D&D 5E Advantage, Criticals, and Fumbles

DND_Reborn

Legend
It's tangential, but when I think about it, I dislike that a 20 always hits and a 1 always misses. Is it silly to ponder something like, if you roll a 20 and it doesn't hit that you can roll another die and add it to your first roll to see if it was good enough. Similarly on a 1, roll another die and subtract it from your first roll.
FWIW, another issue with these types of systems is it makes AC 20 and 21 identical, because if you get a 20 on the first roll, you can't get less than a 1 on the second. If you want to say a 1 on the second is a miss, then AC 20 and 22 become identical since your minimum roll which would hit would be a 2...

To make it work, later rolls need to be 0-19 (or d20-1).

I think a nice way would also be to have the secondary post-20 roll be a proficiency die (+2 = d4, +3 = d6, etc.), because otherwise your chances of hitting higher ACs are almost guaranteed after the first 20. Which is probably why they don't do roll a second d20 and add to the first 20...
 

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Mort

Legend
It's tangential, but when I think about it, I dislike that a 20 always hits and a 1 always misses. Is it silly to ponder something like, if you roll a 20 and it doesn't hit that you can roll another die and add it to your first roll to see if it was good enough. Similarly on a 1, roll another die and subtract it from your first roll.

I go back and forth on this.

You'll note, 5e expressly removed the 1 always fails for saving throws an skill checks - that used to be in prior editions - but they left it in for to-hit rolls. I like this because there SHOULD be a point where you are so good at something or SO resilient that you simply will not fail or be affected (for ex. I have a paladin PC that cannot fail a "standard" DC 10 concentration check (bonus is +9) and that's saved his bacon several times).

I can see the same thing for to hit rolls (good and bad) but at the same time; I can also see wanting to maintain at least some uncertainty for dramatic purposes (it is a fight, after all). A rule where a 20 or a 1 results in an additional roll that is either added or subtracted is a good compromise (probably wouldn't use it in my game, but I could see it in a given game).
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I was wondering what your thoughts are on the mechanics of:

1. Advantage (and Disadvantage)
2. Critical Hits (and possibly ability checks and saves?)
3. Fumbles (also possibly on ability checks and saves?)

I would appreciate any discussion on the topics you wish to have, and I'll state my own thoughts; whether you share them, disagree, or have something else to share.
... (snip)...
If anyone has any thoughts to add or share, I eagerly await your posts!

RE: advantage
I love this mechanics because it doesn't involve floating modifiers, which I really got sick of in 3.X. As an alternate to advantage/disadvantage, the "roll a d4 and add/remove it to the roll" is nice too and if I had to rein back the use of adv/disadv, I'd use something similar. It could be progressive, like two d4 bonuses = one d6 bonus instead, but it partially defeats the point of not having to track each gorram source of possible modifier to stack as many as possible ftw.

RE: critical hits
I like the present setup, and I particularly like the fact that they don't need confirmation. I applaud the "make them weaker but happen more often" approach. I would not be against a system where extra dice can be traded for status effects however.

I like the idea of having critical save and ability checks, but they are hard to implement consistently. For saves, I though that a crit save could make you auto succeed against the same spell/effect until you take a long rest or something, but being submitted to the same spell/effect more than once doesn't happen regularly enough to make the houserule worth IMO.

For cirt skill checks, there's the "choose one of the following: half time, double duration, give advantage to friend on same skill, gain inspiration, etc" option that some other games use. Used consistently, this could work.

As for attacks yielding a natural 20 being both auto-hit and critical hit; this doesn't bother me. It fits in a fiction where the hero is fighting an invulnerable opponent where only a a decisive hit can have any hope to affect it. It's used often in movies and since called shots are not a thing in D&D, this emulates it close enough (punch, punch, punch; no effects. Bad guy is too beefy. Kick in the nuts; bad guy is DOWN!)

RE: fumbles
While I understand that things can go south in combat, I haven't found a satisfactory solution that doesn't make fumbles work in D&D that doesn't make PCs look like a stooge. At best, you could represent a 1 as a lost opportunity or an opening for the enemy to exploit, but D&D doesn't really support that kind of things. A natural 1 being an auto-miss is enough of a fumble for me.

Fumbles on saves are difficult to implement consistently. At best they could represent something that has no direct connection with the spell or effect per se, like loss of inspiration, or disadvantage on your next save. But meh...

Fumbles on skill could also work on a "choose one among the following, extra time, loss material, a complication of sort, etc." I like games that let you or your DM choose a consequence from a list that everyone is aware of and doesn't cause unfair surprises. A natural 1 should always be an auto-miss however. That'd be the fumble. If the check is worth rolling, it should be worth failing regardless of your skill level. It doesn't have to be an humiliating defeat. You botched and it didn't work. That's all.

This argument came a lot in the 3e days: "If skill checks were auto-failed on a natural 1, 5% of ALL patients would die on the operating table regardless of their condition."

Counter argument:
First, not all surgeries require a skill check. Some are routine enough to let the surgeon succeed without a check if there are no significant chances of failure. 5e reinforces this approach.

Second, not all failure result in death. Minor to moderate screw-ups happen often, only, they don't result in the patient's death. Usually, they will take longer to heal, will have to stay longer in the hospital due to a bad reaction with meds/anesthetics, or will need surgery again.

Third, surgeons have access to masterwork tools. They are not operating out in the field. A fully equipped ER would grant advantage in 5e.

Fourth, surgeons are assisted by a full medical staff. For the surgery to fumble, both the surgeon and their team should roll 1s.

Fifth, people DO die on the operation table. Sometimes it's because the surgeon did screw-up.

So, yeah. Not 5% of all patient would die out of of a auto-failed check of 1. I call bull**** on that.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
FWIW, another issue with these types of systems is it makes AC 20 and 21 identical, because if you get a 20 on the first roll, you can't get less than a 1 on the second. If you want to say a 1 on the second is a miss, then AC 20 and 22 become identical since your minimum roll which would hit would be a 2...

To make it work, later rolls need to be 0-19 (or d20-1).

I think a nice way would also be to have the secondary post-20 roll be a proficiency die (+2 = d4, +3 = d6, etc.), because otherwise your chances of hitting higher ACs are almost guaranteed after the first 20. Which is probably why they don't do roll a second d20 and add to the first 20...

With bounded accuracy are there many cases where rolling a 29 would miss or a -9 would hit? If not, then using a commonly marked 0-9 d10 would work easily. The roll could make it 2_ or -_ .
 

LoganRan

Explorer
I don't play 5E any longer but I liked the simplicity of Advantage/Disadvantage. The K.I.S.S. principle is a personal mantra for me and Ad/Dis aligns well with that philosophy.

I hate both Crits and Fumbles. I agree that if you are going to use Crits you should use Fumbles as well but I personally have never liked Critical Hits. Crits really are not even necessary unless you are using fixed damage for weapons as the varying results of the damage dice roll indicate if an attack was a mere scratch (i.e. 1 point on the damage die) or a critical hit (max value on the damage die).

EDIT: Kinda off topic but I am in ranting mood so...I have always disliked using a linear d20 for task resolution. I prefer systems like HERO or Fantasy Age which use 3d6 for task resolution to generate a more reliable range of values. I think critical hits/fumbles would actually make more sense using 3d6 because it is actually harder to roll a '3' or an '18' unlike on the d20 where there is no difference in the probability of rolling a '20' over any other value.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
EDIT: Kinda off topic but I am in ranting mood so...I have always disliked using a linear d20 for task resolution. I prefer systems like HERO or Fantasy Age which use 3d6 for task resolution to generate a more reliable range of values. I think critical hits/fumbles would actually make more sense using 3d6 because it is actually harder to roll a '3' or an '18' unlike on the d20 where there is no difference in the probability of rolling a '20' over any other value.
I don't have my books handy so I can't check, but isn't there a set of optional rules in the 5E DMG for using 3d6 in place of a d20 roll? or am I mis-remembering that?
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
With bounded accuracy are there many cases where rolling a 29 would miss or a -9 would hit? If not, then using a commonly marked 0-9 d10 would work easily. The roll could make it 2_ or -_ .
Off-hand I can't think of anything in the game that has a base AC above 29, and the lowest AC IIRC is 5, so you will only miss that if you have really big penalties.

Of course with magic items and spells, at higher levels you can get ACs greater than 29, but I don't know if any would be "always" on.

The best I can think off (of the top of my head) is a Wizard proficient in heavy armor and shield (plate +3, shield +3) with COP +1 and ROP +1 would be a base AC 28. At 18th level you could do shield every round, for a semi-permanent AC 33. But even then with the 0-9 d10 and a +4 bonus (almost the established minimum), you could still hit AC 33.

There might be powerful fiends or maybe Tiamat??? with AC above 29, I really don't know.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I don't have my books handy so I can't check, but isn't there a set of optional rules in the 5E DMG for using 3d6 in place of a d20 roll? or am I mis-remembering that?
I don't recall ever seeing it, but it is a commonly used replacement of course, we are using 2d10 at present for everything except initiative.
 

Mort

Legend
EDIT: Kinda off topic but I am in ranting mood so...I have always disliked using a linear d20 for task resolution. I prefer systems like HERO or Fantasy Age which use 3d6 for task resolution to generate a more reliable range of values. I think critical hits/fumbles would actually make more sense using 3d6 because it is actually harder to roll a '3' or an '18' unlike on the d20 where there is no difference in the probability of rolling a '20' over any other value.
GURPS uses 3d6 as well.

And i have to say, I always REALLY want to like this approach. It's easy, it's intuitive and, as you say, it has a much more reliable range of value. But:

I've honestly never had a "fun" game of GURPS - and man we've tried. I've GM'd, my friends have GM'd played several games at Gen Con - and it always feels like something is just missing.

Current hypothesis is I'm just too conditioned to needing/rolling multiple dice to have a fulfilling game experience (Never really had a fun Vampire/Werewolf game either - though that may be for totally different reasons!) - well it's a working theory.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
GURPS uses 3d6 as well.

And i have to say, I always REALLY want to like this approach. It's easy, it's intuitive and, as you say, it has a much more reliable range of value. But:

I've honestly never had a "fun" game of GURPS - and man we've tried. I've GM'd, my friends have GM'd played several games at Gen Con - and it always feels like something is just missing.

Current hypothesis is I'm just too conditioned to needing/rolling multiple dice to have a fulfilling game experience (Never really had a fun Vampire/Werewolf game either - though that may be for totally different reasons!) - well it's a working theory.
I have honestly found running other games like Shadowrun, Vampire, WEG Star Wars, and others more challenging than D&D in any edition. We had fun and have played them on and off for decades, but they never have engaged me as much as either player or DM.
 

Mort

Legend
I have honestly found running other games like Shadowrun, Vampire, WEG Star Wars, and others more challenging than D&D in any edition. We had fun and have played them on and off for decades, but they never have engaged me as much as either player or DM.

I think that's a broader issue!

First, it's simply harder to find willing players - I want to start a 5e game -boom 6 players easy and I often have to exclude or split off a few. Try to start a Star Wars, deadlands etc. game? Hard to get 3-4 players interested.

Next (there was a thread on this a while back), much as we complain about the levels approach - it seems to REALLY engage players -they want to see their character at level 2, level 10, level 20 (even if actually getting there is unlikely). Systems that just give points to allocate to stats/abilities/perks etc. just don't seem to engage players as well (even if the resulting benefit to the character is similar).

And also, D&D has ALWAYS had more adventures available than just about any other system (I can't think of any others that have near as many low level, mid level or high level adventures), most just have an introductory adventure. Some have a few extra - but just not near as many. This makes it much easier for DMs to get into it and to get their players into it. Even if they eventually homebrew, there is just SO MUCH to borrow/steal from.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
First, it's simply harder to find willing players - I want to start a 5e game -boom 6 players easy and I often have to exclude or split off a few. Try to start a Star Wars, deadlands etc. game? Hard to get 3-4 players interested.
This was never as much an issue because the groups I was with all enjoy the games, so we just played them in turn. Probably about 50-60% D&D and the rest other RPGs.

Next (there was a thread on this a while back), much as we complain about the levels approach - it seems to REALLY engage players -they want to see their character at level 2, level 10, level 20 (even if actually getting there is unlikely). Systems that just give points to allocate to stats/abilities/perks etc. just don't seem to engage players as well (even if the resulting benefit to the character is similar).
I agree this was probably a bigger thing. It is harder to grasp all the little changes in point-allocation systems to the leaps made by leveling. Also, I found making NPCs and enemies harder to judge in power compared to the PCs.

And also, D&D has ALWAYS had more adventures available than just about any other system (I can't think of any others that have near as many low level, mid level or high level adventures), most just have an introductory adventure. Some have a few extra - but just not near as many. This makes it much easier for DMs to get into it and to get their players into it. Even if they eventually homebrew, there is just SO MUCH to borrow/steal from.
Another good point. I always preferred to create my own adventures, but for new DMs those could really help!
 

Mort

Legend
Another good point. I always preferred to create my own adventures, but for new DMs those could really help!
Yeah, I've always liked to create my own adventures, but I found early on that having a Dungeon magazine subscription really made it easy to swipe monsters/scenarios etc.

Plus, I've always been complete garbage at map making and having easy access to lots of them always helped. Now of course, people are completely spoiled with the internet and having basically infinite maps at their disposal!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
On a slightly related note, I play that it is impossible to crit an opponent for which only a 20 would hit. I also play that a natural '1' always fails and a nat '20' always succeeds for attacks and saves. Not for skill checks though, a 1 or a 20 is good or as bad as the target DC and your bonus make them.
 

It's tangential, but when I think about it, I dislike that a 20 always hits and a 1 always misses.
Back in 1E, before the THAC0 days of 2E, there was a combat matrix. Well, a set of charts, really, but they called it a matrix (IIRC). A 20 wasn't always an automatic hit, as the chart would go: 19, 20, 20, 20, 20, 20, 21, 22... If you needed the 21 or more, it meant that you had to have some kind of attack modifier to the roll, which was not a given at the time (such as a 17 Str or a magic weapon). On the other end, the numbers not only stopped at 0 with an automatic hit, but additional damage tacked on as well.

Personally, I'm fine with the auto hit & miss in 5E, mostly because with bounded accuracy it seldom matters. If someone really wanted to add this in, I'd suggest having a natural 20/1 add +/-5 to hit. If your AC is 6 higher than a natural 20 would give, you're invincible; if your AC is 6 lower than a natural 1, you're a weapon magnet.

What amazes me is how averse people seem to be nowadays to doing simple math. :(
I don't think it's about math, but simplicity. 3E was very popular, and figuring out the final modifier from stacking and non-stacking situations was an integral part of it. 5E was built upon the premise that people don't want things that complicated, and for the vast majority of players they've been right.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But they will still fumble more than other classes with fewer attacks - just because they are rolling more. Critical fumbles penalize high attack martials.
Obviously, the person who does uncertain activity ABC a thousand times is likely to mess it up more times in total than someone who during the same time only does activity ABC fifty times. This is what I'd expect to happen, anyway; and the same is true of criticals - someone attacking 1000 times will almost certainly score more crits than someone attacking 50 times.

The rate of messing-up - be it 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 - is the same for everyone, however, and that's all that matters to me. And yes, weapons, shields, etc. do break now and then; helmets occasionally slip down over eyes; footing is sometimes lost, and so forth during a battle. Warriors in the fiction would know of and expect all these risks, but the only means the game really has of abstracting them is to include them as possible fumble results.

And the way to reduce the perceived penalization of martials is to force casters to roll for aiming/placing their spells, particularly the A-of-E ones, and apply fumble rules to these rolls the same as to a fighter's attacks.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I agree, and the trick is balance. "Fumble" always brings up bad memories, because almost universally critical fumbles are disastrous, albeit sometimes hilarious. The punishment is usually harsher than the benefit of the equal chance critical, which is why they always feel so bad. It's got to be just as equally balanced against the benefit.

Since we have critical hits, I'm okay with a critical miss (or fumble) that has a minimal impact. Since critical hits deal extra damage, the logical solution is to affect your damage after a critical miss. The simple method would be that your next hit rolls minimal damage (except if a crit, which would cancel out instead). It's entirely gamist, with no in-world logic as to why this is the case, but damage an HP are themselves gamist in the same way.
Less gamist, perhaps, but still keeping with the potential for "negative" damage is that a fumble just gives the foe a single attack against the fumbler without regard to action economy - it's a freebie. That way at the table there's also no worrying about tracking who's next hit will be for minimum if said person manages to miss for several subsequent attacks.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you also imposing a spell mishap table? It's only fair.
Hells yes! Mishaps (wild magic surges) can occur if the casting is interrupted; or if an aimed spell fumbles the aiming roll you can easily hit nothing, or your allies, or youself.

I raise again the tale of a character in a long-ago game of mine, casting a fireball while wearing a fireproof cloak but fumbled the aiming roll such that the fireball went off inside said cloak......
 

Less gamist, perhaps, but still keeping with the potential for "negative" damage is that a fumble just gives the foe a single attack against the fumbler without regard to action economy - it's a freebie. That way at the table there's also no worrying about tracking who's next hit will be for minimum if said person manages to miss for several subsequent attacks.
There's a huge flaw with this though: attack with what? If I critically miss you with a crossbow or scorching ray, how do you hit me back with only the melee weapon in your hand? If you need a ranged attack, how long do you have to get it out to use it (and possibly with disadvantage if my buddy's in your face)? This would once again punish melee over ranged characters.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
1. Advantage (and Disadvantage)
I remember the horror of a Pathfinder/3.5 combat where one gamer got lost tracking roughly 9 modifiers active on his character. If you were to get into "net" gains even without numbers, you can run into this, especially with higher level play. You could replace it with pure DM discretion of a range of plus or minus 1 to 4 based on how the DM sees that exact scenario, but then we run into consistency ("well last time I swung from the chandelier you gave me +2...")

I personally don't like the idea of 1 form of Advantage cancelling out 10, or even 3, sources of Disadvantage and if I were to tinker anything, it's this, solved by pure DM discretion to not allow it.
2. CRITICAL HITS (and Ability Checks/ Saves)
Easy to house rule if you need Nat 20 to hit, you can't crit. Makes sense though instinct says rarely will this come up.

Critical confirmation does NOT work with Bounded Accuracy. WAAAY too easy to confirm. Same for critical fumbles. The math doesn't work because the system was designed for ACs that kept going. Played this way for 3-4 sessions, bad.

Skill criticals, should a natural 20 always succeed? I'd have a 1 in 20 chance of doing some pretty absurd crazy things and/or knowing things (DC 30 checks) that are so obscure that only 1-2 people on the planet might know it. I like the idea that some doors are simply too strong and you're never going to break them down with your 7 strength. I'm also great with 1s not being auto-fail on skills, and the optional rule if your ability score is 5 or more than the DC, you auto succeed.

Critical hits are a thrill factor associated with gamer stories about the time they rolled that Nat 20 in the big fight... I'd keep em for that.

I tried using the Pathfinder Critical Hit deck of cards but sometimes the effects just didn't apply, and then I'd have to house-rule something because a crit should always do something. I came full circle to the idea that double dice is the simplest and fastest way to play it. I can't think of a good way to improve that doesn't slow the game down to check a chart.

Pure brainstorm that if you get 11+ over what you needed to hit, it's a crit? It could get nasty with multi-attack foes versus low AC foes.
3. FUMBLES (and Ability Checks/ Saves)
So long as there's no negative other than "you miss" for a natural 1, it's not a big deal. We can't penalize higher-level fighters and the math on confirmation doesn't work like it did in 3E.

Pure brainstorm that if you get 11+ less than what you needed to hit, it's a fumble with a consequence, max 1 per turn? My Pathfinder critical fumble deck might come in handy, spells included, and if you get lucky and the effect is impossible, great. Take a deep breath and count yourself lucky.

This rewards the math for higher AC inducing greater chances for a fumble. I previously capped the # of fumbles you could have because I didn't want to over-penalize beings with multiple attacks.
 

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