We're proceeding with good momentum. The Ceremonial Magic rules presented in the last update seem to have been very well received, much more so than the prior iteration of the rules. Several of you have written in to say that they're adding these rules to their campaigns already, which is the best feedback I could hope for.
Now I want to share with you another update - to the critical hit rules. The critical hit rules in the last iteration of Heroic Fantasy Handbook suffered from some flaws that, on reflection, I believe compromise the design.
- The system is too math-heavy. By having critical hits occur on a roll 10 points over the target value, they require a second layer of math on every attack.
- The critical effects are uneven in scope. Some of the critical hits offer a saving throw; some don't. The saving throws do not clearly match up to the saves offered by special maneuvers.
- The critical effects are largely underwhelming. It's too little pay-off for a great roll and a mathematical calculation. Some are devastating; most are trivial.
- The system relies on the "Natural Rolls" system to work, but that system (mandating that a natural 20 is not an automatic hit but instead an explosion) hasn't been well-received.
The new rules, detailed below, address these problems. I hope you'll give them a playtest and let me know what you think.
If the result of a successful attack throw is a natural (unmodified) 20, the attacker has dealt a critical hit to its target. When a critical hit is dealt, the target suffers double damage and must make an immediate saving throw v. Paralysis. If the save fails, the target suffers a critical effect in addition to double damage. The target’s saving throw should be modified by 4 points per category of size difference between the attacker and the target, as per ACKS p. XX.
The attacker determines the critical effect dealt by rolling 1d10 on the appropriate column on the Critical Effects table. For purposes of the Critical Effects table, “characters” are combatants equipped with arms and armor, while “monsters” are combatants relying on natural weapons and toughness.
Lucky Hits: If an attacker could not otherwise have successfully hit the target except on a natural (unmodified) 20, rolling a natural 20 does not deal a critical hit. The attacker is luck to have hit at all!
High-Level Hitter: If the attacker has more than twice as many HD as the target, the range of natural rolls on which it critically hits the target is increased by 1 (from 20 to 19-20, or with Weapon Focus, to 18-20).
Brawling: After seeing the result rolled on the Critical Effects table, the attacker may opt to inflict a Brawling critical effect in lieu of the effect rolled. For instance, an attacker with a nonmagical sword who rolls a Damage Shield result against a target with a magical shield could substitute a Brawling result instead. An attacker who fears being carried off by a flying creature could substitute a Brawling result for a Clamber result.
Shields May Be Splintered: If the target of a critical effect is equipped with a shield, he may choose to substitute a Damage Shield result in lieu of the actual effect dealt to him. This represents the character desperately absorbing the blow on his shield.
Brawling: The target suffers an additional 1d4 damage from a strike from the attacker’s gauntlet, pommel, or shield rim. If the attacker has no metal weapons, the damage is nonlethal, but otherwise the brawling damage can be lethal or nonlethal, at his discretion.
Damage Armor: The target’s armor is damaged, reducing its effectiveness by 1 point. Armor that loses all effectiveness is ruined. Damaged armor can be repaired at a cost of 10gp per point of effectiveness. Magic armor cannot be damaged except by magic weapons or monsters of 5 HD or more.
Damage Shield: The target’s shield is damaged, reducing its effectiveness by 1. If the shield is non-magical, this will destroy it. Damaged shields can be repaired at a cost of 10gp per point of effectiveness. Magic shields cannot be damaged except by magic weapons or monsters of 5 HD or more.
Disarm: The target is disarmed of its weapon (as the special maneuver). The weapon drops to a point chosen by the attacker who dealt the critical hit, up to 5’ distant from the target.
Fatigued: The target is wearied by the flurry of blows. The target suffers a -1 penalty to attack throws and damage throws until it rests. If additional fatigue effects are rolled, the effects are cumulative.
Force Back: The target is forced back (as the special number). It must withdraw a number of feet equal to the attacker’s damage roll. If this would push the opponent into a wall or obstacle, the opponent is knocked down, and takes 1d6 points of damage per 10’ he has traveled.
Knockdown: The target is immediately knocked down (as the special maneuver). Once prone, the creature can move, but only to crawl at a movement rate of 5’, to take an action in lieu of moving, or to end the condition by using an action in lieu of moving to stand up. If engaged, the prone creature remains subject to the movement restrictions of being engaged, so it can only crawl if using defensive movement, and cannot stand up in lieu of moving. The prone creature can attack, but suffers a -4 penalty on its attack throws. Alternatively the prone creature can stand up in lieu of attacking. The prone creature can be backstabbed by creatures capable of doing so. Attack throws against the prone creatures gain a +2 bonus, or a +4 bonus if the attacker backstabs the stunned creature. The conditions is ended immediately when the creature stands up.
Impair Attack: One of the target’s natural attacks (determined randomly) is somehow impaired – muscles sprained, claws ripped, etc. The target suffers a -4 to attack throws with the impaired natural attack until it rests.
Injure Appendage/Organ: The target must immediately roll 1d6 on the Critically Wounded row of the Permanent Wounds table. The effects are permanent.
Injure Hide: The target’s hide is bruised, cut, or broken open such that its AC is reduced by 1 until it rests.
Stun: The target is stunned until the end of its next initiative. A stunned creature cannot attack, cast spells, or move. It gains no benefit to its AC from its shield (if any), and can be ambushed or backstabbed by creatures capable of doing so. All attack throws against stunned creatures gain a +2 bonus, or a +4 bonus if the attacker ambushes or backstabs the stunned creature.
Sunder Weapon: The target’s weapon is sundered (as the special maneuver). If the target’s weapon is a non-magical spear, staff, or pole arm, it shatters into splinters when sundered, dealing an additional 1d4 nonlethal damage to the target. Swords cannot be sundered by non-metal weapons or natural attacks by creatures of less than 5 HD. Magic weapons cannot be sundered except by other magic weapons or monsters of 5 HD or more.
Unsteady: The target is put off-balance and unsteady by a confusing maneuver or powerful attack. The unsteadied creature cannot move for 1d3 rounds.
Wrestle/Clamber: The results of this critical effect depend on the difference in size between the attacker and target. If the target is the same size category or smaller than the attacker, the attacker has grabbed the target in a wrestling hold (as the special maneuver). If the target is one or more size categories larger than the attacker, the attacker has clambered on top of or mounted the target (as the special maneuver, see below).
These rules can be deleted as unnecessary.
Weapon Focus: The character is an expert at delivering critical hits with a type of favored weapon. Any time the result of a successful attack throw with a favored weapon is a natural (unmodified) 19-20, the attacker has dealt a critical hit to its target. A character may take this proficiency multiple times, selecting an additional Weapon Focus each time. The available Weapon Focuses are: axes; maces, flails and hammers; swords and daggers; bows and crossbows; slings and thrown weapons; spears and polearms. Weapon Focus does not allow a character to use weapons not available to his class.