improved Feint, but the bonus received is minimal.

Since Tumble doesn't have an opposed skill roll and only requires a 15 to get into position, it can be passed 100% of the time rather easily. At most your check is going to require a 25 which can be easily made by a rogue around the level of your friend.

What your friend should be more concerned about is finding ways to sneak attack things that later become immune to critical hits and sneak attacking. His Primary class ability at later levels starts affecting less and less targets as the creatures you fight become stronger. It's one of the reasons rogues start falling off at later levels and are given such a low spot on the 3.5 tier list when compared to other classes.

If you were really dedicated to making Feint a usable aspect of 3.5, you'd have to remove the move action associated with feinting and allow the user to make it part of an attack action. A custom feat would probably be sufficient for this. And any feat for a rogue or a ninja wouldn't really shift game balance any more than a wizard or any other spell-caster could.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I added it only just now, but I'm also trying to address the poor guy with Sudden Strike ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I'd agree that Sense Motive isn't common, but it effectively nullifies this strategy, and without it, it's only just barely in favor of the guy who maxed out Bluff. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ring of Blinking is sufficient for Triggering both Sneak Attack and Sudden Strike, as you're treated as an invisible creature while wearing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. Within RAW, this is a perfect answer. But what if we wanted to actually make feinting a viable strategy? \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:32
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Then you'd have to remove the move action associated with feinting and allow the user to make it part of an attack action. A custom feat would probably be sufficient for this. And any feat for a rogue or a ninja wouldn't really shift game balance any more than a wizard could. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .