Friday, February 3, 2012

Critical Hits

I'm curious how you or your DM runs critical hits in your game?

In my BX/LL game, a roll of 20 indicates a critical hit and the PCs can double their rolled damage. We also play with critical fumbles. If PCs roll a 1 they then roll on a d8 sub-table for mishaps.

There seems to be more consternation about critical hits in more recent editions. This is just another example of rules bloat to me.


  1. I love double damage from a natural 20, and I love creative ways to smite players for a natural 1, but groups I've been playing with recently don't got the stones for it.

    Traditionally with me, crit fails meant you dropped your weapon. I once had a ranger completely disarm himself (sword, handaxe, two daggers) in two rounds.

  2. I'd like to use both in my game (crits/fumbles). I guess being an old Arduin guy, the game doesn't seem the same without them. My players aren't too keen on it. The argument is that more monsters = more chance for crits. Not sure I'm buying that argument.

  3. I haven't been using them for the last year, and none of my players seem to miss critical hits or misses.

  4. In B/X we just used simple double damage on a critical and if you rolled a fumble, you had to make an attack roll against yourself - this was fun, and gave the game more of a comedic vibe.

    In 2e we used a d30 table for criticals that was published by the Armory that had lots of nasty effects like missing digits, brain damage, and broken bones. For critical fumbles with melee weapons we borrowed the rule from Advanced Heroquest that a roll of 1 provokes a free attack, and fumbles with missile weapons meant the archer hit one of his allies with friendly fire. This was fun to play out, but since statistically more crits are rolled against the PCs than the monsters, the characters ended up looking a lot worse for wear (by name level almost everyone was missing something). Very good for a gritty sword and sorcery style game though.

    Nowdays my favorite critical system is Paizo's critical hit deck - but I really dig gimmicky things at the table like special decks of cards (I also have Green Ronin's Deck of Many Things).

  5. Don't use them under any iteration of D&D... though in the past we have gone with max damage for natural 20s.

  6. In my game a roll of twenty on the attack die sends you to the Arduin Grimoire crit charts.

  7. Recently I've used "roll a 20 and do max damage (no roll required)" but ever since I saw that -C is simply using open ended damage rolls I'm considering dropping the old rule and using that instead. There's still the question of using Hackmaster open ended rolls dX + dX-1 + dX-2 etc or using Savage Worlds open ended rolls where you just keep on rolling (and you just don't get results that are multiples of X).

  8. In my homebrew d20, how much you hit by adds to the damage, so on a nat20 you add d6 to your roll.

    On a 1, roll again for a fumble check. Missile weapons fumble on 3 or less, 2-handed weapons 2 or less, all others on another 1. A fumble can mean hitting an adjacent ally (or in the case of missiles, an ally adjacent or in the line of fire to the target) or loss of a turn while recovering from a bad swing/shot.

  9. My favorite method for critical hits is to offer the player a choice between double or full damage. I like that bit of tactical choice: bland certainty, or risky but with potential to do much more damage. I'm not sure exactly where that came from, but it is the way I played in my Second Edition days.

    I'll also often add, on a case by case basis, some other detail, like disarming the opponent (or whatever seems appropriate in context).

    For fumbles (I believe the technical term here is "botch!"), I just try to think of something creative. Sometimes an ally will be targeted, or a bowstring will break.

    I've never been a fan of permanent side effects like loosing an eye, but in a certain kind of game that might be fun too.

  10. My group uses Paizo's Critical Hits deck for some flavour but I DESPISE 'critical fumbles'. They just seem an arbitrary punishment. Maybe it's because the last GM I had insisted upon them and he had no set rule for it, just whatever he felt like at the time. One natural 1 the player loses their turn, a round later another gets a -1 to their next action.

  11. Back in the day we always used "you drop your weapon" on a roll of 1. You then had to use your next turn to pick it up. That seemed to really make combat drag.

    I'm in favour of critical fumbles because they add a little bit of humour to keep things light and remind us we are playing amateur tomb-robbers, not professional ones.