I’ve been trying to write a post about critical hits and fumbles for awhile now. A stupidly long while, actually. Like, a month and a half. I’ve had this general idea about wanting to discuss the various ways I’ve seen people handle attack rolls of 1 or 20, but I haven’t been able to pin down what I want to say about it.
I first got to thinking about this when I started playing in my friend Gustie’s Anomalous Subsurface Environment game, where I am a thief named Nire the Dead. Gustie has a really cool method of handling critical hits, where the attacker can either deal double damage, or do ‘something cool.’ It’s a mechanic which doesn’t simply allow players to be creative and try crazy things, but encourages it. A player can always say they want to try something cool, but often the odds of success make a simple attack the obviously better choice. By pre-confirming that something cool will work, the mechanic has an incredibly freeing effect on the player’s imagination.
All of that said, I don’t know if I would want to implement Gustie’s system in Pathfinder. Combat maneuvers already provide a working structure for ‘cool stuff,’ and it’s an extremely efficient one which rewards player ingenuity. I feel like the two systems might not mesh well with one another. Despite not wanting to use Gustie’s system, though, I do want to try something a little more colorful than the basic double damage / critical miss system that Pathfinder uses.
For the last few weeks, Brendan’s Vaults of Pahvelorn game has been using a pair of tables he got from a Lammantations of the Flame Princess supplement. I don’t own LotFP, so I can’t speak to the table’s full content. But anytime a 1 or a 20 is rolled, Brendan asks us to roll a 30 sided die, and something wonderful, or terrible, results. I’ve been fascinated to watch how this table has affected the group. We’re all on the edge of our seat, waiting to find out what the d30’s roll will produce–and there have been some doozies. Like the time one of us rolled a 20, which resulted in a miss, but they then ‘learned from it,’ and gained 1 point to their wisdom score. Or the time one of the party’s cleric’s was granted a new level on the spot.
We’ve had an immense amount of fun with the LotFP tables. But for my Pathfinder games, I wanted to find something a little more grounded. That’s when I discovered a post on Delta’s D&D Hotspot with some fantastic tables from an old dragon magazine. You should definitely take a moment to look over those tables. They’re very nearly perfect. All I’ve done below is parse them down from four charts, to two. And from a d%, to a d30.
Note that a little creativity, and judgement is required from the GM when using these tables. What does it mean in game terms when an orc loses an eye? (Perhaps they’re easier to backstab or flank)? What exactly happens to a shortbow when it’s damaged? (Perhaps the character cannot bend it as far without breaking it, and thus the bow’s range is reduced by half)? I’ve tried to predict circumstances which would make any of the results invalid, and provide contingencies for them. But if you choose to use these tables, I’m sure you’ll discover a few that I missed, and need to either re-roll, or make a judgement call.
Critical Hits (Roll 1d30)
Any attack roll of 20 is a critical hit. Any other other attack roll within critical range must be confirmed as per Pathfinder’s rules.
1-10) Standard critical damage as indicated by the weapon type.
11-15) Critical multiplier increased by 1. (If a weapon deals double damage on a critical hit, then it would deal triple damage. If the weapon deals triple damage, then it would deal quadruple damage, and so on.)
16) Normal damage, and weapon is knocked from the opponent’s hands. (If enemy uses natural weapons, such as a bite attack, those weapons are damaged and rendered unusable.)
17) Normal damage, and opponent’s shield is knocked out of their hands. (If no shield is present, weapon is knocked away instead, as described for 16)
18) Normal damage, plus opponent’s armor (or natural armor) is damaged, reducing its AC bonus by 1. Armor can be repaired for 1/2 base cost. (If armor is magical, re-roll.)
19) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s ear is struck, and destroyed. (If the target is wearing a helm, attack deals normal damage, and helm is knocked off.)
20) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s eye is struck, and destroyed. (If the target is wearing a helm, attack deals normal damage and helm is knocked off.)
21) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s knee is struck. They are reduced to 1/2 movement speed.
22) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s right arm is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
23) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s left arm is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
24) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s right leg is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
25) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s left leg is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
26) Critical damage, plus severe damage to the abdomen. (Heavy bleeding, either from a wound, or internally). Target will continue to lose 10 hp every turn (10 minutes) until bbleeding is stopped.
27) Critical damage, plus severe damage to one of the target’s lungs. Target is left gasping on the ground until tended to. Suffers a permanent loss of 4 Constitution (which also causes a loss of 2hp/level). This ability loss is from the destruction of a lung, and cannot be recovered by anything less than a Regenerate spell.
28) The attack strikes the chest, and severely damages the heart. The target is immediately reduced to -1 hp.
29) The attack strikes the head. The target immediately drops to -1 hp and suffers the permanent loss of 4 Wisdom. This ability loss is from brain damage, and cannot be recovered by anything less than a Regenerate spell. (If the target is wearing a helmet, this attack instead deals critical damage, and knocks the helmet from the target’s head).
30) Roll twice.
Critical Fumble (Roll 1d30)
Any attack roll of 1 is a critical fumble.
1-10) Complete miss.
11-12) Fumbler’s movements put them off balance. They take a -1 penalty to their armor class for the next round.
13) Fumbler’s movements put them severely off balance. They lose Dexterity, Shield, and Dodge bonuses to AC for the next round. If losing these bonuses does not reduce the fumbler’s AC, then they still must take a -1 penalty.
14-15) Fumbler trips, and falls prone.
16) Fumbler trips, falls prone, and strikes their head. Stunned for 1d4 rounds. (If fumbler is wearing a helmet, then they are not stunned, but their helmet is knocked off).
17-18) Weapon is damaged and loses some of its effectiveness, but is still usable. Specifics are up to the GM. Weapon can be repaired for 1/2 of the weapon’s base cost. (Magical weapons are unaffected, and merely miss).
19) Weapon is damaged and loses some of its effectiveness, but is still usable. Specifics are up to the GM. Weapon can be repaired for 1/2 base cost. This includes magical weapons.
20-21) Weapon is destroyed. Can be reassembled for 3/4 of the weapon’s base cost. (Magical weapons are unaffected, and merely miss).
22) Weapon is destroyed. Can be reassembled for 3/4 of the weapon’s base cost. This includes magical weapons.
23) Weapon is dropped.
24) Weapon is sent flying.
25) Shield is dropped. (If no shield is held, weapon is dropped).
26) Fumbler twists their ankle, and is reduced to 1/2 speed until they have a day to rest.
27) If fumbler wears a helm, it becomes twisted, leaving them unable to see. (If no helm is worn, this is simply a miss).
28) A nearby ally is struck for 1/2 damage. (If no ally is nearby, this is merely a miss).
29) A nearby ally is struck for normal damage. (If no ally is nearby, this is merely a miss).
30) Roll Twice.