Critical Fumbles – Do You Use Them

At different times in my dungeon mastering career I have attempted to implement critical fumbles. The result has always been the same. I employ them once or twice and by the end of the session I have dropped them altogether. Whether I was rolling for a result on the chart or applying a static critical fumble outcome I established at the beginning of the game, the exercise rarely felt like a value-added component.

So many critical fumble tables are generic. Often the result of the roll doesn’t fit the narrative so you re-roll against the table or make something up. If you are going to make something up fifty percent of the time then why bother with a table at all – just make something up every time.

Custom Tables

If I wasn’t so lazy, I would come up with my own critical fumble table, but I think the only way to do justice to everyone is to come up with tables for each class, possibly with a secondary table for race depending on the circumstances. That begs the question, “is the time required to adjudicate a critical fumble like this really worth slowing the game down?”.

If I explore the idea of critical fumbles in any of my future Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition games I think I am going to do the following: On a roll of 1 on a d20 the current action fails and the characters loses one of his remaining actions they have yet to use that turn, if any –  i.e. move action, bonus action, attack action or reaction. If no actions remain, they lose an action their next turn that best fits the narrative. This is a system applied to martial oriented and magic wielding characters equally.

OR…Because my group rolls initiative at the top of every round, the character will go to the bottom of the initiative on the next round of combat.

What Do You Think

A good critical fumble system supports the current narrative – unlike a randomly generated result from a generic table. So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Am I missing something or you do agree with me 100 percent! Either way I’d love to know what you think about critical fumbles. I encourage to let me know. Feel free to leave a comment below, email me or reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter.

Oh, and thanks for stopping by.

2 thoughts on “Critical Fumbles – Do You Use Them

  1. I always enjoy when a good DM creates an amazing fumble narrative completely dependent on the specific characters and situation. Those become the moments we best remember of the game.

    1. Ah yes, organically grown – not out of a can. My article might imply I ignore all fumble, but that’s not really accurate. We (my group) will exploit a fumble that happens at a time when we can best create an especially memorable moment. Thanks for commenting!!!

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