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I am a Rogue with a -4 Strength modifier. For those attacks that add strength on damage, this is highly inconvenient. Currently, one of my natural attacks deals 1d2-4 damage. Since Sneak attack is added to this, the 5d6 from that source generally gets it to a useful point.

However, the problem is critical hits. My best case damage for a non-critical hit is (30+2-4=) 28, while my best case damage for a critical hit is (30+2+2-4-4=) 26. The math works similarly for any other roll as well.

This is because Sneak Attack damage is not multiplied on critical hits. However, it is added to the hit damage, therefore the minimum 1 nonlethal damage never kicks in, and the high penalty for strength reduces my damage.

It seems counter-intuitive that a critical hit deals less damage than a non-critical hit. Am I allowed to choose not to multiply my damage?

The critical hit section of the combat page does not note the possibility, but it is possible they did not consider this edge-case.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess that's why D&D 5e only multiplies dice on crit. Interesting case you have here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 23 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I never played 5e, but it could also be resolved with a rule only to multiply positive modifiers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Nov 23 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your natural attack primary or secondary? I haven't found any rules that would prevent secondary attacks halving the Str mod from applying to negative Str mods. That would put your total modifier at 0 which resolves your problem. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 12:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Close to the second. I just want to get all the relevant rules before I ask the GM to make a ruling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Nov 23 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, regardless of the judicial interpretation of the rules as written, if you're playing a game where critical hits do less damage than standard, you have to ask yourself why bother ;-) I thought this question was going to be about realising a crit would do too much damage to the target and pulling your punch! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 16:31

2 Answers 2

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Consult your DM, but by a literal RAW reading, you shouldn't be multiplying the -4 (or any other damage penalties) on a critical hit, ever.

Critical hit rules in 1e Pathfinder read as follows...

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses.

Emphasis mine, when you have a negative Strength score, it provides a penalty to your damage, not a bonus. For your second damage roll, you should only be adding bonuses a second time, and ignoring any penalties, because they are not explicitly multiplied by a critical hit in game terms or in terms of any rational common sense.

Supporting RAW text for rules on bonuses and penalties reads

"Penalties are numerical values that are subtracted from"

and

"Bonuses are numerical values that are added to"

and

"A bonus is a modifier that is +0 or higher; a penalty is one that’s –1 or lower."

We can therefore determine that by RAW, anything that has a "-" in front of it is not a bonus.


To expound on this, in this circumstance the dice would roll and play as...

  • 2d2
  • 5d6
  • Any damage bonus that doesn't specify it doesn't crit, twice.
  • Finally, subtract 4 (you only apply your strength penalty once)

This means a max damage roll without any other damage bonuses would be 4+30=34-4=30, and a minimum damage roll would be 2+5=7-4=3.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow - that interpretation never occurred to me, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was RAI for the author. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben S.
    Nov 24 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ The d20pfsrd glossary seems to define Penalty and Bonus, but they have no connection; I was expecting a sentence saying "Penalties count as bonuses for <some purposes>." Interesting. The section on profane/dodge/etc bonus types does seem to treat them as the same thing, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Nov 24 at 3:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ RAW makes a VERY clear distinction between bonuses, modifiers, and penalties. And -4 is not a bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Nov 24 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth mentioning that "A bonus is a modifier that is +0 or higher; a penalty is one that’s –1 or lower." That's from the PFSRD glossary entry on "modifier;" I don't know where it was first published. It eliminates any confusion between subtracting a number and adding a negative number. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "Critical Hit" rules talk about bonuses, while "multiplying damage" only uses it as an example. Since Specific > General, critical hits only multiply bonuses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Nov 25 at 8:19
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No.

As you note, the rules for critical hits have you roll the dice twice and add your modifiers both times before adding them together.

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together. Unless otherwise specified, the threat range for a critical hit on an attack roll is 20, and the multiplier is ×2.

There are no exceptions listed for this rule, so none are there by default.


It's still possible to fix the situation though.

With the knowledge that you're unable to avoid multiplying the penalty, lets focus on increasing your bonus instead, so that you don't have a net negative. There's several ways to do so:

  1. Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists - This would allow you to use dex for damage on the natural attacks you have not selected with your finesse weapons class feature, presumably making your modifier positive. (If you have both a negative dexterity and strength modifier, you may want to consider making a new character instead ...)

  2. Piranha Strike - The dex counterpart to Power Attack, this can offset the negative modifier from strength. Sadly, since you're using secondary natural attacks, as a level 9 or 10 rogue, you only have the BAB necessary to increase the bonus to +2 or +3 depending on which level you are. Fortunately, your existing +2's can cancel out the remaining penalty from your strength score, mitigating the damage loss.

  3. Increase your strength score, whether by using Reincarnate to cheese racial bonuses to strength, consorting with demons for power, purchasing a Pale Blue Ioun Stone, wearing a Belt of Giant Strength, making a wish, or reading a Manual of Gainful Exercise, you can gain a long-lasting strength bonus to help with you issue. Alternatively, having some way to be buffed with Bull's Strength during combat could work.


Finally, try pleading with your GM.

You could explain to your situation to the GM and ask for the ability to ignore the multiplication of your bonuses to damage on crits. Upon seeing the math and how it affects the fun you have with your character, they might take pity and rule as such. Alternatively, they might say that you dug your own hole and now you need to lie in it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[B]efore adding them together." Really? "A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together." In this case, it would seem that rolling damage once would yield 1 point of nonlethal damage and rolling damage twice would yield 2 points of nonlethal damage. Or am I missing something? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan "If penalties reduce the damage result to less than 1, a hit still deals 1 point of nonlethal damage." As I see it, you roll both your rolls and add them together before determining the damage dealt to the opponent (which is the damage result), you're not dealing 2 instances of damage here. Same reason why DR would only apply once to the attack. Similarly, if OP had the ability to roll positive for their default damage, and rolled 0 and 1 for their damage rolls on a crit, it wouldn't deal 1 non-lethal and 1 damage, it'd just deal 1 damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Nov 23 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ But then you aren't rolling your damage multiple times. Instead, you're rolling your damage all at once. I mean, the damage is still in one big pile at the end—when it applies to DR, for instance—, rather than in one big pile from the start. Just another avenue to consider. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Eh, suffice it to say, I disagree. If there was evidence one way or another of how it should work besides the nebulous rules language (sadly, I don't think there's a combat example that involves this scenario), then I might be swayed. But as it is, I think we just have a different reading of the rules in this case. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Nov 23 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Eh, maybe. I'm half-torn on the matter because while I feel some sympathy towards the OP, they kinda brought it upon themselves from having a 2 or 3 for str. And even outside of the current situation, the only time you'll really see such penalties is on weaker monsters, in which case it might actually be intentional. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Nov 23 at 17:31

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