Critical feat madness, or What were the designers thinking!


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

Our group is now of a level high enough for a player to take options from the Critical Focus feat tree. That got us looking at them in a little more detail, rather than just being aware they exist.

Bleeding, Mastery, Staggering and Stunning all seem fair enough.

But Blinding, Deafening (even worse), Sickening, Tiring, and Exhausting are (and excuse my language) freak'n silly. Mechanically I'm sure they are fine and fill a role but in terms of trying to imagine how they would come about?!

What if my M sized fighter is fighting a giant of 30' in height and blinds or worse deafens the giant with a sword! All I see is a fantasy version of the Three Stooges. Larry the warrior runs up the giants knee and pokes him in both ears?! We can only assume it's one ear at a time as driving a sword through the giants head to get to both ears would result in death of the giant one would think. Sickening - perhaps the monsters was male and you caught him in the dangly bits, but other than that? All PCs/Monsters can fight FOREVER until their hp's run out but appearantly by some unimaginable feat (no pun intended) the Tiring/Exhausting trained warrior can wearout the monster?

For me these are cases where mechanics were written with little thought to the greater context - i.e. a role playing game.

I know this seems late in the piece, but we only just got to a level where these become possible in play.

How do players/DM handle these? Mainly the size problem of a blinding/deafening strike - most H/G creatures should/would be immune to an M sized opponent doing this you would think. I like to run things RAW but these feat leave me cringing.

S.


Remember, they key off criticals, not every hit. What's wrong with the burly warrior slashing the beast in the eyes, or hitting him so hard his ears ring? And sickening, tiring, and exhausting make as much sense as stunning do. If you hit someone really hard, why wouldn't they get nauseous/tired from the force of the blow?

The Exchange

The combat system is a pretty abstract beast. Even if his miniature remains on one square of the battle grid, there's no reason you can't describe that blinding critical the Fighter just scored as the guy leaping and climbing up the giant's body, smacking him a good 'un across the eyes, then dropping back into place... or whatever you want, really - dramatic fluff seems especially appropriate when criticals are concerned, IMHO.

Liberty's Edge

Thanks for the replies. I think the fact I'm not of the Manga/Amine generation means I take more stock in gravity than some. Now IF this was a magic effect, I can roll with that, it being magic and all. But this Dragonball-Z (or whatever the latest fad is) school of martial combat just gives me the chills.

I 'can' explain it but it's silly none the less. Let's get extreme and say a 90' creature, blinding/deafening or sickening possible? Hmmmmm. Not on my GM watch. But then I'm house-ruling and I dislike doing that, been 99.999998% RAW since Red Box (the first one). These feats for me should ONLY apply to your size +1 (i.e. L for an M sized person) humaniod - anything else becomes difficult to justify. As I say mechanically a nice idea but for me they drag me out of imnmersion because they reek (to me) or mechanics included for mechanics sake.

S.


Stefan Hill wrote:

Thanks for the replies. I think the fact I'm not of the Manga/Amine generation means I take more stock in gravity than some. Now IF this was a magic effect, I can roll with that, it being magic and all. But this Dragonball-Z (or whatever the latest fad is) school of martial combat just gives me the chills.

I 'can' explain it but it's silly none the less. Let's get extreme and say a 90' creature, blinding/deafening or sickening possible? Hmmmmm. Not on my GM watch. But then I'm house-ruling and I dislike doing that, been 99.999998% RAW since Red Box (the first one). These feats for me should ONLY apply to your size +1 (i.e. L for an M sized person) humaniod - anything else becomes difficult to justify. As I say mechanically a nice idea but for me they drag me out of imnmersion because they reek (to me) or mechanics included for mechanics sake.

S.

Give it whatever fluff explanation you want when you take it, maybe a master warrior taught you how to channel a bit of magic through your attacks, maybe you do some crazy anime thing, whatever

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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It's not any sillier than the idea you can grapple said giant.

For instance, to blind a giant:

1) Maybe they kneeled down taking a swipe at you (the fact you're only knee-high on them cuts both ways), and you hit them in the face in that split second.

2) Maybe you climbed up.

3) Maybe you lept up.

4) Maybe you caught a ride upward on their backswing before dropping back into your old space.

5) Maybe you pulled them partway down to your level using the same justifications for grabbling or tripping a creature so large (like tackling the back of their knee to throw off their equilibrium)

6) Maybe you hurt them somewhere else, but sprayed them across the eyes with their own blood in the process.

7) Maybe you pulled some pressure-point voodoo that shut off their sight, even though you only hit them in the knee (Monks especially for this one.)

8) If you're using iterative attacks, maybe they were cringing from a previous strike.


Stefan Hill wrote:

Thanks for the replies. I think the fact I'm not of the Manga/Amine generation means I take more stock in gravity than some. Now IF this was a magic effect, I can roll with that, it being magic and all. But this Dragonball-Z (or whatever the latest fad is) school of martial combat just gives me the chills.

I 'can' explain it but it's silly none the less. Let's get extreme and say a 90' creature, blinding/deafening or sickening possible? Hmmmmm. Not on my GM watch. But then I'm house-ruling and I dislike doing that, been 99.999998% RAW since Red Box (the first one). These feats for me should ONLY apply to your size +1 (i.e. L for an M sized person) humaniod - anything else becomes difficult to justify. As I say mechanically a nice idea but for me they drag me out of imnmersion because they reek (to me) or mechanics included for mechanics sake.

S.

That's the cool thing, now, and I'm quite surprised many Tabletop Gamers still feel this way (considering 99% of the game is pure fantasy anyway, what's wrong with anime/manga convention of fantasy battles? Is it really that different?)

Want a little bit more, I guess, "reality"? Check out the video game series, God of War, that'll help show you how 20th+ level and up warriors battle giant enemies.

Scarab Sages

How do you imagine that these characters fight Giants and Dragons at all? In a world where that is even possible without being squashed like a bug, making them deaf/sick/exhausted with a critical attack doesn't seem all that absurd.

Frankly, D&D is really stingy on such effects when it comes to non-casters. Magical effects can do all sorts of stuff, but anything that isn't doing hp damage is barely available to people without spells. This isn't a good idea from a design standpoint and it also just doesn't make sense. A lot of such magic effects could easily be special training or just natural talent. This includes things like the critical feats, but could also be expanded to many buffs (especially those that just give generic bonuses to attack/damage/saves/etc.)

As for roleplaying it, there's no reason a fighter can't make a Giant deaf. Smack the flat of his blade on the Giant's ear? Knock his head off the ceiling? Or just hit the Giant hard enough. Blind I think needs no explanation. Sickened? So, the fighter hits the Giant in the stomach really hard? That doesn't seem to be all that out of line. And why couldn't a fighter tire out their opponent? Especially a Giant. Isn't that the usual tactic when fighting someone/something much larger?

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Stefan Hill wrote:
These feats for me should ONLY apply to your size +1 (i.e. L for an M sized person) humaniod - anything else becomes difficult to justify.

So do you allow a Gargantuan dragon to begin its breath weapon at it's feet, or do you allow people to be "under" it, free from an attack that begins 40 feet in the air? Can a t-rex bite a size Small target right next to it, which is like bititng something the size of your hand that next to your foot?

A human warrior blinds a Colossal foe in any of a number of ways without getting into 3 stooges or anime. The mighty (critical) blow to the beast's calf shoots a spray of blood into its eyes. A shot to its achiles tendon causes the beast to roar so loudly with pain it deafened itself. As a monster bends don to bite/breath on/swallow the warrior, he cuts it across the eyes. The weapon attack causes the monster's eyes to shoot wide in pain, and the warrior takes the opportunity to kick dirt in its corneas. A blow that chips the monster's bone in its leg literally blinds it with pain (a common result in mainstream fantasy fiction).

Those feats are one of the reasons warriors can compete with spellcasters at higher levels in Pathfinder, and they;re no sillier than dozens of things we take for granted in the rules. Just be imaginative and describe the amazing, critical, blow and how the warrior capitalized on the opportunity.

Sovereign Court

You could certainly describe it as "I leap up, flail about like a spazzing devil, striking the giant in both ears!!". I might even give you some bonus XP for the flavor but...

You realize a severe blow to the head can deafen or blind you in real life?

Severe damage to internal organs will make you sick, tired, exhausted and even (wait for it...) DEAD. :-D

Have you ever been hit so hard your ears are left ringing? Heart attacks affect the jaw and cause ringing ears. You could get hit hard enough to temporarily cause any number of effects based on pain and shock. People can faint from THINKING about blood and needles.

The system is abstract. Don't be so specific. Focus on the effect and then let the description in game make it happen. Also, the game doesn't have to be "gonzo".

"You hit the giant square in the vitals and he goes blind from the pain" is a perfectly valid description for this effect.


Sickening is easy to explain, especially for bludgeoning weapons. If you've ever been hit in the stomach very hard (I don't know how many people would have been subjected to this), it can make you feel sick very easily. For non-bludgeoning weapons, you could just say the target was hit with the shaft or pommel, which is a perfectly viable way to strike an opponent if you know how and when to do so.

Same principle can apply to blinding and deafening: a pommel strike to the head can be devastating; the brain can be damaged in ways that don't seem to make sense. I mean, some people hit their head and develop foreign accents as a result. A critical hit causing blindness? Not out of the way.

EDIT: Ninja'd! S'what I get for trying to post while tethered to my phone.


Head injuries suck. Concussions can produce the following symptoms:

Wikipedia, that's why there's all the quote marker text wrote:
Headache is the most common MTBI symptom.[19] Other symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, lack of motor coordination, difficulty balancing,[19] or other problems with movement or sensation. Visual symptoms include light sensitivity,[31] seeing bright lights,[30] blurred vision,[11] and double vision.[32] Tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, is also commonly reported.[11] In one in about seventy concussions, concussive convulsions occur, but these are not actual post-traumatic seizures and are not predictive of post-traumatic epilepsy, which results from structural brain damage.[33] Concussive convulsions are thought to result from temporary loss or inhibition of motor function, and are not associated either with epilepsy or with more serious structural damage. They are not associated with any particular sequelae and have the same high rate of favorable outcomes as concussions without convulsions.

Liberty's Edge

@Ross - don't start me on the grappling... In short grappling something the size of an elephant well!!!

My issue is adding location injuries to an abstract system. Why can I blind some one yet I can't cut off a hand? These criticals make rare injuries more common than injuries you would expect in a melee. Things like broken ribs and other bones, trauma due to compression of internal organs etc. Does D&D truly need a location damage system and accompanying critical charts?

I have no issue with the entries that knock back or stagger or stun, but these permanent injury feats are for me un-"D&D". Of course feel free to point out this is Pathfinder not D&D and I needto stop living in the past.

To the Mang/Amine crowd - watch The Heavy Metal movie, then we can talk :)

S.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Okay someone care to explain why blinding/ deafening someone is suddenly an anime thing? There are plenty of examples in Western mythology and fantasy of people being blinded/defend etc

Liberty's Edge

Kevin Mack wrote:
Okay someone care to explain why blinding/ deafening someone is suddenly an anime thing? There are plenty of examples in Western mythology and fantasy of people being blinded/defend etc

I wasn't implying that. It came about because I was thinking of a head some large number of feet above the warrior somehow being an easier target of a critical hit than say a hamstring.... This lead me to glibly comment based on what little Amine I have seen where the combatants defy all known laws of gravity. I'm not picking on amine, I dislike it in general, but do not think my opinions should reduce any enjoyment people get from Amine if that is their thing.

S.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hamstring: Crippling Critical feat.

Honestly, it sounds like you'd probably be happier using the Critical Hit Deck instead of Critical feats, though that does suffer somewhat from assuming generally human-shaped (if not necessarily human-sized) enemies.

The Exchange

Anime? Manga? Dragonball Z?

I was thinking more along the lines of this elf...


Exhaustion & Fatigue are often used under such circumstances as heatstroke or hypothermia. They're sort of a catch-all "you feel like crap" state. That said, the Critical feats for these are fine... "I stabbed his intestines and his poop is now poisoning his blood - exhausted" etc.

Deafening is a tough one, I'll grant you that.

However, ask yourself something...

How much mental gymnastics do you have to perform to justify the hitpoint system? Lots, especially in terms of comparing level 1 commoners to level 20 warriors, versus an Elephant. The Elephant has absolutely zero chance of taking out the level 20 warrior on a surprise round. How realistic is that?

The base mechanics of hitpoints and damage are already broken. Choosing to ignore exactly how the Halfling made the Collossal Spider deaf with his kukri, seems to be no more of a stretch, in my mind.

Heck, watch the Mythbusters episode where they test the viability of the Sunder feats.

Now... my PERSONAL favorite way to smooth over EVERYTHING, from hitpoints, to sundering, to deafening criticals, is to point out that the very game world itself is not scientific. Magic exists, and it is everywhere to some tiny degree. Enough to ("magically") let people perform incredible feats of skill, ("magically") make all poisons able to take effect instantly (and thus ignoring onset time), ("magically") be able to shrug off attacks which shatter stone, and in the case of Deafening Critical, ("magically") learn and master a way to strike a creature in the head to disrupt their auditory nerves. How the magic of the cosmos allows this is reflected in the game mechanics themselves.


I think that you are overthinking it.
The combat system is an abstract one and not a simulation one.
Just roll with it.


Its the same as a classic Old rule issue:

Bobby the Fighter is hiding under the table from the Big Baddy because he has 2 hitpoints left. And he cant get a good hit with his Vorpal Sword.

Round:whatever?
Gm: The monster has moved to beside the Table and hits it. The table survives.
Bobby: Oh well im going to die, I stab the monster in the Foot.
Gm: Ok but you get a negative to the attack because of angle and location.
Bobby: I dont care im going to die anyway.
Bobby rolls dice: Natural 20
Bobby: Holy crap I crit
Gm: Roll to confirm
Bobby: Holy crap another 20, even with negatives I hit.
Gm: well the monster head pops off. You win?

Sometimes rules just dont always seem logical, this is a fantasy game afterall.


Umm how about your level 15+ and are literally 9 levels stronger then someone considered super human? I wouldn't be surprised if the fighter hooked the giants leg (with his massive 30+ str, also 10 points higher then someone super human) pulled him down to his level slashed his face and the giant stood back up in recoil.

Your like 5 levels from being early Goku, yes this stuff is trivial for you.

Grand Lodge

Stefan Hill wrote:


To the Mang/Amine crowd - watch The Heavy Metal movie, then we can talk :)

S.

I did. In the 80's. I got caught watching it on that newfangled "cable television" that had been installed recently. (This was back when MTV had _GASP_ MUSIC!!!!) I had just made it past the awesome bomber part when my dad walked in and turned it off, telling me it was "not a kid's cartoon." I've owned it on VHS and I will be adding the Blu-Ray to my collection as a birthday present to myself. I loved the South Park homage. After watching that I picked up a copy of the soundtrack.

In the 20 years since then a whole bunch of really cool things happened. The first of which was my friends coming back from college on summer break in the mid 90's with this stuff called "AnnaMae." Fist of the North Star. Ninja Scroll. Akira. Then Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. Even though Heavy Metal has a special place in my heart it doesn't hold a Bic lighter up to any of those.

On topic: There's any number of injuries that can cause any of the conditions those feats deal out. When I was a kid I was doing some freestyle BMX tricks and I wracked my self so hard I couldn't see anything but stars for a good ten minutes or so. I did not land on my face or get anything in my eyes but I was effectively blinded. I was in a bar brawl that ended with me getting clocked in the head with a pool cue. When I finally regained consciousness I had headache that lasted for three days and I felt like puking. Drive you sword through that giant's big toe and he'll be cross-eyed with pain and effectively blinded. The feats describe an effect. It's up to you to describe how it was pulled off.

tl;dnr
The feats are pretty darned close to what happens when you get the snot beat out of you and there is better animation out there than Heavy Metal even if it's a classic.

SM


Ross Byers wrote:

It's not any sillier than the idea you can grapple said giant.

For instance, to blind a giant:

1) Maybe they kneeled down taking a swipe at you (the fact you're only knee-high on them cuts both ways), and you hit them in the face in that split second.

2) Maybe you climbed up.

3) Maybe you lept up.

4) Maybe you caught a ride upward on their backswing before dropping back into your old space.

5) Maybe you pulled them partway down to your level using the same justifications for grabbling or tripping a creature so large (like tackling the back of their knee to throw off their equilibrium)

6) Maybe you hurt them somewhere else, but sprayed them across the eyes with their own blood in the process.

7) Maybe you pulled some pressure-point voodoo that shut off their sight, even though you only hit them in the knee (Monks especially for this one.)

8) If you're using iterative attacks, maybe they were cringing from a previous strike.

Was this giant say colossal? Did it have glowing patterns on it?

Scarab Sages

ProfPotts wrote:
The combat system is a pretty abstract beast. Even if his miniature remains on one square of the battle grid, there's no reason you can't describe that blinding critical the Fighter just scored as the guy leaping and climbing up the giant's body, smacking him a good 'un across the eyes, then dropping back into place... or whatever you want, really - dramatic fluff seems especially appropriate when criticals are concerned, IMHO.

+10000


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Best post ever Ross! That's how we've always done it. It's a shame that there are so few "role"players out there today who still play roles rather than the numbers game.

As to the grapple issue, I once described a halfling grappling a colossal-sized Smaug-like red dragon by reaching into its nose, grabbing fistfuls of nose hair, hooking his little hairy feet under the dragon's chin and pulling with all his might. It caused the dragon SO much eye-watering pain that his movement options became extremely limited, thereby granting him the grappled condition.


in 3.5 at least there was a general rule that you can only sneak attack if you can reach a critical area, thus a dagger rogue against a dragon on iron legs could be disallowed by the DM.

If you really have a problem of disbelief, talk to your players and let them either come up with a reasonable explanation or disallow the critical.
(for all others here, yes, the players will not like it, but it is a possibility)


Stefan Hill wrote:

@Ross - don't start me on the grappling... In short grappling something the size of an elephant well!!!

My issue is adding location injuries to an abstract system. Why can I blind some one yet I can't cut off a hand? These criticals make rare injuries more common than injuries you would expect in a melee. Things like broken ribs and other bones, trauma due to compression of internal organs etc. Does D&D truly need a location damage system and accompanying critical charts?

I have no issue with the entries that knock back or stagger or stun, but these permanent injury feats are for me un-"D&D". Of course feel free to point out this is Pathfinder not D&D and I needto stop living in the past.

To the Mang/Amine crowd - watch The Heavy Metal movie, then we can talk :)

S.

Permanent injure to specific areas are UN D&D? I have 3 words for you --- Sword of Sharpness. Iconic 1st edition weapon in the origional deities and demigods Excaliber was a sword of sharpness.


For that matter how does a vorpal sword behead a 20 foot tall giant?

the combat system is abstracted, give a discription which makes it possible, and its all okay.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Richard Leonhart wrote:
in 3.5 at least there was a general rule that you can only sneak attack if you can reach a critical area, thus a dagger rogue against a dragon on iron legs could be disallowed by the DM.

Last I checked that rule was still in place in Pathfinder.

Yep, found it: The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot [to perform a sneak attack].


I dunno... even a colossal dragon: Rogue shoves daggar underneath the claw.
Try inserting a needle under your toenail.
Tell me that's not a critical, compared to a nick on your ankle (non-crit)


Malignor wrote:

Try inserting a needle under your toenail.

Tell me that's not a critical, compared to a nick on your ankle (non-crit)

Indeed... but how am I supposed to blind someone by shoving a needle under his toenail?

*scnr*


Having actually had my head stomped on, and been kicked in the genitals before now, I can attest that it is entirely possible to be hit so hard it leaves you feeling sick, for days afterwards potentially.

As for blinding, the giants might head might come within reach when it belows, the PC might have climbed on a piece of terrain to reduce the giants advantage, they might have thrown a dagger as part of that three second infinitival, they might be flying. If you cannot come up with a reasonable, use a different feat that turn. The options are near limitless, before you get into the cool options greecian heroics, wuxia or anima elements would allow.


Midnight_Angel wrote:
Malignor wrote:

Try inserting a needle under your toenail.

Tell me that's not a critical, compared to a nick on your ankle (non-crit)

Indeed... but how am I supposed to blind someone by shoving a needle under his toenail?

*scnr*

Acupuncture?


Exaggerated reflexology.

The Exchange

I tend to think it's a more positive outlook to treat these sorts of issues a bit like the old Marvel comics 'no-prize' concept - that is to say: instead of going 'that's silly, the rules must be wrong', try 'the rules allow it, now how can we describe it so that it doesn't come across as silly?'


Trentin Bergeron wrote:


"You hit the giant square in the vitals and he goes blind from the pain" is a perfectly valid description for this effect.

True story, this actually happened to me once in real life, the effect was very temporary, mere seconds, but I couldn't actually see for awhile.

I wasn't a Giant though.

The Exchange

Nermal2097 wrote:
I wasn't a Giant though.

Was it a midget that hit you though? Then that'd totally justify doing the same to a giant in the game! :)

Dark Archive

Fighters can't have nice things. Ban these feats. Ban them all to hell.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Oh, and a slight plug: Rogues who are fans of the Critical feats should take a look at the Sneaking Precision feat in Ultimate Combat.


Let me see if I understand you. You are unhappy with the critical focus feat lines that require you to be between 11-17th level to take. IE roughly double the level of the "mythical E6" folks talk about as being realistic human capabilities. Feats that require you to be in the range of characters where those people who focus on realism tend to speak about superhero or demigod levels of ability and you don't think Heracles should be able to blind a giant?

Umm yea quit being obtuse.

Scarab Sages

Midnight_Angel wrote:
Malignor wrote:

Try inserting a needle under your toenail.

Tell me that's not a critical, compared to a nick on your ankle (non-crit)

Indeed... but how am I supposed to blind someone by shoving a needle under his toenail?

*scnr*

Intense pain so excruciating that the dragon tears up, and cannot see through the tears.

Ever been kicked in the testes? HOLY JEEBUS. You get tunnel vision or actual outright literally cant see...remember the old bugs bunny cartoons where they see stars? Condition like that.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Ross Byers wrote:
Oh, and a slight plug: Rogues who are fans of the Critical feats should take a look at the Sneaking Precision feat in Ultimate Combat.

*looks up feat*

Awesome! High level rogues rejoice!

But...um...what's your plan for getting around the high base attack bonus requirements of those crit feats? Many of them are strictly off limits to straight rogues (due to lower BAB).

Did you mean for your feat to be best utilized by rogue 1/fighter 19's?

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