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Ok this is a combat storytelling question:

Say a monster has an AC of 15. Player character rolls to hit it with a melee attack.

1d20 + X... player gets a 14.

When I tell the player what happened, do I say the monster got hit but it didn't do any damage because it bounced off his armor (because maybe this monster wears armor)? Like do any of you guys use a general rule to judge what happens on hits and misses? Like an arrow to a dragon on a critical hit might hit the eye or something. Criticals are easier this way but I'd love to see some notion of what happens depending on how much they missed or hit by. Like maybe if the player misses by 5 or more, this means he completely missed etc...

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Oblivious Sage, Miniman, SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '15 at 3:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please note that "hit" mechanically does not mean the attack struck home in the narrative. See here on how hitpoints are handled in D&D. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Sep 18 '15 at 8:16
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You definitely want to wing this using story element cues rather than having to look up how much armour vs dexterity contributed to the roll failure. This is especially important as you want your descriptions to validate your players tactical choices and even set up foreshadowing for what they may do next round.

E.g. "The table you position between you and the goblin stops him reaching you easily, he looks around for a better target" or "The combination of your armour and shield mean that the zombie flails ineffectually at you, mindlessly attacking regardless."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Some indication that the PC was close to scoring a hit can be helpful. Like your example it could be 'they parry your attack but only barely', 'your blade fails to connect but skewers their waterskin/hair/shirt' \$\endgroup\$ – Kazagha Sep 18 '15 at 3:07
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This all depends on your style of play. If you want to indicate that it was the armor which caused the mighty blow to miss, then that is a great way to describe it. But if you wish to keep the players in suspense then simply saying they missed is a better method. How much information do you want to give them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think of this as a teaching thing, especially if the group is new to RPG or to D&D. I feel that describing more and having some kind of number standard, will help them imagine what is happening in the scenes, as they get more used to the game. Maybe someone already thought this up and made some kind of homebrew table for it? \$\endgroup\$ – Ulrich Sep 18 '15 at 2:10

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