Critical Hits – a Variant

Treant - http://www.wizards.comSo Phil, the ChattyDM, chronicles a battle over at his site wherein he forgot about a plant creature’s critical hit immunity, and let it slide as a “nice DM” bonus.

Dave: the Game commented on it

See??? Even DMs who know the rules forwards and backwards forget this rule. Cast thee out, I say! Critical Hits for all!

and I began a mini-rant, which I shall continue here.

The way I figure it, plants, oozes and constructs are a minority of what we fight in D&D. The only crit-immunes that are very common are undead.

But most undead, IMHO, should be crittable anyways. Has nobody seen the lucky headshot in a zombie movie? Or the stake to the heart in a Buffy episode? With the possible exception of skeletons and incorporeal undead, most undead are shown as having more damaging areas.

So why not allow crits for everything?

And don’t say to balance rogues. A rogue’s job is to get in, strike quick, and do good damage. Crit-immunes don’t balance rogues, they nerf rogues for that encounter. Same as a golem’s magic immunity does to casters.

Now, being useless for an encounter is no fun.

Similarly, scoring a natural 20 (ankle bite or not), and not being able to use it, is also no fun.

Yet for some reason, some people don’t want to throw out crit-immune creatures altogether. So it seems a house-rule compromise is necessary.

Well the compromise between crit-immune and nothing is crit-resistant. But we have no mechanic for crit resistance, so that’s what we’re going to need to devise.

Anatomy of a critical hit:

  1. Attack roll
  2. Critical threat range
  3. Confirmation
  4. Damage
  5. Damage multiplier

Any one of these stages can be where the resistance comes in. Now to tackle them completely out of order.

Stage 1: Attack roll

Probably not the best location. This stage doesn’t make them harder to crit, specifically, though hitting less does mean critting less. No to this one.

Stage 2: Critical threat range

Not bad. One option is to reduce the crit range by 1 against crit-resistant creatures. Think of it as an inverse Keen. This will reduce the chance that a hit is a crit by 5%, and for most weapons will halve the amount of crits achieved. One major problem arises, however, with axes, hammers, bows, and many simple weapons with crit ranges of 20, eliminating the possibility of crits altogether. And when a scythe can’t crit a zombie, something’s wrong.

Stage 5: Damage multiplier

Similar to threat range, reduce by 1. Similar problem as well, where a greatsword’s crit multiplier becomes x1. Nope.

Stage 4: Damage

This one is a possibility. Reduce crit damage, similar to DR. But the number needs to be chosen carefully. Too small, and it’s negligible. Too large and a crit may do less damage than a non-crit from the same weapon. Too tricky for my tastes.

Stage 3: Confirmation

Now this is where we want to be. Confirmation is what decides how difficult it is to crit someone, while never eliminating the possibility of a crit, or changing the likelihood of hitting them.

So how do we do it, though? We could give crit-resistant creatures a bonus to AC vs crit confirmations. +4/+5 might be good. Perhaps the bonus should scale based on the level/CR of the creature? No, the creature’s AC (and thus the required confirmation roll) already scales with its level. And more to the point, what sort of scaling is best? CR? HD? 1/2 CR? 1/3 HD? I have no idea.

No, for this house rule I’m going to take a page from the Star Wars: SAGA edition RPG. Modifiers are extra math and new AC values require an extra space in a stat block. Thus I propose the following:

Crit-Resistant Creatures:

When confirming a critical hit against a crit-resistant creature, roll your attack roll twice, and take the lower of the two rolls.

This makes these creatures more difficult to crit against. The exact difficulty of scoring a crit will scale with their AC (and thus their CR).

Now what about Rogues? Are they allowed to sneak attack with impunity?

Well, I believe that anything that can be caught unaware (denied dex) should be sneakattackable. But for those who want to represent these creatures’ crit-resistances, I would propose this house rule:

Sneak Attack and Crit-Resistant Creatures:

Sneak Attack (and Skirmish, Sudden Strike, or any other precision-based damage bonuses) add only half the bonus they normally would, rounded down, against crit-resistant creatures.

I’ll leave this up to the individual GM to decide whether that means half the damage dice (+7d6 becomes +3d6) or half the damage (more math, +7d6 becomes +((7d6)/2)). Straight bonuses (+5 damage) would be halved and rounded down (+2 damage).

What do you think?

16 Comments

ChattyDm  on November 21st, 2007

Woot! A first post for reals! And pimping your blog can now become part of my next mini-post!

I really like the re-roll confirmation (simple, elegant) and the sneak attack is light tasting yet satisfying gravy!

Tell me about it, a rant that morphs into constructive, usable crunch!

Hell of a first post my friend!

Can I be a minion now? :)

Graham  on November 21st, 2007

Heh. This isn’t going to become an empire, so much as a workshop. But if I ever get minions, you’ll be one.

Dave T. Game  on November 21st, 2007

Hmm, I see your reasons for rolling twice, taking the lowest, but it seems a bit fiddly to me. There’s nothing really in the game that works like it.

My preferred way (and the way I’ll start using it) would be to give a bonus to AC when rolling a confirmation. There’s already precedent for using it this way- the “Power Critical” feat gives a +4 to crit confirmation.

It’s a little more work, but instead of giving a bonus based on CR or HD, I’d give a bonus based on what type of creature it is and what the rationale for not having critical hits is. An Iron Golem, for one, probably would get a big bonus against crits, since there really isn’t anywhere lucky to hit. Same with a Gelatinous Cube. But a zombie? Easily critted. (It would depend on specific monster and not just monster type too.)

For Sneak Attack, you could just say that the creature’s AC is higher against Sneak Attacks. It could work like cover… if you hit the range between the normal AC and the improved AC, it still counts as a regular hit, and if you hit the improved AC, it’s a sneak attack.

Graham  on November 21st, 2007

There are few things in the (current) game that works like it, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. That’s why I went to the SAGA edition rules, many of which are spawned from the 4e thought process. (In SAGA, handfuls of modifiers are gone, replaced by different mechanics that accomplish the same thing with less on-the-fly math.)

The big reason is that it keeps one constant mechanic across every creature. With a bonus to AC for crit confirmations, you will have a different number for every creature. And since you aren’t likely to remember what every creature has, you will have to look up an extra number every time there’s a crit threat.

And don’t forget to add the same number to touch attack rolls as well. Or would that be a different number, as it might make sense that although a strike to a critical spot on a golem is difficult due to inherent toughness, merely touching that spot is rather easy?

It gets very complicated, when you deal with things on a creature-by-creature basis.

As for Sneak Attack, that can work. It adds an extra layer of complexity to a sneak attack roll, but it does work if you use an AC bonus method.

Dave T. Game  on November 21st, 2007

I hear ya, but 4e is going to come with a number of other changes as well. Like natural 20 always being a crit and rolls to confirm being gone. I guess I prefer when changing to fit to the style of the edition I’m playing in… but I’m really looking forward to seeing how 4e does everything.

Graham  on November 21st, 2007

Oh, for sure. In no way do I claim that this is how 4e will work.

But it is a mechanic that SAGA uses in many places (not for crits, though, as it uses the crit mechanic you just described). It’s simple and works well, and I decided to adapt it here.

norm  on December 1st, 2007

I’d rather do math than have extra dice rolls.

I think there already is crit resistance. You even mentioned it. Confirmation roll combined with AC.

Graham  on December 1st, 2007

There are no creatures that are resistant to crits, as far as I know. The higher AC does make certain creatures more resistant to crits, true, but that’s a side-effect of the existing crit system, not an actual resistance specifically to crits.

In any case, that’s not who we’re really concerned with here. It’s the crit-immunes we care about right now.

As for math vs rolling, I don’t disagree completely. If we were to make it a flat +5 (or something) to confirmation AC, it would be just fine (though, to me, grabing a second d20 and rolling both is quicker, it’s not going to please everyone). What I dislike is when every creature needs a different value for crit resistance. Zombies have +4, Vampires +2, Genatinous Cubes +10, etc. Even if we make it something like 1/2 CR or 1/2 HD, it requires every creature to have a new entry on its stat block.

So, yeah. Flat bonus for crit resist = good, simple, and quick.

Roll two dice, use lowest (effectively you need to confirm twice, but you only do it once) = also good, simple, and quick, but different from most 3e mechanics, so some people will be resistant to it, of course.

Primarily, though, the second roll is just the way I prefer. No extra modifiers to remember, no players wondering why the AC suddenly went up (and why the golem’s AC went up more (or didn’t go up more) than than the zombie’s.

Musings of the Chatty DM » Blog Archive » DM Chronicles, Session 7: Of Performing Crunch and Norming Fluff, Part 2  on December 6th, 2007

[...] that point, I was willing to give Graham’s ‘confirm a critical hit twice to crit an undead‘ house rule a shot.  Of course, that’s when Cixi promptly started playing nothing but [...]

Random Capitolist  on December 13th, 2007

Personally, I just give all undead the Fortification ability, like on armors and warforged, ranging from light to weak depending on how easy it’d be to land one.

For example, Zombies get light, so have a 25% chance of negating extra damage, because headshots are generally easier to get than, say, stabbing through the heart for vampires.

Or, just make it a flat 50% fail chance.

(What do you call people from Ottawa?
Capitolists!)

Graham  on December 13th, 2007

Hmm… Not a bad alternative, there.

Musings of the Chatty DM » Blog Archive » My D&D Flavour: House Rules for Badass Heroes.  on December 30th, 2007

[...] of Crit Resistant creatures instead of Crit immune ones (Taken from Graham’s very 1st post here). All creatures usually immune to crits can now be, if the player confirms a crit twice with the [...]

» DM Chronicles, Session 6: Perfectly Paced Action Crunch! (Part 2)  on May 29th, 2009

[...] hits against non-critable creatures might not be such a big deal after all (Welcome to the blogosphere [...]

DM Chronicles, Session 7: Of Performing Crunch and Norming Fluff, Part 2 : Critical Hits  on January 24th, 2010

[...] that point, I was willing to give Graham’s ‘confirm a critical hit twice to crit an undead‘ house rule a shot. Of course, that’s when Cixi promptly started playing nothing but [...]

DM Chronicles, Session 6: Perfectly Paced Action Crunch! (Part 2) : Critical Hits  on January 24th, 2010

[...] hits against non-critable creatures might not be such a big deal after all (Welcome to the blogosphere [...]

My D&D Flavour: House Rules for Badass Heroes. : Critical Hits  on January 24th, 2010

[...] of Crit Resistant creatures instead of Crit immune ones (Taken from Graham’s very 1st post here). All creatures usually immune to crits can now be, if the player confirms a crit twice with the [...]

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