The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

10 Ways to Implement Critical Hits

Its been a decade since 3E came out, and to some degree I am still not used to the idea that there are actual official rules in D&D for critical hits; years ago critical hits were a rules topic that would not die, despite not actually being a rule, and in my mind it will always be that way. But even with there being official rules for critical hits in 3.x and 4E, playing around with different critical system can be fun.

CRIT !!!!

Ways For a Hit to be Critical

1. Go on 20.
The simplest system for marking criticals is to just declare that every 20 on the dice is a crit. Its fast and its simple. The biggest downside to it is that the odds of a critical occurring are not influenced at all by the armour class of the target. This is most pronounced when the attacker needs a 20 to hit, meaning that every hit will be a critical.

2. Roll d% to confirm.
In Dragon magazine many years ago, an author suggested that instead of criting on a 20, every hit roll should be followed by a confirm roll. The confirm roll would be on d% and the chance of success would be equal to the margin by which the attack hit. For example, if the attacker needed a 15 to hit, then rolled a 19, he would have a 4% chance of the hit being critical. From a rules perspective I really like this – its quite elegant; but I have never had much success bringing it to an actual game. The extra roll slows things down, and is frequently forgotten.

3. Second attack confirms.
The system first seen in 3E is at its root a very nice system; if you roll a 20 you must succeed on a second attack roll to confirm. Just stated like that it can be easily exported to any earlier version of D&D. Of course, there were a lot of intricacies of the system that don’t export so well, but as nice as those are, they aren’t really necessary.

4. Wild Damage.
This sort of tosses the idea of a critical on its head, by saying that it has nothing to do with the hit roll. Basically when you roll your damage, if you roll the maximum possible result, then you get an extra die of damage. If you get the maximum possible on that die you get another, and so on. If every weapon did a single die for damage, this system would be another great solution, but they don’t. Its easy to come up with an answer for how to deal with weapons that do 2d4 or 2d6 damage, but no possible answer will give results that are equivalent to those had by rolling one die. (well, except for ridding your game of those types of weapon damages; that would solve the problem)

Timely Crit?

What Happens When You Crit

1. Maximum Damage
Its simple, its fast, but its not really very exciting; I think the lack of a die roll takes something away from the emotional response.

2. Extra Damage
There are a few different variants to this, but they all amount to a flat amount of extra damage on top of a normal die roll. For example maximum weapon damage plus an extra die.

3. Multiplier
This can be real fun because it involves extra dice, but it also can be a huge let down; when a player gets a critical hit and rolls bad damage, it is really depressing.

4. Multiplier With Minimum Damage
This is a variant on the multiplier system. Basically it states that if the damage roll on a critical hit results in an amount of damage that could have been achieved with a non-critical roll, then re-roll the damage. For added fun add the first set of dice to the reroll.

5. Critical Hit Tables
Critical hit tables can be really fun because they can bring really dramatic or unexpected results – the momentum of a battle can be changed with a massive critical, or a PC (or NPC) can be permanently disfigured by one. They can however be slow, the wait while someone looks up the result can be deflating, and there is no better way to wreck the atmosphere at a table that to read one result off a table, then a few seconds later realize you read the table wrong.

6. DM Gets Creative
Basically the DM comes up with something really exciting that could happen at that moment. With the right DM this option could be a lot of fun, but the couple of times I’ve tried it, the DM has quickly fallen into the pattern of using the same couple of sequences over and over.

Another nut shot? Come on.

Words of Advice

That pretty much covers every different way I have ever played with crits – I invite anyone who has played other ways to share. And while I will always be the first to say that playing with rules can be fun, a word to the wise if you plan on changing the critical hit rules in your game; most people change crit rules with thoughts of how the players will be chopping up the monsters, but over the course of a campaign, no one suffers more crits than the players – if you make crits too powerful, it is the PCs who will feel it the most.

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October 18, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t know why but for some reason when I started playing basic and 1st edtion we had the rule if you rolled a 20 then you rolled again adn if you got a second 20 it was instant death.

    I am also a fan of critical hit and fumble tables from my Runequest days.

    Comment by middleagedm | October 18, 2010 | Reply


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