Severity check= amout first roll exceeded ac+/-size(2 for 1, 4 for 2)+ crit multiplier (x3+4,x4+8)


These are the basic tenets to the Laying Waste system. The changes are significant but easy to learn and memorize. Each of these basic tenets will be explained in greater detail below.

  • Critical threats now do maximum base damage, and are called critical hits, regardless of whether or not you “confirmed.”
  • Critical confirmation rolls have been removed, replaced by a severity check to add effects to your critical hits. Combatants must achieve at least a DC 20 on a severity check in order to gain a critical effect.
  • Criticals can give the target light, moderate or severe wound effects, or even extra bonus damage, based primarily on the skill of the attacker (and other factors).
  • Targets gain a save against debilitating effects, though if they do save successfully they trade the hindering effect for extra damage instead. You now cannot lose life or limb without failing a save.


When a critical threat is now rolled, the damage is maximized, and it is called a critical hit. The critical hit severity is then resolved to determine whether or not the critical hit has a critical effect.


This is accomplished by rolling a d20 and adding the weapons critical modifier and the excess amount that the attack beat your target’s armor class, adding any additional modifiers and comparing that number to the severity DC’s (DC 20, 30 and 40 respectively).


“Bjorn the Strong” is a 5th level Fighter. He has a 16 Str score and a 5 BAB. He also has a +1 longsword and the weapon focus feat. His total attack roll is a +10, doing 1d84 damage and he has a threat range of 19-20.

When he rolls a 19 or 20, he automatically deals 12 points of damage and he may then roll a severity check to see if his critical hit has a critical effect, or just max damage.

Let’s say that Bjorn rolls a natural 19 (modified 29) on his attack. First of all, his critical hit automatically does 12 points of damage. If his target’s AC was 16, he gains a 13 bonus to his severity check (13 for exceeding his opponent’s AC).

Bjorn then rolls his severity check on a d20, gaining a natural roll of 10 modified to 23 with his bonuses. Hitting DC 20 means that he has struck a light critical, and he then rolls for a light critical appropriate to the type of weapon he is using (slashing, piercing or bludgeoning).

Had he rolled at least a natural 17 or better on his severity check, he would have gotten 30+, allowing him to have dealt a moderate critical instead. Note that a light critical done to a weaker opponent can still be deadly.

Any wound done to an opponent can hinder them and weaken them, making them easier to defeat. Higher level and more skilled opponents have the capacity to deal truly deadly critical hits.

Roll Critical Hit Type
DC <20 Minor Critical: Max damage, No Additional Effect
DC 20 Light Critical: Max Damage, Light Wound Effect
DC 30 Moderate Critical: Max Damage, Moderate Wound Effect
DC 40 Severe Critical: Max Damage, Severe Wound Effect

In essence, threats are now no longer anticlimactic if they do not confirm, and the sometimes massive amounts of damage done on critical hits is replaced with realistic debuffs that hinder or possibly even kill opponents.


It is possible that you have feats that defend against critical hits, such as Cloven Helm. Anytime you gain bonus AC versus critical hit confirmations, subtract that amount from any severity checks made against you.



Modifiers to severity now include skill, something completely missing from most critical hit systems. With Laying Waste, the skill of the attacker, the viciousness of the weapon, the size of the opponent — and possibly luck, all have a factor.


x2: +0 bonus
x3: +4 bonus
x4: +8 bonus

Weapons that do devastating amounts of damage on a critical hit (such as a scythe) are more likely to do more severe critical hits in this system, though they still have a smaller threat range and deal critical hits less often.


Add the amount the attack roll exceeds the target’s armor class to the severity check.

Skill is a major factor in determining the severity of a critical hit. A 20th level Fighter/Sword Savant has a much greater chance of dealing severe criticals than 5th level Fighter. Along the same lines, a frost giant has much more wicked critical hits than a typical orc Warrior.


The difference in size between opponents also has a factor in the severity of critical hits. Add a bonus when you are a size category larger than your target, and subtract a penalty when your target is larger than you.


One Size Category: +2
Two Size Categories: +4
Light DC 20
Moderate DC 25
Severe DC 30

Should you succeed in your saving throw to avoid the additional effect, you will sometimes instead take bonus damage. This could mean that it would be possible for you to take bonus damage multiple times for the same critical hit.


If a critical effect has the term bonus damage, it means to add a number of bonus damage dice to the critical damage, based on the critical modifier of the weapon. Do not simply double the maximized damage as before. Also, there is no save against bonus damage.

The saving throws do not change the fact that a player is afflicted by a critical hit. The saves merely allow the player to avoid the hindering effects, in essence trading them for additional damage.


x2 2d6
x3 3d6
x4 4d6

Bonus damage is unilateral. It doesn’t matter if your weapon is giant sized or tiny, bonus damage is calculated the same regardless of size.


“Bjorn the Unlucky” is struck by a moderate critical by a longsword, and faces the possibility of losing his sword hand at the wrist. He successfully makes his Fortitude save, and instead of taking the hindering effect, he instead takes bonus damage (2d6) in addition to maximum damage from the critical hit.


No Additional Effect

If you are unable to achieve at least a DC 20 on the severity check, the critical hit deals maximum damage, but has no additional effect.


“Bjorn the Unlucky” and nearly “Bjorn One-Handed” returns blows with his axe. He rolls a natural 20 on the attack! He automatically deals max damage, and now must make a severity check. He rolls a natural 11 and then adds +4 for his axe’s critical modifier and an additional +4 for the amount he beat his opponent’s AC for a total of 19. Because he did not get at least a 20, he does not deal a critical effect, only max damage.


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