Critical Hits and Failures

Every once in a while in an adventurer’s life, a d20 roll will come up as the fated 20 or the dreaded 1. Many game systems have different ways of dealing with this – from severe consequences to “It’s just a number.” A more complicated approach may include rolling a d12 that lists parts of the body that the attacker severed off of the target, usually leaving the target either dead or completely ineffective and might as well be dead. Another version may be a d100 chart one finds on the internet with results ranging from a decapitation of the enemy to “your spell misfires and butterflies appear” (I always love when the fighter rolls that one). The majority of these effects are either useless or way too overpowered. Getting an instant kill against the big boss at the end of a long adventure by simply using your basic attack that deals 1d8+6 damage is just ridiculous.

In 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, critical hits are pretty well covered to make everyone happy. If you prefer a simple approach, it’s just max damage. If you want it complicated, you can get a magic weapon with crit dice, only use your one item daily power when you crit, and take feats to enhance your crits.

Critical Failures, on the other hand, are not even mentioned in the rules books. In 4th Edition, crit fails do not officially exist except in specific feats & powers. However, in the Dungeon Master’s Guide under “Example House Rules”, the first example is called the Fumble. Here it states that the player’s turn ends immediately, they grant combat advantage to all attackers until the end of your next turn. At first glance, this idea doesn’t seem bad; but upon further thinking, while this may cripple the fighter in the fray of battle who attacked as the first action on their turn, the wizard far from harm is unaffected because he used all his other actions before he attacked. This idea also does not have the possibility to reflect what happened to the character that made them fail their attack. The chart below reflects what I feel is a balanced way to encourage role play in an open-ended way. It never carries beyond your next turn, never automatically deals damage to anyone, never requires you to do skill checks to get your weapon unstuck from the wall, and even gives you a chance at nothing happening to a slight benefit. I view that this chart still gives the desired result (even if the player lucks out) because it creates a brief moment of tension across the table.

Critical Failure Chart

d10 Effect In Depth
1 Mental Slip The character is dazed until the end of their next turn.
2 Inner Affliction The character loses 1 healing surge.
3 Backlash The character rerolls the attack against their self.
4 Rouge Blade The character rerolls the attack against a nearby ally.
5 Off-Balance The character staggers 1d4 squares in a random direction.
6 Bad Footing The character falls prone.
7 Weak Grip The character drops their weapon/implement in a square adjacent to them.
8 Left an Opening The target gets a free basic attack against the character.
9 Distracted The character grants combat advantage until the end of their next turn.
10 Swift Recovery The critical failure becomes an average miss, and you can shift a square.

Critical Hits and Failures

ADHD vs DnD CodyLambach CodyLambach