D&D General Probability, Critical Hits, and the Illusion of Importance

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
But there's more going on here in the game than just assigning damage to targets. There is tension and excitement that is created by The Unknown, and these things are a huge part (maybe even the biggest part) of playing a tabletop roleplaying game. Removing even a tiny bit of randomness from the game will remove an equal amount of that tension and suspense, and that would make the game less fun to me.
While I agree with literally everything in this post 100% it also illustrates the trouble with the change being floated with the GM side of it a black box of unknown size shape & mass. It's entirely possible to remove crits from monsters and replace the d20 roll20 with a new mechanic that shifts the unknown and builds tension/excitement.. if done well.

Lots of ttrpgs use a system where the gm has a point pool they can use to fuel various things, such a thing would allow the other side to expand the suspense and be meaningful. Lets say the new monster crit range is 20 to 20-[average party level-monster CR].
"APL"=average party level
crot generates a point for the pool
  • APL1: cr1/4 mooks - mooks crit on 19-20
  • APL1: cr1 bbeg -bbeg crits on 20-20
  • APL5: cr1 mooks - Mooks crit on 16-20
  • APL5: cr4 bbeg - bbeg crits on a 19-20
  • APL10: cr8 bbeg - bbeg crits on an 18-20
  • APL10: cr3 mooks - mooks crit on 13-20
  • APL15: cr12 bbeg - bbeg crits on 17-20
  • APL15: cr4 mooks - Mooks crit on 9-20
  • APL20: cr15 bbeg - bbeg crits 15-20
  • APL20: cr4 mooks - Mooks crit on 4-20
In all of those examples assume that a crit adds a point to a pool the GM can spend on any monster. Currently mooks that far below the party effectively serve no purpose beyond occupying a square & can be ignored to immediately burn down the bbeg. Under a shift like this though it becomes critically important to disable & burn down the mooks immediately because they are powering the beholder rays/dragon breath/troll smash/etc & probably powering it incredibly often even if it takes more than a single point from the GM's pool. Those adds to the excitement & tension because the bbeg is absolutely shouldn't be ignored due to having bbeg powers but the mooks can't be ignored due to fueling the bbeg and having their own easily recoverable generic powers(below).

That might sound good on papoer if players only fought high CR stuff with recharge abilities but it's a tiny fraction of monsters with those & mook grade monsters almost never have them of they have rather meaningless ones. This can be corrected with a wide array of generic powers the GM can pull from. These could be anything from quantum potions & spell scrolls chosen at the same time the GM invokes them to more specific maneuvers like automatically hitting/interrupting spellcasting/ dragging a PC X feet/etc.

The players know what's behind door number 3 marked "bbeg the dragon", but door number 1 & 2 are always a shrodinger's cat even if there are limits like "the GM ability can only use this ability once per combat/round" or "the cost to use this ability doubles each time used per round" & "choosing the same potion/spell more than N times per combat is not possible"

Of course if 5e is anything to go by I wouldn't be at all surprised if the other side was "when the GM rolls a 20 on a d20 test with a monster that has a recover on 5-6 ability it automatically recovers at the end of the turn even if the d6 roll was not 5-6"
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I never explain the rationale behind the critical hit rules I use, and I have never once seen a player suss it out either.
I find it genuinely fascinating the frequency with which people play a game fundamentally based on numbers, where a fuller understanding of those numbers will lead to better performance...and where they never even consider the possibility of examining those numbers to see what they do.

Like...it just seems bizarre to me that someone could know there are numbers, yet literally never even think to ask, "what do these numbers do?"

--------

@DND_Reborn Have you considered making crits just do maxed damage dice? The benefit is greater (commensurate with player expectation), rewards bigger dice more than smaller dice as opposed to the other way around, and should be just as awesome-feeling if not moreso. Yes, it only happens 1 time in 20, but the benefit is worth it for all hit chances. And it preserves the intended benefits of things like Advantage and the Champion's increased crit range.
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
@DND_Reborn Have you considered making crits just do maxed damage dice? The benefit is greater (commensurate with player expectation), rewards bigger dice more than smaller dice as opposed to the other way around, and should be just as awesome-feeling if not moreso. Yes, it only happens 1 time in 20, but the benefit is worth it for all hit chances. And it preserves the intended benefits of things like Advantage and the Champion's increased crit range.
This is what the DM in my other gaming group does. We really like it...especially the wizards, who sling cantrips and scorching rays all over the battlefield, and don their Crowns of Stars after each short rest.
Criticals in my system automatically do maximum damage, because you can't have a critical without without having rolled maximum damage.

Now, in the past ancient days, when we ruled a critical hit was a 20 on the d20, yeah, I've done the maximum damage plus a damage roll. It is commonly used house-rule as I said upthread.

But, as I also mentioned, for myself the attack is not important, the damage roll is what matters. Rewarding smaller dice is intentional as it gets players using smaller weapons instead of always just going for the biggest ones. And, of course, even with this rule the smaller dice still do less overall damage than the large die (even if they don't explode).

Anyway, thanks for the advice but we're pretty darn happy with using critical damage instead of critical hits. :)
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
In 5e instead of rolling extra dice we maximize them for weapons and spells (sneak attack and smite still get rolled).

Instead of 2d8 for example it would be 1d8+8.

So a crit is guaranteed to do more damage than a regular hit.

It isn't much fun to get a crit then roll 2 1s.
 





Celebrim

Legend
The overall chances of getting critical damage is less than 10% (hardly "largely trivial").

Yes, but the amount of damage you get is trivial. Exploding weapon damage is tiny. +1 to hit or +1 to damage would have a much bigger impact.

But even more importantly, the extra damage is pretty smooth. You won't get huge bursts of damage very often. It's not like in 3e where a Frost Giant rolls a natural 20, and suddenly is doing 9d6+39 damage "unexpectedly" to a target with one attack and thereby provoking save or die. So it's not like critical hits even play a particularly dramatic roll in changing the combat in your game.

Please understand, I'm not being critical. I opened my discussion of this target by saying that I considered critical hits bad for the game and probably would take them out if I could but I couldn't because players loved them so much. I'm saying you found a way to do that.
 

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