D&D 5E Advantage, Criticals, and Fumbles

Mort

Legend
Supporter
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.
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
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
Supporter
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.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
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......
 

Shiroiken

Legend
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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