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I'm just reading through the basic rules and I came across the new rules for critical hits. I'm sure the answer is simply "Yes" and an obvious one but I want to be sure I didn't miss anything here.

Do monsters and NPC double damage on a natural 20 (or whatever their crit range is)?

If yes, it seems extremely dangerous considering the number of monsters a party can face in a single adventure. Are critical hits more deadly in a regular adventure? Compared let's say to 3.5 and 4E. Mention of actual experience from recent material (using the starter set and the basic rules) is really important.

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I will say that this is why I roll behind a screen most of the time. If something crazy is happening that just doesn't seem quite right, I can fudge a crit into a normal hit with ease and no one is the wiser. It keeps the story moving and helps to ensure that the characters aren't likely to die in their first encounter without really bad luck. Now in a major climactic moment, all bets are off... –  Aviose Aug 1 at 14:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes.

The phrasing for critical hits in 5e is the general attack. This counts for anything with an attack roll, a monster attack, an adventurer attack, a generic NPC attack and a wizard (of any stripe's) spell attack roll. Here's where it talks about a natural 20:

If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target’s AC. In addition, the attack is a critical hit, as explained later in this chapter. (Basic D&D p73)

Though "doubling" is a bit misleading. Here's the critical hit mechanic:

When you score a critical hit, you get to roll extra dice for the attack’s damage against the target. Roll all of the attack’s damage dice twice and add them together. Then add any relevant modifiers as normal. To speed up play, you can roll all the damage dice at once. (Basic D&D p75)

The dice rolled are doubled (static mods are only counted once). Believe it or not this is only slightly more damaging on average than 4e's crit mechanic (though it is swingier). Let's look at a d8 in each mechanic. In 4e a d8 for damage would result in 8 damage on a crit. In 5e it would result in 2d8 rolled for an average of 9 (min of 2, max of 16). Obviously a good roll makes this a way swingier result, however, an average roll only makes this one point of damage better. This doesn't factor in the fact that in 4e you regularly add in your weapon's crit dice to your attacks, and this would lead to an average slightly above or about the same as 5e's crit damage.

Note: if you watch the D&D live streams they were talking about a fight against an Ogre with Fighter levels who kept critting them and dropping their PCs. (I think that's the right stream, it might have been the other Q&A).

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Monsters don't have different rules than PCs

Monsters/enemies in 5e generally act under the same rules as PCs. This isn't to the extent of previous editions where monsters were built much like PCs, but rather that monsters can have spells (from the same class lists as the cleric and wizard) and use magic items much like PCs might. Nowhere in basic or the starter kit does it explicitly say that monsters should interact with the core combat system differently. Thus they should deal 2x weapon dice damage on a crit much like a PC would.

This is no more deadly than previous critical hit damage rules

Compared with the playtest or previous editions, the damage should be roughly on par with the damage (relatively speaking) of those critical hits. Instead of maximizing the damage dice + adding static modifiers and then rolling a bonus damage die (2d6 for am +2 weapon for example) you roll 2x weapon die and add mod. It should roughly work out to be about the same amount of damage.

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Yes, they do. But it's actually feels less dangerous than previous versions. (though the average is one point higher) Their damage is not actually doubled, only the potential damage is doubled. So before a crit might give max damage now it's makes the damage more average.

Just to be clear they double dice rolls not the result of the die roll. So 1d6+3 damage becomes 2d6+3,, not the result of 1d6+3 damage times 2.

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