You attack with a flaming long sword non-lethally taking the -4 penalty to hit, and succeed in damaging the target.

The target has no damage reduction, so you definitely (for the sake of argument) deal 1d8 non-lethal damage. And.... any more? Is the 2d6 fire ignored, dealt as non-lethal (pretty ridiculous) or dealt lethally?

The only mention I can see about this kind of interaction is under descriptions for sneak attack which says (text from the rogue class shown here):

...She cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual –4 penalty.

Which in itself I find kind of unclear. Is attacking non-lethally against a flatfooted opponent impossible for a rogue? Or does it just mean that if you want to attack non-lethally you cannot add sneak attack dice? (Probably the latter)

To clarify: The core question here is whether magic weapons that add damage also have their extra damage converted to non-lethal damage when used for a non-lethal attack. The section on rogue sneak attacks is merely an example of the apparently minimal rules directly addressing this topic.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. People are reading much too far into the comment about the rogue's sneak attack, or the off hand remark about damage reduction. So far the basis of concluding that the answer to my question is b) ...the extra damage dice are applied as non-lethal damage as well is: 'You can use a melee weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage instead'. Which feels fairly thin to me, but I'll take it. \$\endgroup\$
    – McCloud
    Nov 29, 2016 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


A rogue employing a weapon that normally deals lethal damage can only deal lethal sneak attack damage

Normally, with a melee weapon that deals lethal damage, any creature can opt to suffer a –4 penalty on attack rolls with that weapon to deal instead nonlethal damage, but a rogue "cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual –4 penalty."

Thus a rogue employing a +1 flaming longsword (and suffering a –4 penalty on attack rolls for not being proficient with it) is perfectly capable of dealing (lethal) sneak attack damage with the weapon but is forbidden from and incapable of dealing nonlethal sneak attack damage with the weapon.

The rogue can still opt to suffer a –4 penalty on attack rolls with the +1 flaming longsword to deal with the weapon nonlethal damage, but the rogue would not deal sneak attack damage with the attack. (That is, a rogue "can strike a vital spot for extra damage" to deal sneak attack damage but doesn't have to!)

Were the rogue to opt to deal nonlethal damage with the +1 flaming longsword, all of the weapon's damage would be nonlethal because the rules actually do say, "You can use a melee weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage instead, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll," and no exceptions are made for a melee weapon that also deals energy damage!

(A liberal application of doublethink, shouting Magic!, slowly counting to 10, or slamming the FAQ button on later posts in this thread (the first question not actually answered in any FAQ) may help overcome the weirdness inherent in the idea of nonlethal fire damage, or just take comfort in the fact that there's sort of a precedent for it.)

This answer's author would like to point out that this is an answer to a question, and, as such, things can get a little silly. Ask the GM how this works at his table.

(Note also that a creature's damage reduction needn't be overcome by a flaming weapon's normal damage for the weapon to deal its fire damage. The fire damage—lethal or nonlethal—is applied separately, for example, against any fire resistance the victim may possess.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, I'm not wholly convinced by the reasoning (let's say 90%) from your answer, but if you can restructure the answer to first address and focus on paragraph 4 , I'll accept your answer for posterity. e.g. New heading that reads: '<b>ALL damage from a weapon is dealt as Non-lethal if you choose to attack this way<b>', then a reworded paragraph 4 then the rest that says EXCEPT if you are etc etc \$\endgroup\$
    – McCloud
    Nov 29, 2016 at 22:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @McCloud Honestly, I'm not 100% convinced myself, and were I you I'd wait at least a day for additional answers to roll in. Further, I'm concerned that the way the question's currently structured--with its closing emphasis not on the energy damage but on how a rogue deals it--that putting A melee weapon used to deal nonlethal damage can also deal nonlethal energy damage would attract downvotes for being both sideways to the expected topic and cognitively dissonant. However, I'm open to an outside editor if you've an idea as to how to restructure this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2016 at 22:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is nonlethal energy damage considered so weird? That it is considered weird is, itself, weird to me; it seems entirely reasonable. Also, pretty sure there are more straightforward precedents for it, though I’ll have to get back to you on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 30, 2016 at 2:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Really, I don't know why it's considered so weird! Despite, for example, long sci-fi traditions of sonic stunners and electrostunners, threads I read were baffled by the concept. I think it might be the inability to accept or even to see lethal and nonlethal as being an additional switch next to each energy damage and each traditional bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Nonlethal acid damage should be no weirder than nonlethal piercing damage, for example, but most seem reluctant to admit the the former while happily acknowledging the latter. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2016 at 4:02

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