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Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Vital Strike

Last Updated: November 15th, 2018


I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Paizo has recently discontinued support of their official SRD. From this point forward SRD links on RPGBOT.net will instead link to d20PFSRD.com. While Archive of Nethys is now Paizo's officially licensed partner for the purposes of serving the Pathfinder SRD, Archive of Nethys is a horribly designed website and it simply doesn't match d20PFSRD's ability to keep pace with published content and d20PFSRD's search functionality.

If you encounter any links which still point to the old SRD, please email me so that I can correct them. I also recently added a page explaining my supported content which you may find helpful. --September 15, 2018


As characters grow in level, their Base Attack Bonus (BAB) increases. With higher BAB, characters gain additional attacks when making a full attack action. Fighter type classes with full BAB progression get their first iterative attack at 6th level. The addition of a second attack vastly improves the character's effectiveness in combat, and can potentially double the character's damage.

Using your iterative attacks typically requires a Full Attack action. If you need to move to reach your enemy, this means you must sacrifice your attacks in order to move. This tactical limitation is one of the biggest shortcomings of melee fighter characters.

Enter Vital Strike. Vital Strike allows you to forego additional attacks in favor of making a single attack with high damage. Because Vital Strike only multiplies the weapon's base damage (just the dice; no enhancements), Vital Strike seems like a poor tactical option. However, with some focus, Vital Strike can be an excellent option around which to center your character.

Vital Strike Feats

The Vital Strike feat tree is simple compared to feat-starved trees like Two-Weapon Fighting. At only 5 feats, any fighter character could make use of Vital Strike and still have room in their feat list for other interesting feats.

Benefits of Vital Strike

Drawbacks of Vital Strike

Weapon Size Chart

This FAQ answer clarified (and arguably altered) the way weapon size affects weapon damage. The chart is also written to be very difficult to reference quickly, so I've included the below table to help figure out how your weapon's damage dice change as your size changes.

Weapon Damage By Size
Example Weapon Tiny Small Medium Large Huge Gargantuan Colossal Colossal+1 Colossal+2
Torch 1 1d2 1d3 1d4 1d6 1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6
Dagger 1d2 1d3 1d4 1d6 1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6
Shortsword 1d4 1d4 1d6 1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6 8d6
Longsword 1d4 1d6 2d4/1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6 8d6 12d6
Bastard Sword 1d4 1d6 1d10 2d8 3d8 4d8 6d8 8d8 12d8
Greatsword 1d6 1d8 2d6/3d4/1d12 3d6 4d6 6d6 8d6 12d6 16d6

Because the new size rules we published after I initially wrote this article, it's possible that I made some errors in the math below. If you spot anything, please email me so I can correct it.

Choosing Your Weapon

Because Vital Strike works based on your weapon's damage die, you want to select a weapon with the biggest damage die possible, often at the expense of other considerations. Critical threat range and multipliers can generally be ignored, as the bulk of your damage will not be multiplied by Vital Strike.

Because weapon die is so critical to Vital Strike, it is not recommended for small creatures. All weapons below are assumed medium unless otherwise noted. Weapons at larger sizes are included to account for effects like Enlarge Person, Gravity Arrow, and Lead Blades. Keep in mind that Enlarge Person can be stacked with Gravity Arrow, Lead Blades, or the Impact weapon enhancement to do damage as though you were using a weapon two sizes larger than your character's normal size, but Gravity Arrow, Lead Blades, and Impact do not stack with each other.

If you are already using a weapon one size larger than your character, you can effectively wield a one-handed weapon three sizes larger, and I encourage you to do so. It both looks and feels awesome.

Update NOTE: The table below has been updated from its original version to reflect the FAQ answer link above. AS a result of errata and FAQ changes, the values in table below have changed from the version presented when I originally published this article.

Bastard Sword (Large) 2d8 (9) 4d8 (18) 4d8+4 (22) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 8d8 (36) 8d8+6 (42)
Bastard Sword (Huge) 3d8 (13.5) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 9d8 (40.5) 9d8+6 (46.5) 12d8 (54) 12d8+6 (60)
Bastard Sword (Gargantuan) 4d8 (18) 8d8 (36) 8d8+6 (42) 12d8 (54) 12d8+6 (60) 16d8 (72) 16d8+6 (78)
Crossbow, Light/Double 1d8 (4.5) 2d8 (9) 2d8+2 (11) 3d8 (13.5) 3d8+4 (17.5) 4d8 (18) 4d8+6 (24)
Crossbow, Light (Large) 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (37) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
Crossbow, Light (Huge) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Crossbow, Light (Gargantuan)* 4d6 (14) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48) 16d6 (56) 16d6+6 (62)
Crossbow, Heavy 1d10 (5.5) 2d10 (11) 2d10+2 (13) 3d10 (14.5) 3d10+4 (18.5) 4d10 (22) 4d10+6 (28)
Crossbow, Heavy (Large) 2d8 (9) 4d8 (18) 4d8+4 (22) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 8d8 (36) 8d8+6 (42)
Crossbow, Heavy (Huge) 3d8 (13.5) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 9d8 (40.5) 9d8+18 (58.5) 12d8 (54) 12d8+6 (60)
Crossbow, Heavy (Gargantuan)* 4d8 (18) 8d8 (36) 8d8+6 (42) 12d8 (54) 12d8+6 (60) 16d8 (72) 16d8+6 (78)
Elven Curve Blade 1d10 (5.5) 2d10 (11) 2d10+2 (13) 3d10 (16.5) 3d10+4 (20.5) 4d10 (22) 4d10+6 (28)
Elven Curve Blade (Large) 2d8 (9) 4d8 (18) 4d8+4 (22) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 8d8 (36) 8d8+6 (42)
Elven Curve Blade (Huge) 3d8 (13.5) 6d8 (27) 6d8+6 (33) 9d8 (40.5) 9d8+6 (46.5) 12d8 (54) 12d8+6 (60)
Falchion 2d4 (5) 4d4 (10) 4d4+4 (14) 6d4 (15) 6d4+6 (21) 8d4 (20) 8d4+6 (26)
Falchion (Large) 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
Falchion (Huge) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Greataxe 1d12 (6.5) 2d12 (13) 2d12+2 (15) 3d12 (19.5) 3d12+4 (23.5) 4d12 (26) 4d12+6 (32)
Greataxe (Large) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Greataxe (Huge) 4d6 (14) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48) 16d6 (56) 16d6+6 (62)
Greatsword 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
Greatsword (Large) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Greatsword (Huge) 4d6 (14) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (32) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48) 16d6 (56) 16d6+6 (62)
Katana (Large) 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
Katana (Huge) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Katana (Gargantuan) 4d6 (14) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (32) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48) 16d6 (56) 16d6+6 (62)
Longbow 1d8 (4.5) 2d8 (9) 2d8+2 (11) 3d8 (13.5) 3d8+4 (17.5) 4d8 (18) 4d8+6 (24)
Longbow (Large) 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
Longbow (Huge) 3d6 (10.5) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 9d6 (31.5) 9d6+6 (37.5) 12d6 (42) 12d6+6 (48)
Rapier 1d6 (3.5) 2d6 (7) 2d6+2 (9) 3d6 (10.5) 3d6+4 (14.5) 4d6 (14) 4d6+6 (20)
Rapier (Large) 1d8 (4.5) 2d8 (9) 2d8+2 (11) 3d8 (13.5) 3d8+4 (17.5) 4d8 (18) 4d8+6 (24)
Rapier (Huge) 2d6 (7) 4d6 (14) 4d6+4 (18) 6d6 (21) 6d6+6 (27) 8d6 (28) 8d6+6 (34)
* - See "A note on Crossbows", below.

A note on Crossbows

Depending on GM interpretation, you may or may not be able to use crossbows which are larger than your size. The Light and Heavy crossbows both say "you can shoot, but not load, a [light/heavy] crossbow with one hand at a [-2/-4] penalty on attack rolls." Because you can fire them one-handed, it stands to reason that you could use a weapon one size larger at the normal -2 penalty, just as you can use a Large longsword at the same penalty.

Some GMs may rule than you can fire an oversized crossbow, but cannot reload it because it requires to hands to reload. I have always thought that you need two hands to reload a crossbow because you need to hold the crossbow while drawing back the string. This requirement isn't changed by the weapon's size relative to the player: you still need two hands to load a crossbow too small for you, so why should you need more than two hands to load a crossbow too large for you?

Other Feats


Magic Items

Class-Dependent Damage Dice

Brawlers, Monks, and Warpriests all use their own damage die progressions in place of weapon damage. These progressions present some interesting math. When relying on weapons, your two damage-increasing factors are your weapon's effective size and your best Vital Strike feat in the chain. Class-dependent damage scaling adds a third factor, dramatically complicating the math.

To summarize the information below: All of them are bad. Vital Strike becomes an occasionally amuzing mechanic that eats 3 or 4 feats with no meaningful payoff.

Brawler/Unchained Monk

Your best bet for Vital Strike and level-dependent scaling. Weapon users will get access to Enlarge Person and Impact weapons at roughly the same rate that you will, so unfortunately that means that you won't match an oversized bastard sword until 16th level, and won't exceed it until 8th. If you really need a meaningful way to spend Standard actions, Vital Strike is fine, but you can do better with style feats.


Don't do this. Monks have 2/3 BAB so not only are you handicapped by your relatively poor damage die,


The warpriest's damage progression is weird. It's a little bit weaker than Monk, so you won't match and oversized bastard sword until 20th level. The damage die is also dependent on your character's size, not on the weapon's size, so you can use one-handed weapons without sacrificing damage. Unfortunately, you need to compare your own damage output to a normal-sized bastard sword, which you won't match until 10th level, and if you add Impact to that comparable bastard sword you won't match it until 20th level. You can still elect to use the normal damage die of your weapon if you choose to do so, but you'll fall behind the maximum damage output of Vital Strike.

Beyond the Pale

When you expand your options beyond my official SRD-only rule, Vital Strike becomes immediately problematic. Here's just s small sampling of the things I've come across:

A 6th-level Vigilante can pick up the Vital Punishment talent gets you Vital Strike for free and allows you to use Vital Strike on attacks of opportunity. With damage output like that, you'll easily put every other area control defender to shame.

Adventurer's Armory 2 introduced the Butchering Axe. It's a two-handed weapon that does 3d6 damage for a medium creature. The damage die charts are a bit unclear on the subject, but at a glance it likely means that with Greater Vital Strike, Impact Weapon, and Enlarge Person you're looking at 20d6 damage.

If you open up 3.5 options (please don't), things get even worse. Options like Monkey Grip and the Goliath race up your effective weapons size cap by several more steps, adding several additional dice to your theoretical maximum damage. While it's fun to explore in theory, it also means that your damage output is so absurdly high that the game loses any hope of providing a meaningful challenge.