Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is a wonderful introduction to tabletop RPGs for newer players. The game doesn’t have too many options, the classes are fairly straightforward, and newer DMs can learn the basics quickly. However, like every tabletop RPG, there are some rules that were written weirdly. Brutal Critical is one of these rules. For the Barbarian, getting critical hits is fairly regular, making this ability insanely powerful. But, what does it even do? Is there anything like it? And how can we use it to our advantage? This guide will go over the basics of Brutal Critical in Dungeons & Dragons 5E.
What is Brutal Critical in D&D 5E?
Brutal Critical is an ability that Barbarians get at level 9. At level 9, you receive 1 additional weapon damage dice for determining the damage for a critical hit with a melee attack. At level 13, this increases to two dice, and to three dice at level 17.
This ability essentially means that your critical hits add one dice of your weapon’s damage dice to the attack roll. It’s just the die; it is not doubled or anything like that. It is the same size dice as your weapon is.
For instance, Bertha the level 9 barbarian lands a critical hit with her 1d6 Club. The club would normally deal 2d6 damage, doubling the dice. However, Bertha adds an additional 1d6, for a total of 3d6 weapon damage dice worth of damage from the critical hit.
Horace, the level 13 Barbarian, lands a critical hit with his Greatsword. The Greatsword’s critical hit normally deals 4d6 damage. However, since the Greatsword’s weapon damage dice is 1d6, Horace only adds 2d6 from Brutal Critical, to a total of 6d6 from the weapon damage dice.
If Horace landed that critical hit with a Greataxe, he would instead roll 4d12 – 2d12 from the critical hit, 1d12 from level 9 Brutal Critical, and 1d12 from level 13.
If a magic item would give you a different damage dice, you will still use the weapon’s damage.
Jerome, the level 9 Barbarian, has a longsword that deals an additional 1d12 Lightning damage on hit. His Brutal Critical dice is still 1d8, the same as his longsword.
In the case that your weapon deals multiple types of damage, you may decide what damage the extra weapon damage dice does.
For instance, Alfred has a 2d6 Handaxe that deals Cold and Slashing damage. He may choose to make the extra 1d6 damage Cold. This is handy to dodge resistances and hammer vulnerabilities.
Brutal Critical is basically separated from any other critical hit effect. Let’s say that there was a Greataxe that tripled its weapon damage dice. Brutal Critical would still only add the same number of dice as ever.
What Does Brutal Critical Stack With?
What is good about Brutal Critical is that it stacks with everything! You can use it with Sneak Attack, Magic, or anything else that you can think of! This can make it very handy as a cherry-on-top kind of extra damage!
To make the best use of Brutal Critical, a Barbarian should use larger weapons. For instance, a Greataxe has a larger damage dice than a Greatsword, so that makes it better. A Longsword has a larger damage dice than a Club, so the Longsword should be used.
As a reminder, Brutal Critical can only work with melee attacks. So, thrown weapons are a bit less useful in a Barbarian’s hands. You might want to keep them around, to throw at nuisances that remain just out of reach… But they should not be your priority. Melee for life!
Brutal Critical also stacks with Savage Attacks and other effects that add damage dice to critical hits.
That being said, the best thing you can do for your Brutal Critical is improving the chance that you land a critical hit! Investing in Fighter can get you the Champion archetype and a 19-20 range.
Alternatively, the Hexblade does allow for a larger Critical hit range at a lower level… Though, a spellcaster might not be the best idea!
While you dig for critical hits, Rogues and other classes that add damage dice to weapon attacks benefit greatly from crits! Make sure you’re leveling your Barbarian, but adding those extra dice can feel very, very rewarding.
Notably, Brutal Critical does not require you to be in Rage to use. This can let you use magic, if you were a madman! Alternatively, you can try and use items like a Wand of Blade of Disaster, which has an incredibly high critical rate. Admittedly, this is quite farfetched, but there are no other significant ways to improve a critical hit rate.
And remember… Always Reckless Attack! Dealing maximum damage is really important for your party. As long as you have health to spare, it is more important that you hit while raging than it is to avoid hits. Brutal Critical makes this even more tantalizing, because you have two chances to critically hit!
Conclusions – Brutal Critical 5E Guide
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition did weapons dirty with critical hits. Not being able to double your modifier to damage really stinks. And it’s hard to get critical hits in the first place!
Brutal Critical is a great way to mitigate some of the missed damage, but it isn’t the best. Even for a Greataxe, this is 7 average damage on a chance to hit!
Still, this can’t be understated. This damage is important, and will rack up quickly. And it’s all for free, on top of your normal damage! Critical hits are one of the ways that a Barbarian can keep up in the damage department, and should be utilized often. So, just keep swinging!