As there is no ?official? Dungeons & Dragons Critical Hit Table, many companies and publishers have created their own extended critical hit rules. Usually, this manifests itself as a critical hit table with increased damage or other negative effects. ?Critical Feats? takes this a step further by, as the title implies, adding extended critical hit effects to feats. ?Critical Feats? also presents a few other game options that players and DMs might find interesting if they want to take their game to a potentially more ?brutal? level.
Before presenting the feats, however, ?Critical Feats? presents a new action type ? the abort action. Abort actions are actions a character can perform when it is not their turn, like blocking or wielding a shield. In essence, a character can chose to forego their Armor Class when being attacked. Instead, the character can block as an abort action. The character and the attacker would then make opposing attack roles, and if the character/defender rolls higher than the attacker, then the attack is blocked and the character takes no damage. If the character/defender rolls lower than the attacker, then the attack is successful. There are bonuses and penalties for two-handed weapons and light weapons respectively. This is an interesting game mechanic, but one that could be easily abused, I?d think, in that it could allow players to focus almost solely on their character?s offensive capabilities instead of buying armor and the like. Additionally, I would question the name choice (abort) of the action itself. It doesn?t necessarily invoke the ?defensive-ness? that the action seems to deserve. Also, there is no mention of how many abort actions a character can make. The rules state that a character may only block a particular attack once, but how many attacks can the character attempt to block overall?
Then we?re into the feats. Most of these feats are critical feats, and in the introductory material of this supplement, writers David Jarvis and Mark Gedak explain that a critical feat is a feat any character can take (making ?Critical Feats? a fairly flexible product) as long as they meet the feat requirements. A character with a critical feat can chose to give up the extra damage a confirmed critical hit would grant and replace it with the effect of the particular feat.
There is a nice variety of feats here. Most of them are fighter-friendly, but there are some that are built for clerics and magic users, and even the monk is represented in ?Critical Feats.? Back Breaker allows a character to crush or severe his or her opponent?s spinal cord. Brutal Uppercut is an unarmed strike that breaks the opponent?s jaw. Conduit Spellstrike is a feat that penalizes the recipient with a ?4 to future saving throws and makes him or her more vulnerable to future spell or spell-like attacks by reducing spell resistance, while Channelling (sic) Strike allows a turn undead attempt to be used as extra damage in the form of channeled positive energy. And these are from just the first few pages!
The damage inflicted by these critical feats can only be healed through use of the Heal skill or through magical means, and a new spell ? ?knit bones? ? is presented near the end of the supplement. Additionally, there are a few new magic items (enhancements that are increased when wielded by one with a specific critical feat) and weapons (most of which can be used to take advantage of the Rend Armor feat).
Overall, I liked the idea of ?Critical Feats.? I?ve always had a personal preference toward more ?intense? results coming from successful critical hits as combat should always be dangerous, regardless of character level, and ?Critical Feats? allows for this without adding any more rolling on potentially-clunky critical hit tables and the like.
However, I did find myself wishing for a bit more work here on the part of the creators. As mentioned before, one of the ways to heal damage from a critical feat is to use magic. Specifically, a number of these feats mention using any ?heal? spell. It?s hard to believe that a ?cure minor wounds? spell would be enough to undo the damage caused by the ?Puncture Lung? feat. (Some of the feats ? like Throat Ripper ? do indicate that a ?cure critical wounds? spell most be used.)
(?Critical Feats? also introduces coma as a new condition. While an interesting game mechanic ? a character falls unconscious and loses one point of Constitution every hour ? it, too, seems to only require the use of any ?heal? spell. Since clerics can cast ?cure minor wounds? spontaneously, this condition loses some of its impact.)
Also, the number of formatting errors were distracting. Spells should always be italicized, and not once are any of the spells formatted in this correct fashion through this supplement. Some of the feats require a certain attack bonus as a prerequisite, and ?Critical Feats? presents these base attack bonuses incorrectly at times (by placing the ?+? after the number instead of before). There were a few spacing errors, as well.
In the end, ?Critical Feats? is a great idea and adds a lot of flavor to the game, and with some work DMs and players can add these rules to their game to give it that edge that standard d20 combat can sometimes lack.
<b>LIKED</b>: There are some great ideas here. The cover art shows gladiators battling each other, and these 'Critical Feats' invoke that feeling of brutality and viciousness of combat.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Minor nitpicks include formatting errors and a failure to indicate how powerful of a ?heal? spell would be required to heal the damage caused by these feats.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>
[3 of 5 Stars!]