Q: Dear Sage
Many strikes and maneuvers in Tome of Battle grant a benefit with a successful attack. If a creature’s damage reduction completely negates the damage from the attack, does the benefit still accrue?
A: As it turns out, there are four answers to this question: sort of yes, yes, yes, and no.
If the maneuver or stance simply adds to the damage dealt by the attack, add that damage before applying damage reduction (which might in turn reduce or even negate that extra damage). For example, a character in the Punishing Stance adds +1d6 to damage rolls with melee attacks. If you hit a creature with DR 10/— with attack that deals 8 points of damage and an extra 3 points from Punishing Stance, that creature would take 1 point of damage.
If the maneuver or stance adds energy damage to the attack (such as Lightning Throw), damage reduction doesn’t reduce that damage (see Damage Reduction, DMG pp291-2).
If the maneuver or stance simply requires a hit (or “successful attack”) to apply its effect, that effect occurs even if you don’t deal damage with the attack that triggers it. Even if your foe’s DR completely negates the damage from your Leading the Attack strike, your allies still gain the +4 morale bonus on attack rolls and your Martial Spirit stance still allows you to heal 2 points of damage.
If the maneuver or stance requires you to deal damage to the target, damage reduction that completely negates the damage dealt by the attack prevents the special effect from occurring. This is similar to the Stunning Fist feat (which only functions against a foe “damaged by your unarmed attack”) or injury-based disease or poison effects.
About the Author
The Sage is a mammal classified in the bear family, Ursidae, native to central and southern China. Debate continues as to whether he is truly a bear or more related to the raccoon rather than the bear, or perhaps in a family of his own. When not eating bamboo and answering rules questions, he works under the nom de plume of Andy Collins as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D, where his development credits include Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and the Player's Handbook v.3.5. He can be easily recognized by his large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, ears and on his rotund body.