I decided to look at how to represent Sneak Attack as a set of Echelon talents. I looked at the Executioner class from Iron Heroes, and to a lesser extent the Thief class. Each has its own special abilities, with about 2D6 per tier for Executioner and 3D6 per 2 tiers for Thief. If those rates seem reasonable (and at Keith’s suggestion), this calls for two talents and possibly a capstone. The executioner would take both talents plus the capstone, while the thief would take only one, or possibly keep one at top tier and the other a tier or two behind.
Sneak Attack focuses on, er, sneakiness, while Backstabber focuses on damage abilities powered by a token pool. At Keith’s suggestion I’m treating Backstabbing as a cornerstone Martial Tradition, presumably taught by a secret order of assassins. Both make use of a Sneak Attack token pool to power special abilities.
Sneak Attack common talent
Basic sneak attack can be made against flat-footed opponents; extra damage is given by the second column of the table. The common talent focuses on an increasingly broad set of circumstances under which an attack can be made.
|Basic||1D6||Sneak Attack Pool, Backstabber’s Eye|
|Champion||5D6||Universal Sneak Attack|
- Backstabber’s Eye
- By making a Sense Motive check to study an opponent you gain 2 sneak attack tokens. The DC of the check is the opponent’s Attack bonus or, if he is aware of you studying him, the result of a Bluff check. There is a modifier of -10 if the Sense Motive check is taken as a free action, -5 for a move action, +0 for a standard action, and +5 as afull action.
- Flanking Attack
- Spend 1 token. You can make sneak attacks when the opponent is flanked; he need not be flat-footed.
- Create Distraction
- Spend 2 tokens. If your attack hits, the opponent makes a Spot check with DC 10 + your level bonus + number of tokens spent or loses track of you until his next action. He does not threaten you, and you may make sneak attacks against him. If you move away you can make a Hide check to evade his notice.
- Undodgeable Attack
- Spend 2 tokens. You may make sneak attacks even against someone with Uncanny Dodge. If Uncanny Dodge becomes a tiered talent, you may backstab someone with Uncanny Dodge at the same or lower tier.
- Universal Sneak Attack
- Spend 4 tokens. You may make sneak attacks against creatures otherwise described as “immune to sneak attacks.”
- Brazen Attack
- Spend 4 tokens. You may make a sneak attack at any time, not just when the target is flat-footed or flanked.
Backstabber Cornerstone Talent
As a Martial Tradition, this gives +1 Martial Training Bonus per tier, which does not stack with similar bonuses from other Martial Traditions.
|Basic||1D6||Sneak Attack Pool, Hindering Cut, Backstabber’s Eye|
|Master||4D6||Improved Hindering Cut|
|Champion||5D6||Improved Bleeding Cut|
A sneak attack can be made against any flat-footed opponent; it adds the damage given in the second column of the table. Special attack forms can be made with ordinary or sneak attacks. They require spending tokens from a sneak attack pool, where the opponent makes a Fortitude save against DC (10 + your level bonus + number of tokens spent + sneak attack dice if any)
- Sneak Attack Pool
- You gain a sneak attack token pool. At the start of an encounter the pool begins with a number of tokens equal to the level bonus.
- Hindering Cut
- Spend at least one token; if the opponent fails a Fortitude save you may impose a -1 penalty to the opponent’s attack and defence, or a -1 square penalty to speed, which last for one minute and stack.
- Armour-Piercing Strike
- Once per round as a free action, spend 2 tokens to reduce the opponent’s DR from armour by your tier number (1 for basic, 2 for expert, and so on)
- Bleeding Cut
- Spend at least 2 tokens. If the opponent fails a Fort save he loses 1D6 GP at the start of his action for 3 rounds.
- Improved Hindering Cut
- As Hindering Cut, but for every 2 tokens spent above the first, increase penalties to attack and defence by +1. You can’t increase the speed penalty, and the additional tokens don’t increase the Fort save.
- Improved Bleeding Cut
- For every 2 additional tokens, increase Bleeding Cut damage by 1 point, up to your level bonus.
- Spend 6 tokens. On a failed Fort save reduce the target’s speed to zero for a number of rounds equal to your tier (was 1+Wis mod)
Each tier requires Sneak Attack at (tier)D6, and (tier) BAB. These can be achieved with just the Backstabber cornerstone talent or sneak attack talent alone; it’s not necessary to have both. Every second tier grants additional sneak attack damage.
|Master||2D6||Improved Crippling Stroke|
- (tier) Executioner’s Eye
- You start a combat encounter with (tier*2) sneak attack tokens. Thus with the Legendary Executioner capstone, you start with 12 tokens.
- Crippling Stroke
- The original costs 4 tokens and on a failed Fort save imposes temporary penalties to physical ability scores, which aren’t appropriate in Echelon, so this needs some thought.
- For every 2 tokens spent, increase sneak attack damage by 1D6, to a maximum of the current tier’s normal sneak attack damage. No save.
- Improved Crippling Strike
- For each 4 additional tokens this increased ability score damage by 1 point. Needs some thought.
- Execution Stroke
- Spend 15 tokens. On a failed Fort save your opponent drops to -10 hit points and is dead.
Iron Heroes is a D20 system, which means it has ability scores, which Echelon doesn’t. Thus Crippling Stroke and the Improved version need some thought as to a kind of damage worse than draining hit points. Perhaps these strokes impose conditions like Stunned or even Helpless for some rounds?
It might be excessive for Executioner to grand additional sneak attack damage. Perhaps it should grant additions to the Fort save DC instead, or perhaps increase Sense Motive.
How many tokens to spend for the common talent needs some thought; most of these abilities weren’t in eIron Heroes and thus haven’t been playtested.
The Expert capstone might needs a special ability. Bear in mind that it does get the minimal improvements: an additonal 1D6 of damage, and improved Executioner’s Eye.