Critically failing attacks


Playing the Game


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What have people been doing when an attack critically fails? Critical fails on attacks happens quite often now and it seems like a lot of work to keep the penalties original.


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A critical failure is the same as a failure unless there are additionally specified effects. Nothing happens on a critically failed attack roll besides missing. (Or if there is an effect that specifically takes place on a critically failed attack.)

Implementing fumble rules in this system would be extremely punishing for your players, please don't do it!


I tell them they missed. Depending, I describe how. Why would I want to penalize them further?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yup, by the rules there are no penalties for critically failing an attack.

I will say that my players were confused by this. It does feel odd to miss by 20 and have no consequences.


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Critically failing an attack does occasionally have an effect, but pretty much only when a specific enemy has a reaction to respond to such an occurrence. Failing that, there is no effect.

Grand Lodge

For the Playtest I'm going by the rules and it's just a normal failure.

Outside the Playtest for our home games (not PFS), I'll use critical miss results (like Paizo's critical failure deck)... I like the potential issues that arise from fumbling, I also want to discourage everyone from just always attacking three times counting on that nat 20. If you're wildly swinging, a third time, then there's a chance you're gonna screw up big!

Again... for the Playtest, by the rules.


I probably won't even houserule fumbles.
It's scary enough once you start meeting the first enemy that reacts on a fumble, teaches you to fear the 1s... Just like Drakus taught my Cleric to never ever ever cast in melee :D


The four tiered success system would have been a great infrastructure to replace TAC instead of having a separate track for it imo.

Enemies I've seen in the playtest often have TAC equal to their AC or so close that it doesn't make sense.

I like to interpret a critical miss as no contact, and a regular miss as a graze that does no damage.


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Normally I wouldn't be one for any type of critical fumble rules, but considering that it'd actually apply more of a risk for a third attack in a round (and help incentivize doing something else), I kinda wish there was at least some minor penalty associated with critically failing an attack. Right now it is just a miss like a normal failure.


Charon Onozuka wrote:
Normally I wouldn't be one for any type of critical fumble rules, but considering that it'd actually apply more of a risk for a third attack in a round (and help incentivize doing something else), I kinda wish there was at least some minor penalty associated with critically failing an attack. Right now it is just a miss like a normal failure.

I strongly agree. I think critical failure has gotten a bad rap from having it result in things like hurting yourself or throwing your weapon across the room, but with the three action economy, I feel like the game is missing something by not having characters particularly care if they critically fail attack rolls or not. The extra weight of bonuses don't really matter when the attack roll requires an 11 or more to hit, but it would matter a lot more if critical failure mattered at all.

Right now, I would lean towards a critical failure on an attack roll leaving you flat-footed, with some classes having feats to mitigate it, especially for folks like monks, fighters and rangers with abilities leaning towards multiple attacks.

It would also go farther in making hunt target worth-while, but I don't think it would solve the lack-lusterness of that ability overall.


Charon Onozuka wrote:
Normally I wouldn't be one for any type of critical fumble rules, but considering that it'd actually apply more of a risk for a third attack in a round (and help incentivize doing something else), I kinda wish there was at least some minor penalty associated with critically failing an attack. Right now it is just a miss like a normal failure.

I'm not doing any crit fail consequences for Doomsday Dawn because I need to run RAW as much as possible for accurate data (and I want hard experience with the new rules before assuming I know what hpuswrules would improve things) but the idea I have in mind as soon as I run my own games is for crit fails to result in dealing minimum damage to yourself as the standard effect (I opt this idea from the Fighter feat Certain Strike which does minimum damage to the target on a fail but not crit fail. It reminded me how minimum damage actually means something in 2.0 as your Force are most of the damage unlike in PF1 where almost all damage past early level was modifier). It can run a gamut of effects from accidentally cutting into your foot to slamming awkwardly against an armored foe and jarring your arms to an agile foe juking you out so hard you fall on your face, etc. Though at 1st level I'd maybe lower the damage because it's a lot more respectively at that point.

Though if apply the penalty to enemies too, and I've seen them crit fail plenty of attack rolls...

Oh, and as an aside that Certain Strike feat mentioned would circumvent this penalty on a crit fail in addition to its normal effects.

But yeah, just my take on having a little fun with crit fails.


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Critical failure hurts PCs way more than enemies. Any given enemy is only "on screen" for a few rounds before combat ends. PCs however are there for the whole campaign. A PC rolls hundreds or even thousands of attacks for each one attack made by an enemy. That means PCs will fumble countless times while enemies generally will not.

Fumbles should not exist.


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Fuzzypaws wrote:

Critical failure hurts PCs way more than enemies. Any given enemy is only "on screen" for a few rounds before combat ends. PCs however are there for the whole campaign. A PC rolls hundreds or even thousands of attacks for each one attack made by an enemy. That means PCs will fumble countless times while enemies generally will not.

Fumbles should not exist.

This, and it's a nerf for martial characters compared to casters. Martials are going to be making attacks every round, casters can just cast spells that rely on the enemy saving and not have to worry about fumbling.

If any sort of fumble system is made official, that will be the nail in the coffin for me playing this.


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If I had to implement something... 1 round of flat footed sounds fair, and doesn't stack in many situations.

But I'm going with no fumbles.


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Fuzzypaws wrote:

Critical failure hurts PCs way more than enemies. Any given enemy is only "on screen" for a few rounds before combat ends. PCs however are there for the whole campaign. A PC rolls hundreds or even thousands of attacks for each one attack made by an enemy. That means PCs will fumble countless times while enemies generally will not.

Fumbles should not exist.

But fumbles do exist, intentionally in PF2, with special rules for making them more likely, and then they have a minimized impact on the game outside of skills and saving throws.

I understand and am sympathetic to these reasons by any rules involving them could be harshest on PCs, but this is less true in PF2 than it has been in other games of the past. The main reason being that PCs usually have more different actions to take, and thus when confronted with the choice between taking a low accuracy attack and doing something else, there is always something else worth doing, that is just not seen as valuable as attacking for a second or third time. Monsters on the other hand, rarely have anything else to do and attacking for a third time is proving to be a tactically superior option generally, compounded by the number of combatants.

Now, I agree that it is important that the fumble not be anything too severe. Personally, I think inflicting damage on yourself is too severe, but something like leaving yourself flat-footed is just enough to make characters think about when the third attack is worth taking and when it is not. Tank Characters for example, would have a much better reason to raise a shield with a third action if they are out in front and facing multiple attackers next round, but an archer in good cover is probably just going to keep shooting.

And Casters are far more dependent on attack rolls in PF2 than they were in PF1. They probably won't be making three of them, but I would hardly say that this rule is unnecessarily punishing to Martials. If anything, it increases the likelihood that at least one monster is going to be standing close by and flat-footed next turn, presenting an easy target.

And the important reason for it not to be a stacking penalty is that the book keeping on it needs to be minimized. The GM already has to keep track of enemies that might be flat-footed, which can easily be represented by turning a mini sideways.


If it had to be implemented, flat footed would be the least bad implementation. Flat footed only vs the specific enemy you fumbled against would actually be okay.


Unicore wrote:
Right now, I would lean towards a critical failure on an attack roll leaving you flat-footed, with some classes having feats to mitigate it, especially for folks like monks, fighters and rangers with abilities leaning towards multiple attacks.

I like this idea, it seems like a good example of a penalty that is fairly minor and only lasts a round (unlike self-damage, which lasts until healed), while still being impactful enough to provide a tactical choice. Plus, it'd be a nice buff for rouges when enemies are likely to expose themselves to sneak attacks whenever they attempt a risky 3rd attack.

Of course, I'm planning to run strict RAW for the playtest, but I might consider houseruling something like this afterward if nothing better gets added to the actual system. The important part for me is that the penalty has to be minor enough that PCs aren't going to feel like its unfair (like many previous critical fumble rulesets), while still having just enough impact to make it a question as to whether or not you want to make that -10 third attack.


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Enemies critically succeeding vs a spellcaster's magic usually means no effect.

Martials critically failing vs an enemy's AC/TAC usually means no effect.

Seems just fine to me.

Finally, even with 2E's action economy, crit fail rules need to pass the Kung-Fu Kraken test. Making more attacks due to martial skill should not lead to an increased chance of penalizing fumbles.


There are a couple of critters that have reactions that trigger from crit fail attacks.


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Rules Artificer wrote:

Enemies critically succeeding vs a spellcaster's magic usually means no effect.

Which is a different result than just a regular success. Most spells have 4 degrees of success. That is a different mechanic than attacking, so I am failing to see this point as parity.

I think Fuzzypaws suggestion that the flatfooted only applies to the target missed would make the critical failure significant without it being penalizing in a way that reduces fun (like taking away actions or adding a large penalty to future attacks). Also martials should have access to feats that treats critical misses on melee or ranged attacks as just misses, (which would also make them resistant to the handful of monsters who have reactions that trigger on critical misses).


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Its funny but my group insisted on using our old house rule that critically fumbling an attack causes the combatant to lose an action. Why did they insist upon this? To keep me as a DM from crit fishing with monsters. The playtest goblins have raised a lot of ire, especially with short bows. After one player got knocked out on a lucky crit for 19 points of damage they were more than happy to reinstitute that rule. It didn't bother them much since martials had shields and the rogue took a main gauche and used the parry action each round as a third action to buff AC.


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Attack rolls are made against AC, and 10 under a roll is a critical failure. So what you are suggesting is that players fumble because enemy AC is too high. Which is dumb. Attack rolls are not skill checks against "how well I use my weapon". They are "how hard is it to hit the enemy".

I know there are people who love fumbles on a natural 1. If you are into that thing, fine, but I think it should always be optional. A natural 1 comes up 5% of the time. Trained combatants should be a lot more competent than that, IMHO.

Grand Lodge

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The bigger problem is that critically failing an attack becomes much more likely when MAP comes into play. At the moment, your second attack would critically fail 20% of the time and your third attack would critically fail 45% of the time.

And that rate of failure just makes the PC appear incompetent.


I'm already house ruling out critical failures on a "1" for all skill checks, it takes the game from high fantasy and puts it into the realms of the Three Stooges. Sure it comical, in a way, but it's extremely unheroic when the heroes end up killing the people they are meant to save.

With this many attacks, there's no way we should ever think about fumbles. I played with fumbles in Rolemaster and it doesn't hurt the monsters, it hurts the PCs. All the archers had missing ears. No way. If this is the way people want their game to be fine, just don't make it the default.


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For some martial classes the fumble is that any "failure" effect of the strike doesn't happen. A fighter with such feats will already notice their crit fails.


Jason S wrote:

I'm already house ruling out critical failures on a "1" for all skill checks, it takes the game from high fantasy and puts it into the realms of the Three Stooges. Sure it comical, in a way, but it's extremely unheroic when the heroes end up killing the people they are meant to save.

With this many attacks, there's no way we should ever think about fumbles. I played with fumbles in Rolemaster and it doesn't hurt the monsters, it hurts the PCs. All the archers had missing ears. No way. If this is the way people want their game to be fine, just don't make it the default.

It is fine to have opinions on the idea of critical failure, but you seem to be consistently ignoring arguments for incredibly scaled back versions of critical failure for attacks that have a targeted effect that might actually impact monsters more than PCs.

Masda_gib has a good point about some martial class feats having abilities with interesting riders on failure that make the 4 tiers of success more interesting, but I haven't seen anyone use those feats that often, and the big issue for me with the new 3 action economy is that there is no reason for a monster with a shortbow not to stand still and take 3 shots around. Tactically, this makes the game less interesting and more deadly for PCs because critical hits with ranged weapons like bows are pretty devastating and monsters have no reason not to attack 3 times.


Unicore wrote:
It is fine to have opinions on the idea of critical failure, but you seem to be consistently ignoring arguments for incredibly scaled back versions of critical failure for attacks that have a targeted effect that might actually impact monsters more than PCs.

It affects the feel of the game. I think most of us agree that you fail a lot in this game. Fumbling on a "1" wouldn't help that feeling. Monsters don't get pouty when they hit 50% of the time, players do.

Unicore wrote:
the big issue for me with the new 3 action economy is that there is no reason for a monster with a shortbow not to stand still and take 3 shots around. Tactically, this makes the game less interesting and more deadly for PCs because critical hits with ranged weapons like bows are pretty devastating and monsters have no reason not to attack 3 times.

Monsters can do the same actions as PCs. Monsters (with their overtuned Intimidate) can use Demoralize very effectively for their 3rd action.

A "20" with the 3rd attack can't always crit, but it happens more often than not because the attack bonuses are too high for monsters. With Wounded, we're going to see a lot of TPKs.

Archers in PF1 stood back and attacked as many times as possible. If no one is attacking them, it makes sense to attack as much as possible.


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Jason S wrote:


Monsters can do the same actions as PCs.

This is not really true, by design, and it is a good thing. PCs are characters run by one player. It is ok for one player to have a number of options open to them that NPCs should not have, because NPCs, especially ones entering combat with PCs, rarely live long enough to need 12 different spells to cast or 6 skill feats to exploit. Generally this is one of the things I like best about monster design in PF2.

But monsters built to be easy to run are just going to want to attack as much as possible, especially when their bonuses are shifted towards being good at combat. It will obvious vary significantly by table, but I am willing to bet that there are a lot of tables that will see that monsters are making attack rolls at a 3 to 2 ratio to PCs, and at least 66% of those attacks are occurring with the possibility of critical failure sitting at 10% or higher.

That is a lot of wasted opportunity for a well designed critical failure system to benefit PCs and do interesting things to the tactical situation of the battlefield.

It is absolutely vital that critical failures are not old random tables that can result in mutilating injuries or other long term effects, because monsters don't live long enough for long term effects to be meaningful.

But something like, Critical Failure on a strike results in leaving yourself flat-footed to the enemy you attacked, would be something that players would quickly grow to love.

Two weapon fighters and archers might leave themselves exposed more often than tanky sword and board fighters that are spending an action to raise a shield, but the archers will probably be some what protected by their distance from the enemy and even the two weapon fighter is only leaving themselves exposed to the target of their own attack.

I do understand why the history of critical fumbles leaves a bad taste in many players mouths, but designing an entire system around the idea of 4 degrees of failure and then not testing the waters of utilizing that system as broadly as possible, during a play test, seems like a mistake to me.


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

The key point is that you are not punished for repeated attempts to do an action. That works as long as the roll is either not based on something that you initiated (for example, a saving throw driven by enemy action) or the scale of results is something like the following:

Success: You did slightly better than expected.
Critical Success: You did the best you could possibly do.
Failure: You did as expected, or perhaps slightly worse.
Critical Failure: You accomplished nothing.

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