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14th-Feb-2006 03:47 am
Should Improved Critical and Keen stack? This chap definitely thinks so.


I haven't gone through his math but it definitely sounds plausible. I have continued to allow it in games I run, although that's more due to style than balance.
14th-Feb-2006 03:56 am (UTC)
I don't think they should stack--makes crits too common--but I also think they should have some form of synergistic benefit. Keen shouldn't be useless if you have Improved Crit, and vice-versa.

What I do in my campaigns is this:

If you have keen OR Improved Crit, it increases the threat range of the weapon, as normal.

If you have keen AND Improved Crit, it increases the threat range of the weapon, AND grants you an identical bonus to your roll to confirm the crit.

For intance, a character has a keen longsword and Improved Critical (longsword). A longsword normally has a crit range of 19-20. This longsword has a crit range of 17-20 (an increase of 2). Because the character has both abilities, however, he also gets that same bonus--that is, +2--when he makes a roll to confirm a critical threat.
14th-Feb-2006 04:23 am (UTC)
i like this way of handling it.
14th-Feb-2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
There's a feat out there that gives you a +4 to confirm critical hit rolls. The bonus would need to be on par with that, in my opinion, to be worth it.
15th-Feb-2006 02:50 am (UTC)
I don't think they should stack...

I don't think that they should both exist in a game where they don't stack. It reeks of bad game design.

If the "Improved Critical" feat does one thing and "Keen" does the same thing but doesn't stack, then the rules should describe "Keen" as "temporarily giving the benefit of the Improved Critical Feat."

I'd prefer Keen doing something else entirely--such as increasing the critical hit damage, or giving a high bonus to confirm criticals.
14th-Feb-2006 04:06 am (UTC)
I'm not aware of anyone that makes the kinds of claims he is apparently responding to, nor am I aware why he uses conditional claims for damage to run the numbers with.

He's also not compensating for the exotic weapons such as the Great Falchion (Sandstorm) or the Elven Courtblade (Races of the Wild).

In short, no, they shouldn't stack.
14th-Feb-2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
In addition to the "strawman" fallacy and the "proof by example" fallacy you noted, he also doesn't take into account multipliable bonuses such as STR and power attack (even his 20 STR fighter does "does an extra d6").

Actually this article attracts fallacies like barnacles: one site that cites it tries "Proof By Eminent Authority" because SKR is a rules designer (he isn't, but abeyance is due for kicking off the overdue Core Beliefs series of articles in Dragon). Heck, he's even got a "False Dichotomy" in the title!
14th-Feb-2006 02:38 pm (UTC)
Races of the Wild shouldn't matter - it's a 3.0 source. Plus, material in new products should try to balance with the core rules - arguing that the core rules should be balanced a certain way based on optional supplements seems backwards to me.
14th-Feb-2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
Races of the Wild is 3.5 ...

It really doesn't matter considering how flawed his math was to begin with.
14th-Feb-2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'd call it flawed, exactly...just woefully incomplete. He should have at least considered half a dozen examples before analyzing the data.

...HAS anyone done analysis of this topic using more evidence? It would be interesting to see results from comparing, say, a hundred different character builds.
15th-Feb-2006 05:05 am (UTC)
Perhaps a few people on here would like to pick a build or two and try it out? Although a standard method would need to be assigned too.
15th-Feb-2006 06:11 am (UTC)
Or even just numbers that weren't horribly skewed in favor of a particular outcome.
15th-Feb-2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
Could you give an example of numbers that you don't think would be skewed towards a particular outcome?
15th-Feb-2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
In the simplest terms, a +2 weapon vs. a +1 keen weapon, only calculating the liklihood of hitting and scoring a critical hit.

I don't think that anyone can argue just how ridiculous a +1 flaming burst, shocking burst, icy burst, keen, thundering scimitar would be if it had a critical threat range of 12-20, so I see no reason why people should try to justify it's balance.
15th-Feb-2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
Eh...a +1 Flaming Burst, Shocking Burst, Icy Burst, Keen, Thundering Scimitar is equivalent to a +9 weapon. I don't think it's any more ridiculous than a +5 Keen, Holy, Thundering scimitar.

16th-Feb-2006 12:10 am (UTC)
(1d6+1)2+2d6+2d6+2d6+1d10 averages 31 per crit.

(1d6+5)2+1d10+2d6 averages 27 per crit, and that's assuming on the target being evil.
16th-Feb-2006 12:15 am (UTC)
(1d6+1)2+2d6+2d6+2d6+1d10 averages 31 per crit.

Assuming the target has no fire, ice, lightning, or sonic resistance. Any of those will drop the average below my Holy example.

On top of that, the +5 weapon synergizes better with Power Attack, especially vs. Evil opponents.
15th-Feb-2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
Eh, I was thinking of "Masters of the Wild" when I wrote that. Sorry for the confusion.
15th-Feb-2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
I figured. No worries.
15th-Feb-2006 02:55 am (UTC)
I'm not aware of anyone that makes the kinds of claims he is apparently responding to...

There's this company on the west coast, named "Wizards of the Coast." They released his revision, called "3.5", of the rules for D&D, y'know? Where they changed the rule he helped test and he's disagreeing with it?

He's also not compensating for the exotic weapons such as the Great Falchion (Sandstorm) or the Elven Courtblade (Races of the Wild).

Don't forget the Mercurial Greatsword! Or the Hackmaster +12!

Non-core books should have no bearing on a core rule--and both Keen and Improved Critical are six year old core rules.

Look at it this way: name any other set of feat-plus-magical-property that doesn't stack. At the worst, they should stack with a reduced nature (i.e, "+1" instead of a doubling.)
15th-Feb-2006 06:25 am (UTC)
I've heard of this "3.5" ... I've heard wonderous tales of it balancing horrendously unbalanced game mechanics.

You're bringing up 3.0 examples, which are terrible. The 3.5 supplements are designed to follow the full balance of core by, y'know, following the same logic set in the core rules rather than just doing whatever you want and justifying it by calling it an "optional supplement".

Name any other set of feat-plus-magical-property that can be abused in such a way.
14th-Feb-2006 04:52 am (UTC)
I would probably rule out those weapons before the rule. Also, the article was written before their publication.

Let them eat cake! (but in the good way)
14th-Feb-2006 05:30 am (UTC)
I continue to use mainly 3E rules.. so I allow them to stack.
14th-Feb-2006 07:06 am (UTC)
SO then Joe Bob the fighter, with a strength of 20 and his +1 Keen Flaming Bastard Sword and improved crit walks into the room, rolls a 15, and deals ((1d10+6)x2)+1d6 points od damage on his first attack, and he gets three. That's an average of 25 points of damage per smack. Add in Bob's Improved Initiative and his level in rogue from a misspent youth, and you're up to Bob doing ((1d10+6)x2)+1d6+1d6, or an average of 28 for every time he flanks an opponent or catches him unawares. On an average CR 10 selected at random, that's 15% of the creature's hitpoints in a smack. and he's flanking with Eldon the Rogue who washed out of the Military academy and took up a life of crime, who's dealing, on a roll of 13 or higher, ((1d6+5)x2)+3d6+1d6, or 28 points of damage on average. So these tow do around 15%/smack on the Elemental, taking at least 30% of his health out in the first round of combat. Add in the wizard with his empowered twinned magic missiles, and the Celric with his ray'd Inclict Critical Wounds, and that Elemental is in for a bad time.
14th-Feb-2006 10:06 am (UTC)
Elemental? You can't flank or crit those
14th-Feb-2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
So a bad example, but the rest stands. Replace elemental with Evil Overlord's 10th-level Leutennant, and you get the sme result.
14th-Feb-2006 12:52 pm (UTC)
Well, that's a lot, but then, you'd expect someone with superhuman strength and a big ol' +1 keen flaming weapon would be able to dish out the hurt.

For my part, the keen / improved critical issue isn't the weapons that do double damage on a normally-extended critical range. Yes, they can end up threatening double damage often, but that's not out of balance with someone who uses two weapons, and who's bought the feats to do so well.

For my part, the real issue is stacking improved critical with keen on something like a military pick, which does x4 on a critical. Throw in a decent strength modifier, and you've got a character that threatens to do, say, fifty points of damage in one shot, 20% of the time.
14th-Feb-2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
Where do you get 20%?

A pick crits on a natural 20 only. Keen or Improved Crit increases it to 19-20. Even in 3.0, when they stacked, they didn't multiply, so adding both would only give you 18-20. That's 3 out of 20, or 15%. Of course, that's only a 15% chance of threatening, not actually critting, since you have to roll to confirm. And that assumes creatures that the character can hit on a natural 18+, since only natural 20s are automatic hits.

Still, I do agree with you that it can get nasty. Hence why I have the solution I posted above, rather than just allowing them to stack.
14th-Feb-2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
I preger the scythe, myself, for broken munchkining. 2d4 damage, 20/x2, two-handed. Lets take Joe Bob again. on a roll of 17-20, Joe now does ((2d4+8)x4+1d6, or 51 points of damage. That's not including any power attacks or strength buffs there might be on him. Enlarge person? another eight points. Bull's strength? Another eight.

16 points of damage on average rolls 25% of the time.
14th-Feb-2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
So what you're saying is that if you allow them to stack, a fighter (25 hp per attack) still does less damage than a rogue (28 hp per attack) against an opponent that can be critted?

That kinda sucks.
14th-Feb-2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but the fighter can do it every time he hits those numbers. A rogue needs to be sneak attacking.
14th-Feb-2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
Fantastic presentation of an ideal scenario.
14th-Feb-2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
I know how it sowks, becasue in the RttToEE game we ran back in 3rd Ed, our Martial cleric was tricked out to the gills for his deity's favored weapon, and walked into the final battle with an AC in the 50s and smote the big wizard at the end in a single smack.
14th-Feb-2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Well yes, I suppose if you fight a single enemy with a lack of serious defence and planning that you can walk right up and smack someone in the face.

I think you're overvaluing the advantage that Improved Critical and Keen stacking would provide.

Stating that he's "averaging" 25 damage a swing is a bit askew.

He's "averaging" 25 damage per critical hit, wherein 25% of his attacks are threats, and he has a 50% chance of confirming said critical hit on an opponent with an AC of 16 + Joe Bob's base attack bonus (excluding things like Weapon Focus, etc), on his first attack.

If he has three attacks, I'm assuming he's at least level 11. We'll give him Weapon Focus for the sake of it, which puts him swinging at +18.

Given a target with a paltry 21 AC (10 + level, if we're to assume things progress in a similiar fashion), Joe Bob will hit on 90% of his first attacks in a round, with 30% of his attacks being critical threats. Of those 30%, he will confirm 90%, giving him criticals on 27.0% of his attacks.

So, 63.0% of his swings will be normal hits, and the other 27.0% will be critical hits.

This gives him an average damage of

0.630 * ([1d10+6] + 1d6) + 0.270 * ([2d10+12] + 1d6)
0.630 * 15 + 0.270 * 26.5
9.450 + 7.155

On the second attack against the same target, he hits on 65% of his attacks (again, 30% of those being threats). Of the 30%, he will confirm 65%, giving him criticals on 19.5% of his attacks. So, 45.5% of his attacks will be normal hits and the other 19.5% will be critical hits.

0.455 * ([1d10+6] + 1d6) + 0.195 * ([2d10+12] + 1d6)
0.455 * 15 + 0.195 * 26.5
6.825 + 5.168

Third attack, he hits on 40% of those swings, 30% of them being threats. Of those 30%, he will confirm 40%. Thus, 12% of his attacks are critical hits, with 28% being regular hits.

0.280 * ([1d10+6] + 1d6) + 0.120 * ([2d10+12] + 1d6)
0.280 * 15 + 0.120 * 26.5
4.200 + 3.180

So, on these three attacks, he's averaging 35.978 damage per round, a far cry from 25 per swing.

If you get into a harder target (21 AC is only full plate + large shield + 13 Dexterity), these numbers drop off.

An increased critical range causes bigger individual hits, but the averages are often inflated by perception.

I one-rounded a guy three CRs above me when I landed three critical hits with a long bow in one round on an archer of mine. The GM was pissed, but it was far from the norm.

If it's the norm in your game, the enemies need to be beefed up to similar levels. :)
14th-Feb-2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
Megahedron must love my players, or something, becasue they rape the crap out of whatever they come across. Two velociraptors were turned into Gumbo in a single swing by the fighter. Well, a smack and a cleave.

Even when I obviously stack the deck against them, to the point where they grumble about it, they still come out of the shit storm smelling like a rose. I don't even get to win a ltitle bit. It gets irksome.

But next game! Oh, I'll have them next game. You mark my words...
14th-Feb-2006 07:12 pm (UTC)
14th-Feb-2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
A lot of it's my fault, though. These guys have a vairant on the Eberron action points going, and they use them to my detriment.

However, the new villians have all the bonuses they have.
14th-Feb-2006 07:49 pm (UTC)
That's honestly how it should be.

Maybe I'm just jaded because we fight encounters that are far more challenging than we should be and we break even, but I find it hard to be overpowered.

Then again, we had a group of three (briefly four) ECL 12 characters fighting a fight with 4 CR 8 melee classes and 3 CR 9 casters, followed by 6 CR 8 melee classes and 6 CR 8 casters, and now we're coming up on a fight with a few spellcasters and a lich with no chance to rest.
14th-Feb-2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
WOuld your characters legitimately do that? Or would they rest?
14th-Feb-2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
We're under a tight deadline.

We're raiding a tower before the lich that owns it gets back from his 'leave of absense'.

Unfortunately, we're about to run into another lich, albeit one who is far less powerful :)

If I figured we'd have time to rest, I would, but I'm not taking any chances. If we leave they'd be able to alert him for sure and we'd have to deal with him at that point.

We picked up a couple of extra PCs last session, which isn't bad, but I'm the defensive casterbot and my spell list is pretty depleted.

We also have NO healers, so I'm amazed we've made it this far. The first fight wasn't overly difficult -- I turned three of us into War Trolls (gotta love War Weaver) and we tore the casters apart. The second fight was very draining, despite one of the PCs isolating the spellcasters from the tanks. I was already out of spells so I went in 'disguised', but halfway through the fight one of the fighters noticed that it was simply a disguise, and well, that didn't go so well.

I somehow managed to beat out the arcane spell failure from large steel shield + full plate as well as the failure chance for being deafened in order to get off an Explosive Cascade on the casters, and that's the only reason we won.

We're running on empty so I hope the other two spellcasters are capable.

At the start of next session we're most likely going to have a warmage, an illusionist, a rogue, and myself. It won't be fun.
14th-Feb-2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
On the upside, if we wipe I get to break out my broken bard.
14th-Feb-2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
All I know is I ran similiar numbers (in addition to two-weapon fighting) long, long ago and came up with a similar conclusion.

I lost all the data in a hard drive crash, so I can't back it up today.
16th-Feb-2006 11:35 am (UTC)
I think they should stack. Keen represents a quality of the weapon. Improved Critical represents the wielders exceptional skill with the weapon. Besides, you know that clown who picks Scythe as their weapon of choice was counting on having them stack...

If you get into the ridiculous realm of weapon enchantments like Flaming/Icy/Lightning Burst, don't allow the enhancement damage to increase with critical attacks. The burst bonuses already do an insane amount of damage.
19th-Feb-2006 03:57 am (UTC)
I was just going to post that.

I thought that Flaming's +1d6 didn't double with a critical hit? I do believe that's why they invented "Flaming Burst," to give you an incentive to make a critical hit.
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