Ability Scores are one of the first mechanics in tabletop gaming that people will come across. They are the core of all actions and skills in Pathfinder. Understanding how you can best use your Ability Scores will improve your overall experience with the game.
While most melee damage in Pathfinder is dealt with the Strength Ability Score, there may be situations where players want to use their Dexterity score to deal damage. Here are ways to get your Dexterity score into your damage numbers!
Table of Contents
1.0 Weapon Finesse Feats
1.1 Weapon Finesse
You are trained in using your agility in melee combat, as opposed to brute strength.
Benefit: With a light weapon, elven curve blade, rapier, whip, or spiked chain made for a creature of your size category, you may use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on attack rolls. If you carry a shield, its armor check penalty applies to your attack rolls.
Special: Natural weapons are considered light weapons.
Weapon Finesse is a Pathfinder feat from the First Edition Core Rulebook. It allows players who choose to take the feat to use their Dexterity scores when making melee attacks with light weapons, rapiers, whips, and spiked chains.
When using Weapon Finesse, it’s essential to know that you can use Weapon Finesse’s bonus on any action that uses your weapon so long as it’s a light weapon; the Disarm, Sunder, and Trip actions can all use your Weapon Finesse roll.
Additionally, Natural weapons count as finesse weapons for this feat.
Weapon Finesse does not increase your damage directly. However, it is the prerequisite feat for many of the feats and abilities that allow you to directly add your Dexterity to your damage. Weapon Finesse has two feats that you can take at a later level, Deadly Agility and Weapon Finesse (Mythic).
1.2 Weapon Finesse (Mythic)
You’re an expert with weapons that rely on your agility.
Prerequisite(s): Weapon Finesse.
Benefit: When using Weapon Finesse, you may also use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on your damage rolls. If you carry a shield, its armor check penalty doesn’t apply to either the attack rolls or the damage rolls.
Weapon Finesse (Mythic) requires the player to already have the Weapon Finesse feat in their arsenal and to have Mythic ranks or levels. Weapon Finesse (Mythic) is an upgrade to the Weapon Finesse feat that allows players to negate the shield debuff on attack and damage rolls and add their Dexterity.
1.3 Deadly Agility
You have learned how to use your agility to greater purpose in battle.
Prerequisite(s): Weapon Finesse
Benefit(s): You may add your Dexterity modifier in place of your Strength modifier when wielding a light weapon or a weapon that gains the benefits of the Weapon Finesse feat (such as the rapier) when determining additional damage inflicted upon a successful attack.
When wielding a weapon in your off-hand, Deadly Agility will add the same fraction of Dexterity as you normally would for Strength.
Deadly Agility is another upgrade for the Weapon Finesse feat introduced in Path of War. It allows for Dexterity to be used when calculating additional damage after a successful attack. However, Deadly Agility is used by dual-wielders as it also allows the player to add their Dexterity bonus to their off-hand weapon in place of their Strength bonus.
1.4 Slashing Grace
You can stab your enemies with your sword or another slashing weapon.
Prerequisite(s): Dex 13, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus with chosen weapon.
Benefit: Choose one kind of light or one-handed slashing weapon (such as the longsword). When wielding your chosen weapon one-handed, you can treat it as a one-handed piercing melee weapon for all feats and class abilities that require such a weapon (such as a swashbuckler’s or a duelist’s precise strike) and you can add your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to that weapon’s damage. The weapon must be one appropriate for your size.
You do not gain this benefit while fighting with two weapons or using flurry of blows, or any time another hand is otherwise occupied.
Slashing Grace came out with Swashbuckler in the Advanced Class Guide. It allows players to treat a one-handed slashing weapon — such as a dagger — as a piercing weapon and will enable them to add their Dexterity to the damage instead of their Strength.
This only works with one chosen weapon and requires 13 Dexterity, Weapon Finesse, and Weapon Focus with the selected weapon as a prerequisite. It’s not a particularly strong feat when compared to
1.5 Agile (Weapon)
Price +1 bonus; Slot none; CL 7th; Weight —; Aura moderate transmutation
Requirement: This special ability can be placed only on melee weapons usable with Weapon Finesse.
Agile weapons are unusually well balanced and responsive. A wielder with the Weapon Finesse feat can choose to apply her Dexterity modifier to damage rolls with an agile weapon in place of her Strength modifier. This modifier to damage is not increased for two-handed weapons, but is still reduced for off-hand weapons.
Cost +1 bonus; Feats Craft Magic Arms and Armor; Spells cat’s grace
The Agile weapon trait is craftable by any creature with the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat. It costs a +1 bonus and requires the Cat’s Agility spell.
A weapon imbued with the Agile trait must be usable with Weapon Finesse. When a creature with the Weapon Finesse feat uses the feat with the weapon, they can add their Dexterity bonus to the weapon’s damage instead of their Strength bonus.
2.0 Weapon-Specific Feats
Most of the weapon-specific feats that players can take to improve their damage with certain weapons come at the expense of wielding a shield or dual-wield.
2.1 Dervish Dance
You have learned to turn your speed into power, even with a heavier blade.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 13, Weapon Finesse, Perform (dance) 2 ranks, proficient with scimitar.
Benefit: When wielding a scimitar with one hand, you can use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on melee attack and damage rolls. You treat the scimitar as a one-handed piercing weapon for all feats and class abilities that require such a weapon (such as a duelist’s precise strike ability). The scimitar must be for a creature of your size. You cannot use this feat if you are carrying a weapon or shield in your off hand.
Dervish Dance works only with Scimitars and requires two levels in Perform Dance before you can take it. Thus, you can’t get Dervish Dance until at least the second level when you have two levels in Perform Dance.
Dervish Dance allows you to add your Dexterity modifier to attack and damage rolls made with Scimitars.
2.2 Fencing Grace
Your dashing style and fluid rapier forms allow you to use agility rather than brute force to fell your foes.
Prerequisite(s): Dex 13, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (rapier).
Benefit(s): When wielding a rapier one-handed, you can add your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to that weapon’s damage. The rapier must be one appropriate for your size. You do not gain this benefit while fighting with two weapons or using flurry of blows, or anytime another hand is otherwise occupied.
In addition, if you have the panache class feature, you gain a +2 bonus to your CMD against attempts to disarm you of your rapier while you have at least 1 panache point.
Fencing Grace is a feat that works like Dervish Dance, granting direct Dex-to-Damage, but applies to Rapiers instead. It also provides some bonuses for players using the feat with Panache classes.
2.3 Starry Grace
Your quick and free starknife motions allow you to make deadly dexterous attacks.
Prerequisite(s): Dex 13, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (starknife).
Benefit(s): When wielding a starknife, you can add your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to that weapon’s damage. The starknife must be one appropriate for your size. You do not gain this benefit while fighting with two weapons or using flurry of blows, or any time another hand is otherwise occupied.
In addition, if you have the panache class feature, as long as you have at least 1 panache point, you gain a +5 bonus to your movement speed on your move action after taking an attack action with a starknife or on your Spring Attack or charge with a starknife.
Direct Dex-to-Damage and Panache buff, but for Starknife.
3.0 Archetype-Specific Features
3.1 Dervish of Dawn
A dervish of dawn gains the Dervish Dance feat as a bonus feat.
This ability replaces bardic knowledge.
Dervish of Dawn is a Bard archetype that grants Dervish Dance at 1st level when you take this archetype.
At 1st level, a swashbuckler gains the benefits of the Weapon Finesse feat with light or one-handed piercing melee weapons, and she can use her Charisma score in place of Intelligence as a prerequisite for combat feats. This ability counts as having the Weapon Finesse feat for purposes of meeting feat prerequisites.
Swashbuckler is a hybrid class of Fighter and Gunslinger which grants Swashbuckler’s Finesse at 1st level. Swashbuckler’s Finesse gives the effect of Weapon Finesse with light or one-handed piercing melee weapons. However, it does not make the weapons finesse-able.
3.2.2 Whirling Dervish
Dervish Finesse (Ex)
A whirling dervish can treat a scimitar as a one-handed piercing melee weapon for the purposes of the swashbuckler’s finesse and all feats and class abilities that refer to such a weapon. She must not be carrying a weapon or shield in her off hand to gain this benefit.
This ability alters swashbuckler finesse.
Whirling Dervish is a Swashbuckler archetype that alters Swashbuckler Finesse to include all the original Swashbuckler Finesse weapons and scimitars.
Dervish Dance (Ex)
At 4th level, a whirling dervish can use her Dexterity modifier instead of her Strength modifier on melee damage rolls when using her swashbuckler finesse. She counts as having the Dervish Dance feat for purposes of meeting feat prerequisites.
At 4th level, Whirling Dervishes get an upgrade to get direct Dex-to-Damage with all their Swashbuckler weapons.
3.3 Unchained Rogue
Unchained: While much of the unchained rogue will be familiar to those who have played the original rogue, there are a number of new class features that greatly enhance the power and flexibility of the rogue.
Chief among these is the debilitating injury class feature. A rogue with this ability can severely hamper her foes, giving her a much-needed boost to her offense or defense, depending on the situation. In addition, with finesse training, the rogue now gains Weapon Finesse for free at 1st level.
This ability also lets her add her Dexterity to damage rolls with one weapon starting at 3rd level. Finally, the rogue’s edge ability ties into a new system called skill unlocks.
With this feature, the unchained rogue can master a small set of chosen skills, outperforming all those characters without access to such talents.
Unchained Rogue starts being able to directly add their Dexterity score to their damage rolls with one player-selected weapon at the 3rd level.
Deft Strike (Ex)
A swordlord can add his Dexterity bonus (if any) to damage rolls made with a dueling sword instead of his Strength bonus. This bonus on damage rolls applies whether the swordlord is wielding a dueling sword one-handed or two-handed. An swordlord cannot use this ability if he is wielding a shield or using an off-hand weapon (including armor spikes, unarmed strikes, or natural weapons).
Swordlords can add their Dexterity bonus to damage rolls made with an Aldori Dueling Sword.
While some may find that allowing Dexterity to translate to damage directly provides too much utility to the Dexterity Ability Score, many others enjoy the flexibility of allowing their players to use Dexterity to influence their damage.
The most important thing for any game is that the Dungeon Master and their players are having fun! It’s up to each Dungeon Master and their respective parties to determine what works best for their game. So good luck, have fun, and happy questing!