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

tragicjones

First Post
3rd edition specifically says that even if you have an expanded crit range larger just the '20', only the '20' is an automatic hit. Other numbers in the expanded range have to actually still hit the target's AC to qualify for the possibility of being a "critical hit".

Now granted, in 3rd edition... rolling a 20 or a number within an extended crit range does not in itself generate a "critical hit"... you merely threaten a critical hit. If you made that first roll, you then had to roll a second time and if the second roll would have also qualified as hitting the target's AC, then the threat was confirmed, and it became a true "critical hit".

I believe others have stated earlier in the thread that because a 20 was not considered a "critical hit" straight away in 3rd edition, but merely a threat of a critical hit... that is the reason why we didn't have the idea that auto-hit = critical hit. But since in 5E a roll of 20 is called out as an auto-hit and in addition a critical hit, that is why some folks have determined this to mean that in every case auto-hit = critical hit.

A valid way to look at it... but not definitively the only way to look at it, in my opinion.
Ahh, I suspected 3E worked like Pathfinder, but I wasn't certain.

I should clarify a couple points about where I'm coming from, because there's a surprising amount of nuance going on here. First, I agree that the general rules suggest a distinction between an auto-hit and a critical. This seems designed to leave the door open for an attack that could have missed dealing critical hit damage (ie., a feat/feature/spell reading "if the attack hits, it is a critical hit").

I just don't think that's the case for Improved Critical, because of the way it's phrased (underpinned by the specific-beats-general axiom). This leads to my second point: "critical hit" isn't the only important part of the wording. Improve Critical says attacks "score a critical hit." It strikes me as strange to score a critical hit, but not hit and not gain the benefits of a critical hit, especially since the Critical hits section uses identical language ("When you score a critical hit...").

I might find that interpretation more relateable if there were some sort of precedent - if "score" or "score a critical hit" could also be considered terms of art.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Actually, to clarify my own position, I think that the Critical Hit is a subset of the class Hit, obviously an Auto-Hit is too. Therefore every critical hit is an hit by definition, but not every auto-hit is a critical hit. A Magic Missile for example is an auto-hit but cannot be a critical hit.

A completely valid interpretation of the rules. One that I just happen to disagree with. ;)

(And as an addition just for the sake of argument, I wouldn't rule that Magic Missile is an "auto-hit" because there actually is no term called "auto-hit" in the game. Rather, it's if you make an Attack Roll and get a 20 that it is considered to hit the target regardless of AC or modifiers. As Magic Missile does not involve an attack roll of any type... "hitting regardless of AC or modifiers" never comes into play. Sure, the spell does damage with no chance of it not happening, but that's not the same thing as rolling a 20 on an Attack Roll.)
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Actually, to clarify my own position, I think that the Critical Hit is a subset of the class Hit, obviously an Auto-Hit is too. Therefore every critical hit is an hit by definition, but not every auto-hit is a critical hit. A Magic Missile for example is an auto-hit but cannot be a critical hit.
Although that might not be the best example since there is no attack roll. Critical hits need some sort of attack roll.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
I should clarify a couple points about where I'm coming from, because there's a surprising amount of nuance going on here. First, I agree that the general rules suggest a distinction between an auto-hit and a critical. This seems designed to leave the door open for an attack that could have missed dealing critical hit damage (ie., a feat/feature/spell reading "if the attack hits, it is a critical hit").

I just don't think that's the case for Improved Critical, because of the way it's phrased (underpinned by the specific-beats-general axiom). This leads to my second point: "critical hit" isn't the only important part of the wording. Improve Critical says attacks "score a critical hit." It strikes me as strange to score a critical hit, but not hit and not gain the benefits of a critical hit, especially since the Critical hits section uses identical language ("When you score a critical hit...").

I might find that interpretation more relateable if there were some sort of precedent - if "score" or "score a critical hit" could also be considered terms of art.
This is pretty much exactly where I am on this issue. I think it's fairly clear that critical hits are distinct from the the auto-hit of a 20 result, and so not all critical hits are necessarily auto-hits as well. I think that design space is there, so that some abilities or situations can make hits become critical hits, unrelated to the auto-hit of a 20. Striking an unconscious character is a perfect example. It is not an auto-hit, a regular attack roll must still be made. But all hits against an unconscious character are critical hits.

But the Champion's critical abilities aren't part of that design space, both because it ties the critical hit to a specific roll result, and because specific beats general, and the rule is absolutely clear: when the result is 19 or 20, you score a critical hit, end stop. If it was "when you hit with a roll of 19, you score a critical hit", I would go the other way. But the rule doesn't mention hitting with a 19. It just says that if you roll a 19 or a 20, you score a critical hit. And when you go to the critical hit section: "When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra dice for the attack's damage against the target."

If the 20 wasn't included in the Improved Critical description, I could see it the other way in that case, too. But given that by the rules a 20 is already an auto-hit and critical hit, the only reason I can think for them to include it in the ability description is to tie the 20 and 19 together, to say that the 19 now acts like a 20.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
This is pretty much exactly where I am on this issue. I think it's fairly clear that critical hits are distinct from the the auto-hit of a 20 result, and so not all critical hits are necessarily auto-hits as well. I think that design space is there, so that some abilities or situations can make hits become critical hits, unrelated to the auto-hit of a 20. Striking an unconscious character is a perfect example. It is not an auto-hit, a regular attack roll must still be made. But all hits against an unconscious character are critical hits.

But the Champion's critical abilities aren't part of that design space, both because it ties the critical hit to a specific roll result, and because specific beats general, and the rule is absolutely clear: when the result is 19 or 20, you score a critical hit, end stop. If it was "when you hit with a roll of 19, you score a critical hit", I would go the other way. But the rule doesn't mention hitting with a 19. It just says that if you roll a 19 or a 20, you score a critical hit. And when you go to the critical hit section: "When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra dice for the attack's damage against the target."

If the 20 wasn't included in the Improved Critical description, I could see it the other way in that case, too. But given that by the rules a 20 is already an auto-hit and critical hit, the only reason I can think for them to include it in the ability description is to tie the 20 and 19 together, to say that the 19 now acts like a 20.
You may have just won the internets. I think this more than anything ties together the entirety of all the arguments together in a way that they all still work and do not conflict with each other.
 

Warbringer

Explorer
[MENTION=98938]DeF[/MENTION]con

Don't disagree as a general rule, I just think the specific language for the feature trumps it.

But

YT;YR

(Your table; Your Rules)
 




While I'm hesitant about the argument from tradition, it's very interesting. My only other experience is 4E and PF, so I'm wondering: in any edition of D&D, has it been possible for an attack to "score a critical hit" and also not hit?

Yes. Irrelevant, but yes.

In 3.X, rolling a "threat" wasn't a guarantee of a hit. The Nat 20 autohit rule is explicitly (3.0 PHB p123) not applied to expanded threat ranges. Note that if you didn't hit the AC, and didn't roll a nat 20, you didn't hit. And note also that actually getting the bonus requires confirming with a second roll to hit.

The same was true in AD&D 2E... only the natural 20 was an autohit. This really only applied significantly when using the Combat and Tactics book... which looks an awful lot like 3.0 combat.

In AD&D 1E, even a natural 20 wasn't a guaranteed hit - the tables exceed a 20 needed, and per the DMG, only the first 20 shown is modified 20+; the second through 6th are natural 20 only, and 21+ requires a 20 plus a bonus to hit.

All of these are edge cases...
 

tragicjones

First Post
Yes. Irrelevant, but yes.

In 3.X, rolling a "threat" wasn't a guarantee of a hit. The Nat 20 autohit rule is explicitly (3.0 PHB p123) not applied to expanded threat ranges. Note that if you didn't hit the AC, and didn't roll a nat 20, you didn't hit. And note also that actually getting the bonus requires confirming with a second roll to hit.

The same was true in AD&D 2E... only the natural 20 was an autohit. This really only applied significantly when using the Combat and Tactics book... which looks an awful lot like 3.0 combat.

In AD&D 1E, even a natural 20 wasn't a guaranteed hit - the tables exceed a 20 needed, and per the DMG, only the first 20 shown is modified 20+; the second through 6th are natural 20 only, and 21+ requires a 20 plus a bonus to hit.

All of these are edge cases...
It might not be clear from that post alone, but I was asking specifically about the language in the context of treating certain phrases as terms of art. Can you "score a critical hit," in those words, and not hit?

On a side note, the AD&D 1E rule seems pretty onerous, but fascinating.
 
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lkj

Adventurer
From Jeremy Crawford:

Twitter question: "Does a fighter with an increased crit range (say 19-20) always hit on a 19? Or does the fighter miss if the AC is too high?"

Jeremy answer: "Only a roll of 20 is an automatic hit, unless a feature says otherwise."

I take it to mean only a 20 is an automatic hit. But I realize this may not settle it for some (due to 'unless feature says otherwise')

AD
 

lkj

Adventurer
Nevermind, Jeremy clarified.

Jeremy: "I had a brain glitch and was thinking of a theoretical crit. range increase. Specifics: Improved Critical does score a hit on a 19."
 

jadrax

Adventurer
Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford · 2m

@strames I had a brain glitch and was thinking of a theoretical crit. range increase. Specifics: Improved Critical does score a hit on a 19.

he changed is mind. ;o)
 


77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
In 5E you have to wait one full hour before posting. It forces the forumgoers to use more strategy and planning before posting, instead of just posting after every tweet like in 4E.
 

Talath

Explorer
Well, I can't win them all, I suppose.

Speaking of which, the kids really enjoyed the Swiss ski trip from "Uncle" Talath.

Thaumaturge.

I got your post card by the way. It was nice, I guess?

the_thaumaturges.png
 


Monk55

Banned
Banned
This has been an interesting, if somewhat theoretical, exercise. I would add this thought: An assassin using assassinate auto crits. Does this mean an assassin auto hits?
 

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