Jan 302012

Everyone loves magical items. Whether they’re common or rare, equipping yourself with the latest Flaming Sword or Circlet of Mental Might is part of the fun of playing. The abilities these items grant make you feel like that powerful fantasy hero you love being.

We all love winning, but one of the best parts of Dungeons & Dragons is that failure can be just as fun! There is nothing dull about being eaten by a dragon, thrown into a volcano or sliced through the heart in a deadly duel. But what happens when you just miss? It has to happen sometimes. Hitting each time would lessen that feeling of victory, but does it really have to be such a disappointment?

…not on a critical failure. When you roll a natural 1 on your attack die, you miss automatically, no math needed. With these new rules, a natural 1 isn’t just another miss, it’s a critical failure, as important and exciting as rolling a natural twenty. These failures represent turning points in battle – moments when the fighter didn’t just swing high, but the enemy quickly counters or the heroes lose their footing. In the rarest moments, the rituals that are binding magic into your implement or weapon fails, and its arcane energies escape in strange and unusual ways, turning failure from mundane to spectacular entertainment!

Down this PDF to take the following two tables to your game!

The Critical Failure Table 

When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll, roll an additional d20. If that roll is also a natural 1, your character has achieved a Critical Failure. Roll a d6 on the following chart to determine the results.

  1. You lose your footing and fall prone.
  2. You suddenly lose your grip, dropping your weapon to the ground.
  3. You find your grip lacking and your thrust too great. Your weapon flies from your hand. Roll 1d8 to determine which direction your weapon is thrown. It falls in a space 2d4 squares away.
  4. Your enemy reacts unexpectedly when you attack, forcing you to adjust quickly, but it all goes horribly wrong. Reroll the attack with yourself as the target.
  5. Something has gone horribly wrong with the magic bound to your implement or weapon. Roll on the Magical Mishap Table to determine the results.
  6. It all seemed bleak for a moment, but you recover at the last second. Your attack misses and you appear significantly less skilled, but no harm done this time.

Adjusting the Rules

As you progress through the game, your characters gain more power in more spectacular ways. While these characters have more control over their abilities, they also begin to encounter stranger and more exotic mishaps. At Paragon Tier, replace results 1 and 2 of the Critical Failure table with a Magical Mishap (result 5). At Epic Tier, results 1-5 will all produce a Magical Mishap.

If you wish to increase the chances of a magical mishap occurring, remove the need to confirm the critical failure so that after the first natural 1, you immediately roll on the critical failure chart. This is an excellent option in campaigns where magic is rare or not well understood, for one shot adventures or even if your players just want to experience more of the results.

The Magical Mishap Table

The Magical Mishap Table follows some very basic rules. Effects are instantaneous, unless specific otherwise. Results marked with (Encounter) end at the end of the Encounter and results marked with (Affliction) can be cured by the Remove Affliction ritual. While “weapon” is the term used in the results, the same effects can apply to an implement if used in the triggering attack.

  1. Your weapon saps your life like an arcane leech, feeding your health into your target. Roll damage for the attack as normal. You take half damage and the target gains hit points equal to half damage.
  2. Bad luck seems to hang in the air around you. You gain Aura 2. Any ally in the aura takes -2 to attack rolls. (Encounter)
  3. Your body absorbs a blast of magic energy, keeping other effects from treating your wounds. You cannot regain hit points (save ends).
  4. Your attack sends out the force of a thunderclap, knocking your target and yourself back. You are both pushed 3 squares, and fall prone.
  5. Your weapon lashes out, temporarily seeking vengeance against your friends. You make an at-will attack against your closest ally.
  6. You feel an icy frost crawl over you. You are slowed (save ends).
  7. You find your legs suddenly encased in ice. You are immobilized (save ends).
  8. A great shifts occurs throughout your body. Your clothes now feel tight in all the wrong places. You change genders. (Affliction)
  9. You feel the itch of dwarven pride. You grow a beard, or if already bearded, become clean-shaven.
  10. Your mental being fades slightly. You forget the last five minutes of your life. (Affliction)
  11. You suddenly wonder how you got here. You forget the last 24 hours. (Affliction)
  12. You suddenly are surrounded by the strangest of people. You forget the last year of your life. (Affliction)
  13. Your body emits the foulest of odors. All allies within 5 at the start of their turn must make a saving throw or be pushed 3 squares. (Encounter)
  14. Your voicebox tunes out, leaving you mute. (Affliction)
  15. Your armor is weakened by a magical backlash, leaving you exposed in several places. You take a -2 penalty to AC. (Encounter)
  16. Your attack triggers the magic of local fey lines. Everyone in a close burst 5 is teleported 5 squares away, as if pushed. If that square is occupied, choose the next available adjacent square farther away from the origin square. You are teleported upward 5 squares.
  17. The battlefield is instantly rearranged to your target’s will. The DM swaps any creature in a close burst 5 around the target, to his liking.
  18. Magical energies flow from the attack back into your weapon, giving it life! Your weapon becomes intelligent or loses intelligence it had before.
  19. Suddenly, the earth around you does not hold you to it. You create a zone of weightlessness in a close burst 5. All creatures in the zone gain a fly speed equal to their speed and hover. Exiting the zone causes the creature to fall. (Encounter)
  20. Your weapon whirls in a burst of arcane might. Reroll the attack as a close burst 3, targeting all creatures including yourself. You have Combat Advantage against yourself for the purpose of this attack.
  21. You feel your own blood boil within your veins. You gain ongoing 5 (per tier) fire and poison damage (save ends).
  22. Your appearance shifts slightly so that others distrust you. NPCs treat you one step less favorably than they normally would. (Affliction)
  23. Your weight shifts, making your body heavy as stone. You fall prone and cannot stand (save ends).
  24. You seem light as a feather. When affected by forced movement you move an additional square. (Encounter)
  25. You become very self conscious about the threat you pose in battle. At the beginning of your turn, if no one has attacked you since the end of your last next turn, you take a -5 penalty to your next attack roll. (Encounter)
  26. The strangest feeling comes over you that you might taste good with ketchup. The closest dragon learns your current location and receives a vision that you mean to do him harm.
  27. How could you ever dream of harming your true love? You are dominated (save ends). While dominated, you confess your love each turn as a free action.
  28. Your failure releases a blast of the mysterious energies. The closest mount reduces in size by one category.
  29. Your develop strong feelings of love for your nearest ally. Whenever that ally is adjacent and takes damage, that damage is reduced by half and you take half damage. (Affliction)
  30. Arcane streams seem to invigorate your target and enhance its form. Your target increases in size by one category. (Encounter)
  31. A massive gout of steam escapes from your body. You fly 10 squares up and then fall.
  32. Your attack rips open a portal to the Heavens. An angel appears in an unoccupied square within 5 and attacks the next person to deal damage. It continues to fight until battle ceases.
  33. Your attack rips open a portal to Hell. A devil appears in an unoccupied square within 5 and offers its services to the highest bidder.
  34. Your attack rips open a portal to the Abyss. A demon appears in an unoccupied square within 5. It attacks the creature that appears to be the most powerful each turn.
  35. You suddenly regret eating those old trail rations. You use the wizard power fireball. Instead of an area attack, it is a close blast 3, placed opposite the target of your last attack.
  36. Magical backlash turns you into a newt. You gain a climb speed equal to your speed and cannot use any of your powers or items (save ends).
  37. You find yourself suddenly under water, creating a zone in close burst 10. Every square in the zone is filled with water. The zone extends 3 squares up. (Encounter)
  38. You phase out of existence momentarily. You are removed from play until the end of your next turn. You appear in the same space as you left, or the closest unoccupied square.
  39. Brown hair sprouts all over your body, and your tongue and jaw shift. You have become part chipmunk. You gain a climb speed equal to your speed, and can no longer speak any language. (Affliction)
  40. A Celestial Dwarf and an Infernal Barmaid appear in separate adjacent squares. Each round, at the top of initiative, the celestial dwarf accepts a glass of dire ale from the infernal barmaid, and drinks it. Each round, as a minor action, you must do the same. You may spend more than one minor action, to drink more than one ale. If you do, the celestial dwarf must match your number of drinks on its next turn. Every time one of you drinks you must make a save. Each failed save reduces your AC, Reflex, Insight and Perception by 1. The first creature to fail 4 saves falls unconscious (save ends). This causes the Celestial Dwarf and Infernal Barmaid to fade from existence. The effects of the ale last until the end of the Encounter.
  41. You can sense that your magic failed somehow, but notice no effects. In another reality, your other self is compelled into service. Check the beverage levels at your game table. Refill or renew the beverage of anyone who desires.
  42. You gain an impatient stride (save ends). Your speed increases by 2, but you must move at least 4 squares each turn or take damage equal to twice your level.
  43. A psychic energy pierces the air, making your mind jump. You switch personalities with your nearest ally. (Affliction)
  44. Why are these peasants attacking you? You suddenly are convinced you are an heir to the nearest kingdom. (Affliction)
  45. Your failed attack triggers a boon from a lost Fey Lord. Your target can Teleport a number of squares equal to their speed as a move action. (Encounter)
  46. A piece of your soul is torn away and flung across the cosmos. A duplicate, with all of your abilities, appears somewhere else in the world. This twisted doppelganger can feel that it is but a shadow of you, and seeks to destroy you.
  47. You suffer the backlash of others vane perceptions. All your clothing and equipment turns pink and your hair becomes blond.
  48. An amazing sight appears before you, that no one else can perceive. You are dazed (save ends).
  49. The area around you sprouts into low tangler bushes. 2d8 squares within a close burst 6 become difficult terrain. Any creature ending its turn in one of these squares becomes immobilized (save ends).
  50. Your weapon strikes out at the core of your life force. You save or die.

Down this PDF to take the above two tables to your game!

The images referenced above were grabbed straight from the pages of tvtropes to help break up the text. StufferShack doesn’t own them, nor did we ask for permission. Come on though, you know they’re from Penny Arcade

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Brian Liberge

Brian Liberge is a father of one, living in Boston, MA. Introduced to AD&D at an early age, he’s continued to update with the editions, and new games. He loves home-brewed ideas, is honest to a fault, and thinks that ideas and mechanics should absolutely be shared between systems. With a B.S. Degree in Theatre Arts, a job in Information Technology, and a love of strategy gaming, he tries to bring the best of each into his new creations for StufferShack. Check out his latest book the Midgard Bestiary for 4e, available now. Profile Page / Article Portfolio

  One Response to “Critical Failures And Magical Mishaps”

  1. Awesome Job! That is a lot of work. I have already posted it to my group and hopefully put it into practice. Chipmunk….

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