"Show me something that beats a natural twenty and I'll show you hateful lies!"
In a game which relies heavily on numerical statistics, particularly an RPG
, a character will have a chance of doing noticeably increased damage
with an attack if the right number comes up
. The likelihood of this occurring may or may not be affected by the aforementioned stats, and sometimes magic may be given this little perk as well. Sometimes this is accompanied by different damage text or special effects (which may be more than just graphics). There are two general methods of handling critical hits: In the first method, they simply do extra damage, usually multiplying the base damage by some number. In the second method, random results are generated from a "table" of possible effects, which range from extra damage to Subsystem Damage
to instant death.
In most games, no explanation is given. The assumed meaning is, usually, that the attacker managed to hit just
the right vital organ or structural flaw with just
the right force or speed. However, most of the time an explanation will come across as a Hand Wave
to varying degrees.
This differs from Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors
in that it usually applies to element-free attacks (i.e. physical attacks), although elemental attacks can have this effect as well if luck permits.
Maximizing the chance of one is a favorite goal of the Munchkin
and those who practice Whoring
in general, due to the (usual) lack of drawbacks. Said coveted Luck Stat might
fix that. However, despite this Power Gamers despise it, as they do any sort of luck, and seek to eliminate it whenever possible, often resulting in Stop Having Fun Guys. Hilarity then follows.
A Critical Hit Class
employs this to get the best possible outcome. Boom, Headshot
is a similar trope applied mainly to First Person Shooters
, although that involves skill rather than luck. Not to be confused with the Podcast
of the same name
. Compare Randomized Damage Attack
where a particular attack has a widespread random amount of damage, from very big (so as to be called a "critical hit") to very small; this kind of attack may be combined with an actual Critical Hit For Massive Damage
. Contrast Critical Failure
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- Destroy The Godmodder: An attack has a random chance of critting, which is a 2x damage bonus. There's also mini-crits, which give a 1.5x bonus. Players tend to boost each others' attacks frequently, so expect a lot of these.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The best known is, of course, rolling a "natural 20"note in combat did bonus damage — this started out as a common house rule which became an official option in the 2nd edition.
- In "AD&D 2.5" beating an opponent's AC by 4 or more meant at least double damage, and the detailed damage option introduced to avoid "Only a Flesh Wound" effect added injuries if the target fails an extra saving throw. Like major bleeding — or beheading, depending on the weapon's size, type and severity roll. The same for saving throws against spells failed by 4 or more (i.e. an acid arrow may melt one's arm off) with area-affecting spells possibly injuring several locations — i.e. surviving a fireball may still mean that one's eyes and right leg are fried crispy.
- The 3rd Edition allowed critical successes under other circumstances as well, and had weapons with different odds of critical hits. A "natural 20" no longer resulted in an automatic critical hit, either, but did mean an automatic hit and a chance to "confirm" a critical hit with a second roll.
- Unlike most examples, in D&D, creatures with odd anatomies can be immune to critical hits, including Golems, most kinds of undead, and Blob Monster. This is because D&D justifies critical hits as being regular attacks that hit an unprotected point or vital organ. Undead and Gelatinous Cubes obviously lack vital organs and therefore can't be hit for critical damage.
- The D&D 3.5-based Star Wars RPG took it one step further, making critical hits instant-kill faceless Mooks and deal (on average) about 1.5 times as much as maximum damage with whatever weapon you were using.
- 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons has all creatures affected by critical hits. All weapons deal max damage on a crit. Magical weapons and some heavy weapons deal extra damage on top of that. However, all weapons deal critical damage on 20s alone again (except when augmented by certain powers or feats).
- Rolemaster had pages upon pages of critical hit tables. It was famous for them. Overcoming your opponent in a battle in Rolemaster isn't so much about draining their hit points but landing criticals. Each attack consists of an attack roll (adding your skill bonus for the weapon you're using and subtracting the enemy's defensive bonus), and if the weapon's attack table indicates that you get a critical hit you roll for the critical (the severity of which depends on whether your hit resulted in A, B, C, D or E criticals) and see how well you succeed in that critical, the results of which range anywhere from small wounds to smashed skulls, so the criticals play a... erm, critical role in resolving a combat.
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has the "Ulric's Fury!" (shouting it out loud when you get one optional), caused by rolling a 10 on a damage d10 and succeeding at a weapon skill check that allows you to roll another d10 for damage. And if that one comes up a 10 too, you keep on rolling, stopping only after you roll something other than a 10. The rules also have a 'critical hit', which is a hit that takes place once your opponent is out of HP and actually gets a permanent injury (or death) from an attack.
- The 40K version, Dark Heresy, has the same thing (only it's now called the "Righteous Fury!", and isn't nearly as fun to shout), and still has critical damage when the target is out of HP (it stacks: If the enemy has a critical 5 damage on the arm, hitting them for 2HP on the torso will bring them to critical 7). There're also actual critical hit tables, like Rolemaster but much more fun. You can see scans of them on 1d4chan.
- Black Crusade replaced Righteous Fury with Zealous Hatred, which instead of making the damage die explosive, makes you roll a d5 on the critical damage table, independently from any other critical damage (the numbers don't stack). This makes BC's critical hits crippling blows rather than "hurting more" blows.
- Warhammer has a few of them itself: Irresistable Force, a critical success at casting a spell that means it can't be dispelled (contrast with Miscasts); Poisoned Weapons which will always wound on a critical hit roll; and the Killing Blow skill which auto-kills on a critical wound roll. One magazine article suggested a critical success house rule for psychology tests, as well, to represent the small chance of warriors holding out against impossible odds.
- Now an official rule, in 8th Edition. Also, Irresistable Force now not only counts as a critical cast, but also a miscast - kind of a "Critical Magical Swing Where You Hit The Enemy Really Hard But A Bit Of Their Blood Hits You In The Eye And You Accidentally Then Stab Yourself In The Spleen. Only With Magic" situation. There are also a decent amount of situations where rolling a 1 for terrain and the like means you've lost a model, and if you're playing as Skaven then you can expect to be taking tests every single turn, where a Critical Fumble means that something's exploded, caught fire, been eaten, melted, snapped, shot into space or keeled over from toxic fumes.
- Warhammer 40,000 has a few units with similar rules. Rending most notably, and certain Acts of Faith used by the Sisters of Battle. Meanwhile the Gets Hot! rule represents Critical Failure on a weapon.
- In one of the previous Chaos Space Marine codexes, the Axe of Khorne granted the wielder an extra attack for each roll of 6 that came up to hit. And if any of those came up as 6. With no upper limit on the number of extra attacks. This could lead to entire squads of Terminators being chopped down by one really pissed-off guy with an axe.
- Leadership tests in Warhammer 40,000 (one of the few rolls where rolling less is better) automatically succeed when a double one is rolled, in spite of any penalties or debuffs that would require to roll 1 or less. Psychic Powers use leadership tests where double ones and double sixes cause miscasts: The rules explicitly state that when rolling a double one, a psyker manages to cast the spell even if it kills him.
- The Six Edition has "precision shots" rule for Characters, that allows them to shoot at a single model rather than the whole unit if they roll a 6 to hit. Also, "rending" weapons wound regardless of Toughness and ignore armor saves when rolling 6 to wound.
- The Ork tellyport blasta has both the "rending" rule and a rule that makes its wounds "instant death" ones when rolling 6.
- The New World of Darkness has two versions of this, both of which apply to all sorts of rolls, not just combat. Players roll a "dice pool" and every die that comes up with an 8 or over is a success; if a die rolls a 10, that die is re-rolled, and if it gets another 10, it's re-rolled again, and so on (with certain equipment, spells, and so forth, this rule can extend to 9s and 8s). Furthermore, if more than five successes are scored on any one roll, it's considered an exceptional success, which means that it accomplishes truly neat things.
- The reverse (called a "dramatic failure", or a "botch" in the old WoD) also exists. If a dice pool is reduced to negative figures by penalties, the player can still roll a "chance die", where only a 10 counts as a success, and a 1 causes a "dramatic failure", which is just as good as it sounds. Some characters also have penalties where they can't use the "10-again" rule on certain rolls, and further lose successes on rolling a 1, which can result in them having negative successes, and thus get a dramatic failure.
- Other Whitewolf games such as Exalted and Scion have the rule that a 10 is two successes and the more successes you get (often a certain number, such as your opponent's total successes) the better the result.
- The Savage Worlds system has a similar mechanic, where rolling the highest number on a die lets you reroll it and add, and every multiple of four over the difficulty you are makes the result better.
- BattleTech has a system of critical hits that applies during a variety of situations. The most common being that after the external armor in a location has been eliminated, every successful attack made to its internal structure has a chance to critically hit and disable components and/or weapons placed there (anything from knocking out the small laser you weren't using anyway to penetrating the cockpit and killing the pilot on a lucky headshot) or even touch off an ammo bin resulting in predictably spectacular fireworks. (Modern units can have CASE — anti-blast magazines by any other name — installed to mitigate the damage to an extent; for anything without, it's usually a One-Hit Kill.). Most components suffer a Critical Existence Failure upon a critical hit, even if they occupy multiple critical slots, but a few major components instead suffer penalties but still function (up to a limit of hits).
- Also, a 'Mech's head is generally its weakest spot. A big enough gun (like a Gauss rifle, which also doubles as one of the longest-range weapons in the game) can amputate it in one shot regardless of the target's weight class because heads are "one size fits all". Such weapons that can reliably focus enough damage to take a mech head off in one shot are known as headchoppers. Even lesser, non-penetrating hits will hurt and potentially knock out (or sometimes even kill) the pilot. This doesn't quite fall under the Boom, Headshot trope because the game goes out of its way to make actually aiming at the head hard at the best of times and flat-out impossible at others — but it can still come up as a random result on the hit location table.
- In Nomine, which is based on the War between Heaven and Hell, has a special take on critical successes, not just on rolls involving fighting but on any roll (and critical failures) the game uses a system of rolling 3 six sided dice, a natural roll of 3 ones (representing the Holy Trinity) is a "Divine Intervention" which is good for angels and those allied with them, and bad for demons and their allies, a natural roll of 3 sixes (representing...well, you know) is an "Infernal Intervention" which is good for those on Hell's side and bad for those fighting for Heaven. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the roll, these Interventions can be anything from a(n) (un)lucky coincidence to a blatant spectacular manifestation of divine or infernal power.
- Much like In Nomine, GURPS sets natural 3s a critical success. The effects are somewhat loosely defined except in certain cases.
- 4th edition upped the ante by having a natural 3 or 4 (and, with a high enough skill level, 5 or 6) count as critical successes. (Rolling three six-sided dice and getting a 3 has only a 1/216 chance of occurring, so the improvement to up to a 9% chance was welcome.) Conversely, a natural 18 or 17, or any roll that's 10 or more greater than your skill level, is a critical failure.
- In combat, the most likely result of a critical hit is a blow doing ordinary damage. Editors have noted that this is realistic, since under many circumstances, a person might be lucky to get a hit *at all*, never mind do extra damage with it.
- In Eclipse Phase, a 00 (rolling two ten-sided dice) is always a critical success. Any successful rolls that are doubles are also critical successes. Conversely, doubles on a failed roll is a critical failure, and 99 is always a critical failure.
- Unknown Armies had perhaps the least forgiving critical hits in existence. A roll of doubles on the one-hundred sided die did damage equal to the roll - and could backfire if you missed. A roll of 01 meant the attacker chose to either instantly kill or instantly KO the defender. A roll of 00 let the defender return the favor.
- New Horizon lists a one on the black die as an instant success, to be measured by the level of the white die.
- Mutants & Masterminds has some brilliant critical rules. The "Natural 20 = Critical rule" also works outside combat. In a normal skill check, you figure out the degree of success as normal and then add another degree on top of it.
- In combat, a 20 is an automatic hit, but you have to check if your characters attack bonus exceeds the target's defense before calling it a critical; which lets you either make the roll to resist much stronger, add an extra effect that's dealt at the same time (which requires a separate roll to resist, but sets the effect to rank 0, which means it's usually about 50/50 to resist for most), or to replace the attack with an alternate effect (Like swinging a sword and hitting a vein or artery. And you can set the rank for the effect.)
- In Paranoia, depending on the GM, sometimes rolling a 1 is a Critical Hit; sometimes it's an Excessively Critical Hit (e.g. your laser blast sends the shattered remains of the targeted Commie Mutant Traitor right through a wall, busting a pipe and flooding the corridor with radioactive sewage. You then get fined for damaging valuable Computer property).
- Ninja Burger, a card game of ninjas who deliver fast food to insanely improbable locations, has a mechanic where you test skills to complete your delivery. Rolling a 3 or 4 on three six-sided dice means the ninja did something so awesome, they gain one Honor (the game's Victory Points) just for that. In a game which starts players with six Honor each and ends typically when the average Honor reaches ten or four, this is a considerable bonus. And Combat is a skill every ninja possesses.
- Rather than having explicit critical hits as a separate category, Fate-based games like The Dresden Files directly determine damage inflicted by successful attacks from how much the attack beat the defense roll by — the more outclassed the defense at right that moment, the more solid the resulting hit. Other factors like weapon and armor ratings may influence the exact numerical result (for those Fate games that use them), but since they generally just add or subtract constant modifiers the basic principle remains unchanged.
- The Dragon Age tabletop adaptation does not have regular critical hits, but instead features "stunts". Every attack roll is a 3d6 and one die is always colored differently from the other two: if any two of the three land with the same face up, the attacker can perform a stunt, such as dealing extra damage, cleaving into an adjacent enemy, knocking the target prone, pushing them away, etc. Stunts have different point costs and how many points a player can spend depends on the roll of the aforementioned differently colored die—it is even possible to string together several stunts on a particularly lucky roll.
- In The Order of the Stick, a natural 20 was actually a prophesy, for when Roy was to know to take a shot at a moment when such a roll was needed most.
- Spoofed in 8-Bit Theater, where Red Mage uses it in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
- In a joke in this webcomic, which the author plans to reuse in the reboot, a character rolls a natural 20, but it's for initiative, and is pissed there's no such thing as critical initiative. Made funnier by the fact that some games do have critical initiative (picking when you go instead of going first).
- Spoofed in the webcomic Commissioned, the main characters have DnD sessions where it switches from the POV of their characters to them, and occasionally they try something completely off the wall... and end up rolling a natural 20. this comic is a more recent example even though it's actually a bluff check.
- In D&DS9, The Borg's attack on the U.S.S. Saratoga is a critical hit, but the DM fails to notice. That is, until Avery (Sisko's player) points it out to him. It doesn't end well.
- Sometimes really easy to do to a person in general. The body usually doesn't know what to do when a chunk of metal (be it a blade, bullet, or arrow) enters it violently, so it tends to just spasm, fall down, and stop working properly. The resulting debilitation can be deadly later on, when bleeding out or dying from infection.
- It is in fact quite possible to outright kill a person with a firm blow to the chest, so long as it is done at exactly the right time. The phenomenon known as commotio cordis occurs when a person is hit in the chest during the most sensitive part of the heartbeat cycle; this can disrupt the heart and cause fibrillation. It often happens in sports as a result of being hit by a ball, and has a rather grim survival rate of 35%.
- Grappling injuries. There are plenty of times when, simply as a consequence of landing at a bad angle or being tripped at precisely the wrong moment, you get a sprained ankle, a busted knee, a dislocated shoulder, etc., etc. As any victim of this can tell you, when you get one of these, the match is over and you have lost, PERIOD. This is true even if the throw was not technically successful. That happens quite a lot.
- Proper training in landing techniques can help to (significantly) lower the odds (and this is what most of the training in Professional Wrestling really is), but it only goes so far.
- In his book Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, professional wrestler Mick Foley talks about all his injuries. This is a guy who has been cut, burned, blown up, and had pieces of him removed with ropes. Yet he says the worst injury he ever had was a pinched nerve that caused so much pain it was hard to move.
- Boxing. Joe Louis Vs. Max Schmeling both parts might qualify. In part one, Schmeling specifically said in interviews that he aimed for a spot where he knew Joe Louis would drop his guard. He apparently learned about it from watching recorded fight films. Once that one punch was landed, experts say the fight was over.
- In their rematch, Max Schmeling claimed that he turned the wrong way and instead of taking a body blow where he was trained to, he took a kidney blow. He said after the fight that his entire side went numb.
- In an MMA fight chronicled by Seanbaby in a Cracked article, similar to the above, one fighter took a body blow in exactly the wrong place - in this case, his liver. Before the crippling pain and unconsciousness took him, he threw one final, wild punch... and knocked the other guy out cold, winning the match.
- Dental work is much less painful nowadays than it used to be, but there are still... quirks. Usually, when your dentist injects your gum with freezing solution, it only hurts a little. But there's a very small chance that the needle will pinch a nerve — and that hurts like you would not believe. (Don't tell Miyuki.)
- The Code Duello specifies that any injury that prevents a combatant from holding a weapon steady ends the duel automatically.
- Happened not once but twice in the hunt for the Bismarck: once when the Bismarck scored a one-in-a-thousand hit on the HMS Hood right in the magazine and blew her in half, and once again when a last-ditch flight of Swordfish torpedo bombers managed an equally improbable shot into the Bismarck's rudder. That crippled the Bismarck and left her at the mercy of the entire British fleet. Had either of the events not transpired the way they did, the chase could have turned out wildly different.
- Similarly, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleship Arizona took an armor piercing bomb to the magazine. Over a thousand crew died in the resulting explosion, which was caught on film and is used as Stock Footage whenever America's entry into World War II is mentioned. Warships' magazines tend to be very heavily armored and deep inside the ship, making it very unlikely for them to take a hit. But when they do take a hit...
- Repeated in the WWII sinking of the Yamato, Japan's super battleship that was disabled with a lucky torpedo blow to the screws.
- I believe that is the German battleship Bismarck you are thinking of. The Bismarck previously curb-stomped British flagship, the Battlecruiser HMS Hood. (See Above) The Yamato by contrast succumbed after enduring multiple waves of US Navy dive-bombers and torpedo bombers during Operation Ten-Go. The torpedo bombers intentionally focused nearly all of their attacks on the port side to cause rapid flooding with the goal of causing the ship to capsize. It worked. In the end Yamato endured so much punishment before going down, it may be more akin to a Critical Existence Failure or perhaps a Rasputinian Death
- This is pretty much standard for most armored vehicles, on air, land, or sea. General blows around the armor plating tend to either bounce off, or cause little real damage, but a single hit (lucky or aimed) to a vulnerable section like the fuel tank or stored ammo tend to be very debilitating, very quickly. Mobility kills by hitting a soft spot required for locomotion are also good, but not nearly as spectacular.
- The USS Johnston pulled off one of these during the Battle Off Samar. The Johnston hit the Japanese Heavy Cruiser Kumano blowing off the entire bow. The Japanese ship survived the battle.