DnD 5E Critical Hits | What is a Critical Hit, What Does It Do?

DnD 5E Critical Hits

In any dice game, rolling a 20 on a 20-sided dice is a huge sign of success… or utter horror, if the DM rolls it. In combat, rolling a 20 when attacking someone means you’ve struck an artery, or the jugular, and your damage increases massively. However, critical hits in 5E work a bit differently than they do in previous editions. If you’ve played earlier editions of D&D, or if you’re brand new to the system, our DnD 5E Critical Hits guide will help you to understand things better.

DnD 5E Critical Hits Guide

A “critical hit” usually occurs in combat when you roll a 20 on an attack roll. It can also occur when you are trying to break an object and you roll a 20 on it.

What Does a Crit Do?

When you roll a critical hit, you keep your original damage roll and roll all of the dice again. For example, Bertha rolls a critical hit on a Greataxe swing. She rolls d12+4 on the damage roll, getting a 7. She then rolls an additional d12, getting an 8. She adds that d12 to the original damage roll, totaling a 15.

Some specific weapons might have enchantments that do something on a critical hit, but those would not be useful to list out. If your weapon has a specific effect on a critical hit, make sure you read it and understand it.

In addition, some class features can change the effect of a critical hit. For example, Bertha gets her 9th level in barbarian, and gets Brutal Critical. Brutal Critical adds an extra dice to her roll for every critical hit she lands. So, her Greataxe Critical hit becomes 3d12+4.

This is much different than older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, since critical hits no longer double modifier to damage. That’s a pretty big nerf to weapon users, since you can’t double your Great Weapon Master or Sharpshooter. However, spells were completely unaffected. You can sling a critical Disintegrate and completely end someone’s existence!

Is There Any Way to Increase Critical Hit Rate?

There are a few ways to increase critical hit rate. The main source of bonus crits is the Champion archetype for Fighter. Champions, at level 3, get a critical hit on a 19-20. Then, at level 15, the range increases to include 18. That’s a 15% chance to double your weapon damage dice! Hopefully by then, you can get a bunch of dice on your weapon to maximize your damage potential!

In addition, the Assassin archetype for Rogue gains guaranteed critical hits on surprised opponents. If you get enough levels in Rogue, any class can get guaranteed crits… as long as you’re willing to dump levels into Rogue and another class!

Otherwise, you can get some guaranteed crits with abilities like the School of Divination’s Portent, hitting a Paralyzed or Unconscious foe, or spamming Advantage mechanics.

See Also: Conditions 5E Guide


I personally don’t like critical hits in 5E. As someone who adores the mechanic in older editions, the lack of doubling modifier damage for weapon swings saddens me. But, critical hits are still really important to keep in mind whenever you swing a weapon or shoot a laser. May your dice roll 20s often!

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