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At my table, there is a house rule that divine smite and sneak attack do not recieve critical hit bonuses.

I'm worried this would heavily affect the balance of the game and am trying to petition for going back to the core rules. But the DM and a couple players believe that that would be too OP.

This is a continuation of a previous question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it just the extra dice from these two features or is it all extra dice, like flame tongue fire damage? If the latter the question can be genericized to that. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Mar 16 '18 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I do not know, nobody has any magic weapons beyond a +1 to my knowledge. \$\endgroup\$ – Clarus_Nox Mar 16 '18 at 14:18
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This is an extremely potent Nerf to Rogues

As someone who is currently playing an Assassin-subclass Rogue, that class is balanced around dealing moderate amounts of damage normally, not having the same utility as Thief-subclass Rogues in that they cannot ignore the restrictions on Magical Items like a Thief can, but, in-exchange, dealing huge first-turn NOVA damage. A Level-17 Assassin can use Death Strike:

Starting at the 17th level, you become a master of instant death. When you attack and hit a creature that is surprised, it must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your Dexterity modifier + your proficiency bonus.) On a failed save, double the damage of your attack against the creature.

This is designed to stack with the Assassinate Feature:

Starting at 3rd level, you are at your deadliest when you get the drop on your enemies. You have Advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn in the combat yet. In addition, any hit you score against a creature that is surprised is a critical hit.

So that an Assassin Rogue could deal what is essentially 4 times damage on a Surprised Target. That is supposed-to-be their ultimate class feature.

By-comparison, a Thief-subclass Rogue gets to take 2 Turns on the first round of combat with Thieves' Reflexes:

When you reach 17th level, you have become adept at laying ambushes and quickly escaping danger. You can take two turns during the first round of any combat. You take your first turn at your normal initiative and your second turn at your initiative minus 10. During each of those separate turns, you get an action and a bonus action, totaling two of each on your first round of combat. Because these are considered two separate turns, you may also Sneak Attack per the normal rules (if eligible) on each turn. That said, you can’t use this feature when you are surprised.

Both are designed around the inclusion of Sneak Attack Dice in the dice doubled for a critical hit. However, if you remove Sneak Attack Dice from the effects of the Critical, one of these is much more impacted than the other:

The Assassin Rogue essentially deals 4x weapon damage and only 2x Sneak-Attack Damage, and, if your DM is particularly mean-spirited, then they might not even allow the 2x Sneak Attack Damage from a failed Saving Throw for Death Strike. What goes from a spectacular First-Turn feature for the Assassin turns into a mediocre feature that can only be used on the first turn of combat. The Thief Rogue, however, still gets to perform two full turns on the first round of combat, so it's not nearly as much of a nerf to them.

And the Thief-subclass can still use any Magical Item regardless of Race, Class, or Level Restrictions with their Use Magical Device feature:

Use Magic Device By 13th level, you have learned enough about the workings of magic that you can improvise the use of items even when they are not intended for you. You ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the use of Magic Items.

And, if you compare this to fighters, who get spectacular damage regeneration features (Champion), multiple-attack features (Eldritch Knight), and going so far as to Ignore falling unconscious and interrupt the current turn when dropping to 0 HP without dying outright (Xanathar's Samurai).

In the end, combined with the effects in This Question, it strongly seems like this DM is trying to railroad your party into playing Fighters, Barbarians, and Monks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Use an Object action doesn't apply to magic items as you hint with your mentioning of the thief subclass. Use a Magic Item is a separate action (DMG 141) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 16 '18 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh wait. I forgot completely about Use Magic Device feature. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 16 '18 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nevermind, I see you saw it. \$\endgroup\$ – SeraphsWrath Mar 16 '18 at 16:08
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This is a significant disadvantage for Rogues and Paladins

The Assassin Rogue subclass has a feature to automatically crit surprised targets (which are guaranteed to be sneak attacks). Losing the extra sneak attack damage removes a huge portion of Assassin's utility and ability to kill an isolated target. Having a rogue sneak attack an unconscious or paralyzed target as a coup de grace is a valid tactical maneuver that will now be extremely lackluster.

Paladin's meanwhile are balanced around their ability to choose when to divine smite, including after a critical hit is rolled. This means they can save their spell slots for the largest impact, unlike most casters. With the ability to crit removed, their damage output will suffer, and the motivation to use spell slots on divine smite will be pretty minimal compared to searing smite which allows continuous saving throw-based damage.

Without crunching the numbers, it is apparent these are classes which were balanced with critical hits in mind, and losing them with strongly hinder them (in some subclasses more than others).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would argue that most casters also save their spell slots for when they're most impactful just with a different metric. I.e. saving my slot for fireball for the goblin swarm rather than throwing at the lone giant. (At least an effective caster) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 16 '18 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron True, I meant specifically being able to cast a spell knowing before you use the slot that will not only hit but that it will crit \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Cinnamon Mar 16 '18 at 14:34

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