Critical Hits or Misses in a Fighting System

Hey everyone! I hope this is the right place for this question, and maybe it’s been asked before. I couldn’t find it. But what are your thoughts about critical hits and misses in a fighting system? I’m designing one for my game in which I’ve emphasized ‘realism,’ meaning the fights are designed to be quick and deadly. So, I won’t have characters taking turns hitting each other with sharp, pointy objects in the game. Would including the chance that a player could roll a random number that could swing the combat dramatically one way or the other be a good or bad design decision? I’d love to hear what you think.


Most readers of CoG games, at least going by the general sentiment of this forum, do not like random outcomes, permadeath, stats management, resource management, etc. It is not to say you shouldn’t do any of these things, there have been successful games which implement some of them before. Just keep in mind you’d be limiting your audience.

If you’re okay with that, your next question should be “Does this mechanic help me tell the story I want to tell or create the player experience I want to provide with my game?”

The mechanic per se is neither good nor bad. When you answer that question you’ll know if it’s good or bad. :grin:


The combat is set up to be narrative in nature. All the numbers and stats will be tucked away neatly in the background. I’m not too keen on the whole number-cruncher thing where you’re presented with what basically amounts to a spreadsheet. And, while randomness comes into play, the character’s stats and constant progression keep the randomness relatively manageable and, most importantly, understandable. If I’m playing a badass and can do badass things, but there is zero chance the opponent I’m facing can overcome my badass-ness. In that case, I’ll get bored relatively quickly. I’m trying to gauge what others thought of critical hit/miss chances in games. I’ve never been fond of them, but I’m not trying to write a story or craft a game that only I would want to play.

Hi Rob –

The following are my thoughts on “critical success/failure” from an author or developer viewpoint.

Curated fights seem to be more accepted and appreciated, no matter the details of the systems involved.
The vast majority of the systems are those that mitigate any extremes, although I have seen all sorts succeed.

If you want these types of possible outcomes to be accepted and appreciated, I feel your execution of your mechanics (seen and unseen) will make or break their reception by the community.

The people who read IF are smart enough to handle most types of systems I’ve seen deployed and many have rpg gaming experience, both computer and tabletop, so I would not worry about leaving people behind…

I believe the next step would be to reveal your story with the system implemented, get feedback and go from there.

Best of luck.


critical and miss are okay, but randomness in combat might be frustrating

imagine losing after a careful preparation just because the random roll didn’t favor you in that exact moment

I’d say “avoid randomness in combat” if you ask me

good luck with your game


I think the biggest thing going against randomness in IF games is the lack of a proper save system in released games. Things going wrong(and possibly resulting in a restart) because of your choices is one thing but for that to happen because of some dice roll is another. One im ok with, the other would make me pretty miffed.


@cup_half_empty @Eiwynn @Valda_Reehux @Determined_defeatist

You all make excellent and valid points, and I appreciate each of you taking the time to reply to my question. Thank you! It would absolutely be a soul-crushing experience, I think, if you, as the reader, had invested a good amount of time guiding the character down a path you chose to then, through a roll of a random die, be told you have to now go back and re-read the previous twenty pages of the story. If I were playing that game, the first time that happened to me would likely be the last.


One other way of handling randomness (or failure in general) is ensuring the player fails forward: they might fail in their attack, but something else happens. Maybe they end up captured, injured, driven back— there can be narrative outcomes that push a plot forward that aren’t just “now you die”.


Or maybe to decide whether a success is a regular success or a critical one (and the same for failures, because you can have an epic fail without a game over).


This is exactly what I had in mind. I’m glad you brought it up. When ‘controlled randomness’ is used. The consequences of a bad roll are not instant death, do not ‘pass go,’ do not collect $200, then that can lead to a significant ‘fun suck’ (sounds better than it is, and in this case, not a good thing). But, if randomness can be controlled somehow, and multiple chances are given to the reader to pull themselves back from the edge, it can definitely add something. Especially if the goal is to plant that reader into a dangerous setting that has consequences. I’m not sold on critical hits or misses. Using something that can potentially remove some of those safety nets for the reader doesn’t sound like it would add to the fun. It sounds like that’s the general consensus of those with far more experience than me.


I’m personally one of the rare people that loves adding an element of random dice rolls to the game, because I feel that it adds a real element of tension to the narrative. The best example of this I have is Breach: The Archangel Job, obviously.

In most games that have stats, if I want to succeed a stat check, I just have to double-check my stat page and then choose the option that checks my highest stat, and boom; I succeed. And while it’s definitely a functional system, it can also get pretty repetitive imo, bc all you have to do is constantly aim for your strongest stat (or try to, if the options are unclear on what choice checks what, which can lead to frustration) and then you auto-win.

But what I really liked about Breach is that the random scenarios and dice rolls that could help or hurt your base score always had me on the edge of my seat; because suddenly I wasn’t guaranteed to win, and it became less of a case of ‘choose this option to auto-win’ and more of a case of ‘okay, which options give me the best chances of winning in an unpredictable scenario’?

I don’t know, I think with that setting specifically, it really helped enhance the game’s quick pace and the tension of every battle and gun-fight.

But as others have pointed out, if you implement a randomized system, you need to put in anti-frustration mesures to prevent people from having to start all over again if they lose. Breach had its save system, that allowed you to restart from the beginning of the chapter if you died, but like @jojo also said, you could also have a “fail forward” system, where every loss doesn’t necessarily equal a death, but instead progresses the plot in its own interesting way. Though that would also mean more work on your end.


It’s not like it’d need to do that. It could just be something funny, for example. Like, regular success: you escape, critical success: you escape and leave a “MC was here” graffiti. Not worth doing if you don’t absolutely want to though, I agree.

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That’s a good point. I see you could definately use a critical hit/miss system to create unique and fun outcomes. I guess I was looking at it purely from an automated combat system POV. But, in other cases it could be used to great effect.

I really like to have the possibility of failing in a fight, as long as it lends to an equally interesting outcome and not just an instant game over. Personaly, the fact that there’s more than one possible outcome to the same event would let me interested in replaying to see the different versions of the scene

About the dice rolls, one way I’ve seen authors handling it is by putting a toggle for it. This way, the players who don’t like randomness can disable it and succeed or fail based solely on their stats (and the players who enjoy it can enable this option and have a more randomized experience)

There’s also the “cheat modes” where you can have maximum value for all of your stats and don’t worry about failing after a dice roll


love the idea but only combined with some kinda save system even if it is just start the chapter over.

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I tend to dislike it.

One of the big things I like in IF is consistency, because consistency increases replayability imo. When I’m replaying a game it’s usually because there’s some specific outcome I want to get this time. Maybe a new path I haven’t seen, maybe a new romance option, maybe just replaying a favorite route in the same way that people reread favorite books.

When RNG affects the pathing of the game it interferes with all of that stuff, and it means that replays can get scrubbed by the dice, which is frustrating. If I’m replaying specifically for Outcome F and I get a critical failure at a point that locks me out of it, then what’s the point in continuing? I might as well reset the game and hope I’m luckier next time. And if RNG doesn’t affect the pathing of the game, what’s it really doing anyways?

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