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The rule for critical hits states:

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.

For example, if you score a critical hit with a dagger, roll 2d4 for the damage, rather than 1d4, and then add your relevant ability modifier. If the attack involves other damage dice, such as from the rogue’s Sneak Attack feature, you roll those dice twice as well.

So I would expect that, if a character were enlarged via the Enlarge/Reduce spell, they'd roll an extra 2d4 damage on a critical hit. The Reduce part of that spell states:

The target's weapons also shrink to match its new size. While these weapons are reduced, the target's attacks with them deal 1d4 less damage (this can't reduce the damage below 1).

Does that mean, though, that if they scored a critical hit while reduced in size by the same spell, they would roll 2d4 and subtract that value from the damage that is dealt?

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Yes.

As you quoted:

If the attack involves other damage dice, such as from the rogue’s Sneak Attack feature, you roll those dice twice as well.

Here is the definition I found for the term “damage dice” (under “damage rolls” in the PHB).

Each weapon, spell, and harmful monster ability specifies the damage it deals. You roll the damage die or dice, add any modifiers, and apply the damage to your target.

From this, I infer that the term “damage dice” means all dice that are rolled for damage, positive or negative, because “damage dice” is said to mean all the damage the attack deals, not just the positive damage. As a result, the reduction in damage, because it’s a die roll, is rolled twice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you add detail on why you think the damage reduction is damage dice and not modifiers? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is unclear to me that the 1d4 reduction isn't the same kind of mofier as a -2 for having a strength of 6. I kind of see where you answer is coming from, and kind of don't. (Medix2's answer addresses this piece of what the question involves). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 27 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ In your effort to differentiate damage dice from modifiers, i think you could cite magic weapons (like the Giant Slayer) that deals "an extra 2d6 damage of the weapon's type". This is fairly identical to the increase/decrease language and supports that it should be doubled. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 16:56
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According to the lead game designer, subtracting from a roll is a modifier and thus you do not double the roll

The section on Damage Rolls states:

Each weapon, spell, and harmful monster ability specifies the damage it deals. You roll the damage die or dice, add any modifiers, and apply the damage to your target...

This tells us that first you roll the damage dice and then modifiers are applied.

Jeremy Crawford has said the following regarding the Bard's Cutting Words feature:

Cutting Words can't nullify a critical hit—no bonus or penalty can (PH, 194)...
Subtracting from a roll is a modifier—specifically a penalty.

Crawford was talking about how Cutting Words affects attack rolls but the latter sentence of his should apply to damage rolls as well.
Thus we know that enlarge/reduce subtracting 1d4 from the damage counts as a modifier (a penalty) and because modifiers to damage are applied after the damage roll itself, the 1d4 must not be part of the damage roll.

There is also further support for this found in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Q. If a shadow rolls a critical hit, does it reduce the target’s Strength by 2d4, as well dealing the extra necrotic damage?
A. No. A critical hit lets you roll damage dice twice. An effect that deals damage is one that reduces the target’s hit points. The shadow’s Strength reduction isn’t damage, because it has no effect on the target’s hit points.

Similarly, the -1d4 from the enlarge/reduce spell does not reduce the target's hit points and so it is not "an effect that deals damage", and not part of the damage dice.

Therefore the 1d4 reduction is not doubled when you score a critical hit, as critical hits only double the dice used in the damage roll.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you add support from the rules in addition to Crawford's tweet? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm trying to think of other scenarios, but it may help to address whether or not the +1d4 is doubled with a crit. But it seems the key here is in detemrining if that 1d4 change is a modifier or part of the damage dice. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ OP believes that the dice are doubled when positive, though. Explicitly stating they aren't (if that's your belief) resolves that potentially erroneous assumption. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't see this being the same as cutting words though. With cutting words you are trying to change the total of the roll being made after the roll has been made. With enlarge/reduce what has been changed is what you are actually rolling. The sage advice Q&A muddies the water further since the extra 1d4 when enlarged is a damage effect by that definition. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Aug 29 at 6:38
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As you've quoted, the rules on critical hits (PHB, pg. 196) state:

If the attack involves other damage dice, such as rogue's Sneak Attack feature, you roll those dice twice as well.

The damage penalty in the Reduce part of Enlarge/Reduce wouldn't really apply to critical hits, as the 1d4 rolled doesn't deal damage - it reduces it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not really punishing. An attack dealing (1d8 - 1d4 + 2) or (2d8 - 2d4 + 2) on a crit is still more damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Jorn Aug 27 at 9:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you use something like a dagger it could very well cancel out all the damage. 2d4-2d4 \$\endgroup\$ – NeutralVax Aug 27 at 11:56
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No, it doesn't.

The rules on damage rolls state:

Each weapon, spell, and harmful monster ability specifies the damage it deals. You roll the damage die or dice, add any modifiers, and apply the damage to your target.

The 1d4 reduction of damage from the Reduce part of Enlarge/Reduce is not "damage it deals" and, as such, is not doubled on a crit.

If you roll poorly enough overall, it can still reduce that crit to 1 damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're onto something here. But if you say it doesn't damage, what is it? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is a reduction of damage. If a creature has an ability that reduces damage dealt to it, that isn't doubled on a critical hit, even if it is a die-based value rather than a constant value. The 1d4 from Reduce will never 'deal damage', regardless of the value on the die. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Aug 27 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ "reduction" isn't a game term, so I'm not sure you've defined enough why it isn't affected. I think if you can put together a convincing argument that this is a modifier and not damage, you've got something good :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Damage reduction is a game term, or maybe a mechanic, used sparingly such as with Heavy Armor Master. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 27 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Crawford had a tween about the order of operations between damage reduction and resistance, and I am sure we have an answer with that somewhere here. I'll go find a link to see if that help's theo out. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 27 at 13:47
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Having the 1d4 from the reduce effect double on a crit has some unusual consequences and so is likely incorrect

The section on Damage Rolls states:

Each weapon, spell, and harmful monster ability specifies the damage it deals. You roll the damage die or dice, add any modifiers, and apply the damage to your target...

This tells us that modifiers (such as your Dexterity modifier) are added after the damage dice are rolled. We also know that critical hits only roll damage dice twice, so if a critical hit rolled the 1d4 twice then that 1d4 must be part of the damage roll. And therefore must be applied before modifiers.
In other words, because the 1d4 is doubled by a crit it must not be a modifier, so it must be applied before modifiers. This creates some rather unusual scenarios:

The enlarge/reduce spell states:

The target's weapons also shrink to match its new size. While these weapons are reduced, the target's attacks with them deal 1d4 less damage (this can't reduce the damage below 1).

Assume we attack with a dagger (1d4) and have a +2 Dexterity modifier while under the effects of the reduce option (-1d4):

  1. We roll a +1 for damage, and a -1 for the reduce die. This becomes 1 damage (the minimum) and then we add our Dexterity modifier so we deal 3 damage total.

  2. We roll +1 for damage, and a -4 for the reduce die. This becomes 1 damage (the minimum) and then we add our Dexterity modifier so we deal 3 damage total.

This is an exceptionally odd way of dealing damage (especially with the minimum of 1 applying in the middle of the calculation) and so the 1d4 reduction from the enlarge/reduce spell likely should not be applying at this time.
Thus it would be happening at the same time as the modifiers and so it is itself a modifier.

The section on Critical Hits states:

Roll all of the attack's damage dice twice and add them together. Then add any relevant modifiers as normal.

Critical hits do not double damage from modifiers, but only the actual damage dice, and because the 1d4 from the reduce effect is a modifier (as it applies at the same time as other modifiers) it is not doubled by a critical hit

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the requirement that "(this can't reduce the damage below 1)" necessarily apply to the result of the weapon roll and not the final result of the damage total? To use your example, if you rolled 1 for damage from the dagger than -4 for the reduce effect then added the +2 from dexterity modifier you'd end up with -1. You could then apply the clause to get a total of 1 damage. I keep reading the rule of the spell and think it means the weapon damage is now original roll - 1d4. So a maul would do 2d6 - 1d4 damage for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Aug 28 at 7:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills I just feel like if you're having it reduce the weapon's damage roll then when it says "this can't reduce the damage" it must be that same damage that it is referring to. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Aug 28 at 8:11
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Yes, the Negative Dice would be doubled

Simply put, the 5th Edition Critical Hit rules don't make a distinction between positive dice and negative dice when adjudicating dice to roll.

Granted, the scenario where a die is being rolled to reduce damage instead of adding damage is so esoteric that it wouldn't surprise me if the designers simply didn't consider it when writing the critical hit rules, so I'm willing to entertain the possibility that the intent is to not double the negative dice; but the rules as written don't support this interpretation.

The phrasing in Enlarge/Reduce is relatively symmetrical for each option:

While these weapons are enlarged, the target's attacks with them deal 1d4 extra damage.
[...]
While these weapons are reduced, the target's attacks with them deal 1d4 less damage (this can't reduce the damage below 1).

Enlarge/Reduce, Player's Handbook, pg. 237

Concordant with this is the phrasing of the Critical Hit Rules, which simply say "If the attack involves other damage dice, such as from the rogue’s Sneak Attack feature, you roll those dice twice as well." (PHB 196).

If we were meant to only treat positive damage dice as doubled, and not double negative damage dice, the rules would say so here or elsewhere. Otherwise, there would need to be clear evidence that "extra dice" are always doubled, but "less dice" are not—and there's no phrasing here to suggest that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You could also add magic items with additional damage dice as an example supporting this (which use similar wording.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 17:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch If there's any items that subtract a die of damage, they might be a good candidate to cite, but if they only add damage, then I'm not sure it's more beneficial than citing any other of the (literal dozens) of ways to add damage dice to attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Aug 27 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree and couldn't find any that did reduce. But for me it's more that the langauge is nearly identical, so the mechanics would be as well. BUt your answer, your choice :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 27 at 17:22

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