Is sneak attack broken?

Maybe it's just my group, but we don't like the way sneak attack works.  Over time, doubling the results of MDD spent is equivalent to maxing the rolls, which you could do on any given roll anyway.  To get that doubling, however, you have to give up advantage, which means the rogue trying to use sneak attack will hit less often.  Then add in the fact that having advantage increases the likelihood of rolling a crit from 1 in 20 to 1 in 10.  The result, under the "max plus roll" rule for crits, means that the damage from a crit with a short sword, before adding MDD, will be statistically equal to the average a rogue with one MDD can do with sneak attack.

I played a rogue for a short while (not even to third level), and, though he had sneak attack from the theme I chose, I never used it because it seemed so broken.  Does anyone else feel this way?
I see it being stronger on higher levels, but currently in my group. We have a 4th level rogue who very rarely chooses to use it because she'd rather be sure to hit.
It is not 'broken'.


It is of marginal use unless you already have a good chance to hit without advantage.

Thus it is worthwhile against creatures that have low AC.  Against creatures with a high AC, you are better off not using it.


This makes it situational, not 'broken'.

Carl
I don't think sneak attack is very good in this form. The problem is that what sneak attack used to do (a bunch of extra d6s) is now something every warrior can do at any time. I feel like it needs something new to make up for this. I don't think it should require giving up advantage, either.

I was playing a Rogue in Pathfinder the other day and doing sneak attacks for 2d6, and I just thought, this must be what a 5th edition Fighters feels like every moment of his life!


I don't think sneak attack is very good in this form. The problem is that what sneak attack used to do (a bunch of extra d6s) is now something every warrior can do at any time. I feel like it needs something new to make up for this. I don't think it should require giving up advantage, either.

I was playing a Rogue in Pathfinder the other day and doing sneak attacks for 2d6, and I just thought, this must be what a 5th edition Fighters feels like every moment of his life!





But the key is:  The rogue with or without Sneak Attack now does quite a bit of damage.

So the only way to 'fix' sneak attack is to take damage away from the rogue's default attack.  And that risks gimping the other (non-sneak attack) rogue builds.

Sneak Attack is no longer the way an otherwise useless rogue gains relevance.  Now it is just a way for a rogue who already does decent damage to do even better damage.

In short - by raising the baseline rogue damage, they were forced to reduce the bonus damage that sneak attack adds on top of that.

So don't look at Sneak attack compared to how it worked in the past. Look at sneak attack compared to its alternatives. (And at how the rogue's damage overall compares to the other classes).

Carl
I played a rogue for a short while (not even to third level), and, though he had sneak attack from the theme I chose, I never used it because it seemed so broken.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Yup. Never used it. Even if it could provide a marginal benefit in some rare instances, it just wasn't worth the effort to consider it each time (especially since the extra damage will often be wasted on overkill).

This means it's 'broken'.

It's also a trap (i.e. performance degrading ability) for new rogue players that haven't calculated the odds, as they'll use it at times when they shouldn't more often than times when they should.

As CarlT points out, it has become situational. It is good when you can hit more than 65% of the time (or so), but otherwise it is a bit of a waste. Even when it is good, it makes your damage very spikey. The chance of missing and doing nothing goes up quite a bit. But, when you hit and deal damage you deal a lot more damage. 

Personally, I really don't like it. I think it needs to be changed. I would rather Sneak Attack did something like this: 


Sneak Attack: when you have advantage, if you hit add your skill die to the damage rolled. 

Or:

Sneak Attack: when you have advantage, if you hit with both attack rolls maximize your bonus damage from your martial damage dice. 

Either or would work well, with the first version being more of a constant damage add and the second version being more of an occasional big damage spike. Mathematically, both would add about the same amount of average damage (given a 70% standard hit rate).


Of course, the upcoming change to MDD (as they become WDD) might make the second version unfeasible. We will have to see what the change looks like. 




 




Lets try math - 60% accuracy, 50% for TWF
1 weapon with advantage = 3.7 per WDD
1 weapon with sneak attack = 5.15 per WDD
2 weapon with advantage = 4.57 per WDD
2 weapon with sneak attack = 6.77 per WDD
2 hander (d12) with advantage = 6.96+3.39 per WDD
Lets try math
1 weapon with advantage = 3.7 per WDD
1 weapon with sneak attack = 5.15 per WDD
2 weapon with advantage = 4.57 per WDD
2 weapon with sneak attack = 6.77 per WDD
2 hander (d12) with advantage = 6.96+3.39 per WDD



You need to specify what AC you are attacking against for this to be relevant


Carl

As CarlT points out, it has become situational. It is good when you can hit more than 65% of the time (or so), but otherwise it is a bit of a waste. Even when it is good, it makes your damage very spikey. The chance of missing and doing nothing goes up quite a bit. But, when you hit and deal damage you deal a lot more damage. 

Personally, I really don't like it. I think it needs to be changed. I would rather Sneak Attack did something like this: 


Sneak Attack: when you have advantage, if you hit add your skill die to the damage rolled. 

Or:

Sneak Attack: when you have advantage, if you hit with both attack rolls maximize your bonus damage from your martial damage dice. 

Either or would work well, with the first version being more of a constant damage add and the second version being more of an occasional big damage spike. Mathematically, both would add about the same amount of average damage (given a 70% standard hit rate).


Of course, the upcoming change to MDD (as they become WDD) might make the second version unfeasible. We will have to see what the change looks like. 




 








I like your suggestions.  The first seems minimal - but always helpful.  The second I'd have to crunch some numbers to see how much it affects things - but it sounds more 'fun'.  Players like the big hit.

Carl
Lets try math

Something else to consider: overkill damage. Extra sneak attack damage might be useful on a strong, undamaged foe, but will likely be of no value on a damaged or 'minion' style foe.

MDD are probably going to be overhauled, so I imagine sneak attack will also see some heavy changes too.

I also think having to give up advantage is a poor mechanic for granting sneak attack. The mechanics ought to mirror or at least evoke the fluff, and having to give up accuracy => more damage is so very un-roguelike to me.

Oddly enough, the barbarian's rage grants advantage, so wild rage => higher accuracy. It's as if these two mechanics are reversed. If the mechanics mirrored my conception of the fluff, then I would make the barbarian somehow lose accuracy to make it up in higher damage (like the current sneak attack), while rogues relied on setting up situations where their inherent luck or skill made it more likely for them to hit and deal greater damage (like the current barbarian rage).

Anyway, it's pointless to theory-craft now because of the changes that must be coming down the pipe. Hopefully soon.
I'm not too keen on this version of sneak attack either.   It doesn't make sense to me that a rogue should give up advantage to gain extra damage.  It seems like a contrived way to balance the maneuver.   I like Cyber-Dave's ideas. 

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As CarlT points out, it has become situational. It is good when you can hit more than 65% of the time (or so), but otherwise it is a bit of a waste. Even when it is good, it makes your damage very spikey. The chance of missing and doing nothing goes up quite a bit. But, when you hit and deal damage you deal a lot more damage. 

Personally, I really don't like it. I think it needs to be changed. I would rather Sneak Attack did something like this: 


Sneak Attack: when you have advantage, if you hit add your skill die to the damage rolled. 




I like this.  To me, it seems to fit better with the skill trick idea, and the fighter's parry.  Of course, I also don't feel the rogue should have the attack bonus and MDD of the fighter at 1st level, so it would work better if that was nerfed, as well.  To me, sneak attack is how the rogue should do the extra damage.  As far as the non-sneak attack capable rogues, I would hope their scheme ability gives a benefit that is equivalent to sneak attack, even if it doesn't actually do extra damage.

I actually think that all the classes should gain MDD at the same rate, especially since they are being turned into WDD. Using both a smaller WDD and gaining less of them would be a quadratic hit to DPR. That would destroy the rogue. Making them gain a slower attack bonus would make that even worse, though I would be ok with losing a point of attack bonus if rogues got some other method of reliably increasing their probability of hitting. 


I actually think that all the classes should gain MDD at the same rate, especially since they are being turned into WDD. Using both a smaller WDD and gaining less of them would be a quadratic hit to DPR. That would destroy the rogue. Making them gain a slower attack bonus would make that even worse, though I would be ok with losing a point of attack bonus if rogues got some other method of reliably increasing their probability of hitting. 




I am assuming, based on recent history, that this will be the case - the rogue (and other Combat Expertise classes) will gain multiple WDD at the same rate (although perhaps gaining smaller dice due to weapon choice).

Carl

I actually think that all the classes should gain MDD at the same rate, especially since they are being turned into WDD. Using both a smaller WDD and gaining less of them would be a quadratic hit to DPR. That would destroy the rogue. Making them gain a slower attack bonus would make that even worse, though I would be ok with losing a point of attack bonus if rogues got some other method of reliably increasing their probability of hitting. 




Well, gaining advantage would reliably increase their probability of hitting, and increase their damage through sneak attack.  As long as that balances somewhat with the more fighty types, and with the other rogue abilities, that's what I'm looking for.

I actually think that all the classes should gain MDD at the same rate, especially since they are being turned into WDD. Using both a smaller WDD and gaining less of them would be a quadratic hit to DPR. That would destroy the rogue. Making them gain a slower attack bonus would make that even worse, though I would be ok with losing a point of attack bonus if rogues got some other method of reliably increasing their probability of hitting. 




I am assuming, based on recent history, that this will be the case - the rogue (and other Combat Expertise classes) will gain multiple WDD at the same rate (although perhaps gaining smaller dice due to weapon choice).

Carl



What exactly is a Combat Expertise class?  The cleric gets it at higher levels.  Only the wizard does not.  I think that the progression should be different for different classes, with class abilities (like wizard spells and sneak attack) making up the difference, i.e. different ways of being equally effective in combat.  Some balance needs to be found for out-of-combat actions, as well, imo, so our fighter doesn't have to sit with his thumb up his nose during those encounters.
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