We talked about critical fumbles last week while covering the Gunslinger’s Misfire mechanic. While I stand by the conclusion that you shouldn’t build a (sub)class around a critical fumble mechanic, there may be a solution to the problem fumbles experience interacting with extra attacks.
Critical fumbles impose an additional penalty on players who roll a 1 on a d20.
For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume you’ve already set your heart on running critical fumbles, notwithstanding the narrative perils.
The mechanical problem you still need to resolve is that extra attacks make more proficient martial characters more likely to fail. This is not an impediment that “linear” fighters need to experience against “quadratic” wizards. Especially considering the spellcaster’s reliance on fumble-immune saving throw spells at higher levels.
For tables that insist on using critical fumbles, a tidy solution comes courtesy of reader Alexander Davis:
The solution is that you only “fumble” if ALL of your attacks are a critical fail (rolling a 1 on the d20).
This is a great solution, for a couple reasons!
Reversing the Odds
This rule inverts the effect of adding extra attacks to critical fumbles. When all of your attacks need to critical fail to fumble, the odds of fumbling DECREASE when you get more attacks.
This directly solves the biggest problem with this interaction. Compare the odds of a critical fumble when rolling a 1 vs. the “Davis Rule”:
With this fix, the fighter who levels up indeed becomes more competent as they become a better fighter, instead of turning into a bumbling klutz.
No Confirmation Roll
The mechanic is baked right in to the attack rolls. Unlike other common solutions that attempt to temper the odds of critical fumbles with a “confirmation” roll, this solution doesn’t require an extra roll to “confirm” the fumble. A critical fumble “confirmation” roll doesn’t add value to the playing experience because the only possible result is downside.
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