Press "Enter" to skip to content

Criticals and Fumbles – Ep66

Natural 20!

Not much in roleplaying games elicits more of a table-wide reaction than a critical hit or a fumble. The extreme consequences of a lucky roll can change the dynamic of a combat very quickly. Whether it be double damage, a dropped weapon or the effect rolled on a chart, criticals and fumbles have become an integral part of the gamer’s life. But are they necessary?


We examine the nature of the critical hit and the fumble. Citing examples of how they are used in the game that we play.


Criticals and Fumbles – Ep66


Cast – Eric, Mike, Dan, Mark and Shawn


Running Time – 30:08


00:00     Intro: Jayson

00:30     On to the Topic

Items Mentioned: Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Empire of the Petal Throne, Star Wars RPG, Fantasy Flight Games, Dresden Files RPG

06:29     TANGENT: You look like shit Harry Dresden

06:55     Back on Topic

Item Mentioned: Aces & Eights

08:35     TANGENT: Gut shot

09:22     On Topic for Real

Items Mentioned: Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Hackmaster, White Wolf, World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic

19:20     TANGENT: Does anyone read these?

20:03     Return to Topic

Items Mentioned: Fallout, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

21:50     TANGENT: If you are, email us

22:16     Really Back to Topic

Item Mentioned: Team Fortress Classic

22:35     TANGENT: and we will send you some swag

23:23     Topics are good

Item Mentioned: Legend of the Five Rings

25:26     TANGENT: just include your name and address.

Item Mentioned: Shadowrun

26:33     Finally on Topic Again

Item Mentioned: Scumbag DM

29:25     Outro: Mark




  1. Robert Sullivan
    Robert Sullivan July 17, 2012

    The GM of a 2E D&D game (back in the 90s) I was in had worked out his own very punishing fumbles table – i.e. a fighter fumbles, then his swing of his sword connect swith the face of the ally closest to him. I remember it because everyone in the party started taking it (worst case scenario) into account during a fight and planned accordingly… expect for That One Guy. He did a lot of damage to the party not because he rolled a lot of botches, but because he never gave a damn when he did.

  2. James Worley
    James Worley July 17, 2012

    Critical fumbles/hits are the stuff of legends (both good and evil) around my gaming table. We can regale you with stories of the halfling wizard killing a hydra with a thrown table leg from across the room (damn you 2nd ed critical hit tables) or of the Alternity engineer who fell into the fusion reactor while walking across a catwalk in the middle of combat (never seen so many ones rolled in a row). After many years of dealing with some weird, humorous, and down right bizarre critical hits, I tend to just make up my own results. It does slow down game some, but the players enjoy it more. One thing I always do though is make it so magic can’t fully heal any critical effects.

  3. 3rik
    3rik July 23, 2012

    FYI Fallout 3 en Fallout New Vegas also have critical hits, not sure about fumbles.

    I believe Mark mentioned something about a sliding scale. In Call of Cthulhu your chance of a critical success equals 1/5 of your skill, though the chance of a fumble is always 5% regardless of skill level.

  4. Jayson
    Jayson July 25, 2012

    Fallout does indeed have Criticals. Doesn’t the original KotOR game have them too?

    Eric, when you said Giant Venus Flytrap, my WKRP trigger went off…

  5. FalconGK81
    FalconGK81 August 13, 2012

    If I were in a D&D game and the DM said my foot was broken, and I got healing from a priest and the DM was like “Well, you didn’t set the bone before the healing, so now you’re deformed” I’d get up and walk out and would never play with that DM again. That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Not sure why that example was even brought up.

    • Eric
      Eric August 13, 2012

      Thanks for the comment Gregory.

      I understand your point. It really would be a dick move on the part of the DM to do something like that, especially if it wasn’t clear from the beginning that that was how they wanted healing to work.

      Making criticals actually mean something to the PCs was the gist of that segment. In a mechanic where wounds are instantly healed without any residual effect, there is really no need for flashy critical descriptions. It becomes something else that the PCs have over the bad guys in combat, as most of the enemies don’t have a healer readily available.

      In the end it is a matter of styles. If you are not into the grittier type game, that is totally understandable. My hope would be that you would find out early that the game wasn’t for you, so you don’t get to into it to much before quitting.

  6. Fembreck
    Fembreck August 28, 2012

    Whoever said Player’s options was the worst thing to happen to D&D was wrong, change worst to MOST AWESOME and you are closer to the mark 😉

    More seriously though, I think alot of the stuff in there was trying to scratch the same itch as multiclassing in 3.5, which I loved. The idea of building your character with a set of skills that doesn’t quite match anyone elses is cool. The balance may have been just a teensy bit out in D&D 2.5 (let be honest that’s what it was) though 😉

    • Eric
      Eric August 28, 2012

      I agree. I liked Player’s Option quite a bit. I remember when it first came out and how it felt that the sky was the limit with character tweaking. Then, of course, 3rd edition came out and we really saw that there were so many more ways to play.

      Sometimes I think that “balance of play” is overrated. It is certainly something that has taken center stage as the popularity of MMO has grown. 1st Edition and 2nd Edition didn’t have that burden.

Leave a Reply