Does anyone else miss critical misses? I’m not sure if they were ever a real part of the rules or if some sense of fairness and consistency wanted a critical miss to balance out critical hits. I know at somepoint “natural 20” == automatic hit became a real rule, and by the time 3rd edition rolled around there were weapons and feats that expanded the auto-hit range. At or around the same time as 3E the idea of the critical miss was taken out of the official lexicon.
I understand the change. After all it’s easy to apply some sort of mechanic to a critical hit (times 2, max damage, etc), and much harder to mechanic a critical miss. After all you can’t do any less damage than 0. I suppose you could give temporary hit points to the monster; that would be more fun to justify than just “hit points.” When I did play with critical misses, the rules were pretty much arbitrary: a bowstring snaps, a sword drops and goes rolling, the arrow instead hits an adjacent ally. The exact effect never really mattered much when playing as these seemed to happen a lot less often than critical hits; also we could always pull another weapon off the belt or go and pick up a fallen one. Critical misses were more fun as a DM. I once had a big lizard creature break its fangs on a critical miss (it only had natural weapons). Of course that affected all future turns and not just that one, but he was pretty much dead anyway.
I guess there are two things I miss about CMs. (1) combats were a little riskier. Even with permanent (or heavily penalized) death, level drains, and other nasty things to worry about, there was always a turn-by-turn real fear of the die coming up “1”. (2) The random flair. It’s easy to inject color into any RP situation, but when it’s based on the die you can’t predict it, so we had to come up with a significant but not too-significant result on the spot. That led to a lot of creative GMing.
What I don’t miss is the extra penalty. In 4e with all sorts of powers and implements, it’d be pretty tough to come up with a fair and consistent implementation of the critical miss anyway. There’s enough already going against the players… who needs one more?
I suppose a good compromise is that a critical miss bolsters the enemy, giving him a recharge on a spent second wind or a +2 circumstance bonus to attack you next round. Does anyone play 4e with critical misses?