# 5ERemoving the Critical Hit, Using Exploding Dice

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
I've never been a big fan of the "critical hit" using d20s, especially when you actually need a 20 to hit. I've long used the house-rule that a 20 is a critical hit only if you can also hit on a 19 or lower as well.

I like the idea that the severity of a hit is determined by the damage roll, not the attack roll, and so I've been looking into exploding dice. I think most of us here are familiar with the term, but for those who aren't exploding dice work like this: if you roll the maximum for a die, such as a 6 on a d6, you roll the die again (or add another die), increasing the result by the new roll. If the new roll is also maximum, the process continues.

Ex. Suppose you are rolling 2d6 for a greatsword. You roll a 3 and 6. The 6 "explodes" and is re-rolled (or add another die). The new roll is a 5. So, the total damage is 3 + 6 + 5, or 14. The exploding die replaces the chance of a critical hit. If the new roll was also a 6, you would roll another die, and so on.

Now, the math behind exploding dice is close enough to the benefits of double dice on a natural 20 as a normal critical hit would do. It depends on the die size, what you need to roll on the d20, etc., but overall I think it would be a good system to try out. Here are the numbers:

The "Explode" column shows the average result of a die type given the exploding feature.
The "d20 Avg" column is the average damage over the entire range of rolls from 1-20, using 20 as double dice.
The "d20 Exp" column is the average damage over the same range, but the die explodes regardless of the d20 roll as long as you hit.
The "Exp LESS" column is the range on a d20 when the exploding dice averages less than natural 20 criticals over all.

If you expand it to exploding dice for everything (AoE spells, poison, falling, etc.) it adds a "critical" factor to damage sources that otherwise don't have anything. For something like Magic Missile, for 3 missiles average damage would go from 10.5 to 13, a pretty big jump really, so I am not sold on the idea for applying it to non-attack roll damage sources. But it also makes it so a single die, with enough luck, could result in killing anything theoretically (not likely at all, but it could happen), which I like (however rare).

Of course, a natural 20 would still be a hit, regardless of AC and attack bonuses, it just won't be a critical anymore.

And, I would have to think about how to handle things like increased critical range, such as with the Champion, and Savage Attacks for Half-Orcs, but I'll worry about that later.

Does any one use exploding dice (in any fashion) in their game?

Last edited:

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen
Briefly during the 5e playtest, my group experimented with what I would describe as an exploding crit confirm roll. On a natural 20, you did max damage for your weapon’s damage due and rolled another d20. It the roll on the second d20 would be a hit, you rolled a second damage die, or maxed it and repeated the process on a natural 20.

We scrapped it quickly because it had all the same problems as 3e crit confirmation, for very little benefit. Also, one guy routinely rolled like 5 natural 20s in a row. We all knew he was lying, but didn’t want to call him out.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Briefly during the 5e playtest, my group experimented with what I would describe as an exploding crit confirm roll. On a natural 20, you did max damage for your weapon’s damage due and rolled another d20. It the roll on the second d20 would be a hit, you rolled a second damage die, or maxed it and repeated the process on a natural 20.

We scrapped it quickly because it had all the same problems as 3e crit confirmation, for very little benefit. Also, one guy routinely rolled like 5 natural 20s in a row. We all knew he was lying, but didn’t want to call him out.
Yeah, I am not a fan of the confirming/threat mechanic on a 20 or critical range like in earlier editions. It works fine, but still make the "bigger damage" depend on the attack rolls of the d20, not on the damage rolls.

Personally, I played 1E for years and never even used a critical hit mechanic and it was fine with me, but IME most players want something to happen when you roll high, either on the d20 or the damage, itself.

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen
Yeah, I am not a fan of the confirming/threat mechanic on a 20 or critical range like in earlier editions. It works fine, but still make the "bigger damage" depend on the attack rolls of the d20, not on the damage rolls.

Personally, I played 1E for years and never even used a critical hit mechanic and it was fine with me, but IME most players want something to happen when you roll high, either on the d20 or the damage, itself.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of critical hit rules. Statistically speaking, they hurt the players more than they help. But, players have a natural expectation that rolling the highest number possible should have some kind of extra benefit, and there’s value in that little rush the players get when they roll that natural 20. Exploding damage dice might have a similar result in terms of damage output while decoupling the strength of the hit from the attack roll, but for me the critical hit rules aren’t about the extra damage they provide, they’re about the thrill of the lucky roll. If I could remove the extra damage on a crit without taking the wind out of the players’ sails when the occasional natural 20 comes up, I probably would.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
To me a big part of it is just the mind-set. I like the idea of exploding dice because it is much more common. After all, a nat 20 is only 5%, but a 4 on a d4 is 25%. Making it more common will make it a bit less special, but it would still be fun when those max rolls come up.

Removing critical hits from the game would be a nice way to really help champions stand out, IMO. It the ability to "crit" was limited to champions and maybe a couple other select features for other classes, it would be really special.

#### Tony Vargas

##### Legend
As you're obviously aware, smaller dice benefit more from exploding than larger ones, so you're slightly closing the gap between 'weaker' simple weapons and most 'stronger' martial ones.

In the 5e weapon table, the maul and greatsword would be the exceptions, and the greataxe, seemingly as usual, benefit the least.

At least there's no 2d4 or 3d4 weapons this time around.

#### DWChancellor

##### Kobold Enthusiast
Yeah, exploding dice are really fun, but they advantage small dice and multiple-dice weapons (and how about monsters that occasionally have 3+ dice attacks?)

We use crit = max dice + extra dice.

I really liked Reign's system where you rolled a dice pool trying to get it "wide" and "deep" which was denoted by trying to get a lot of one number, and having that number be high. Total redesign from 5E so not really portable.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
As you're obviously aware, smaller dice benefit more from exploding than larger ones, so you're slightly closing the gap between 'weaker' simple weapons and most 'stronger' martial ones.

In the 5e weapon table, the maul and greatsword would be the exceptions, and the greataxe, seemingly as usual, benefit the least.

At least there's no 2d4 or 3d4 weapons this time around.
I would probably revise a few weapons in this light. Like make a greatclub 2d4 instead of d8 and a greataxe 2d6 to match the maul and greatsword. We already have a greatspear for 2d6 as well.

Closing the gap doesn't bother me, but for people it would bother this wouldn't be a good system for them obviously.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Yeah, exploding dice are really fun, but they advantage small dice and multiple-dice weapons (and how about monsters that occasionally have 3+ dice attacks?)

We use crit = max dice + extra dice.

I really liked Reign's system where you rolled a dice pool trying to get it "wide" and "deep" which was denoted by trying to get a lot of one number, and having that number be high. Total redesign from 5E so not really portable.
Currently our crits are on a nat 20 and simply do maximum damage since we don't roll for damage at present.

#### Shiroiken

While the concept is interesting, this just isn't something that can be easily ported into 5E. Characters that roll lots of damage dice, such as the Rogue and Paladin, will massively benefit from this, while the Champion loses it's primary benefit.

Briefly during the 5e playtest, my group experimented with what I would describe as an exploding crit confirm roll. On a natural 20, you did max damage for your weapon’s damage due and rolled another d20. It the roll on the second d20 would be a hit, you rolled a second damage die, or maxed it and repeated the process on a natural 20.
We did this too, but thought it worked quite well. The trick to making it work was having multiple d20s available per player, which really isn't a massive problem in our group. Advantage and Disadvantage theoretically mess with it, but we decided to have the follow up roll be unmodified by either. Biggest benefit was actually allowing a story element exist mechanically (where an NPC is killed by an attack, but the damage wouldn't be anywhere near sufficient), but my current group doesn't see the need for such things now.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
While the concept is interesting, this just isn't something that can be easily ported into 5E. Characters that roll lots of damage dice, such as the Rogue and Paladin, will massively benefit from this, while the Champion loses it's primary benefit.
They benefit slightly more than others, but not as much as you might think, since these classes already benefit from rolling a crit on a 20 anyway and have the potential for HUGE damage then.

As I mentioned in the OP, I would have to modify the Champion's feature to make changes of course. They won't lose their benefit, but it will be altered.

#### RSIxidor

##### Explorer
You could make it so that smaller dice could only explode once, in case a group doesn't like the closing gap.
So like, d4 once, d6 twice, d8 thrice, d10 four times, d12 5 times. 2d6 weapons would only let their d6 explode twice but that's not so bad.

#### Oofta

##### Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In previous editions we used the Nat 20, roll again to confirm additional damage, keep rolling if you roll a 20. In some ways I liked it because if you're like my ranger that hated giants and you got really, really lucky (we were playing in person, rolling dice in the open) you could take out multiple giants in one turn.

It was okay, not sure it was worth the extra overhead. Personally I wouldn't use exploding dice for anything else, it would just tilt the power in the direction of the PCs since I use average damage for monsters.

#### Blue

##### Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I have a few concerns.

You are reversing the "two-handed weapons do more damage" - this shrinks the difference between core with crits vs. modified by a lot.

There's the corner case of great sword vs. every other two handed weapon at will need to be addressed.

How does this look with monster damage?

The "20 is still a crit even if you need a 20 to hit" mathematically comes up so little (a few times a campaign?) that while it's a valid gripe, it has neat zero weight in terms of balance.

It seems like you want to replace a fast rule with a slower one. More comparisons, more varied comparisons, more frequent rolls, need to compare the rerolls, and more math. At what is already the most mechanical slow part of the game - combat. For that, you need for it to be a drastic improvement.

I know you like to fiddle, but I don't see a single upside to the rule over the existing one. It's significantly slower and it messes up balance between one and two handed weapons.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
I have a few concerns.

You are reversing the "two-handed weapons do more damage" - this shrinks the difference between core with crits vs. modified by a lot.

There's the corner case of great sword vs. every other two handed weapon at will need to be addressed.

How does this look with monster damage?

The "20 is still a crit even if you need a 20 to hit" mathematically comes up so little (a few times a campaign?) that while it's a valid gripe, it has neat zero weight in terms of balance.

It seems like you want to replace a fast rule with a slower one. More comparisons, more varied comparisons, more frequent rolls, need to compare the rerolls, and more math. At what is already the most mechanical slow part of the game - combat. For that, you need for it to be a drastic improvement.

I know you like to fiddle, but I don't see a single upside to the rule over the existing one. It's significantly slower and it messes up balance between one and two handed weapons.
Excellent points. Knowing our table, I can see the appeal of exploding dice, but I really don't know if it will be worth the additional work/math/etc.

I was mostly curious if any one was using exploding dice in their games (in any manner), but so far no responses on that other than the exploding nat 20.

#### Blue

##### Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Excellent points. Knowing our table, I can see the appeal of exploding dice, but I really don't know if it will be worth the additional work/math/etc.

I was mostly curious if any one was using exploding dice in their games (in any manner), but so far no responses on that other than the exploding nat 20.
I love tinkering as well, and even when one doesn't pan out I like reading your posts on them.

#### jasper

##### Rotten DM
Glues Sapphire dices to 3 M80s throws at op. BOO BOOO.
Only if the monsters get this.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
I love tinkering as well, and even when one doesn't pan out I like reading your posts on them.
LOL thanks! It's the mathematician in me. First I was curious how close the exploding die mechanic would measure up to the natural 20 one. Second, will the more common occurrence of the exploding die make it more enjoyable than the natural 20? Third, when it occurs, is the math more problematical than rolling double dice?

Anyway, next installment: a 10-level collapsed version of the classes without ASI/feats!

Glues Sapphire dices to 3 M80s throws at op. BOO BOOO.
Only if the monsters get this.
Yes. If implemented anything we do at our table applies equally to monsters as well as PCs.

#### Big J Money

##### Explorer
Don't heed the undeserved skepticism. You will want to tweak, but it's not a big deal really; in fact it has some nice effects and can become a useful kit in your toolbox if you want to rework the game's damage values.

D4s are now now scrappier but not by enough to make them ever better than a d6. A d4's average damage goes up by about 0.63 damage per roll, while a d6 only goes up by 0.58. That's only a 0.05 damage relative increase, and the gap between then was already 1 full average damage.

However, 2d4 was already better than 1d8; but now it's quite better at an average of 6.26 damage -- that's close to d12 level of damage. So you will want to reserve multi rolls to things you want to do lots of damage. Spells become even deadlier; as does sneak attack -- these are not inherently bad.

Here, I'll take some of the heat off your post by explaining how I run crits in my game For every 5 higher an attacker rolls than the target's AC, the attacker gains 1 stack of crit damage in addition to regular damage. Crit damage is the attack's maximum damage by the dice.

So a fighter dual-wielding a longsword who normally does 1d10+3 damage and scores 2 stacks of crit damage would do 1d10+23 damage. Low vs high level matchups are absurdly lethal, and this was my intent.

#### dnd4vr

##### Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Don't heed the undeserved skepticism. You will want to tweak, but it's not a big deal really; in fact it has some nice effects and can become a useful kit in your toolbox if you want to rework the game's damage values.

D4s are now now scrappier but not by enough to make them ever better than a d6. A d4's average damage goes up by about 0.63 damage per roll, while a d6 only goes up by 0.58. That's only a 0.05 damage relative increase, and the gap between then was already 1 full average damage.

However, 2d4 was already better than 1d8; but now it's quite better at an average of 6.26 damage -- that's close to d12 level of damage. So you will want to reserve multi rolls to things you want to do lots of damage. Spells become even deadlier; as does sneak attack -- these are not inherently bad.

Here, I'll take some of the heat off your post by explaining how I run crits in my game For every 5 higher an attacker rolls than the target's AC, the attacker gains 1 stack of crit damage in addition to regular damage. Crit damage is the attack's maximum damage by the dice.

So a fighter dual-wielding a longsword who normally does 1d10+3 damage and scores 2 stacks of crit damage would do 1d10+23 damage. Low vs high level matchups are absurdly lethal, and this was my intent.
Thanks for the input! I don't mind the criticism, I receive enough kudos from my posts to know at least some people like the ideas, even if they don't plan to use them.

I've done something similar to the 5 greater thing in 1E/2E, but rolled extra dice, not adding maximum weapon. Since that works for you, that is cool. My only concern with such a rule is that a lot of tough creatures are "beefy" (aka lots of hp) but easy to hit, which sort of defeats them having lots of hp...

For the exploding dice idea, I like some of the results with making weaker weapons slightly stronger since it would increase the chances of players actually picking them! Spell damage and sneak attack, and such, as you point out, would be more affected... but, I agree, not necessarily a bad thing.