Dungeons & Dragons 3.t, critical hits streamlined
As in my previous entry about the 3.t system, I'm trying to make D&D 3.5 play faster. Today's rule revision has to do with critical hits. Right now in 3.5, each weapon has a "threat range" such as 19-20, which means that if you roll a 19 or 20 on a 20-sided die, you are maybe going to do critical damage. To determine if you actually do get critical damage, you roll again. That's a bit convoluted.
The problem? To fix this, we cannot just drop the confirmation roll and say "all critical threats are automatically confirmed." If we do that, then crits will happen much more often and low-level characters will die more often. But if we reduce the damage of the weapons, then we can keep all those crits. That should speed up gameplay without changing the numbers (much), because there is no more rolling to confirm crits. They just happen. It should be more enjoyable for the players, too -- their weapons might do a tiny bit less damage each hit, but they will do critical hits often. So what we're about to do will keep damage roughly the same, but remove an extra dice roll. Ready?
- Drop every weapon's damage to the next smaller die. 1d12 becomes 1d10, 1d10 becomes 1d8, 1d8 becomes 1d6, 1d6 becomes 1d4, 1d4 becomes 1d3, and 1d3 becomes 1d2. Now, there is a tricky part here, for weapons that do two dice worth of damage per hit: 2d6 becomes 1d10, and 2d4 becomes 1d6.
- All critical threats are automatically confirmed. Done.
I don't trust the math!
If you don't trust the math, I'll give you some of it here so you can check for yourself. Consider an opponent with AC 20 (to hit him, you need to roll a 20 on a 20-sided die). Now, if your character has a +4 to hit, you get to add that to your rolls, so it's a roll of 16 + 4 = 20, which still hits. Conveniently, rolling a 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20 is exactly 25% of a 20-sided die. We're going to use that scenario here to help simplify our testing. 25% of the time, you hit. Likewise, 25% of the time, you'll confirm your critical hits. OK? Here is the damage output of a rapier (1d6 damage) over the course of 80 rounds of combat:
1st 20 rounds: 15 misses, 5 hits, 0 confirmed crits
2nd 20 rounds: 15 misses, 5 hits, 0 confirmed crits
3rd 20 rounds: 15 misses, 5 hits, 0 confirmed crits
4th 20 rounds: 15 misses, 2 hits, 3 confirmed crits (x2)
23 x 3.5 average damage = 80.5 points of damage
Now, consider this modified rapier. It only does 1d4 damage, but it crits every time that it can. We don't roll anything to confirm a crit -- it just happens whenever it's eligible. In 20 rounds of combat, you would get an average of 3 critical hits (the rapier crits on a to-hit roll of 18, 19, or 20). Here it is over 80 rounds of combat:
1st 20 rounds: 15 misses, 2 hits, 3 automatic crits (x2)
2nd 20 rounds: 15 misses, 2 hits, 3 automatic crits (x2)
3rd 20 rounds: 15 misses, 2 hits, 3 automatic crits (x2)
4th 20 rounds: 15 misses, 2 hits, 3 automatic crits (x2)
32 x 2.5 average damage = 80 points of damage
You can change the weapons, the AC and the to-hit bonuses, but on average this system will still work out every time. Sometimes weapons will do a few points less damage, but that's over eighty rounds. During the course of a 10-round fight, it's negligible, and both sides would experience the change, so it's even.
So let's wrap this up. This really is simple, even though the math might make your head spin. The good news is you don't have to think about the math, just remember this: you can change your weapons' damage to use the next smaller die and just assume any crit is confirmed without a roll. Enjoy!
And if you'd like to see the other gameplay advancements in this series, just review all the articles with the 3.t tag.