Does it get any better than the rolling of a natural 20 (or a natural 1)? Nope. And these days, with so many critical hit/fumble resources at our disposal, there’s never been a better time to enjoy this aspect of the tabletop RPG hobby.
Gone are the days of a natural 20 simply being double damage, and a natural 1 simply being the dropping of a weapon, that’s for sure. But, which resource to use? It’s a good question. Here’s a peek at four of the more intriguing resources.
Paizo Publishing gave us the GameMastery Critical Hit / Critical Fumble Decks, a deck of 52 cards. These are great fun! Created with 3.5 D&D in mind, savvy old-school DMs will have zero difficulty adapting these critical hit/fumble results on-the-fly. Another bonus is that pulling from a deck of cards often consumes less time than referring to a chart. Each card attempts to cover all bases, with results appearing in four different categories (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing, and Magic.) The artwork is easy on the eyes, and it’s apparent that plenty of time/effort went into the production of these decks. One result reads: “Punctured Lung. Double damage and target begins to bleed 3 rounds later. DC 20 Fort save each round to end effect”. Egad!
Iron Crown Enterprises gave us Rolemaster, and some of the wildest critical hit/fumble charts ever seen. Need critical hit charts for acid strikes? Brawling? Cold strikes? Disintegration? Punctures? Pummeling? You’ll find those here, and a whole lot more too. Seeing as the results are intended for use with the Rolemaster system, adapting results on-the-fly for 1E/OSRIC gameplay presents its share of challenges. One result reads “Blow to back smashes muscle and breaks bone. +20 hits. Foe is at -50. Foe is knocked down and stunned for 6 rounds.” One such way to interpret that for 1E/OSRIC is to say it’s 20 points of damage, in addition to the player’s roll for double damage. Interpretation of the -50 can be a subtracting 50 points from the foe’s next critical hit score against the PC; a sad state of affairs for the foe, seeing as the percentile roll is a big part of determining the critical results on the Rolemaster charts. That foe has surely seen better days!
Carl Parlagreco gave us his explosive “Good Hits And Bad Misses” article, published in a 1980 issue of Dragon magazine. Old-school DMs still use the Parlagreco method today. The article is thorough while being succinct. Critical tables are provided for edged weapons, blunt weapons, and missile/thrusting weapons. There’s also a chart for critical hits versus animals. And, of course, there is his infamous chart for critical fumbles,
which includes the following hilarious entry: “Helm slips, roll dexterity to fix, no attacks until fixed”. This article also provides referees with guidance during situations in which limb removal is involved. Names of the characters which are presented in the examples are also priceless. Got room for Ferdinand Orc-Punter and Sampson Numbfingers in your next adventure? NPCs with names like that can only mean one thing … Fun!
Lastly, we have The Critonomicon. Written by Tony Hellmann and published by Technomancer Press in 2006, this tome has become somewhat of a “holy grail” among old-school DMs. Inside its covers, there are critical charts of all shapes, sizes, and speeds. If it’s just a quick d6 chart that is needed, or a quick d20 chart, you’ll find them here. You can increase the danger with the dramatic critical hits chart (including “Falls onto own weapon, which snaps off in wound”). You can ignite a laff riot with the comedic fumbles chart (including “Tosses weapon straight up, catches the business end”). You’ll even see charts for critical hits against mounted opponents (including “Bridle severed”, “Knocked from mount”, and the insanely awesome “Mount falls, breaks leg”). We’ve only just scratched the surface here. The Critonomicon is large (clocking in at nearly a hundred pages). Finding it won’t be easy though. Enjoy the hunt!
Got questions about critical hits/fumbles? Let us know! Got ideas for critical hits/fumbles that you’d like to share with us? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading! Let the good times role!