4
\$\begingroup\$

This question asks about the maiming weapon enchantment, which was updated in Magic Item Compendium:

Miniatures Handbook:

If the weapon normally has a ×2 critical multiplier, roll 1d4 each time you successfully score a critical hit to determine your multiplier. For weapons with a ×3 multiplier, roll 1d6 to determine the new multiplier. For a ×4 multiplier, roll 1d8.

Magic Item Compendium:

Whenever you score a critical hit with this weapon, it deals an amount of extra damage depending on its critical multiplier. Critical Multiplier Extra Damage:

×2 1d6
×3 2d6
×4 3d6

Was the old version broken? It seems to me that the new version is really bad, and the old version is still very weak.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie FYI we should avoid using mathjax to italicise terms in titles. It doesn't get rendered anywhere else (google, chat oneboxes, social media embeds on twitter or elsewhere, etc) and instead shows up as literal mathjax code. It pretty much exclusively works here and on the question list. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 1 '18 at 11:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Ah, you’re right. Well that answers that experiment. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 1 '18 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't even render properly in the feed section of the app. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Aug 2 '18 at 15:33
8
\$\begingroup\$

As Dan B's answer correctly explains, the Miniatures Handbook version of Maiming certainly isn't unbalanced (or even particularly good) if used as expected. It simply makes your crits (already swingy) even swingier. As has been extensively noted around these parts, randomness is bad for PCs.

There is one case where it can perform a bit better, which is reroll cheese. Using the numbers for a x4 weapon as an example, 1d8 is, on average, only 4.5, barely better than the base critical multiplier you would have had without the Maiming property. However, (2d8-drop-lowest) is 5.81 on average, a substantial improvement. Thus, characters with access to rerolls can get more mileage out of the old Maiming property.

The best-case scenario is probably a melee Cleric wielding a Scythe (x4 crit), and using the Surge of Fortune (Complete Champion) and Alter Fortune (Player's Handbook II) spells. This character can:

  • Pre-buff with Surge of Fortune
  • Expend the buff to treat their first attack roll of the fight as a natural 20
  • Roll 1d8 to determine their critical multiplier
  • Use Alter Fortune to reroll the multiplier if they don't want it
  • Enjoy a very-high-probability big crit at the beginning of every fight

All of that said, this is a significant expenditure of character resources:

  • A weapon property
  • A prebuff round
  • Two spells, one level 5 and one level 3
  • Your swift action in your first round of combat
  • A suboptimally swingy weapon (5E question, but the same logic applies to 3.5)

...all for "get a reliable big crit once per combat," which, at the end of the day, isn't all that impressive as far as "unbalanced stuff 3.5 PCs are capable of."

So, no, the Miniatures Handbook version of Maiming isn't unbalanced. Even in the absolute best-case, cheesed-out scenario, it's at best decent.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer, especially since a character willing to use Surge of Fortune with cheese in mind can do so much more with so much less investment. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Aug 1 '18 at 1:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Combined with Dan B's answer, I believe it's obviously balanced. Even in the GM's hands it just means the players should look to protect against critical hits. Which they should be doing anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Caldrun Aug 4 '18 at 4:27
4
\$\begingroup\$

Naively, this enchantment is a lot worse than some others you could get.

Suppose that your weapon deals 10 damage, it hits on an 11+, and it has an x3 crit. Then your damage output is (0.5*10 normal damage) + (0.05*0.5*20 crit bonus) = 5.5 per attack.

If you got the shock weapon enchantment, it would add (0.5 hit chance * 3.5 lightning damage) = 1.75 damage per attack.

If you got a boring +1 weapon enchantment, your damage output would be (0.55*11 normal damage) + (0.05*0.55*22 critical)=6.655, so 1.155 damage per attack.

If you got the keen weapon enchantment, it would double your threat range, adding 0.5 damage per attack.

If you got the old maiming enchantment, it would on average improve your critical damage by an 0.5 multiplier, so it would add 0.125 damage per attack.

If you got the new maiming enchantment, it would add 1d6 to your critical damage, so (0.05*0.5*3.5)=0.0875 damage per attack.


The people who take this enchantment won't have a threat range of 20, though. They'll have a threat range like 15-20 (because they'll have an 18-20/x2 crit weapon, which they'll modify with Improved Critical). When this weapon attacks, 30% of its attacks will be potential crits and 15% of its attacks will be successful crits, so damage will be (0.5*10 normal) + (0.15*10 bonus) = 6.5 damage per attack.

With a weapon like that, taking the shock enchantment still adds 1.75 damage per attack.

But the old maiming enchantment will change the (0.15*10 bonus) to (0.15*15 bonus) on average, so it adds +0.75 damage per attack.

The new maiming enchantment will add +1d6, 20% of the time, so +0.7 damage per attack.


If we scale up the damage per hit, the old maiming enchantment will scale up with it, while the other enchantments won't. But it would take a great deal of scaling up to make a balance difference.


Here's my conclusion. Even under optimal conditions, the new maiming enchantment is less than half as good as shock. The old maiming enchantment is a little bit better, but still much worse than shock unless the character has put a lot of effort into tuning their build to take advantage of it.

(and of course there's a question here about creatures with lightning resistance...)

I don't think this is unbalanced.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it really matter a critical hit based weapon enchantment to someone that didn't put effort on critical hits? I think it was changed exactly because the results of those that put some effort on it. A 12th level Fighter under optimal conditions could one-shot a 200 hp Purpleworm; I'll not even talk about Frenzied Berserkers and multipliers. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Aug 1 '18 at 0:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that Improved Critical and keen don't stack in D&D 3.5. They did in 3.0. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Aug 1 '18 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @a_soo I'm not familiar with that particular cheese, but I'll happily upvote it if you post it : ) \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Aug 1 '18 at 0:44
2
\$\begingroup\$

The original magic weapon special ability maiming is unbalanced in the DM's hands

The best use of the original maiming magic special ability didn't involve a PC using a maiming weapon but involved the DM fielding monsters equipped with maiming weapons. The Dungeon Master's Guide On the Variant: Instant Kill says

The instant kill variant makes a game more lethal and combat more random. In any contest, an increase in randomness improves the odds for the underdog. Since the PCs win most fights, a rule that makes combat more random hurts the PCs more than it hurts their enemies. (28)

The original version of the weapon special ability maiming (Miniatures Handbook 40) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) is such a rule, rendering as it does combat more random by making a weapon's critical multiplier another variable. While the revised weapon special ability maiming (Magic Item Compendium 38) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) is probably too conservative—a house rule that doubles the printed dice would probably be fine, for instance—, because the new maiming is more predictable, combat's less swingy and more manageable for both the DM and the players.

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

The original maiming weapon property has two major design flaws:

  1. When you roll low, it's actually worse than not having the maiming property. You spent your hard-earned gold upgrading a weapon to have the maiming property, but half the time you get a critical, it's actually weaker or no better than a weapon with no property at all.
  2. When you roll high, the optimal situation is 8x damage. A high level character dealing 2d4+20 with a scythe can gain an additional +88 to +112 damage on a single critical hit. Its only balance is that you rarely actually get to do this.

This is the situation of taking ridiculous drawbacks to acquire unreasonable amounts of power. That's considered poor design, mainly because players can often find ways to minimize the drawbacks and optimize the strengths.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.