One house rule that has as many versions as there are campaigns out there, yet most DM's probably have in common, is a favorite critical hit table. I'm no different. ;-) For those curious to compare their tables with those of other DM's, or for those who are looking for one to use themselves, I present my table here.
When a player rolls a natural 20, there is a chance that it is critical. I roll a percentile roll and consult the following table.
01-80 The hit is not critical
81-90 Good hit: 1½ times damage
91-95 Severe hit: 2 times damage
96-00 Critical Hit: 2 times damage and check charts below for location and effects
A single weaponed, right-handed character will usually (90%) hit an
opponent's left side.
Others may or may not agree with that, so feel free to modify the number.
For an ambidexterous attacker or in situations were handedness is inapplicable:
01-55 Left side
56-00 Right side
4-5 Maimed - can only be
X D D
6 Severed - immediate loss of 10% I D D X X X
of original hit points
S - Stunned
I - Incapacitated, effectively unconscious
U - Unconscious
P - Pain from broken ribs, -2 to hit and dam
L - Punctured Lung, severe pain, -8 to hit and dam, exteme difficulty breathing
B - Massive Bleeding, Death in d6 turns without magical aid
O - Ruptured Organs, internal bleeding, Death in d3 turns
D - Death in d6 rounds
X - Instant Death
Other game effects (such as the breaking of a particular bone, depending on location) I determine according to the particular situation at the time. A broken sword arm or broken leg, for example, will certainly effect any combat that is going on. I try to keep critical hit descriptions and specifics like that more improvisational, thus adding to the uniqueness and role-playing potential of any given situation (see example below).
Some may think that some of the catagories above are a bit extreme. In actuality, by the time you work down through all the charts, the chances of Instant Death (for example) is a very low 0.02% chance. A figure that is almost certainly much lower than the real odds if you play with sharp objects such as long swords and battle axes. ;-) But such rare events in a game can most definitely add to the excitement. PC's have suffered things such as broken legs, stunning, and broken ribs. Some were even maimed, and had to seek magical healing. In years of using this table, a PC has yet to suffer "Instant Death". But over time, a handful of battles certainly became more than memorable because of a good roll by a PC.
As an example:
The PC's were adventuring in the WGA Falcon series. They were a small party, between 4th and 5th level on average (seriously underleveled and under-magicked for that point), and were at the stage where they were expecting an attack on the Temple of St.Cuthbert by the cult. They had planned a defensive strategy, placed all the temple forces at strategic places around and within the temple, and had split up the party with members accompanying all the major "squads". The assault began as expected, but was particularly brutal from one direction. Divided by the superior force, that squad was heavily damaged, some of whom fell back, others just fell. The party's thief (Ted Little's favorite character), a halfling with limited hit points to start with, had been heavily damaged and made a run for it into the temple proper. Alone. The squad leader of the attacking force went after the thief, intent on stopping him before he could reach any other defenders. Ted was horrified! His heavily wounded halfling thief stumbling down the temple's central aisle, no help in sight, being run down by a hulking 7th level human fighter that barely had a scratch on him, with long sword in one hand and a loaded crossbow in the other! Suddenly a twang... intense pain... and a failed dexterity check sent Ted's character tumbling, a crossbow bolt in his leg and 4 hit points left on his sheet. The fighter closing on the sprawled halfling tossed the crossbow aside and gripped his long sword with both hands raising it above his head as he ran forwards... 20 feet... 15 feet... The halfling, lying helpless on the ground and fully expecting to die that round threw his last throwing star out of defiant desperation. A weapon that in my campaign does 1d4 damage and could hardly stop the 60 hp walking tank bearing down on him. Ted rolled.... perfect 20!... a few more rolls (on my part - I always roll the critical hit stuff) behind the screen and with Ted shaking with anticipation I announce...
"You see in seeming haze-filled slow motion as your throwing star flies toward the fighter bearing down on you... you hear a dull 'thunk' as it digs deep into his forehead! A look of utter shock flashes across his face in the split second it takes him to realise that his life will be over before he hits the ground. His momentum carries him forward, his 200 lb body falling right on top you. You are now face to face, and see a tiny stream of blood running down his still face from your imbedded weapon."
I had rolled a critical hit, a 6 on the severity scale, and the head as the location of the hit. The cheers were deafening! The excitement and relief immeasurable. To this day, Ted still talks about that single attack roll. Events like that should be rare.
Visit my active site map to see the entire website at-a-glance, find out whats new, and instantly jump there with just a click.
Return to the Game Mechanics Page
Return to my main Greyhawk Page