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It has been confirmed by Jeremy Crawford that Cutting Words can cancel out an enemy's critical. As Dale M explained in his answer to the issue, Cutting Words does not apply a modifier to the roll. Instead, it changes the base roll itself. He lists the full quote, but let me just emphasise the particular wording:

...substracting the number rolled from the creature's roll.

Now, Barding Inspiration has this rule (PHB page 33, emphasis mine):

...you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6. [...] the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes.

The two rules are very much alike, with the only difference being that one buffs up your rolls while the other one weakens the rolls of your enemies. Therefore, if one can cancel a critical, can't the other give you one?

If I roll an 18 and get a 2 or more on my Bardic Inspiration die, do I get a critical hit?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This would also apply to Precision Attacks, by the wording. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Dec 11 '15 at 4:33
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No

Cutting Words states, "...subtract the number rolled from the creature's roll.", so the number is being applied to actually change what you rolled on the d20.

Bardic Inspiration states, "add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw", so the number is just another bonus on the attack roll.

The difference in phrasing is very small but important here. Terms like, "attack roll", "saving throw", "ability check", are common phrases in 5e used throughout the book. PHB, p.195, explains that you make an attack roll by rolling a d20 and adding appropriate modifiers. If it weren't for the Jeremy Crawford tweet it would be sensible to assume that the, "roll", in Cutting Words refers to the, "attack roll", but that tweet exists so instead it refers to the actual roll of the d20. Bardic Inspiration specifically says, "attack roll", so we can be relatively certain that it is just another modifier added to the roll.

The spell Bless uses the same phrasing as Bardic Inspiration, "...and add the number rolled to the attack roll or saving throw", and there is no reason to believe that it grants (or bizarrely prevents) critical hits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I see the difference in phrasing. Both are "add/substract the number rolled to/from the roll". If the difference you're talking about is the "attack roll" part, keep in mind Cutting words starts that sentence with "When a creature [...] makes an attack roll,", referring to the attack roll (or other kinds of rolls mentioned) as "the creature's roll". That, at least, is how I'm reading it. I'm not a native English speaker, though, so I might be wrong. Could you elaborate on your point? \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Dec 11 '15 at 7:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaFluid It's pretty subtle. I've edited my answer to hopefully clarifying things. Mostly it comes down to, "attack roll", being a common term in 5e with rules for how to handle them laid out. \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Dec 11 '15 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see your point now, thanks. I had presumed my reading of the rule to be correct, and was surprised at the effect that JC's tweet had in extension to the rule. I did not consider JC's tweet to effectively mean that my way of reading the rule is not the correct one. This changes things :) \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Dec 11 '15 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fun fact: what you said would be "sensible to assume" was actually the main argument of my answer to the related question. Considering it garnered 17 upvotes before Derek found that tweet (at which point I deleted my answer), most people probably assumed the same thing. Hopefully your clarification puts that issue to rest :) \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Dec 11 '15 at 8:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaFluid I still think your reading of Bardic Inspiration makes more sense. The JC interpretation with, "roll", meaning the actual d20 roll is quiet a strange way of reading the rules. I'm curious what other shenanigans you could get up to by applying it universally. Alas, our gods are still with us. \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Dec 11 '15 at 8:35
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Option 1 - Yes

If I roll an 18 and get a 2 or more on my Bardic Inspiration die, do I get a critical hit?

No. If you roll 2 you get a critical hit: your roll is 20. If you roll 1, 3, 4, 5 or 6 you don't: your roll is 19, 21, 22, 23 or 24 respectively and critical hits only happen on a 20 (barring Superior Critical in which case the 19 is one too).

If the d20 roll for an attack is a 20, the attack hits regardless of any modifiers or the target’s AC. In addition, the attack is a critical hit, as explained later in this chapter.

Note that this does change your chance of a critical, if you roll lower than 20 but within range, the Bardic Inspiration can get you there. An interesting effect, however, is that as the Bardic Inspiration die increases in size your chance of getting a critical decrease with this method.

If it helps, for both Cutting Words and Bardic Inspiration, think of the roll as the two dice together. Just like rolling 2d8 or 3d6 is a single roll.

Option 2 - No

Upon further consideration I am not at all happy with option 1.

Going back to the really, really fundamental rules about the d20 onp.7 of the PHB:

2. Apply circumstantial bonuses and penalties. A class feature, a spell, a particular circumstance, or some other effect might give a bonus or penalty to the check.

Well, Bardic Inspiration is a class feature; its effect is therefore a circumstantial bonus, therefore it simply adds to the original roll without actually changing it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So if you roll a 18 and expend an inspiration die, you have 1/6 chance of seeing your roll turned into a critical hit, right? Once your BI die becomes a d8, that probability becomes 1/8 (12,5%) and later, with the d10, 10%... If we accept your reading, we accept the fact that bards get a weaker class feature (in terms of critical hit chances anyway) each time they upgrade their BI die. \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Dec 11 '15 at 4:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 If you roll both dice at the same time, yes. But since the use of the inspiration die is chosen after the result of the attack die is known, the BI has to be added afterwards, thus changing the odds of a crit. See : anydice.com/program/733f \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Dec 11 '15 at 4:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ With baited breath... \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Dec 11 '15 at 8:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The further case for this (is this question an included case or not?) is how a Champion Fighter might get 18, 19, or 20 roll thanks to a Bardic Inspiration. He'd get more critical hits when his Bard is around and able to use his Bardic Inspiration. At higher levels (15+), if he rolls a 14, the Bardic inspiration can get him to 18, 19, or 20 (Superior Critical) or a 19 or 20 (Improved Critical at level 3). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 11 '15 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 you use your breath for fishing? Or did you mean bated breath? 😀 \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Dec 11 '15 at 20:37

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