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If a target survives beheading/it does not occur, vorpal sword deals additional damage instead.

Such a creature instead takes an extra 6d8 slashing damage from the hit.

On a crit, we are to double the damage dice.

Because the beheading only occurs on nat20, and it also triggers a crit, does this mean that vorpal sword deals additional 12d8 slashing damage in total? (if the crit is not prevented)

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12
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Double those dice on a critical!

The Vorpal Sword states:

A creature is immune to this effect[immediate beheading] if it is immune to slashing damage, doesn't have or need a head, has legendary actions, or the GM decides that the creature is too big for its head to be cut off with this weapon. Such a creature instead takes an extra 6d8 slashing damage from the hit.

The order of events is:

  1. Player rolls a natural 20
  2. Vorpal Sword property activates
  3. If beheading is not possible, sword delivers 6d8 damage
  4. A 20 is also a critical, which would then activate the double dice

The extra 6d8 is the damage dealt upon rolling the Natural 20 if , and damage dice are doubled on a critical hit.

Crawford agrees via Twitter:

Querent: Vorpal Sword: Alternative 6d8 damage if you cannot decapitate. Does the 6d8 get doubled?

Jeremy Crawford: Roll those dice twice!

Another view

It is a bit weird that the activation for damage is the same as that for Critical Hits. Why not just have the damage be 12d8 to account for critical hits (and say that it isn't doubled.)

On one side, I think it's reasonable to say that damage is dealt outside of the critical hit - but on the other, non-immune to beheading creatures are killed outright and 6d8 is unlikely to kill something outright at the level at which a character has a this Legendary Magic Item.

12d8 damage actually seems more reasonable to deliver if it's not auto-killing. It's just weird to have the damage occur with the same roll as a critical and then immediately doubling the dice.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is one of those times where I disagree with JC... it is what it is though, that is the official ruling but the wording leaves a bit to be desired imho. I do realize I am in the minority with that opinion, but my ruling is not to double it. Of course, I have never given a Vorpal Blade out to a player in 30+ years either so I suppose it is moot :) \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Nov 5 '18 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting someone's question about zombies in adamantium armor. doesn't need a head and armor negates critical. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Nov 5 '18 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 whether or not a zombie needs a head is it's own question. Not gonna attempt to get into that here. But that's a good point about maybe why they set it up like this (although I kinda doubt they considered NPC monsters wearing Adamantine armor.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 5 '18 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That is nearly exactly what I had issue with it and your point is valid on all counts. Although it is unlikely I will ever give out a VB, I may have to revisit my opinion of it. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Nov 5 '18 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that there is at least one situation where the damage being doubled on a crit or not matters - if the target has adamantine armor or some other crit-canceling feature and meets one of the specified conditions besides immunity to slashing damage ("doesn't have or need a head, has legendary actions, or the GM decides that the creature is too big for its head to be cut off with this weapon"). So I think Crawford's ruling makes sense, though perhaps the wording of the feature could be clearer to reflect the intent. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 6 '18 at 0:33

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