View Full Version : Looking for critical Hits or Wounding rules that you have used successfully

06-29-2013, 08:00 AM
I'm looking for either published rules or your own house rules for dealing with critical hits or some sort of wound tracking system for use within D&D3.5/Pathfinder. I'm after a bit more danger in the wounding system, but I still want to keep it D&D (ie. no adding the RoleMaster critical hits charts!).

I'm playing around with some rules based loosely on 1st Edition Earthdawn that currently looks like this:

Each creature records a Wound Threshold score that is equal to 1/3 of their normal total hit points (round up).

Any single source of damage that equals or exceeds 1/3 of your normal total hit points requires a DC20 Fortitude save, failure results in a descriptive wound and a -1 penalty to all physical actions until healed. This occurs each time damage is taken and the Fortitude save is failed up to a maximum penalty of -5.

Creatures immune to critical hits, are immune to this Wound Threshold rule.

The idea behind the 1/3 total hit points Wound Threshold, rather than basing it on CON or some other static number, is to allow for scaling during character level advancement.

The DC20 Fortitude Save is to allow for not every single hit that does damage that equals or exceeds the characters Wound Threshold being an actual wound and negative penalty, so as your Fortitude Save increases as you level up, your chance of sustaining a 'wound penalty' is decreased.

My main goal is to keep it simple, but to give damage some sort of debilitating effect when characters and creatures receive wounds.

Any obvious oversights or suggestions?

Anything you can suggest that is simpler and/or more elegant?

07-01-2013, 10:54 AM
hmmm, i have an optional system of 5-step wounding. basically d&d is supposed to be heroic fantasy, right? over-the-top, incredible feats of derring-do, impossible odds, ne? so i have the hp total be the equivalent of their combat endurance, instead of dying when they hit 0/-10/scaling whatever number, once they hit 0, they go down a step on the wounding chart, and their hp resets to max:

step zero is unwounded / unaffected.
step one is lightly wounded, they take a penalty to movement, skill, attack, saves, and AC.
step two is moderately wounded, previous penalties are increased a bit, must make one save versus loss of consciousness upon hitting this step.
step three is heavily wounded, penalties increase another step, save versus unconsciousness as above, loss of use of a single limb (which one is based on combat events, if by normal damage can still attempt to use the limb with a check, if by a crit - then it is broken; randomly determined if necessary)
step four is severely wounded, penalties upped another step, save versus unconsciousness periodically (every minute), loss of use two limbs (as above)
step five is critically wounded, they are considered helpless but due to limb rules above - they may still be able to move and act a bit, save versus unconsciousness periodically (every round), loss of use of three limbs (as above)
exceeding step five is death.

for an element of extra "deadliness" in this system, an unconfirmed crit automatically drops you one step, while a confirmed crit automatically drops you two steps, before the normal and potential extra damage is taken into account. saves are usually modified by or based on how much damage was dealt. in this system, i allow coup-de-grace attacks against flatfooted opponents, not just helpless. this allows the "sneaking up on the guard and whacking him from behind" tactic in a semi-realistic fashion. ie: the guard is flatfooted if the sneaker makes the hide and move silent checks, the coup-de-grace grants an auto crit which drops them two steps forcing the save versus unconsciousness with the damage modifying the dc.

i also have an optional combat fatigue rule as well where each round of combat, everyone takes non-lethal damage equal to the number of rounds into an encounter they are. 'catching breath' is a series of three rounds where they are not moving at double speed or more, and are not in active combat (ie: taking attack or defensive actions). this does not reset non-lethal damage taken, but does reset the round count. they can be staring down an enemy and taunting them, or hiding, or trying to sneak by/away something so long as they don't exceed the parameters. current non-lethal total is always added to the saves versus unconsciousness until it is healed or removed.

i find that this system increases the chances of unconsciousness as opposed to outright death which is much more realistic without adding too much work, and still preserves the heroic combat feel. it also tends to extend otherwise insta-kill encounters without resorting to ridiculous DM fiats. for large scale battles, we revert to something closer to the normal rules break the existing HP total into fourths, each fourth corresponding to steps one through four on the chart above, step five is 1/4 the hp total on the negative side. this keeps the action moving more quickly when there are lots of creatures taking turns.

this latter variant is also a decent way to run the game by itself. it really depends on how tactical / combat oriented your particular group is. either way, it lends a bit more realism with only a slight increase in prep work.

07-01-2013, 12:00 PM
That's the spirit! :)

The one thing I'm concerned with, especially with my concept, is that characters will be unduly disadvantaged over a prolonged session with lots of fighting and no real chance to take days off to rest, or that in reality, it only disadvantages the players and not really the NPC's, as NPC's tend to die a lot easier and quicker than PC's anyway.

However, the whole, 'you don't suffer any disadvantages until you hit 0 HP's - and then you fall over and start dying', just rubs me up the wrong way. I do like the idea of a progressive penalty system.

I think your 'HP's reset to max' system, would probably work quit nicely for a heroic type game. I'm more, gritty with a splash of swagger. ;)

Hey I Can Chan
07-01-2013, 10:57 PM
Why do you want PCs to die more often?

My main goal is to keep it simple, but to give damage some sort of debilitating effect when characters and creatures receive wounds.

That exists already. That's called making tactical decisions based on available information, and PCs and monsters should do that. The PCs are already debilitated when they take damage because they know how much damage they've taken and then act on that information. When a cure spell is cast in combat, when a Tumble check is made to avoid an attack of opportunity, when someone takes the withdraw action to get out of a threatened area--those are responses to injury and potential injury.

There are many game systems wherein combat is merely you-go-then-he-goes with one side's actions having very little influence over another side's actions, but d20 isn't one. A character has to worry about the enemy's sword, readied action, or spell's effect in addition to what he's doing. That's enough.

Also, if you want progressive injury, giving up or running away must be options on both sides. If the PCs have gotten used to murdering prisoners and Team Antagonist coup de graces downed foes, then the death spiral doesn't change decisions; it just tosses more numbers at an already complicated system.

I've actually considered the reverse, wherein the more injured creatures are the higher their bonuses to attack rolls (3/4 hp gets +1 every 6 levels, 1/2 gets +1 every 4 levels, 1/4 gets +1 every 2 levels) or something--to, y'know, reflect the desperate natures of their struggles or whatever. Just as complicated and still helps Team Antagonist more, but it also means winners don't win even more and losers don't lose even bigger.

07-02-2013, 12:25 PM
The PCs are already debilitated when they take damage because they know how much damage they've taken and then act on that information.

I've never really felt that, hence the desire for something to change the current perceived dynamic.

I get what you are saying regarding the PC's adjusting their actions due to Hit Point damage received, but it's the completely abstract nature of the damage taken and the fact that there are no short term effects or long term consequences to receiving a hit that, for example, reduces you to just a few of your total Hit Points in one single blow. It's only when you take that last point of damage that drops you to 0 HP that you suddenly realise you're damaged, and fall over.

I know Hit Points are an abstract concept and don't *necessarily* represent actual mutilation and damage, but I need some option where attacks may (not *will*, I'm in favour of a Save of some sort to avoid it) actually result in short term or longer term consequences.

It's kind of funny that an upset stomach (yeah, I'm using comedic licence) can give you a -2 modifier on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks (Sickened (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/conditions#TOC-Sickened)), yet a great axe to the head results in no modifier. :confused:

07-02-2013, 01:57 PM


03-08-2014, 07:17 AM

I've now been running a group of six players through a series of Pathfinder modules for the past few months, the group is currently at or around levels 4-5, and we've experimented with the above wounding rules. We've also experimented with the Paizo Critical hits cards as well, but with less success.

After playing around with a couple of different versions of the optional 'wounding' rules, the current house rule in effect is:

Wound threshold equals 1/3 of total (normal, not the actual current) hit points.

Any single source of damage that equals or exceeds this threshold requires a DC15 Fortitude save. Failure results in a 1d4 'bleed' condition that lasts until a DC15 heal check is successfully passed, or until any sort of magical healing is given.

I may be experimenting with adding the 'Shaken' condition to those who fail the DC15 Fortitude save. So this would result in a 1d4/Rnd Bleed and a -2 to Attack Rolls, Saves, Skill checks, and ability checks.

In actual game play, the DC15 Fortitude save has negatively effected the bad guys just as much as the players if not more so, but it does at least make the players think twice about running head first towards a hoard of large bad guys.... mostly.

03-10-2014, 03:54 PM
I still like to keep things simple.

All I use is a continual "critical damage" loop. Say you have a light crossbow (+2 magical) (1d8+2 damage), and a critical threat of 19-20 for double damage.

Bob the Bowman rolls a nat 20 (needs a 20 to hit) - so he threatens a crit.
He rolls the confirm and gets a nat 18 - so he confirms.
He rolls 2d8 and adds 2 to the total... with the house-rule added that he does a MINIMUM of his normal max damage (1d8+2=10 hp damage, MINIMUM).

Bob shoots again, rolling a natural 20 (he's on a roll tonight!)
He rolls to confirm and rolls ANOTHER natural 19.
This means that he threatens ANOTHER crit.
He rolls to confirm again and gets a whopping nat 18... with the bonuses, he confirms the DOUBLE crit, but that's it.
For damage, he rolls the next higher category for crit (double => triple => quad => pent, etcetera)
For this one, he rolls 3d8 and adds his +2, with a minimum damage total of DOUBLE normal damage (2d8+2=18)

This continual "loop" is endless - and, if the dice gods smile upon you - it is actually possible for a first level commoner with a dagger to take out a huge, ancient red dragon - _IF_ the damage totals add up (which is so unlikely that it is statistically impossible.

In the years that I have been using this, I've only lost THREE PC's in my campaign to this system - but EVERYONE is just a little more leery of jumping into combat.

03-11-2014, 10:22 AM
I was always fond of exploding mechanics, such as in Rolemaster, and in Feng Shui.

03-11-2014, 04:37 PM
I've been playing in an Earthdawn campaign for the last year, I'm pretty much burnt out on exploding dice mechanics.

I was after a simple add on wound system that wouldn't bog down combat with lots of extra dice rolling or too much book keeping. Thinking about it, I may actually drop the 1d4 bleed rule - it starts to become redundant as the PC's and NPC's get more and more HP's, or maybe ... turn it into a smaller amount of temporary CON damage instead... hmmmm, now there's an idea! :D

03-11-2014, 06:13 PM
Ah, in that case, one can either divide the hp or whatever into fifths and they gain a wounded status with penalties for each block of health they go through. Alternately, you can set a static number of damage that you gain statuses every time you lose that much.

or you could borrow the mutants and masterminds system. replace hp with a fourth save: toughness. fail the toughness dc, gain a status effect. dc equals damage +10 or just damage depending on how gritty you want. as they go down the status ladder, they eventually go unconscious. in M&M, they don't have a dead status due to the supers theme; death must be plot inflicted or inflicted upon helpless individuals, though they recommend negotiation with players before killing off character, iirc.

when there is a critical threat, that forces a toughness save, which replaces the crit confirmation roll. this gives the player more of a sense of defending themselves. magic items and the like follow the same rules for toughness stats as any other save.

10-23-2014, 02:47 AM
I used to use a two step system of saves at one third and two thirds damage to keep fighting. Unlike the demodivators above not everyone fight to the last drop of blood.

I replaced that with massive damage. However it isn't a fixed number but goes up depending on you hit die. Con+ d6=1, d8=2, d10=3, d13=4 per level.

Even if you don't take a massive damage hit there is a save at that point to keep fighting.

10-23-2014, 05:37 AM
For a time I used a Critical to location system. Every base location head, 2x arms, 1 or 2 locations for wings(if you got em), Chest, abdomen, 2x legs, and a tail if you have that which differed in chance of hit based upon type of tail a lizard mans tail is easier to hit than a cats. Then we used a wound system where each location had hp = to your con score. Criticals did normal damage but it applied to both Hp and the wound of that location. If your location took half the value it was reduced in effectiveness. if it too 3/4 you could barely use it, if it took the full wound it was useless, and if it took half again your wound it was removed. This maimed a lot of characters. They lived mostly but were scared and maimed a lot requiring a skilled cleric to reattach the removed organ, a cure spell with enough power to heal all of the missing wound value at once and a heal check DC = 15 + a location modifier.

Each location also had its effect on the character so the loss of your left arm meant no off-hand attacks and no extra hand to drink potions defensively. Where as the loss of your right ment you could only do off-handed attacks and had to train (5 skill points) to learn to use your left. If a character gained back his arm after training those 5 skill points gained them ambidexterity. But If you had time to train you probably will only get it back if with the help of some powerful creature. Because restoring a lost limb from scratch took some powerful magic. I also had magical prosthetic. They could be used in place of a limb but they had a different wound value and often came with some small downside. The cost was obscene too a magic hand would run upwards of 10K -500K based on power. A 10K would have 1D6+2 wounds and no added abilities and only recover you to having a reduced effectiveness of that limb. and the 500K would have 4D8+8 wounds and have 2-6 abilities restoring you to full use and then some.

I lost a lot of PC's under this system but they liked the realism. I had a PC fighter who had in one fight his Eye, left arm to the elbow, and right knee down removed. They were eaten by a particularly nasty swarm of bugs. He survived and got fitted with some prosthesis in the 100K range (They had in the same adventure found a dragons hoard.) He had a hand with speed enhancer +(1d4+3 Dex and access to extra attack feats) so he eventually ended up using his long sword with a monks number of attacks. His leg gave him tremor sense and the eye had infra-vision, telescopic zoom, and could detach and would still function. He was jokingly called cyborg because of all that but he was a lethal PC, who got a phobia of bugs from the ordeal.

10-23-2014, 12:00 PM
tried that at one point. Too complicated in that D&D would start to look like Rollmaster from the number of charts it required for exactly the reasons you give. Gave up on it.

These days I have become one with the abstraction,

11-21-2014, 05:00 AM
The game I used it in was fun but in the end extra mechanics like that tend to slow the game way down. What is needed is a light but descriptive system. Something along the lines of flat rate across the board effects. I have a system now that has a status system for locations. there is a status for each location and the more damage you take there the worse the status gets. its easy the status is 1-10 and for instance you get hit in the sword arm you begin loosing damage first and each rank progresses that, then accuracy after a point and by 10 you have a (D20) -10 damage and -7 accuracy then the limb is useless. Now at useless I let the PC depect their story and decide if its maimed or lopped off. That is the basics. It works way smoother.

11-21-2014, 07:48 AM
Simple and simulation are a zero sum equation

Tony Misfeldt
06-25-2016, 11:35 PM
I've seen and used various alternate critical effect combat rules over the years.

Critical Hit/Miss Cards:
This is the method my most recent DM used in his
Pathfinder campaign. It's benefits are that it adds
some flavor to combat through graphic descriptions
of critical hits and misses. It's shortcomings are that
some of the descriptions don't match the actions
which caused them (decapitating an enemy with a
critical hit from a crossbow bolt for example).

Warhammer RPG Critical Hit System:
This is one that I've used both as a player in the Warhammer RPG and as a DM in D&D. Essentially, a character's hitpoints are a buffer zone between regular damage and critical damage. Once a character reaches 0 hp or lower, he must make a successful saving throw (in the case of D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, a Fort check) every time he's hit for damage. If he succeeds, no critical effects occur. if he fails, the DM must roll on a critical hit chart. The
farther into the negatives the character's hp are, the
larger the dice the DM must roll, and the larger the number rolled, the more severe the critical effect. This has the benefit of longer battles and some really cool descriptions of critical effects. But much like the above mentioned decks of cards, not all of the descriptions work for all situations.

Players Options (Combat & Tactics): This was a 2nd Edition AD&D book for use with the optional sets of rules which were published in the late 1990's. I haven't used this particular set of rules myself, but I plan to next time I DM. Essentially, when a player/DM makes a confirmed critical hit, the character that is hit makes a saving throw (back then vs death, in the OLG System, it would be a Reflex Save). If he makes his saving throw, he just takes double damage (or triple damage depending on the weapon he's hit with). If he fails his saving throw, the DM rolls on a chart to determine the critical effect. The size of the dice rolled depends on the size of the weapon used vs the size of the creature hit (the critical effect of stabbing an ogre with a dagger is vastly different than that of slashing a kobold with a greatsword). This method has a great deal of potential. First, there are different charts for slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning weapons, as well as for natural weapons like teeth and claws. There are also charts for each part of the body (arms, legs, head, torso, and abdomen). The only real downsides are fairly minor. One, the book is no longer in print. However it's likely available online somewhere (maybe even for free). And second, according to the rules as written, a human cannot sever the head or limb of another human with a longsword, bastardsword, scimitar, or even a katana (these are all medium sized weapons and according to the chart medium weapons cannot dismember or decapitate medium opponents). However, I came up with a house rule to correct this problem. When rolling for Critical Effects, add the character's Attack Adjustment (from STR, magic, weapon focus, etc, but not BAB). This should be enough of a boost to get the end result high enough for the more extreme Critical Effects.

Tony Misfeldt
07-01-2016, 02:46 AM
If you Google "Player's Options: Combat & Tactics pdf" one of the first links that is brought up allows you to download a copy of the book absolutely free.

Tony Misfeldt
07-02-2016, 01:04 PM
Here's a link:

AD_D_-_Player_s_Option_-_Combat_and_Tactics.pdf (http://archmagev.com/2nd_Ed/AD_D_-_Player_s_Option_-_Combat_and_Tactics.pdf)