In the recently released (November 21, 2016) Unearthed Arana article, Cleric: Divine Domains, the Grave Domain ability Sentinel at Death’s Door has the following effect:

Any effects triggered by a critical hit are canceled.

My question is, are all effects that are triggered on a 20 of an attack roll considered critical effects? Or only effects that are called out as when a critical is made?

Consider the Sword of Sharpness (DMG, p.206):

When you attack a creature with this weapon and roll a 20 on the attack roll, that target takes an extra 14 slashing damage.


2 Answers 2


No, a 'Critical' effect is not the same as a Natural 20

This is backed up by This Answer which helps differentiate between rolling a 20 on a d20 and landing a Critical.

Take the Sword of Sharpness or Vorpal weapons, for instance. For these magical weapons to activate you must roll a 20 on a d20 , which is not the same as landing a critical hit. This is farther proven when you include the Fighter's Improved Critical ability which allows them to land a Critical on a roll of 18, 19, or 20. In this case if a fighter landed a Critical with a roll of 18 with a Sword of Sharpness, all of the rules for a critical hit would apply; only the extra slashing damage would NOT apply as the fighter did not, in fact, roll a 20; he only rolled an 18.

Sentinel at Death's Door would only save you from effects that happen as a result of a critical hit; such as the Brutal Critical Barbarian feature or the extra dice included normally in a critical hit; not effects the require a natural 20. The wording here matters for certain features, abilities, and magical effects.

Keep in mind that attack rolls (spell or weapon attacks) automatically crit on a roll of 20; but dispite the connection this is NOT the same as a feature, ability, or magical effect that requires a flat 20 to be rolled as proven above when criticals are possible without rolling a 20.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Crawford doesn't seem to be saying this. He's stating that it WON'T activate on a 19 by a fighter with an improved crit and requires a natural 20 only. However, a natural 20 IS a crit. Crawford's tweet isn't saying that the Vorpal Sword doesn't require a crit, he's just saying that if you can crit on a 19, it doesn't activate. Only a 20...which according to the rules is a Critical Hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome Your wording is fine. I think NautArch's confusion was based on making the error “natural 20 ↔︎ critical”, when it's actually only “natural 20 → critical” (and the opposite, “critical → natural 20”, is false). \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25, 2016 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the wording is fine, my brain today isn't :) It seems odd by Wizards, but the logic seems to be "When is an effect on a 20 not a critical effect? When the language of the effect doesn't use critical, even though we've already stated a 20 is a critical." Basically, every critical effect is caused by a critical. But not every effect from a 20 is a critical effect even though a 20 is a critical. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch right....what you said. >.> \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is why @SevenSidedDie is a mod: the ability to find conditional and biconditional characters when typing comments! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 26, 2016 at 1:15

No -- they'd have used "critical hit" if they meant it

My argument is that "no, a natural 20 triggered effect is different from a critical hit triggered effect" -- this is because something could be immune to critical hits. Historically, this has been true of undead, elementals, and constructs; while the stock 5e Monster Manual does not use this option, the wording you see here appears to be designed to leave that possibility open for the future: the special ability of the weapon would still trigger in that case, but the critical hit does not.

Furthermore, Champions have an expanded crit range with the Improved Critical class feature, which means that effects that trigger on a 20 stay at a flat 5% instead of improving to a 10% chance in a Champion's hands. They also don't activate when hitting a paralyzed or unconscious opponent, which otherwise automatically grants the critical hit if in close combat.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be more to keep the chances of the effect going off at a flat 5%, since Champion fighters have an expanded crit range. It also keeps these effects from activating by hittinging prone or paralyzed opponents. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @shalvenay, Your second paragraph seems to contradict your first and also contradicts the section of the PHB quoted by Percival. A 20 rolled on a d20 is a critical hit. There is no difference between a Natural 20 and a critical hit, they are one and the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch A Natural 20 is a critical hit. Requiring a natural 20 is not the same as requiring a critical hit. For example some weapons/feats/whatever extend the critical threat roll but this would still require a nat 20. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim B
    Nov 25, 2016 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you automatically crit prone targets in close combat? I don't think that's right? (Or if it is, that sounds ripe for abuse) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Nov 26, 2016 at 9:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik The 'Prone' condition does not , in fact, grant an automatic crit...but it DOES give any attack made within 5ft of it Advantage. Paralysis and Unconciousness (and sleep which renders you unconcious) are the only condition afflictions that grant attackers auto crits if the hit succeeds. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Nov 26, 2016 at 15:42

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