“#1 Sap Master”

This Pathfinder character is based on the Sap Master feat that doubles sneak attack damage when attacking a flat-footed opponent with non-lethal bludgeoning damage. That’s a lot of conditions

  • sneak attack
  • flat footed
  • non-lethal
  • bludgeoning

I need sneak attack and a way to make opponents flat-footed.  Rogues have sneak attack, and there’s a Flowing Monk archetype whose AOOs make opponents flat-footed.  I’ll multi-class.

  • sneak attack ✅
  • flat footed ✅

Unarmed strikes (Monk’s specialty) are bludgeoning and can be non-lethal, so that’s a great fit.

  • non-lethal ✅
  • bludgeoning ✅
  • AOO

Rogues and Monks both have reason to maximize Dexterity, so I planned to get Weapon Finesse so my accuracy is based on Dex, not Str.  But I need AOOs to make my combo work, and reach weapons threaten more areas, so enemies provoke more AOOs.  No reach weapon is finessable (except whips, which require a huge investment to work).

I decided to drop Weapon Finesse and maximize Str over Dex.  I wanted the reach weapon to also deal non-lethal bludgeoning damage (like my close-range unarmed strikes). The Bludgeoner feat allows me to deal non-lethal damage with any bludgeoning weapon, but Monks and Rogues are not proficient with any bludgeoning reach weapons. Half-Elves have an alternate racial trait called Ancestral Arms that awards proficiency with one martial or exotic weapon, so I picked the Lucerne Hammer and was ready to actually build the character!

  • sneak attack ✅
  • flat footed ✅
  • non-lethal ✅
  • bludgeoning ✅
  • AOO ✅
  • Flowing Monk 2 ✅
  • Rogue 5 ✅
  • Half-Elf ✅
  • STR, not DEX ✅

As I started selecting ability scores and looking up class features, I remembered that Rogues are bad.  3/4 BAB, d8 HD, and light armor makes melee combat dangerous, but I planned to be in melee all the time.  There’s an Alchemist archetype called Vivisectionist that gets Sneak Attack just like a Rogue.  If I was going to have the weak BAB, HD, and armor, I might as well get spellcasting to go with it.  So Rogue was out, and Vivisectionist was in.

The Vestigial Arm discovery let me hold a shield and a two-handed weapon at once, boosting my low AC, but I didn’t have shield proficiency.  Building the shield from Darkwood reduced the penalty for wielding the shield to zero, which is just as good as proficiency.  Similarly, a mithral breastplate that I was not proficient in inflicted a penalty of zero.  So my alchemist/monk used a weapon, shield, and armor that alchemists and monks are not proficient in.

Alchemist Mutagen boosted my Str, and the Feral Mutagen discovery gave me three natural attacks.  Those three attacks with regular, lethal sneak attack dealt far more damage than the single non-lethal weapon attack with double sneak attack.  Should I drop Sap Master, the whole reason for this build?

Non-lethal Vivisectionist

  • Vivisectionist Alchemist
  • Feral Mutagen
  • 3 natural attacks with sneak attack
  • non-lethally maul people into submission

But wait! Feral Mutagen does not specify the damage type of the bite and claw attacks, so I must fall back to the defaults.  The bestiary has a table of natural attacks and their damage types.  Both Bite and Claw deal bludgeoning damage (as well as other damage types) which means the Bludgeoner feat affects them and I get double sneak attack damage on all three attacks! Now my character had two modes:

Normal form

  • 2 hands on Lucerne Hammer
  • 1 hand on shield
  • 1 free hand for potions, etc.
  • Get AOOs with Lucerne  Hammer to make opponents flat-footed
  • Continue to hit at reach with Lucerne Hammer, or use unarmed strike up close

Mutagen form

  • 1 hand to hold Lucerne Hammer (can’t use it)
  • 1 hand on shield
  • 2 hands make Claw attacks
  • Bite attack too
  • 3 natural attacks do a lot of damage, even without the Sap Master bonus.
  • At the end of my turn, I put a second hand on the Lucerne Hammer so I can make AOOs with it.

I was almost done with the character when I re-read the Unbalancing Counter text one more time, and realized that the entire build didn’t work. Hitting with an AOO wasn’t enough to make the opponenet flat-footed. The opponent also got to make a save. The save was based on Monk level and would be DC 11 forever, low enough to be irrelevant.  I had no way to make opponents flat-footed.  I’d never get to use Sap Master.

Since I had no use for the Monk levels, and was non-proficient with my weapon, armor, and shield, I switched to Fighter 1/Alchemist 6.  I didn’t need the Half-Elf ability to get proficiency with my weapon, so I switched to human for the extra feat.  Now I could wear heavy armor and a shield and get into flanking to trigger sneak attacks.  I swapped the Lucerne Hammer and Mithral Breastplate for an Earthbreaker and Full Plate.

Invisible Tank

  • use Stealth skill and Invisibility spells to open combat with Sap Master attacks on opponents who haven’t acted yet.
  • another melee character in my party moves around to flank with me, since I’m slow.
  • 3 natural attacks with sneak attack still do a lot of non-lethal damage.

Armor Check Penalties make sneaking in Plate armor difficult, and I’m not sure Pathfinder allows me to sneak up behind someone using the Stealth skill. Charge during the surprise round? Fortunately, I remembered another feat that allows me to make opponents flat-footed.

Catch Off-Guard lets me attack with improvised weapons without penalty, which is fun to roleplay.  It also says that unarmed opponents are flat-footed vs. my attacks with improvised weapons.  Clearly I’ll just have to disarm people.  Improved Disarm and a flail give me bonuses to disarming opponents, and I hold an improvised weapon in the other hand to use once they are disarmed.  The weapon is a trophy, reading “#1 Sap Master”  The chance to disarm is disappointing, especially compared to Crusher’s inescapable grip, but the concept is fun to roleplay, so I’m still happy with it. Sort of.  I want more to-hit and better saves.

Catch Off-Guard Shenanigans

  • Alchemist 6/Fighter 1
  • Flail in one hand to disarm
  • Trophy in other hand to use as improvised weapon
  • Shield in third hand
  • Feral mutagen is still an option

That’s the long, winding road from nimble Monk/Rogue with a reach weapon to heavily-armored mutant who knocks people out with a trophy for knocking people out.


Number One
Male Human Fighter 1/ Alchemist (Vivisectionist, Beastmorph) 6
N Medium humanoid(human)
Init +4; Senses Perception +10

AC 24, touch 11, flat-footed 23 (+10 Armor, +1 DEX, +3 shield)
hp 56 (10 + 6d8+20)
Fort +12, Ref +9, Will +6

Speed 20 ft.
Melee MW Flail +11 1d8+5 non-lethal
or MW Flail +15 vs CMD disarm
or “#1 Sap Master” trophy +12 vs flat footed AC, 1d6 + 5 non-lethal
Ranged MW composite longbow +8 1d8 (x3) non-lethal
Special Attacks (3d6+3 sneak attack, double if flat-footed)
Alchemist Formulae prepared:
1. (DC 13) enlarge person x2, vanish x2, expeditious retreat
2. DC 14) barkskin, bull’s strength x2, invisibility

Str 20, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +5; CMB 10 (+5 disarm); CMD 21
Feats Bludgeoner, Brew Potion, Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Sap Adept, Sap Master, Throw Anything
Skills perception +10, craft(alchemy) +11, spellcraft +11, acrobatics +3, knowledge nature +11, knowledge arcana +11, climb +2, swim +2 (ACP = -6)
Languages Common, +2 more
SQ Beastmorph Mutagen, Improved Beastmorph Mutagen, Mutagen, poison use, Feral Mutagen, Wings, Vestigial Arm
Traits: Surprise Weapon, Reactive
Gear: +1 Full Plate, +1 Heavy Wooden Shield, Cloak of Resistance +2, , Belt of STR +2, Headband of INT+2, +1 Amulet of Mighty Fists, MW Flail, MW Composite Longbow, 20x arrows, 20x blunt arrows, alchemist’s kit, “#1 Sap Master” trophy

Improved Feral Beastmorph Mutagen: 60min duration. +4 STR, -2 INT, 2 1d6 claws, 1 1d8 bite, 2 of the following abilities (climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, and scent.)

What do I do with my hands?
3 arms: shield, flail, “#1 Sap Master” trophy
3 arms with mutagen: 1 for shield, 2 for claws.

Attack with mutagen: bite +13 1d8+7, 2 claws +13 1d6+7 non-lethal