Remember when Thief was unlucky? Sure you do. It’s been too many comics since we followed up on that shtick, and I’m certain our injured gorgon appreciates the return to form. I’m going to go out on a limb though and say that this is one isn’t Thief’s fault. You see, when you fail to confirm your crit, that’s because of a specific design choice.

If you’re going to open up crit ranges via the keen weapon property, improved critical, or whatever other high-level capstone silliness, then critical hits are no longer a sometimes food. Because of the same math we talked about over in our comic about botches, the frequency skyrockets when you move away from a 1/20 chance to a 6/20—even moreso than that linear bump implies thanks to iterative attacks. In order to keep your monsters from exploding virtually every round, it’s important to temper that spiky probability with a confirmation roll. And that leads to a problem.

Nobody likes the confirmation roll. That’s the basic problem that Thief so ably demonstrates in today’s comic. When that big 20 shows up on the die, you want it to be a special moment. You want lighting to strike, your sword to go snicker-snack, and to action-roll away from the dead monster like Legolas let loose in an oliphant preserve. On the other hand, by expanding crit ranges you open up the Critical Feats that everyone does love to build around. What’s a designer to do?

One solution lives over in the realms of science fantasy. Starfinder is a system that realized how, when you lower the number of attacks, you also flatten the crit math. With its “you only get two attacks” full-attack system, Starfinder is able to take all those fun critical feats and put them on the game’s weapons by default. You’ll notice that there’s no roll to confirm when you’re out finding paths among the stars (yay!). Unfortunately, that also takes all that fun design space of “the crit build” out of the game (not yay).

It’s important to emphasize that here’s no “right” solution here. As with so many design decisions, this is a question of tradeoffs. Keep that in mind as we move into today’s discussion.

So here’s my question to all you mechanically-inclined gamers out there. What is your favorite critical hit system? Do you like the design space offered by expanded crit ranges, or do you want to protect the poor Thiefs of the world from swinging for disappointment? Let’s hear all about your missed confirmation rolls down in the comments!


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