Cutting Words Canceling Nat 20

RulesJD

First Post
So I feel like this hasn't really been discussed:

http://www.sageadvice.eu/2016/01/06/can-i-cancel-a-20-with-cutting-words/

Personally I vehemently disagree with that, but it's straight from the horse's mouth so to speak.

Does AL have an official stances on this? I know the normal line about DMs able to ignore twitter rulings, but what if it becomes an errata or Sage Advice compendium?

Also, I assume this means other abilities/spells have the same effect? Bane, Bend Luck, etc.
 

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Steve_MND

First Post
AL explicitly doesn't make rulings on that sort of stuff. That said, I'm guessing that the reasoning behind his argument is that specific 'cutting words' trumps the general 'nat 20 always hits' altho i can easily see why it might be disputed,as it possibly contradicts with other rulings. Expect table variance.
 

KahlessNestor

Adventurer
So I feel like this hasn't really been discussed:

http://www.sageadvice.eu/2016/01/06/can-i-cancel-a-20-with-cutting-words/

Personally I vehemently disagree with that, but it's straight from the horse's mouth so to speak.

Does AL have an official stances on this? I know the normal line about DMs able to ignore twitter rulings, but what if it becomes an errata or Sage Advice compendium?

Also, I assume this means other abilities/spells have the same effect? Bane, Bend Luck, etc.
Why would you vehemently disagree with it? Seems a pretty standard use of the ability. Other thungs can negate criticals, and have in previous editions as well.
 

kalani

First Post
DMs in AL are encouraged to use Sage Advice (in particular Jeremy's rulings, as Mike's rulings are from the perspective of the DM and sometimes cross the line into house rules), but are not required to. If you disagree with a SA ruling - ignore it.

As far as this ruling is concerned however, I see nothing in the wording of cutting words that would allow it to trump a Nat 20 (as all it does is add a negative modifier to the roll). Cutting word doesn't change the actual number rolled on the dice - it is just a modifier. If shield won't protect you from a critical hit (by raising AC), I don't see how cutting words would protect you by lowering the attack roll. This is especially true once you consider the fact that a Nat20 hits regardless of the creature's modifier.

The only way to cancel a crit by RAW, is to have an ability that forces the dice to be rerolled (or another number). Abilities such as portent or lucky (feat) are required to cancel a critical hit, or items such as adamantine​ armor.

Given the fact that some DMs will use Sage Advice rulings, expect table variation when using this ability.
 
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Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
As a DM, I'm likely to ignore this ruling -- note the text on p.73 of the Basic Rules:

"If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits *regardless of any modifiers* or the target's AC." (emphasis mine)

The only way to justify allowing Cutting Words to negate a critical hit is to rule that the phrase "subtracting the number rolled from the creature's roll" means that you're subtracting the result from the die directly rather than imposing a negative modifier to the roll. If that's the interpretation, however, then it would follow that the standard use of bardic inspiration ("the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes") would allow a non-20 to be 'promoted' to a critical hit, which would almost certainly be seen as overpowered, especially at later levels when the bardic inspiration die grows significantly larger -- the average result of adding an 18th+ level bardic inspiration die to an attack roll would be 17.

If the description of Cutting Words specifically noted that it modified the die roll and thus could prevent a critical hit, that would be different, but as written, there's nothing in Cutting Words to suggest that it isn't simply a modifier, which is already covered in the base rule regarding critical hits.

--
Pauper
 

delericho

Legend
As far as this ruling is concerned however, I see nothing in the wording of cutting words that would allow it to trump a Nat 20 (as all it does is add a negative modifier to the roll). Cutting word doesn't change the actual number rolled on the dice - it is just a modifier. If shield won't protect you from a critical hit (by raising AC), I don't see how cutting words would protect you by lowering the attack roll. This is especially true once you consider the fact that a Nat20 hits regardless of the creature's modifier.

Yep, looks like a straight-up mistake to me.
 

Inconnunom

First Post
As a DM, I'm likely to ignore this ruling -- note the text on p.73 of the Basic Rules:

"If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits *regardless of any modifiers* or the target's AC." (emphasis mine)

The only way to justify allowing Cutting Words to negate a critical hit is to rule that the phrase "subtracting the number rolled from the creature's roll" means that you're subtracting the result from the die directly rather than imposing a negative modifier to the roll. If that's the interpretation, however, then it would follow that the standard use of bardic inspiration ("the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes") would allow a non-20 to be 'promoted' to a critical hit, which would almost certainly be seen as overpowered, especially at later levels when the bardic inspiration die grows significantly larger -- the average result of adding an 18th+ level bardic inspiration die to an attack roll would be 17.

If the description of Cutting Words specifically noted that it modified the die roll and thus could prevent a critical hit, that would be different, but as written, there's nothing in Cutting Words to suggest that it isn't simply a modifier, which is already covered in the base rule regarding critical hits.

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Pauper

Back when I first started, I originally read it as a reduction of the value on the die. Another player and I debated and I conceded. I'm fine with Crawford's ruling.

As far as crits, only a 20 on a die roll hits. I play a bard during one of my sessions and if a player of mine ever tried to use it to get a crit then he won't be ever be getting inspiration again. Also as the support of the group, it's my main source of defense (I only have 15 AC).

Additionally, using cutting words to negate crits is not that big of a deal. Take a look at an Earth Elemental. An extra 2d8 is only 9 damage on average. It isn't as good as disadvantage on rolls. (See things like warding flare or protection fighting style, etc).

If he changes his mind later, then we will switch back but there are only so many inspiration dice to go around.

TLDR: I'm fine either way. We play with cutting crits on currently and don't see significant savings.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
Back when I first started, I originally read it as a reduction of the value on the die. Another player and I debated and I conceded. I'm fine with Crawford's ruling.

That's cool. The point of AL not requiring Sage Advice is that a DM (like me) who isn't OK with the ruling is free to ignore it.

As far as crits, only a 20 on a die roll hits. I play a bard during one of my sessions and if a player of mine ever tried to use it to get a crit then he won't be ever be getting inspiration again. Also as the support of the group, it's my main source of defense (I only have 15 AC).

Not sure if you're confusing inspiration with bardic inspiration (poor choice of terms on the designers' parts, there); it would be a tough sell to not allow the bard to gain her bardic inspiration dice after each appropriate rest.

Additionally, using cutting words to negate crits is not that big of a deal. Take a look at an Earth Elemental. An extra 2d8 is only 9 damage on average. It isn't as good as disadvantage on rolls. (See things like warding flare or protection fighting style, etc).

Agreed on the greater impact of disadvantage, but I'm going to disagree that this use of Cutting Words isn't significant -- 9 less damage on average is the difference between an average of 14 damage and an average of 23 damage. Since an earth elemental is CR5, the latter damage will be a sizable portion of a level-appropriate PC's hit points. Allowing that reduction for something that arguably doesn't even follow the game rules is pretty significant.

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Pauper
 

Inconnunom

First Post
That's cool. The point of AL not requiring Sage Advice is that a DM (like me) who isn't OK with the ruling is free to ignore it.
I agree :)

Not sure if you're confusing inspiration with bardic inspiration (poor choice of terms on the designers' parts, there); it would be a tough sell to not allow the bard to gain her bardic inspiration dice after each appropriate rest.
To rephrase: When I am playing as a bard and I give out one of my precious Bardic Inspirations to a player and they try to use it get get a "20", I will no longer be giving them bardic inspiration, because that is the worst use of that resource I can imagine.


Agreed on the greater impact of disadvantage, but I'm going to disagree that this use of Cutting Words isn't significant -- 9 less damage on average is the difference between an average of 14 damage and an average of 23 damage. Since an earth elemental is CR5, the latter damage will be a sizable portion of a level-appropriate PC's hit points. Allowing that reduction for something that arguably doesn't even follow the game rules is pretty significant.

(Slight spoiler but no context)
There is a portion in OotA where we had to fight 4 elementals, one after the other. We averaged level 5 and a half. 9 damage is really insignificant in the grand scheme there, especially when each elemental gets 2 attacks.

But maybe the significance is just a matter of opinion.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
(Slight spoiler but no context)
There is a portion in OotA where we had to fight 4 elementals, one after the other. We averaged level 5 and a half. 9 damage is really insignificant in the grand scheme there, especially when each elemental gets 2 attacks.

Fair enough. I'll note that 9 damage is basically a hit die plus Con for pretty much any character in AL, even at level 5. From that standpoint, I'm sticking to my guns as the difference not being 'insignificant'.

But that's why Rule 1 is "expect table variation".

--
Pauper
 

RulesJD

First Post
Fair enough. I'll note that 9 damage is basically a hit die plus Con for pretty much any character in AL, even at level 5. From that standpoint, I'm sticking to my guns as the difference not being 'insignificant'.

But that's why Rule 1 is "expect table variation".

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Pauper

The difference is definitely not insignificant. It's extremely significant, especially in T2+. You have mobs swinging for 20 damage average and you can short rest prevent that from being 40+??? Sign me up.
 

Coredump

First Post
Fair enough. I'll note that 9 damage is basically a hit die plus Con for pretty much any character in AL, even at level 5. From that standpoint, I'm sticking to my guns as the difference not being 'insignificant'.

But that's why Rule 1 is "expect table variation".

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Pauper
eh... still not that significant. Its not completely trivial, but since it only happens 5% of the time, being able to stop it just isnt' that big of an impact.

And compare stopping a crit to stopping a hit.... Warding Flare etc can turn a hit into a miss....which not only happens much more often, is a larger reduction in damage than preventing a crit.

Allowing CW to prevent a crit, or B Inspiration to have a chance at allowing a crit..... doesn't really bother me. (Using BI for the *chance* of a crit, is a really poor use of that resource)

Bless and Bane, however, have the same wording; and allowing those to create or prevent a crit seems pretty broken.
 



Inconnunom

First Post
Still dislike that Sage Advice isn't considered official.

More to the point, this wasn't a mistake. He specifically called it out.

Heres a good explanation of why: http://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/72041/can-cutting-words-cancel-a-critical-hit

And a good explantation here of why it does not apply to things like bardic inspiration or bless/bane: http://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/72065/can-bardic-inspiration-make-a-roll-a-critical-hit

THAT actually makes sense (although it reeks of legalese like what the definition of "is" is).
An "attack roll" is d20 plus modifiers. Adding or subtracting like bane or bless occur as a bonus or penalty.
The "roll" referenced in cutting words is the raw d20 roll before modifiers have been added. The idea that you can "do it after the roll but before the DM determines success by adding modifiers to the roll" kind of supports that ruling as well.

I'm convinced now that Crawford knew exactly what he was saying. (Well at least convinced for now... )
 

Steve_MND

First Post
I understand the reasoning they are using behind it, but I really do not agree with the premise in the first place. There should not be any way to adjust the "physical roll" -- so to speak -- of any die roll. If you rolled a 17, you rolled a 17 -- the physical die, sitting on the physical table, shows a 17. That's not alterable; you can change a lot of things, you can add or subtract from the remainder of the calculation, you can roll another die and use that physical number instead, etc., but you shouldn't be able to "change the physical roll." That was always kind of seen as inviolate.

Besides, this just opens up a number of other questions/potential issues if certain effects can change the "physical die roll" in this manner. For example, that also means that theoretical effects like these can not only keep a critical from happening, but also make one happen. Rolled an 18 on the physical die? An effect of this type adds 2 to the die's 'face,' meaning you actually "rolled" a physical 20.

Further, the rules say a 1 on the roll always misses, and a 20 on the roll always hits, regardless of any modifiers or the target's AC. But what if, using this new ruling, you "roll" a 22 on the twenty-sided die? Is that also a critical? It could be, because it's even better than "rolling" a 20. What about a similarly-worded effect that reduces the "roll" below 1? Like a "roll" of -1 on a 20-sided die, if you have +10 to hit, does that mean you miss an AC 8 opponent? You technically hit it by mathematics, but the "roll" you made is worse than what would cause you to automatically miss.

I understand it in theory, but I personally think it was a bad call/intent and sets up a dangerous precedent. The raw "roll" on any die should be what's physically on the die itself -- anything beyond that should, by definition, only exist as a modifier of some sort, regardless of the semantics in use.
 

Coredump

First Post
THAT actually makes sense (although it reeks of legalese like what the definition of "is" is).
An "attack roll" is d20 plus modifiers. Adding or subtracting like bane or bless occur as a bonus or penalty.
The "roll" referenced in cutting words is the raw d20 roll before modifiers have been added. The idea that you can "do it after the roll but before the DM determines success by adding modifiers to the roll" kind of supports that ruling as well.

I'm convinced now that Crawford knew exactly what he was saying. (Well at least convinced for now... )

I disagree. Cutting words subtracts from the attack roll, bardic inspiration adds to the attack roll. I don't see a difference in the verbage to warrant treating them differently. I am not against CW negating crits, but then so should Bane. And BI and Bless should allow for crits.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
More to the point, this wasn't a mistake. He specifically called it out.

It is a mistake -- see the rule that determines what a critical hit is:

"If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target's AC. This is called a critical hit..."

Cutting Words does not change the d20 roll; it modifies it when comprising the attack roll**, consistent with the other effects in the game that modify d20 rolls for attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks.

It should also be noted that there is no equivalent rule, as there was in other editions, about a d20 roll of 1 being an automatic failure and a 20 an automatic success on saving throws, though an AL DM could rule such at her table if she chose to.

** -- See the very first clause of the Cutting Words ability: "When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an *attack roll*..." (emphasis mine) The 'roll' being referenced in the later clause is not the d20 roll, but the attack roll. (If it was the d20 roll that was being modified, you'd think that would be stated, somewhere. Anywhere.)

Still dislike that Sage Advice isn't considered official.

You should be aware that Sage Advice isn't even official for Sage Advice:

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/675429202213011456

--
Pauper
 
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kalani

First Post
Incorrect. AL DMs are not allowed to change the rules of the game, or introduce house rules. They are however, allowed to make rulings on something the rules do not cover.

A natural 20/1 is treated as an ordinary roll for Saving Throws (excluding Death Saving Throws) and Ability Checks. AL DMs are not authorized to implement automatic success/failure on those checks, however they are free to describe the success/failure as noteworthy (although they should refrain from adding mechanical effects to those descriptions).

A character with a +9 modifier to an ability check for example, will auto-succeed on any DC 10 (or lower) check involving that ability (while most characters will auto-succeed on most DC 5 checks). Meanwhile, characters with a +4 or lower modifier will auto-fail any DC25+ check. This is simply how the rules work in 5E, and AL DMs are not allowed to change them.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
Incorrect. AL DMs are not allowed to change the rules of the game, or introduce house rules. They are however, allowed to make rulings on something the rules do not cover.

Unless the DM is invoking Sage Advice, which says repeatedly that a DMs ruling trumps the official rules.

Numerous AL sources say that DMs are welcome to use Sage Advice when running AL games.

Lastly, the ALPG itself states that a DM's ruling at the table is final for the purpose of a specific game session. As no other person is authorized to interpret the official rules at the table, this means that what is 'official' in any given game session is wholly determined by the DM at that table.

This is why the only truly viable advice on rules is 'expect table variation'.

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Pauper

Edit: In this specific instance, the difference between 'nat 1 is an auto-fail on saves' and 'nat 1 is not an auto-fail on saves' is likely pointless -- in nearly all cases, characters playing official AL material are not going to have a saving throw bonus that is high enough to succeed on a save while rolling a natural '1'. Likewise, it is exceedingly unlikely that a character will fail a save despite rolling a natural '20'. In the few instances where such a distinction might make a difference, the DM is the final arbiter of whether or not it does.
 
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