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There are a few different abilities that PCs can get where once they are hit with an attack they can decide to use to potentially turn the hit into a miss. Examples include the spell Shield or a Cavalier fighter's Warding Maneuver feature.

The way our group currently plays all the DM's rolls are hidden from us and they convey whether attacks hits or misses to us. In the case of a hit the player informally has until the DM rolls damage to decide whether to use a feature that might change the outcome.

While the players are aware of when an attack is a hit, are they aware if the attack is a critical hit? If so they would know that using such features would be a waste of resources.

This would also apply to rare features that can force a reroll after an attack roll is already made such as with the Rune Knight's Runic Shield feature. If a player knows that an attack is a critical hit they would be more inclined to use such features.

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Yes, they need to know if an attack is a critical hit

Although there are no rules regarding this as far as I know, as rolling in the open or behind a screen is optional, there are abilities in the game that are reliant on knowing if an attack was a critical hit or not.

As one example, the Grave Domain of the cleric class has the Sentinel at Death's Door feature (XGtE, p. 20):

At 6th level, you gain the ability to impede death’s progress. As a reaction when you or an ally that you can see within 30 feet of you suffers a critical hit, you can turn that attack into a normal hit. Any effects triggered by a critical hit are canceled.

If the player had no way to tell if an attack was a critical hit, this feature would be worthless.

From a DM point of view, I would argue that the players should know when an attack is a crit, for a number of reasons. It builds tension and excitement, and it lets them use the abilities that might save them (the Lucky feat or the Rune Knight fighter's Runic Shield feature (TCoE, p. 45-46)) or not waste the abilities that won't (the shield spell).

Even if rolling in the open, the DM should still state that the hit was critical, as there are monsters and abilities that cause critical hits on values lower than a 20 on the die.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't this also strongly tip the hat on rolls for things like Cutting Words? While I agree this is preferable, i'm not sure this is a must have for some tables. And addressings the potential permutations and issues would move this answer into a more positive territory for me. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe, cutting words needs to be done after the attack roll but before the DM states the success or fail of the roll. And I agree about the optional nature of stating the crits, if no one at the table had an ability that requires knowledge of crits then it isn't required (but can still be fun) \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I still think you need to support this more as there isn't a clear rule here. But this is also why I dislike hidden rolls in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ From a RP perspective, you would think a character notices, for example, if an enemy has stabbed him in the jugular for a critical hit. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4 '20 at 6:17
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I see no harm in telling them, and if you have a monster that can push a critical hit aside with a special feature you need to know as a DM also. I have always told my players when a hit is critical and have never worried if they use a power of theirs to stop the hit. Often everyone; myself included (DM), cheer and are excited that they got to use a rare power to save themselves.

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