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Let's say a character with an 8 STR confirms a critical hit with a short sword. A normal hit for them would deal 1d6-1 damage. Does the critical deal 2d6-2?

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Heh, I'm surprised to now have three interpretations, all based on the same rules text. I think the text Tridus links in his comment on Pulsehead's answer is key to the debate. Given that I think it's between CatLord and Greenstone Walker's answers...and of those I'm leaning toward Greenstone Walker's point that -- in the case of doubling damage with a negative modifier -- one needs to roll separately and add them together. – Jeff Fry Mar 20 '14 at 21:41
up vote 16 down vote accepted

No, it doesn't. The critical deals (1d6-1)+(1d6-1).

From combat#TOC-Critical-Hits:

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together.

From combat#TOC-Damage:

Sometimes you multiply damage by some factor, such as on a critical hit. Roll the damage (with all modifiers) multiple times and total the results.

I read this as "roll the damage (1d6-1) twice and add together the results". Since a hit always does at least one damage (which might be nonlethal, as below), the damage roll of (1d6-1) has a range of 1-5 damage. This critical hit, therefore, has a range of 2-10 damage. If you roll two 1s then you do 2 nonlethal damage. If you roll 1 and 2 then you do 1 nonlethal and 1 lethal damage. If you roll two 6s then you to 10 lethal damage.

Rolling 2d6-2 is not the same — it has a range of 1-10.

From combat#TOC-Damage:

If penalties reduce the damage result to less than 1, a hit still deals 1 point of nonlethal damage."

It is the "still deals 1 point of nonlethal damage" which explains why the multiple rolls need to be made separately when there are negative modifiers. Or, to put it another way, doubling (1d6+1) is the same as (2d6+2) but doubling (1d6-1) is not the same as (2d6-2).

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I'm not sure that it follows from what you quote that the range of the critical damage must be 2-10 rather than 1-10. 1-10 still satisfies the requirement that a hit deal 1 point of nonlethal damage if damage is reduced to less than 1. In fact this requirement is quite independent of the dice and modifiers involved. Even if the nonlethal damage were doubled (or tripled, or whatever), there's no need to roll twice. If the damage roll result is less than (1*critmod), just make up the difference with nonlethal damage. – Wlerin Mar 21 '14 at 1:09
@Wlerin Basically, his argument is that the damage on a critical hit is “(1d6-1, minimum 1), twice” which has a minimum of 2 (if you roll a 1, 1 on the dice), whereas “2d6-2, minimum 1” has a minimum of 1. Whether or not he’s correct on the order of operations, I’m not sure. – KRyan Mar 21 '14 at 1:16
@Wlerin, it is because a critical hit is supposed to be twice as damaging as a normal hit. If my normal hit does 1 damage and my critical hit does 1 damage then where's the benefit of the critical? – Greenstone Walker Mar 23 '14 at 22:29
@GreenstoneWalker That makes sense, and I understood your reasoning to begin with, but I don't think that follows from the rules as written. The minimum only comes into play if the total damage is less than 1. – Wlerin Mar 24 '14 at 2:45
*could be interpreted to come into play when the total damage is less than 1. Or it could be interpreted your way. Minimum damage is only mentioned in connection with the base damage roll, not with rolls for crit damage or other extra damage rolls. – Wlerin Mar 24 '14 at 3:05

Yes, assuming it's a x2 damage weapon

According to Pathfinder SRD

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together.

Essentially a critical hit allows you extra damage so while it may be penalized it's still extra. Your mean damage roll would jump from 2 to 5 for what it's worth and because of the extra die it weights towards the center despite the obvious increase in maximum. Normally when negatives aren't included the rules say "bonus (if any)" (e.g. being flat-footed can never increase your AC) to discard negatives although they see it as such a rare occurrence that it doesn't require a special descriptor. In the end, you roll your normal damage a number of times equal to a normal single hit and add it together, thus the multiplier becomes the minimum damage as it's thenumber of damage rolls

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This leaves open the corner case where a character could do more damage on a standard hit than on a critical hit (e.g. a standard hit doing 1d6-3 and rolling a 6 versus a critical hit doing 2d6-6 and rolling a 6 and a 1 or 2). – Hey I Can Chan Mar 20 '14 at 18:16
@HeyICanChan You can't do negative damage, so it's wrong to treat x2 1d6-3 as 2d6-6. In the scenario you proposed you'd end up with max(6-3, 0) + max(1-3, 0) = 3 + 0 = 3, not 6+1-6 = 1. – Doval Mar 20 '14 at 18:59
@Doval: I understand you can't do negative damage, but isn't that per hit, and not per x1? Do you have a source? – Mooing Duck Mar 20 '14 at 19:18
@MooingDuck Upon re-reading the SRD carefully, I can't find anything that'd give a conclusive answer one way or the other. You got me there. I think it clearly goes against the intent of the rules though. It makes no sense from a roleplay perspective, a game design perspective, or even a consistency perspective (I can't think of any other circumstance where being able to repeat a damaging action could result in lower total damage.) Their intent seems to be to normalize your usual damage (adding more dice yields a distribution closer to a bell curve, as opposed to just doubling the damage.) – Doval Mar 20 '14 at 19:48
As I understood it, the normal damage range for 1d6-3 is "0-3", and the critical damage range (2d6-6) is "0-6". That's about double damage on average. If it's 1d6+3, the ranges are "3-9" and "6-18" respectively. Ergo, even without a negative modifier, there's still the possibility of rolling less on a critical than on a regular hit. The negative modifier doesn't change that. – Mooing Duck Mar 20 '14 at 20:11

From the SRD:

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together.

The SRD is very specific, you double your bonus, not your modifier. If your strength is an 8 and you get a -1 penalty to damage, you do not double that since the SRD/books say you double your bonus and not your modifier. Therefore a regular hit would be 1d6-1 and a critical would be 2d6-1 (assuming the weapon multiplier is 2).

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Another part of the SRD says "Sometimes you multiply damage by some factor, such as on a critical hit. Roll the damage (with all modifiers) multiple times and total the results." So that's nice and consistent. – Tridus Mar 20 '14 at 18:55
@Tridus, good point. While Pulsehead's reading of the quoted text is perfectly fair, I think the text you quote clarifies that in this case "bonus" should be read as "modifier". – Jeff Fry Mar 20 '14 at 21:35
@JeffFry You can read it either way, and both have support in the text. It's word for word from the 3.5 SRD, but 3.5 doesn't seem to have used "bonus" in quite the same way so it actually got more ambiguous here. – Tridus Mar 21 '14 at 0:32
Granted this is an inconsistency. However, crits are so rare (in my games, at least) that I could also see an argument that the penalty should be ignored entirely... but my group also rarely builds "optimized builds". – Pulsehead Mar 21 '14 at 12:16

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