Critical Hits

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Attacks that do significantly more damage than others, or have other special effects.

Many games have combat as part of gameplay, and of those that do most make use of randomness to simulate the chaos and unpredictability of combat situations. However, many combat systems can even so become quite predictable and repetitious. This can be avoided by the use of Critical Hits: introducing a small chance that an ordinary hit instead becomes a critical one with added damage or other negative consequences for the target.

Wikipedia and TV Tropes both have entries for Critical hit[1][2].


Tabletop Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, Hârnmaster, Rolemaster, and RuneQuest all have rules for Critical Hits in combat. Likewise, Computer-based Roleplaying Games such as the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series have Critical Hits and this has also been adopted by First-Person Shooters as Borderlands and Dead Island.


The Critical Hits present in early versions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are actually not Critical Hits since they affect any combatant that have had all their wounds depleted.

Using the pattern

Critical Hits are created by introducing or modifying the use of Randomness in Combat. Even if they are based on Randomness, the actual chance of getting critical hits are often based upon Skills level (GURPS and Hârnmaster are examples of this). Modifications to the chance can also depend on which Weapons are used, and which Upgrades have been installed on them. Although the simplest way of instantiating Critical Hits is to increase Damage dealt with an attack, they can become more noteworthy by providing Penalties that cannot otherwise occur (e.g. GURPS and Dead Island). Such Penalties can relate to effects Downtime, Disruption of Focused Attention, Skills, Variable Accuracy, Movement Limitations, and Ability Losses besides any loss of Health.


Critical Hits are a subcategory of Critical Successes and thereby a type of Critical Results; depending on how unlikely they are to occur they can cause Exceptional Events. They introduce or increases the chances of players being able to feel Luck while being in Combat (at least as long as they are the one getting Critical Hits and not being hit by them). These hits can provide additional - and maybe unique - Penalties to a Combat system but can also work against that system having Predictable Consequences. Since the introduce more aspects of Randomness to Combat, they work against the Performance Uncertainty that gameplay based on more player skill promotes.

Critical Hits are the opposite to Critical Misses, but have a connection since what is a Critical Misses to one combatant can be perceived as a luck break for the other side.


Can Instantiate

Critical Results, Critical Successes, Exceptional Events, Luck, Penalties

Can Modulate

Combat, Damage

Can Be Instantiated By


Damage and Health and either Downtime, Disruption of Focused Attention, Skills, Variable Accuracy, Movement Limitations, or Ability Losses

Can Be Modulated By

Skills, Tools, Upgrades, Weapons

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Critical Misses, Predictable Consequences, Performance Uncertainty


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for Critical hit.
  2. TV Trope entry for Critical hit.