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D&D 5E Difference between critical hits and automatic hits.

Tormyr

Adventurer
I realize that this is a real corner case, but it seems like there is a separation of critical hits and automatic hits in the rules. The rules state that a 20 automatically hits, but it separately states that a critical hit does double damage. Where this gets interesting for me is a case where somebody has an expanded critical range and through high enemy AC and low bonuses rolls a 19 on die but does not meet the enemy's AC.

I think this (difficult to encounter) case is a miss. Does anyone have a different opinion? I entered D&D at the September play test. Have the rules always been this way on this subject in earlier editions?
 

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tragicjones

First Post
I realize that this is a real corner case, but it seems like there is a separation of critical hits and automatic hits in the rules. The rules state that a 20 automatically hits, but it separately states that a critical hit does double damage. Where this gets interesting for me is a case where somebody has an expanded critical range and through high enemy AC and low bonuses rolls a 19 on die but does not meet the enemy's AC.

I think this (difficult to encounter) case is a miss. Does anyone have a different opinion? I entered D&D at the September play test. Have the rules always been this way on this subject in earlier editions?
It's definitely a hit, at least for champion fighters. See PHB p. 72: "your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20." It's phrased the same way on the following page.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Frankly, I don't see that situation coming up with bounded accuracy (or, rather, the bounded ACs that go with it), like, at all. Except possibly with DM-created foes that are way out of the PCs' league, in one direction or the other.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
You are correct: You must score a hit in order to get the critical hit. A natural 20 always hits, but other rolls do not.

Welcome to the hobby, by the way!

I agree with the Jester on this. Only a 20 is an automatic hit. For a 19 to be a critical hit for a Champion, the roll plus modifiers must still hit the enemy's AC. If it does, then it is a critical hit. If it doesn't it's a miss, even if it falls within the crit range of the Champion.
 
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I agree with the Jester on this. Only a 20 is an automatic hit. For a 19 to be a critical hit for a Champion, the roll plus modifiers much still hit the enemy's AC. If it does, then it is a critical hit. If it doesn't it's a miss, even if it falls within the crit range of the Champion.

Agreed. Phrased another way: all automatic hits are critical hits; not all critical hits are automatic hits.
 

Olaf the Stout

Adventurer
It's definitely a hit, at least for champion fighters. See PHB p. 72: "your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20." It's phrased the same way on the following page.

Disagree. It doesn't matter if a 19 is a critical hit if you still don't hit the required AC.

Only a 20 is an auto-hit.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
I agree that auto-hits and critical hits are separate things in 5e (except for natural 20s, which are both). And they may have done that to keep open some design space. But I don't think the Champion's Improved and Superior Criticals are examples of it. The rules seem pretty clear: "Your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20." Not, "You do critical hit damage on a roll of 19," or "If you hit on a roll of 19, you score a critical hit", either of which would be in line with the "natural language" ethos. If you need to actually hit on a 19, why mention the 20, which is an autohit and critical hit already by the rules? Unless the designers are drawing a comparison: treat 19s as you would 20s. They hit and do critical hit damage. By the description, you attack, you roll 19, you score a critical hit.

That said, even if you read it the other way, the effect is for all intent and purposes the same. You get Improved Critical at 3rd level. Even with a Strength of 10, you'd have a proficiency bonus of +2, which means a monster would need an AC of 22 not to be hit on a natural 19. There's no monster like that in the Basic Rules or Hoard of the Dragon Queen supplement. From the previews, an Ancient Red Dragon has 22, and the Tarrasque has a 25. Of course anything can happen in D&D, but let's just say it's highly unlikely that a 3rd level fighter (with no STR bonus, mind) is going to have a chance to take a swing at an ancient red dragon or tarrasque. Much more likely, a fighter's going to have at least a 14 Strength, for a total of +4, which means Improved Critical or not, he's hitting the Ancient Red Dragon, at least, on a natural 18. The Tarrasque is only vulnerable to the criticals of 3rd level fighters with 18 Strength.
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
That said, even if you read it the other way, the effect is for all intent and purposes the same. You get Improved Critical at 3rd level. Even with a Strength of 10, you'd have a proficiency bonus of +2, which means a monster would need an AC of 22 not to be hit on a natural 19. There's no monster like that in the Basic Rules or Hoard of the Dragon Queen supplement. From the previews, an Ancient Red Dragon has 22, and the Tarrasque has a 25. Of course anything can happen in D&D, but let's just say it's highly unlikely that a 3rd level fighter (with no STR bonus, mind) is going to have a chance to take a swing at an ancient red dragon or tarrasque. Much more likely, a fighter's going to have at least a 14 Strength, for a total of +4, which means Improved Critical or not, he's hitting the Ancient Red Dragon, at least, on a natural 18. The Tarrasque is only vulnerable to the criticals of 3rd level fighters with 18 Strength.
It's not too hard to imagine a situation where a ranged fighter is aiming at a guy with 3/4 cover for +5 to AC. But offhand, that's the only situation I can think of where it'd come up in the normal range of play.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
It's not too hard to imagine a situation where a ranged fighter is aiming at a guy with 3/4 cover for +5 to AC. But offhand, that's the only situation I can think of where it'd come up in the normal range of play.
But even then, a ranged fighter is likely to have the Archery Fighting Style, giving them a +2 to attacks with ranged weapons. So, conservatively, if we figure a 3rd level ranged fighter with AFS, 14 Dex, and +2 proficiency, that's a total of +6, which means the enemy needs a 20 AC or above not to get hit on a nat 19. There are no monsters with that kind of AC in the Basic Rules, and from Hoard of the Dragon Queen there's only the Helmed Horror (CR 4) and the Roper (CR 5). So IMO we're still talking extreme corner cases. In the vast majority of cases, where Champions will either have a 16 in their primary stat, and/or are near the CR level for that kind of monster, they'll be hitting on natural 19s anyway. You really have to be punching above your pay grade to hit only on a natural 20 in 5e.
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
But even then, a ranged fighter is likely to have the Archery Fighting Style, giving them a +2 to attacks with ranged weapons.
I don't agree this is a fair assumption--melee guys sometimes decide to switch out to ranged combat.

I only bring this up because I've had such a case arise in my game (IIRC it was an AC 15 gnoll hiding on the second floor of a hunting lodge), and I had to decide about a 2HF Champ's arrow. (I gave it to him.)
 

heptat

Explorer
It's definitely a hit, at least for champion fighters. See PHB p. 72: "your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20." It's phrased the same way on the following page.

At my table it's a hit. No offence to the OP and to everyone who agrees with him, but it seems to me you're overcomplicating it. I read "critical hit" and simply think, "yeah, that's a hit".

What if it was phrased "on a 19 or 20 you hit critically"?

Peace.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
I don't agree this is a fair assumption--melee guys sometimes decide to switch out to ranged combat.

I only bring this up because I've had such a case arise in my game (IIRC it was an AC 15 gnoll hiding on the second floor of a hunting lodge), and I had to decide about a 2HF Champ's arrow. (I gave it to him.)
A little miscommunication. I read "ranged fighter" in your previous post as "fighter specializing in ranged attacks" rather than simply "fighter making a ranged attack."

I assume the fighter in your game had a Dex penalty? Because AC 15 + three quarters cover = AC 20, which is still a hit on a natural 19, given that fighters get their proficiency bonus with all weapons.
 

delericho

Legend
You are correct: You must score a hit in order to get the critical hit. A natural 20 always hits, but other rolls do not.

Welcome to the hobby, by the way!

I agree with the Jester on this. Only a 20 is an automatic hit. For a 19 to be a critical hit for a Champion, the roll plus modifiers must still hit the enemy's AC. If it does, then it is a critical hit. If it doesn't it's a miss, even if it falls within the crit range of the Champion.

Agreed. Phrased another way: all automatic hits are critical hits; not all critical hits are automatic hits.

Yep.
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
I assume the fighter in your game had a Dex penalty? Because AC 15 + three quarters cover = AC 20, which is still a hit on a natural 19, given that fighters get their proficiency bonus with all weapons.
Honestly I can't vouch for those numbers--we use roll20 to calculate the modifiers, it was a marathon session several weeks ago, and I don't game terribly sober. All I'm certain about is the situation came up, and I made a ruling.

Looking back over my notes, I believe it was a chain-mail clad leader grabbing a shield to weather the storm.
 

pemerton

Legend
For what it's worth, here's a 4e example:

The Paladin power "Thunder Smite" has the following wording: can score a critical hit against a marked enemy on a roll of 19–20. There are feats with similar wording.

In 4e's rules, that means that 1 roll of 19 that hits delivers a critical hit; but if the 19 misses than no hit (critical or otherwise) is delivered.

But 4e also has a rule (PHB p 278) that a natural 20 that would not hit but for the auto-hit rule does not count as a critical hit. This, together with the word "can" in the phrase "can score a critical hit", implies that if the roll of 19 would otherwise miss then no critical hit is scored.

The wording in 5e seems to be different. Whether it's different enough to entail a different outcome I will leave to others to resolve, although I'm inclined to agree with [MENTION=6680772]Iosue[/MENTION].
 

eryndel

Explorer
From my perspective, I don't really see where the wording is ambiguous. The Improved Critical ability states "your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20". The Combat -> Critical Hit Section states: "When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra damage dice for the attack's damage against the target. Roll all of the attack's damage dice twice and add them together..." I agree with some of the other posters... this seems to not jive with my expectations of the game, based off of my previous experiences, but combined with the Specific beats General rules, and relatively clear wording, this strikes me as the intention of the system.

I'd run at my table* that the champion fighter does autohit on a 19 beginning at level 3, and at 18 beginning at level 15. Frankly, champions are often complained about as weaker than the other fighter subclasses, so I don't imagine this would make the champion overpowered.

*which does not infringe on any other table's right to rule differently. :cool:
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
There are feats that let you take -5 to hit for +10 to damage. That's another way a 19 could theoretically miss.

FWIW, I think both interpretations are valid. Reading the section on attack rolls (p.194) and critical hits (p.196) makes it seem that the hit/miss is calculated first, and that "scoring a critical hit" modifies damage. OTOH the wording of the champion ability is pretty straightforward, so maybe I'm just holding assumptions from earlier editions.

I'd be inclined to let the 19 auto-hit because it will make the player happy, speed up the game, and matter so rarely.
 

Thaumaturge

Wandering. Not lost. (He/they)
I don't game terribly sober.

Huh. When I'm sober I do game terribly. Fortunately, it's a rare occurrence.

I think the people who say a roll of 19 that's a miss is a miss are probably right.

If I'm DMing, the odds are so against the party if the fighter can't hit on a 19 that I'll let the fighter have it. I've clearly decided to kill the party anyway at this point, might as well let them get a couple of licks in before they roll new characters.

Thaumaturge.
 

charliebananas

First Post
Hi first post...
This question came up on a thread over on RPG.NET and someone replied that when asked Mike Mearls had said that the intent was that Critical Hits are Auto-Hits, I've not got the time (new baby in the house) but if you track down the thread there may be links to back it up.

As far as I'm concerned the game is about fun, and its no fun to crit and be told you missed. ;)

Cheers
Mike
 

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