Improved Critical Hits and Fumbles for Pathfinder

by Josh Horowitz


Over the many years I've played D&D in various editions, I've tried various different critical hit and fumble schemes. Lately, our group has been using the Paizo Critical Hit and Fumble decks, but unfortunately, I've become increasingly disenchanted by these decks.

Here is a brief description of my problems with the Paizo Crit/Fumble decks:

My proposed Crit/Fumble system attempts to fix all these issues. It gives skilled combatants a better chance to crit and avoid fumbles. It also sorts crit effects so that a combatant's skill determines how brutal the crit is instead of just a flat random roll/draw. Further, even on failed confirmation rolls, you will do the max damage from your weapon, making all 20's exciting.

Hit Categories/To Hit Roll

When attacking, if the unmodified "natural" value shown on the die is within the crit range of the attacker's weapon, the attacker may have made a critical hit. Similarly, if value on the die is a natural '1', then the attacker may have fumbled. Roll a second time, using the exact same modifiers from the initial roll, to see if the fumble or critical "confirmed". Consult the Hit Category table below to determine the exact type of critical hit or fumble.

Hit Category Table
Category Attack Roll Confirmation Roll Effect
Critical Smash CRIT 20 Crit multipler * Weapon Max Damage and +20 Critical Effect Roll
Smash CRIT Hit Max Damage + ((Crit Multiplier-1) * Normal Damage Roll) and Critcal Effect Roll
Critical Hit CRIT Miss Max Damage, no Critical Roll
Hit CRIT 1 Normal Damage Roll
Hit -
Miss Miss - No Damage Roll
1 20
Stumble 1 Hit +40 Fumble Roll
Fumble 1 Miss +20 Fumble Roll
Catastrophe 1 1 Fumble Roll


Critical Effects

When an attacker confirms either a Smash or a Critical Smash, there is a chance he inflicts a Critical Effect in addition to extra damage. To do determine what Critical Effect, if any, an attacker might have inflicted, make a Critical Effect Roll, and consult the Critical Effect table.

The effects in the Critical Effect Table are sorted so that the most damaging entries require a high roll. The "best" effects are not acheivable in most circumstances. The attacker either has to vastly overpower the defender or have rolled a Critical Smash to get the extra +20 to the Critical Effect Roll.

Similarly, if the attacker and defender are evenly matched, there is a 50% chance that a Smash will not inflict any Critical Effect at all.

x3/x4 Weapons get a +5/+10 bonus when rolling on this table.

Critical Effect Table
Critical Effect Roll: d20 + Attack Bonus - Defenders's AC (+20 for Critical Smash)(+5/+10 for x3/x4 Weapons)
Die Roll Effect
>=40 Roll 3 times for Critical Effects
39 Roll 2 times for Critical Effects
38 Bleed Con 2
37 Unconscious
36 Stunned for 1d4+1 rounds
35 Random Ability Drain 1d6
34 Bleed Con 1
33 Blinded
32 Confused for 1d4 rounds
31 Nauseated for 1d4 rounds
30 Exhausted for 1d4 rounds
29 Free Combat Maneuver Attempt +8
28 Knocked Prone
27 Roll twice for non-lethal damage
26 Crippled - Movement reduced to 5'
25 AoO from all Threatening Opponents
24 Bleed 1d4+1
23 Staggered for 1d4 rounds
22 Random Ability Damage 1d6
21 Knockback d20+5 feet
20 Stunned for 1 round
19 Fatigued for 1d4 rounds
18 Dumbness
17 Free Combat Maneuver Attempt
16 Free Attack at -5
15 Partial Blindness (20% miss chance) for 1d4 rounds
14 Bleed 2
13 Sickened for 1d4 rounds
12 Crippled - Movement Reduced by 1/2
11 Roll for Non-lethal Damage
10 Flatfooted for 1 round
9 Deafened for 1d4 rounds
8 Damage weapon, armor or shield (ignore hardness)
7 Drop all held items
6 Dazed for 1 round
5 AC -2 for 1 round
4 Bleed 1
3 Off Balance for 1d4+1 rounds (No ability bonus on Attacks, No AoOs)
2 Dazzled for 1d4 rounds
1 Off Balance for 1 round (No ability bonus on Attacks, No AoOs)
=<0 No Critical Effect


When an attacker confirms a Stumble, Fumble or Catastrophe, there is a chance she might suffer a damaging condition. To determine what effect she might suffer, make a Fumble roll and consult the Fumble table. If you rolling for a Stumble or a Fumble you get a bonus on this roll (+40 and +20 respectively).

For consistencies sake, the table is sorted so that the higher values are beneficial and low rolls are increasingly bad to the attacker. (As the attacker, you always want to roll high.)

The chances for an Attacker to avoid any effect at all from a Stumble are exactly the same as her to hit roll. The worst effect on the Fumble table are impossible to roll unless the Defender vastly overpowers the Attacker, or if the Attacker rolled a Catastrophe (1 in 400 chance). A level 1 Warrior fighting an Ancient Dragon has a much greater chance of a bad outcome than a level 20 Paladin fighting an unleveled Kobold.

Fumble Table
Fumble Roll: d20 + Attack Bonus - Defender's AC (+40/20 for Stumble/Fumble)
Die Roll Effect
>=40 No Effect
39 Dazzled for 1d4 rounds
38 Off Balance for 1 round (No ability bonus on Attacks, No AoOs)
37 -2 Attack Penalty for 1 round
36 -2 AC penalty for 1 round
35 Dazed for 1 round
34 Drop held items and/or Ammo (1d6 rounds to pick up Ammo)
33 Entangled in Equipment (1 standard action to free self)
32 Damage Weapon
31 Damage Armor
30 Damage Self(Non-Lethal)
29 Flatfooted for 1 round
28 Crippled - Movement reduced by 1/2
27 Sickened for 1d4 rounds
26 Partial Blindness (20% miss chance) for 1d4 rounds
25 Damage Self
24 Fatigued for 1d4 rounds
23 Provoke AoO from all Threatening Opponents
22 Knocked Prone
21 Fling Weapon (1d8 direction, 1d20 distance, damage first person hit, 1-5 is you!)
20 Damage Self + Bleed 1
19 Hit Random Adjacent Ally
18 Staggered for 1 round
17 Crippled - movement reduced to 5'
16 Confused for 1 round
15 Critical Hit Self
14 Nauseated for 1 round
13 Blinded
12 Staggered for 1d4+1 rounds
11 Exhausted for 1d4+1 rounds
10 Smash Self
9 Stunned for 1 round
8 Confused for 1d4 rounds
7 Nauseatedfor 1d4 rounds
6 Knocked Prone + Stunned for 1 round
5 Critical Smash Self
4 Stunned 1d4+1 rounds
3 Unconscious
2 Roll 2 times
<=1 Roll 3 times