A 1-in-20 Shot

Those beloved (and reviled) rolls of a “natural” 20 or 1 seem to be something at the very core of the D&D universe – most players have tales to tell of all the critical and/or funny moments resulting from a very bad or very good roll. In fact, one of the first questions from one of the players in my current gaming group concerned this specifically – “Ooh! I rolled a 20 – what do I get?”.

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I had to disappoint him by saying “nothing”… I was trying out Lamentations of the Flame Princess in RAW-mode (Read As Written) when starting out, just to give all the rules a fair shake and determine for myself what I might want to change and how. I like making a game my own, and I knew I wanted to do it, I just wasn’t ready to start changing things around yet.

For our latest session, I’d finally come to at least an interim decision; a natural 20, provided it was high enough to score a normal hit, would yield maximum damage. Nothing dramatic, for several reasons – I didn’t want a complicated mechanism requiring multiple extra rolls, and I didn’t want to upend the balance of the system just yet. Maximum damage is still within the normal damage potential of that character with that weapon, and only leads to a slight increase in average damage over time. I’m tempted to create something like this excellent “one-page chart” from Rolls, Rules and Roles some time in the future, though. An additional roll will slow down combat slightly, but I think the added variation and fun temporary effects will compensate.

I’ve gotten rid of the confirmation roll, as well, despite the fact that it makes perfect sense mechanics-wise, and hands back some of the edge to those with higher attack bonuses (namely Fighters, in LotFP). It adds another roll (and a negative one at that, which can only result in something halfway given being taken back), and I’d rather not do that. With their higher damage bonuses, Fighters will have a consistently higher damage output than other classes in combat anyway, and I prefer my combat to be as fast as possible.

In a perhaps slightly more drastic move, I’ve skipped critical misses / fumbles entirely. I’ve looked at this from several angles, and I fail to see how they enrich the game; they can lead to some slapstick humor, sure, but most often at the players’ expense which always leaves you with a sour aftertaste. I don’t feel they are a necessity to “balance out” critical hits as long as the same rules apply for characters, NPCs and monsters. If a game system was based around another die than the D20, I might actually consider them, but I do not like either a 5 % risk for each roll of a fumble or slowing the action down by requiring another roll to somehow decrease those odds. A miss is punishment enough, provided the stakes are high enough.

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