Torn Asunder: Critical Hits
Asunder is an expanded critical hit system for the d20 System
from Bastion Press.
First off, it's not Rolemaster d20 (or more specifically, Arms
Law d20). There really aren't charts, just location tables for
differing body types (which are fairly simple to memorize, at
least for common ones like humanoids).
The system is actually pretty simple, and piggybacks off of the
d20 Critical Hit system. Basically, if on a critical hit, the
attack roll is high enough, in addition to the critical hit
damage, it will also have a "critical effect".
The severity of the critical effect depends on the attack role.
If the attack roll was 5 more than the Armor Class of an opponent
(AC), it's a mild critical effect. If it's 10 more than the AC,
then it's medium. If it's 15 or more than the AC, then it's
Once you know the severity, you roll the location. There's one
main table with every sort of limb and/or appendage possible, but
there are also location tables for specific body types:, ie,
humanoids, abominations, various combinations of legs, wings,
tails. Obviously, the location plays a huge role in the effect.
For instance, most serious critical effects to the head or torso
are more or less killing blows. Though the effect is the same,
just what happens depends on the type of weapon (piercing,
For instance, the serious slashing wound to the torso is that
they've been disemboweled; the bludgeoning version is that their
rib cage has been crushed; the piercing version has their heart
and/or lungs pierced. In any case, the effect is the same - death
in a number of rounds equal to their constitution modifer.
That's the extreme example - most critical effects are far less
deadly. Most mild effects are generally just small skill
penalties (related to the limb or part in question), while most
moderate effects are large penalties (and reduced movement rates,
if applicable). As mentioned, only the severe effects for the
head or torso are imminently fatal.
So how well does the system work? It's certainly quick enough,
though you'll probably have to look up the specific effects. (The
location for humanoids is pretty simple - Leg, Leg, Arm, Arm,
Torso, Tail, Head, Other body part, on a d8. Though in practice
it's much easier to drop the tail and other part, and just use a
d6, which is generally what I've always used in games when I
needed a hit location).
It seems to work best for medium level characters. Because the
severity of the critical is entirely dependant on the attack roll
and the armor class of the opponent, low level characters will
rarely get serious critical effects, and high level characters
will rarely get inflict mild critical effects.
Dornil the Half Ogre Cleric has an attack
bonus of +9 with a great club. He's fighting a 4th Level Kobold
Fighter, with an AC of 18. He rolls a 20 on his first attack (for
a total attack roll of 29), which is a critical threat (a great
club is not a great critical hit weapon, they only threaten on a
20), then makes the second roll for a critical hit.
The Attack roll was 29, to get the severity of the critical
effect, you subtract the AC of the target (18), and get 11, so
the critical effect is moderate.
Now at this point, you can either roll on the master location
table (with a 20), or use the table tailored to the body type a
kobold has (humanoid).
Just for kicks, I'll roll on the Master Table. It uses a d20. The
roll comes up an 18. Hmmm, that's "Wing". As Kobolds
don't have Wings, time for a re-roll. It's a 7. "Tail".
Kobolds don't have tails. So re-roll again. It's a 15 -
"Torso", Kobolds have those.
Looking at the effects for a Moderate Torso critical effect for a
Bludgeoning weapon, I find that the blow has cracked the ribs of
the Kobold. It suffers a -5 penalty to attacks, and the Balance,
Climb, Escape Artist, Jump, Move Silently, Ride, Swim, and Tumble
skill checks. And his movement rate is halfed.
Deciding that he's screwed, the Kobold drops to his knees,
pleading for mercy.
That's a pretty good example of how this system can can add depth
to combat, including role-playing aspects - rather than fighting
to zero hit points, creatures may decide they're too hurt to
fight any more. It also illustrates why it was a great move for
Bastion to include tables tailored for each sort of critter type
- just using the main body table can require re-rolling.
It also illustrates how useful armor is - in this example, the
Kobold had an AC of 18, because he was wearing armor. But he
wasn't wearing armor (kobolds often don't), his normal AC would
have been 14. In that case, the same attack roll (a 29) would
have produced a severe critical effect (29-14 = 15, a severe
critical effect) , which in the case of the torso, would have
crushed the rib cage and killed the Kobold in a number of rounds
equal to the Kobolds Constitution modifier (+2, if you really
Because I have a somewhat weird d20 campaign, I was able to
playtest it with guns. It seems to work pretty well, too, since
bullets cause piercing damage. So this system should work fine in
a d20 Modern or modern campaign. In fact, as mentioned, it makes
combat in games where there is no magic armor a lot more deadly,
as lower armor classes = more serious critical effects. On the
other hand, there's no damage effects for things like lasers or
blasters, so you'll have to come up with the descriptive side of
that on your own if you want to use it for futuristic games.
I'm not sure if I'll be using the rules long term, because as
the section on critical hits in the DMG mentions, the player
characters will be on the receiving end of critical hits more
often than their specific opponents (as PCs last the entire
campaign, and opponents only a fight or two). It might end up
being too much of a hassle, but in the short time I've used the
rule (basically 1 weekend), it hasn't been too hard on the PCs
(of course, I also use "troupe" play, where each player
has more than 1 character, which lets them rest up characters who
are too hurt).
There are also very good rules for called shots. They're
perhaps useful enough that you would want to use a called shot in
a combat from time to time, but not super-powerful that you'd
want to do it all the time. Just for special occasions, or
combats against really tough foes (and they are somewhat risky,
as they provoke an attack of opportunity and require a
concentration check first to perform). There's also a simple
system for critical fumbles (again, it's not as extreme as in
rolemaster where you could accidently kill yourself on a fumble)
The new critical hit system takes up about a third of the
book. The next 25 pages deal with the consequences of the first
section, that is, healing or otherwise coping with damage caused
by the system.
It starts off with a new take on the Heal skill, which is quite
well done, the follows it up with lots and lots and lots of
healing herbs (some taken from other books, including Atlas
Games' Occult Lore). There are rules for scarring, rules for
prosthetics (you can emulate the villain of "Enter the
Dragon"), rules for cod-pieces. Even rules for acupuncture!
Pretty comprehensive, but not excruciatingly detailed.
One minor quibble - it gives charisma penalties for scars - I'm
not sure that's always true - small ones tend to add character.
(In the words of famed animated daredevil Lance Murdock,
"Chicks dig scars")
Have you ever wanted to play the Villain from Enter the Dragon?
(The Bruce Lee movie?) The guy with who is missing a hand, but
has a variety of attachments? Well, there's quite a selection of
prosthetics here, including things like that.
There's some new classes related to healing and critical hits.
Most interesting (for me) is the Apothecary core class. It's
basically an improved expert (so it might be suitable for PCs,
maybe not an obvious choice, but I know of at least two series of
historical novels that feature an apothecary as protagonist), but
only gets 5 skill points per level (as opposed to an expert's
usual 6), though that might be a typo (or changed in 3.5), and
lots of special abilities. It's the best version of a non-spell
casting healer I've seen (and er, I've actually seen a lot).
The last third of so of the book is filled with misc. stuff,
somewhat related to the subject. Some of it is necessary, like
new spells designed to cure critical effects. Some of it just
seems a bit like filler, like most of the new weapons (some of
the new armor is useful to offset particular critical hits or
called shots, like the armored codpiece. Very useful for
protecting your cod.).
I probably wouldn't allow most of the new weapons. One of the
things you have to ask when creating new weapons (or armor), is
"Is this so good that no one would ever want to use anything
else?". Unfortunately, that applies to most of the new
weapons, many of which are just like the ones in the PHB, only
more damaging ("Weighted Greatsword", "Triple
Threat Crossbow") and one of the new armors
One of the new monsters is pretty interesting - the "Dung
Golem". Kind of like a politician, it's a golem that is full
of dung, or more specifically, bat guano. It's mostly used by
underground and cave dwelling magic using races.
The rest are less interesting. There are a couple new races, one
a type of reptiles (Bastion seems to love reptile races), and one
a type of Hedgehog or porcupine. Perfect if you're a Sega fan, I
guess. Nothing bad, but nothing as notable as the Dung Golem.
Physically, it's a very solid book. While it's 96 pages, it seems
almost bigger, because they used a thick type of paper. Cats also
apparently find it comfortable to sleep on (though this is the
case for most RPG books, for some reason).
I thought the book looked a bit cluttered at times, the top and
bottom margin art and the outer margin art sort of blend
together. The margin art also features spirals, or circles, which
can be somewhat disorientating. But the layout itself is pretty
good. There's also no wasted space, and very little white space
in the book, period. So it's a good value, in terms of the amount
of content you're getting.
The artwork is generally good, with a few excellent pieces. For
instance, early on in the book, there is a great full page
picture of a Kyton (one of those Hellraiser-esque
chain fiends) having it's arm being chopped off. Really nice
piece, if a bit gorey. (The outer margin art is also a bit icky)
Other than the overpowered nature of some of the new equipment,
and the averageness of most of the new critters, this is a great
book. It offers a quick, easy, system to add detail to injuries
in combat, but without going to extremes that would make it
unplayable or unwieldy. A-