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The feat Cutpurse (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 95) has as its normal entry the following:

Using Sleight of Hand in melee provokes an attack of opportunity.

The feat Master Pickpocket (City of Stormreach 95) has as part of its benefit the following:

Your mastery of Sleight of Hand allows you to steal an object from an adjacent opponent in combat as a standard action without provoking attacks of opportunity.

However, the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide,1 Monster Manual,2 and Rules Compendium don't mention explicitly that employing the skill Sleight of Hand provokes an attack of opportunity.

Although Use Skill is listed as usually provoking on Table 8–2: Actions in Combat (PH 141), the explanation says, "The individual skill descriptions in Chapter 4 tell you what sorts of actions are required to perform skills" (145), and in that chapter skill uses are said to provoke or not (e.g. feint (68), drawing a hidden weapon (82)).

The Rules Compendium on Actions in Combat under Use Skill has the note, "The skill’s description defines the action required and the effect. Disable Device, Heal, Open Lock, Search, and Use Rope provoke attacks of opportunity" (9), omitting the skill Sleight of Hand.

What is the source of the rule that says using the skill Sleight of Hand to steal an object provokes an attack of opportunity?


1 If you've Combat Reflexes, those pickpockets are dead (DMG 102).
2 A babau has the skill Sleight of Hand +11, an ethereal filcher +12, and a tiefling warrior +1. So watch your coin purse around demons and filchers, I guess?

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What is the source of the rule that says using the skill Sleight of Hand to steal an object provokes an attack of opportunity?

You have already pointed out the only source.

Use skill that takes 1 action ->Usually[provokes]

Within the text of each skill, it should call out whether or not they provoke. However, many do not. Some call out when they don't provoke. For example, from Sleight of Hand,

Drawing a hidden weapon is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity.

Or, from bluff,

Feinting in combat does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

However, Intimidate doesn't say either way about Demoralizing an Opponent, yet most people see that as not provoking.

One could argue, usually was intended to mean all provoke unless they state otherwise, which a few do, but there's simply not enough in the rules to state this definitively. This is how I play it; that is, skill uses provoke unless they state otherwise, but I do rule Demoralizing an Opponent does not provoke. I don't view this as RAW, rather as a house rule where I find the rules unclear.

In the end, it's going to have to be the DM's call and they need to be consistent.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's interesting but... odd. Can you think of another situation wherein attacks of opportunity are assumed to be provoked by an action despite nothing saying the action provokes? (My assumption's always been that something nonstandard must say it provokes to provoke.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 20 '15 at 17:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ You could certainly rule no skills provoke unless they specifically say they do, but then very few, if any, would. The odd bit is, why do the rules (only) call out when it doesn't? This seems to imply they all do, but again, it just isn't spelled out. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Nov 20 '15 at 17:45
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The Normal section of Cutpurse is erroneous

The Normal section of feats are often inaccurate, unfortunately. The statements made therein, however, are only meant to be reminders, not primary sources. They are among the most definitively secondary of sources.

As such, the errata rules clearly indicate that they, as a secondary source, defer to the primary source. The primary source on the usage of each skill is that skill’s description. If Sleight of Hand is to provoke attacks of opportunity, then it is necessary for the Sleight of Hand skill description to say so. The Use Skill rules explicitly state as much; they may say “usually” but they do not say “unless otherwise specified.”

The Master Pickpocket feat is pointless

As written, Master Pickpocket lets you do... something you already could. Most likely the author assumed, incorrectly, that this action would normally provoke. It also specifies that you cannot steal something from the target’s hand, which is not a restriction found on the actual Sleight of Hand rules that I can tell. All around, a poor job by author, and arguably even worse by the editor. But then, it was mostly a fluff book, with very few bits of crunch put in; most likely, these were written by the same authors as who wrote the fluff, but knowledge of the rules was not their forté.

But again, Master Pickpocket is a secondary source, so it doesn’t change anything.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan No, it’s a feat written by an author who did not know the rules. There’s more than a few of those. Maybe it was intended that Sleight of Hand provoke, but I suspect it’s much more likely that the author had no special insight on this topic and just assumed. City of Stormreach is a very fluffy book, after all. Regardless, it’s still not a primary source. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 20 '15 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get the erroneous nature of the secondary source material, but is there a primary source that states either way? I'm thinking "Usually" is the only guide in the rules here. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Nov 20 '15 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wyrmwood “Usually” is not strong enough to set a default that must be explicitly overridden, thus the general default of things not provoking unless they’re explicitly stated to do so applies. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 20 '15 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that's a valid view, perhaps you could add it to the answer, like ">What is the source ... Here's the RAW, [...] and the secondary source is erroneous because..." \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Nov 20 '15 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Usually touching someone in combat with your bare hand provokes. I can't really say it's the case though. Just a thing to consider. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Nov 21 '15 at 10:36
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The key issue is the definition of attack of opportunity. It's not whether the skill it self provokes one by the rule but rather the description of your action. Let me explain:

You are drawing a hidden weapon. You do not enter a threatened space, so you do not provoke an attack of opportunity.

You are trying to pick a potion from an opponent's potion belt. You do enter the opponent's space, just as you do when you charge, disarm, bullrush etc. You DO provoke an attack of opportunity regardless of a skill success roll, which matters only for picking the potion or not.

The question for me is whether you should be allowed to use 'sleight of hand' in combat situation, since the 'grab an item' thing is very well described in the last paragraph of disarm action

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