Paizo’s Critical Hit and Fumble Decks

I picked up the Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks since we’ve been doing a lot of 3.5/Pathfinder recently, and so far my players have been pretty pleased with the results. Last night’s Legacy of Fire game saw three critical fumbles and a single critical hit; the fumbles were pretty interesting but not crippling, while the crit hit was on a gnoll Unchosen in House of the Beast dungeon levels. Paquo opted for the card draw over double damage with his greatsword, and gave the unlucky gnoll both full damage and a -4 penalty to attack rolls, skills, and saves. It suddenly became less of a threat: the gnoll’s multiple secondary attacks at +4 were negated, so its beastly full attack wasn’t even an issue, and the players took it down pretty fast due to that crit.

The two 52-card decks are pretty slick. Each card has four result categories; for the crit hits, this would be damage types (bludgeoning, slashing, piercing, and magic for ray attacks), while the crit fumble deck is attack types (melee, ranged, natural, and ray-attack magic again). That means each deck has 208 different effects, 52 per category. So, draw a card, find what kind of attack you were making, and apply the effect. If you have a higher damage multiplier, say x3, subtract one and draw that many cards, and choose the effect you want.

And there’s plenty of gnarly effects. Most of them fall into the ‘interesting’ category, not enough to cripple or outright kill a PC, but enough to spice up the game. There’s a small group of deadly effects that can cripple or kill an unlucky target, and just as many ‘nice’ ones that don’t do so much. For example, one of the crit hits decapitates the target, while a crit fumble reads “deals minimum damage.” Since the vast majority of effects are in the middle of these, there’s a swath of effects to draw.

The Critical Hit deck ranges from doing more damage, doing ability damage, giving the target combat conditions (usually something like blinded, shaken, or stunned), or causing ‘bleed’ damage. Bleed damage is ongoing, and needs a healing spell/potion or a DC 15 heal check to stop; it’s a little nonsensical for PCs at points—oh look, that goblin’s losing 1 Wisdom every round until you kill it—but when a monster crits, I see the fun coming on as the PCs’ stats bleed out.

The Critical Fumble deck is much more varied, and includes dropping weapons, giving yourself combat conditions (nauseated, shaken, or confused for example), damaging yourself or a teammate, causing a spell to backfire, or causing magical effects to be dispelled or transferred to another target. Some of them are a bit inane, like a PC drawing the ‘broken haft’ melee effect when they’re not using a polearm, but given a little creative thinking and the effects are pretty slick.

My player reaction has been positive so far, and all they’ve done is draw one hit and a whole lot of fumbles. Legacy of Fire’s achievement feats include one for making 50 critical hits, part of the reason why I bought that deck, but my players began tracking their critical fumbles after the number of fumbles skyrocketed… with Reuben’s 5 crit hits and 27 crit fumbles, I knew that I had to get these. I’m glad I did.

The revised versions of both decks, fully compatible with 3.5 but referencing the Pathfinder skills and core book pages, retail for $10.99.

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