…and it’s a topic that we, as DMs, continue to struggle with.
Which version of the game do you use?
The answer doesn’t really matter. I suspect there are DMs who can make 4e work for their game. It’s possible I could play in such a game and not feel the need to burn my character sheet in the middle of the table.
Most of my rules are based on AD&D. I’ve also borrowed heavily from the Tao of D&D. I’m not averse to giving something new a try; and if I like, and I can make it work with the other rules, and it satisfies the criteria of a well-designed rule, I use it.
I am working on a document to bring these rules together. Mostly for my own purposes – so the players can have a single point of reference, ideally one with links that make it easy to navigate – but also so I can share my version with other DMs.
So for this post – in part because others have posted on a similar topic, but also because it’s generally an accepted topic for D&D blogs – I offer my rules on weapon types and critical hits.
Weapon Qualities: Weapons are categorized by groups. Most weapons in a single group have a shared quality. For example, ax is a group and most axes have the brutal quality. Some weapons have two qualities, like a pole-ax (reach and brutal). The qualities are:
- Brutal: Critical hits deal triple damage. (Common to axes.)
- Keen: Attacks critical on a natural 19 or 20 on the to-hit roll. (Common to swords and blades.)
- Puncturing: This weapon receives +1 to-hit on all attacks. (Common to bows.)
- Unbalancing: Attacks fumble on a natural 1 or 2 on the to-hit roll. (Common to flails; this is offset by increasing the damage potential for these weapons.)
- Armor Piercing: Attacks against armored opponents are at a +3 bonus. (Common to crossbows.)
- High Critical: A critical hit deals maximum damage plus the normal (die roll) damage. (Common to hammers.)
- Simple: Non-proficient characters reduce their penalty by 1 point. (Common to mace and club-like weapons.)
- Reach: A character may target opponents up to two or three hexes away (but not adjacent). (Common to pole-arms.)
- Ready: A character may take an action to set this weapon against a charge. A readied weapon receives a +2 bonus to-hit and deals double damage.
- Improvised: A character may take any object with sufficient weight (minimum of 2lbs), or a sharp edge or point, and use it as a weapon. Attacks are made with a -3 penalty (in addition to the non-proficiency penalty for the character’s class) and deal damage based on the weapon’s weight. Improvised weapons do not gain a Strength bonus to damage.
Critical Hits: A natural 20 on the to-hit roll indicates a critical hit against the target. The attack hits regardless of the attacker’s THAC0 or the target’s AC. Damage is increased by doubling all die rolls and bonuses. Likewise, if the attack has a magical damage effect, that damage is doubled. Certain weapon qualities affect critical hits, as do certain magical effects or fighter skills.
Precise Hits: When an attack roll equals the to-hit value, the attack is said to be a precise hit. The target takes damage as normal and must choose either weapon, shield, armor or item; the chosen item breaks. Broken weapons and items are rendered useless. If the item is a container, the contents are spilled out (in the case of potions, this may trigger a magical effect or backlash). Shields and armor struck in this manner don’t break right away; instead, they take a -1 penalty (cumulative for each precise hit) and break when the total penalty equals the armor’s bonus. Thus plate armor (AC 1, equal to a -9 bonus) breaks when the penalty equals -9; up until that point, the armor is treated as simply worse, i.e. it provides a smaller bonus.
The target of a precise hit may choose to drop a held weapon or item instead of letting it break. The target them rolls a die (typically a d6; see Fumbles) to see if it breaks upon striking the ground.
Warriors have the benefit of choosing for their opponents when they score a precise hit. If both the attacker and the defender are warriors, the higher level character gets to choose.
Near Hits: When an attack roll equals 1 or 2 points less than the target value, the attack is said to be a near hit. It deals no damage and the target may choose to grapple the attacker. Warriors supersede other classes and get to choose; if both attacker and defender are warriors, the higher level characters gets to choose. Monks may choose to grapple (as the attacker or defender) when the to-hit roll equals 2 points less than the target value, or greater. In other words, a monk can enter a grapple whenever he hits or it hit by an opponent. (Monks trump warriors when deciding who gets to choose.)
Fumbles: A natural 1 on the to-hit roll indicates the attacker has fumbled and dropped his weapon. The character immediately rolls to see if the weapon breaks upon striking the ground (or some nearby solid surface). The base die value is a d6 and a 1 indicates the weapon breaks. Poor quality weapons check on a d4, while weapons of increasing quality use a d8 and above. Magic weapons always use a d20. Fighters improve their odds by rolling bigger dice, based on the fighter’s skill/level. A character may also employ equipment – like a locked gauntlet – to prevent dropping a weapon as a result of a fumble.
A broken weapon is rendered useless. This does not mean the weapon is destroyed; it simply means that the weapon has become fractured, damaged or broken at a critical point, such that it is no longer considered a proper weapon of its type. For example, a battle ax might split down the middle of the shaft; it can no longer bear the stress of a full swing and is effectively an improvised weapon until repaired.