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In both the third and fourth edition of D&D, rolling a “natural 20” on an attack roll automatically hits regardless of the target’s AC, and results in a critical threat, which must then be “confirmed” by rolling a second attack roll. If the second attack roll is a hit, your critical is confirmed and you do extra damage (a multiplier in third edition, maximized damage in fourth edition).

However, what happens if you roll another natural 20 on your critical confirmation roll?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

Nothing special happens

  • 3.x As a critical confirmation roll is an attack roll, a natural-20 automatically hits (and therefore automatically confirms), but aside from that there is nothing special about having rolled 20 twice in a row.
  • 4e There is no critical confirmation roll. A natural 20 is an automatic hit, and if the total is more than the target defense, damage is maxed and any critical damage is rolled.

Double nat-20 rules are all houserules; fairly common houserules, but still houserules. For a variety of reasons, I personally do not recommend them. The game is swingy enough without them.

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For 3.5: What happens on another 20 is usually nothing special - it's just a hit. There is a variant rule (DMG p 28) that if in use says that if you roll a second natural 20 when confirming the crit, you roll a third roll. If that one is confirmed as a hit, the target is instantly killed.

That variant is likely the source of the confusion.

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It’s astonishing how many “variants” the DMG presents are mostly just “things that we intentionally didn’t include in the official rules because they are really bad ideas.” Why mention them as variants, I have no idea. – KRyan Feb 3 '14 at 18:56
@KRyan I always thought that was an awesome way to steer newbie DMs away from the awful. I can totally see the brand new DM thinking, "Hey, it'd be kewl if stuff just died when somebody rolled two 20s and then confirmed!" but having the actual, for-reals DMG say, "Uh uh. Bad idea. Here's why, but, y'know, use it if you must," might make him think again. – Hey I Can Chan Feb 3 '14 at 20:52
@HeyICanChan If they were stronger about “this is a bad idea,” I’d agree with you. But the strongest you get is “not appropriate for all games” and “only add after careful consideration,” both in reference to critical fumbles (which aren’t “bad” so much as “absolutely atrocious”). I do like the statement that instant-kills hurts the PCs more than it helps them; a lot of people don’t realize that, so that’s good. But it’s not enough. – KRyan Feb 3 '14 at 23:07
I encountered this situation once in an Ars Magica game, where the rules state that a tripple-critical fail has catastrophic results for the one who failed. A player insisted to roll to jump over a pebble: he tried, stumbled, broke his neck, and died instantly. Lesson learned: no one is happy if the only reason for dieing is a single unlucky roll. Also: pebbles are a vastly underestimated danger. – TwoThe Feb 4 '14 at 15:23
@aramis A PC is subjected to orders of magnitude more attack rolls than any NPC, and is therefore much more likely to die to such randomness than is an NPC. Put another way, if we assume the DM rolls as many attacks as the PCs, then where the PCs double-nat-20s are overwhelmingly more likely to kill random mook #3,513 than it is to kill anything important or notable, but when it happens for the DM it’s going to get a PC every time. Thus, yes, it is statistically worse for PCs for that houserule to be in place. Even the DMG acknowledges that. – KRyan Feb 4 '14 at 17:29

If following the strictly the rules defined about critical hits in 3.x nothing special happens when rolling another 20 on critical confirmation roll.

DM/GM's I've played with usually choose to stop the game play briefly and describe a rather detailed and impressive feat of battle prowess your character has just preformed through that attack. It's a nice way of acknowledging that you've done something special.

It's worth noting that in 3.x if you reach epic level (20+) the DM/GM can chose to instate a new rule from the "epic Level handbook" where nat-20's no longer count as automatic hits because the AC of an epic monster could be gigantic (50+).

So what you can do instead is allow nat-20 rolls to add together to try and overcome the epic monsters AC (2 nat-20 and a regular roll would be = 40 + regular roll).

This rule also stats that nat-1's aren't automatic fumbles you continue rolling until you don't get a nat-20 or nat-1. Nat-1's count it as a -20 for these purposes. (nat-1 and regular roll = -20 + regular roll)

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Every answer post should be self-sufficient. "Answers" which rely on other answer posts for completeness ought to be comments or edits instead. – BESW Feb 4 '14 at 0:30
@BESW I felt that the answers above where great and instead of repeating their content I decided to contribute something new only. This is an answer to the question. I don't think any of theses answers can be considered the one true answer as DM/GM's are given free rain over their worlds and can alter the game mechanics how ever they see fit. This is simply one of many ways attack rolls can be handled. – Dan Feb 4 '14 at 0:51
This is still not an answer to the question though. Answers are expected to be self-sufficient to the extent that they actually answer the question; whether existing answers already do so does not relieve new answers of that responsibility. Answers are not for tacking on extra information tangentially related to the issue at hand. If you wish to provide extra information, provide the basic information necessary in order to fundementally answer the question, then continue with the extra related information you wish to share. – doppelgreener Feb 4 '14 at 2:00
@BESW I have added more information to address the OP. My knowledge of the rules is limited to 3.x so that's all I spoke to. – Dan Feb 4 '14 at 2:06
@JonathanHobbs I have added more information to address the OP. My knowledge of the rules is limited to 3.x so that's all I spoke to. – Dan Feb 4 '14 at 2:06

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