Article...Making Critical Hits More Interesting in D&D 3E

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by Rando, Jul 9, 2002.

  1. Rando Freaky Bear

    The creators of the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons expanded the critical hit rules to make them a little less generic then what had been previously used in the first and second editions. Originally, when one rolled a "natural" 20 on their attack roll, then it counted as an automatic hit regardless of the targets Armor Class, and scored a "critical hit". The damage of the attack would then be doubled to reflect some mighty blow or lucky strike that found just the right chink in the opponent's armor.

    In the third edition, the rules for critical hits were expanded somewhat. The concept of threat ranges and varying damage multipliers was added, which allowed for some variety between weapons other then just damage. Also, the need to make a successful attack twice to actually get the critical hit was included to make critical hits a little more rare.

    While these changes did indeed make critical hits more special, the rules as given are still a little sterile and lack flavor. Many would argue that it is one of the DM's many jobs to add any details to combat to make it more interesting While this writer would agree with that to a point, I also feel many players would be displeased with the DM declaring that arms are lopped off and eyes gouged out "just to add color".

    Some role-playing systems include critical hit charts or tables for determining the details of a critical hit. For example, the Rolemaster fantasy system from Iron Crown Enterprises used quite the detailed series of tables for it's critical hit system. In those rules, specific body parts would be targeted, and the outcome of the dice roles would include such grisly fates as "Leg chopped off at knee, bleed to death in 1d4 rounds." and "Chest crushed, death is instant."

    Some may recall the Players Option books for the Second Edition of AD&D, published shortly before TSR's ultimate demise. The Combat and Tactics book included a table detailing specific results for critical hits. While it's descriptions of the wounds suffered were a little less graphic (and funny) then Rolemaster's, it was even more ponderous and bulky to use.

    While such systems for detailing the results of a critical hit can be fun, as long as they don't bog down game play too much, they do leave rather important game information to the results of random chance. Also, playing with such violent charts and tables increases the mortality rate for any game they are used in. Not all players of role-playing games enjoy the idea of having to role up a new character every other week just because an entry on a chart says their head exploded.

    What follows is an add-on for the D&D 3E critical hit rules that makes critical hits a little more detailed, and a little more dangerous. Remember that when using such rules, it is important and fair to apply them to both the players and the monsters.

    First, use the rules as presented in the Players Handbook. This includes rolling the natural dice in the "threat range", and then re-rolling to see if an actual critical hit is scored.

    Now, before dealing damage to your surely deserving foe, roll yet another 1d20, and consult the chart below. Unless stated otherwise, the damage for the critical hit is doubled as per the normal rules.

    Roll Result
    1-10 Target stunned. -2 to AC and attack rolls next round.
    11-15 Target knocked off balance. -4 to AC and attack rolls next round.
    16-19 Target knocked prone. No actions other then standing and -4 to AC next round.
    20 +1 to weapon's damage multiplier. Roll on this chart again.

    But, not only mighty things happen in the down and dirty reality of combat. Sometimes, for lack of a better term, the players or their enemies simply screw up.

    This is where the Critical Miss, a.k.a. the Critical Fumble comes into play.

    As far as I know there has never been an official rule for what happens when you roll the dreaded "nat 1" on your attack roll. Many DM's handle this differently. Some say you trip and fall, and others declare that your character has dropped their weapon or snapped their bow string. Still others ignore it all together, other then the requisite rule of a natural 1 always being a miss.

    If you wish to have actual consequences to rolling a critical miss, then I suggest the following.

    When a character, NPC or monster rolls a natural one, then that attack is automatically a miss, regardless of how mighty the to-hit modifiers may be. That person then makes another attack roll with the same modifiers, just like as if you were determining a critical hit when a threat has been scored.

    If this second roll would have been a hit, then no adverse effects take place. However, if it is another miss, the a true critical fumble has occurred.

    That PC, NPC or Monster drops to the bottom of the initiative order, and their initiative effectively becomes "1". If there was someone else with an initiative of one, the person with the fumble is counted as last.

    Also, if the fumbler was in melee when the critical fumble occurred, then this provokes an attack of opportunity, to show how the person who fumbled has fallen off balance and is unable to defend themselves for a brief moment.

    I look forward to hearing anyone's ideas or suggestions for these rules, or your own house rules for critical hits.

    enjoy the game

  2. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    How has this gone in your games?

    In my limited experience of using the 3rd rules, the critical hit usually kills the monster and makes the additional chart unnecessary.

    I do think there ought to be a little penalty for a critical miss besides missing automatically though.
  3. Rando Freaky Bear

    Actually, I have not yet tried this with my group. I planed on bringing it up at this weekend's game and having a vote on wether or not to use it.

    Shame this has to languish here in the least read forum. I think Neutral Ground is taking non-magic submisions. Do you think it'd be worth it?
  4. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    I'm just guessing that most people here don't play D&D right now.

    Why not try submitting it there, it can't hurt :)
  5. BigBlue Magic Jones

    If it makes you feel any better, while I don't read this forum often, I did read it today, and I'm likely going to use your suggestions in my game. We've been running straight 3rd crits, and I agree there needs to be something else. As for fumbles, we haven't solidified anything ever. Used to be the drop/bowstring snap... but we have avoided that in 3rd so far.

    Here's a suggestion for you if your interested. I didn't come up with this btw, I stole and adapted it from elsewhere.

    Cut a 3/4 in dowel into coin sized circles and spray paint them gold.

    Award these coins for good roleplaying, interesting ideas with respect to puzzles. . .

    Players can then use the coins for good effect as follows.

    1 coin - use before a roll to add 1 to a D20 roll. (stackable to 3 coins)

    1 coin - get 25xLevel experience

    2 coins - Add 1 to a D20 roll after the roll is made.

    3 coins - Reroll a D20 roll

    5 coins - Force the DM to reroll a D20 roll.

    10 coins - Raise an ability by 1.

    15 coins - Resurrect a char at the end of combat.

    5 coins per player - Redo an encounter. (Omega 13) :)

    I allow players to give/loan eachother their own coins, but do not allow them to sell them for in game materials (the coins are the players, not the characters).

    Also, at the end of the game I give 1 coin to each player for them to give to another player. If one player gets more coins than all others, then I give an additional coin.

    Use whatever you want, or add to it. Let me know if you find it useful or make any additions.

    My players were leery at first, but they've come to really enjoy it and it adds to their roleplaying.
  6. Rando Freaky Bear

    NeutralGround took it and posted it on the front page. Yippy!

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