I am already aware of this other question "Can a Lore bard's Cutting Words feature cancel a critical hit?" And do not believe it answers my question as this spell specifically mentions the d20.

The Temple of the Gods spell description states:

Whenever it makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw inside the temple, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the d20 roll.

Can this ability change critical hits into normal hits or even misses?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a difference between "the roll" (when the die being rolled is unambiguously a d20) and "the d20 roll"? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson Yes as shown by the fact that Cutting Words cannot turn a crit into a miss Also presumably the Conquest Paladin's Guided Strike and Battle Master Fighter's Precision Strike features do not turn normal hits into crits \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 20:32

4 Answers 4


Temple of the Gods modifies the d20 roll, and modifiers don't cancel critical hits

The steps for making an attack are described as follows (emphasis added):

Whether you're striking with a melee weapon, firing a weapon at range, or making an attack roll as part of a spell, an attack has a simple structure.

  1. Choose a target. Pick a target within your attack's range: a creature, an object, or a location.

  2. Determine modifiers. The DM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.

  3. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

Temple of the Gods says to "subtract the number rolled from the d20 roll"; Bane says to "subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw"; and Cutting Words says "subtracting the number rolled from the creature's roll". Regardless of the minor variations in wording, all of these effects, including Temple of the Gods, are describing penalties or bonuses to the d20 roll, which are covered above in the bold-face text in step 2. Notably, these modifiers are all determined before the d20 roll, which happens in step 3. This means that, somewhat counterintuitively, the technically correct order of operations is to roll the d4 first, incorporate it into the attack modifier, and then roll the d20 and add the modifier you determined in step 2. (Obviously, the order in which the dice are rolled doesn't actually affect the result, and I don't know anyone who rolls this way in practice.)

As the answers to the linked questions have adequately covered, modifiers can't turn a critical hit into a regular hit. The relevant phrase from the rules is (in bold):

If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target's AC. This is called a critical hit, which is explained later in this section.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer also helps for any any feature that only says "the roll", as it would have them also count as modifiers. This fixes many potential issues and even if I don't believe this answer to be RAW it is certainly the best in its application locally and globally \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Back in the day we called this "rolling a natural 20". Which just meant you see 20 on the die. You don't get there with math. Back then there was no critical range. You rolled 20 or you didn't. Simpler times. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2019 at 12:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @candied_orange That's how it works in 5e as well. And everyone I've played with or watched uses that terminology as well, despite it not being in the 5e source books as far as I know. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2019 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson there was some weird edition that gave you crit on 19-20 with some weapons. Was an annoying complication. If it's gone back to only crit on natural 20 I'm glad. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2019 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @candied_orange No, there are a few abilities that extend the "crit range", but for the most part, crit = nat 20. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2019 at 21:17


Typical Wording

Most of the time we see language like bless about "Whenever a target makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the attack roll or saving throw" or like bane with language like "Whenever a target that fails this saving throw makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw."

This Language

This uses different language used in spells like temple of the gods which reads "Whenever it makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw inside the temple, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the d20 roll." This seems to imply we're treating the roll like it was 1d4 less, before modifiers are applied. It is the only time in any spell that says to add or subtract from a d20 instead of saying "the attack roll". Remember that the 5e team works very hard to make language as consistent as possible, and this variation seems important.

Similar language is used in Cutting Words from the College of Lore Bard:

When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll

The history of whether or not Cutting Words can cancel a critical hit is many and varied. And again unsettled as Jeremy Crawford's tweets are no longer official rulings. To summerize:

  • Jeremy ruled Cutting Words could cancel a crit in December if 2015
  • Jeremy ruled Cutting Words couldn't cancel a crit on February 2016
  • Recently, Jeremy's rulings on Twitter ceased being official WotC rulings, making neither of those rulings matter because it didn't make it into the Sage Advice Compendium. So, we're back to square one.

Note the wording is slightly different because it doesn't mention the d20, but that difference is likely only because Cutting Words can work on damage rolls as well as attack rolls, and damage rolls are almost never done with d20s.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Cutting Words doesn't say d20, because the damage can be cut and isn't likely to be a d20. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah that makes sense. It is somewhat notable that other effects which effect only some types of rolls reiterate the entire list. However, many also don't.... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 22:18

5e's published content does have a precedent of not differentiating the 'd20 roll' from attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks.

Thus, my opinion is NO: the feature can't negate a crit.

The question regarding whether the feature negates critical hits or not stems from this dilemma: Is the d4 from the feature what the game classifies is a 'modifier' which adjusts the attack total, or does it adjust the number rolled on the d20 dice to something less than 20, wherein a 20 is needed to crit? The feature itself suggests it affects the number rolled on the d20 itself:

Whenever it makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw inside the temple, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the d20 roll.

Point 1: Now, while I agree that the definitions of "Attack roll/Saving throw/Ability check" should be separated from the definition of the "d20," which is the notion the idea of the feature negating crits thrives on; there is at least one scenario where it seems they are not. Advantage and Disadvantage (PHB 173) reads:

When you have advantage or disadvantage and something in the game, such as the the halfling's lucky trait, lets you reroll or replace the d20, you can reroll only one of the dice.

The bolded part was added by an errata. Without that errata this statement becomes rather simple, anything that lets you reroll the d20, like the halfling's lucky trait, only lets you reroll one of the d20s. Funny thing is, to my knowledge the ONLY thing that lets you reroll the d20 is the halfling's lucky trait. This has left features like the fighter's indomitable and monk's diamond soul feature up to debate, which allow you to reroll a saving throw (and long before the errata was added, sage advice suggested these feats were included as things that allow you to reroll the d20 for the purpose of advantage/disadvantage). I think there was a UA somewhere with a class that specified you could reroll an attack roll, additionally, there are likely things that I'm missing. However, nothing but the halfling's lucky feature allowed you to reroll the d20. Things weren't clarified until the introduction of the errata.

With the introduction of the errata: When you have adv. or disadv. and something in the game... lets you... replace the d20, you can... replace only one of the dice. This is where it gets funny again. There isn't a single thing in 5e that lets you replace a d20. portent allows you to replace an attack roll, saving throw, or ability save, but there isn't anything that allows you to replace a d20. I'm under the assumption that WotC wouldn't errata a rule to 'include something that includes nothing.' And if that assumption is correct then the only thing WotC could have meant by including the errata, is that portent is included in that scenario. This clarified that 5e's published content has not differentiated the definitions of attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks, from the d20 rolled for them. Because of this, saying something is added or subtracted from the d20 roll should be synonymous to adding or subtracting from the attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. This would make the feature d4 a modifier as defined by 5e.

Hence your answer is no, you cannot negate a crit using the feature.

I will share some links in the comments that include how people think portent and indomitable should be rolled.


Every other instance of "d20 roll" in the rules exclusively refers to the die itself, before modifiers. This case would follow that precedent

This answer argues for the rules as strictly written. The answer I believe to be correct both as intended and for its application is Ryan Thompson's answer, which I've accepted.

There are other abilities that use this same wording for example the Conquest Paladin's Invincible Conqueror Feature, which states:

Your melee weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 on the d20.

The Paladin's feature does not suddenly make it so that if your roll after modifiers is 19 or 20 you get a critical hit. It exclusively applies to the d20 itself, before modifiers.

Another feature with the similar wording is the Rogue's Reliable Talent, which states:

Whenever you make an ability check that lets you add your proficiency bonus, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Every instance of the phrase "d20 roll" used throughout the books refers exclusively to the die itself and not the total of the roll after modifiers.
Because temple of the gods uses this same wording it also applies only to the d20, before modifiers:

Whenever it makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw inside the temple, it must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the d20 roll.

If temple of the gods were meant to be applied as a modifier to the d20 roll, they would have used different language, as they do with the Barbarian's Indomitable Might feature:

If your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.

This feature replaces the total of your roll (after modifiers) and not the actual d20 roll.

Another feature that modifies the result/total after modifiers and not the actual d20 roll is the bane spell. The Q/A "Interaction between Bane and critical hits?" states that bane does not modify a critical hit, as its description states:

Whenever a target that fails this saving throw makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw.

The spell specifically says that you subtract the d4 from the attack roll or saving throw, not from the d20 used in making the attack roll or saving throw.

This is supported by the section on "Saving Throws" and the section on "Attack Rolls" which state:

To make a saving throw, roll a d20 and add the appropriate ability modifier.
To make an attack roll, roll a d20 and add the appropriate modifiers.

A saving throw or attack roll is the entire result/total of the d20 and its modifiers while the d20 roll is the result of the die itself.

Features which modify your roll as a modifier do not use the same wording as temple of the gods while features that modify your roll before modifiers do use the same wording as temple of the gods, thus temple of the gods modifies the actual die before modifiers. It specifically subtracts from the d20 roll, not from the result/total of an attack roll or ability check.

But does this negate a critical hit? The section on "Rolling 1 or 20" states:

If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target's AC.

Temple of the gods subtracts from the d20 roll directly, which means that the d20's roll itself is no longer a 20. And if the d20's roll is not a 20 then it does not automatically hit. Thus it is no longer an automatic hit.

The temple of the gods spell turns critical hits into regular hits (or even misses) because it changes the actual d20 roll which the rules exclusively use to refer to the result of the die before modifiers are applies.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I find this answer to be a bit spurious - can you point to anything else in the game that works like this to support this interpretation? Because normally crits apply only to the actual result of rolling the die without modifiers, and this is a modifier. For an absurd example, if a similar ability added a bonus instead would you also say that a 20 is no longer a crit, you have to roll (20-mod) to get a critical hit? This all hinges on some slightly sloppy wording, it would likely have been specifically called out had it intended to work as you describe here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Aug 17, 2019 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe it uses the "d20 roll" wording just not to say "an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw" again. I don't think it is supposed to be able to negate critical hits (just like bane doesn't negate). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuerten
    Aug 17, 2019 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kuerten this is why I quoted other features which do list out the options. Even cutting words does this at the end of its description. There is not instance of d20 roll which does not refer to the actual die. Granted, none of those instances involve subtraction or addition, only rerolls and replacements. That said I agree the intent is not to negate them \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2019 at 23:03

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