Critical Hits and Critical Failures

Friday, March 30, 2018

In the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, when you roll your d20, there's more than just success and failure on the line. You can also critically succeed or critically fail at a variety of checks, from attack rolls, to saving throws, to skill checks and beyond. Rules like these have always been a part of Pathfinder—for example, if you fail a Climb check by 5 or more you fall, and if you fail a Disable Device check by 5 or more you set off the trap—but they are uncommon and not universally applied. In the playtest, we have a unified mechanic.

The Four Degrees of Success

In Pathfinder Second Edition, every check is rolled against a particular DC. Your roll on the d20 + your proficiency modifier + your ability modifier + all your relevant modifiers, bonuses, and penalties make up your check result. If your check result meets or exceeds the target DC, congratulations! You succeeded, and you might have critically succeeded. Otherwise, you failed. If you exceeded the target DC by 10 or more, or if you rolled a natural 20 and met or exceeded the target DC, then you critically succeeded. If your result was 10 or more lower than the target DC, or if you rolled a natural 1 and didn't meet the target DC, then you critically failed. Collectively, success, critical success, failure, and critical failure are called the four degrees of success. You can gain special abilities that increase or decrease your degree of success, often due to having a high proficiency rank. For instance, if your class grants you evasion, you get master proficiency in Reflex saves and treat any success on a Reflex save as a critical success!

Examples

Let's start with a fireball spell. In Pathfinder First Edition, if you succeed the Reflex save, you take only half damage, and evasion allows you to take no damage on a successful save. In Pathfinder Second Edition, here are the degrees of success for fireball (and many of its old friends like lightning bolt and cone of cold) in the playtest.

    Success Half damage
  • Critical Success No damage
  • Failure Full damage
  • Critical Failure Double damage

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Any character who critically succeeds takes no damage, and characters with evasion count their successes as critical successes. What about someone legendary at Reflex saves with improved evasion? They count critical failures as failures and thus can never suffer the deadliest effects of a Reflex save, even on a natural 1!

Not all effects list all four degrees of success. If an effect doesn't list a critical success entry, that means there is normally no special effect for critically succeeding, so you just use the result for a success. Similarly, if an effect doesn't list a critical failure entry, there is normally no special effect for critically failing, so you just use the result for a failure. If a success entry is missing, that means nothing happens on a success, and if a failure entry is missing, that means nothing happens on a failure. Let's take a look at an example that combines two of these rules: the results of a basic attack called a strike.

Success You deal damage, which equals the weapon's or unarmed attack's damage dice plus your Strength modifier if it's a melee attack, plus any bonuses.

Critical Success You deal double damage—you roll twice as many damage dice and add double the ability modifier and double any other bonuses to damage.

Let's unpack what this means. You deal damage on a success and double damage on a critical success. Since there is no failure entry, that means normally nothing happens on a failure, and since there is no critical failure entry, that means a critical failure has the same effect as a failure, so nothing happens. But the fighter might have something to say about that! The fighter can use the special certain strike action, which lets him strike with the following failure effect.

Failure Your attack deals the minimum damage. (Treat this as though you had rolled a 1 on every die.)

So with certain strike, a failed attack roll isn't actually a miss—your fighter is so skilled that you still get a glancing blow on a failure and miss entirely only on a critical failure! Meanwhile, a fighter with the twin riposte reaction can use one weapon to parry and attack with the other weapon whenever an enemy critical fails an attack roll.

Save or Lose

One of the effects of the four degrees of success that adds the most fun to the game is what this means for save or lose effects—effects where if you fail your save, you're unable to continue the fight. These sorts of effects are tricky in almost every roleplaying game, and Pathfinder is no exception. In Pathfinder First Edition, even if your character has a 75% chance of succeeding at your Will save against a mummy's paralysis, chances are pretty high that four mummies are going to paralyze you. (Thanks a lot for that encounter in your Pathfinder Society Scenario, Jason!)

It's tempting to just decide the solution is not to have save or lose effects, but that really cuts off a wide variety of classic feats, monster abilities, and spells from the game. The flip side of those abilities is that if they don't just win, chances are that many of these effects are just wasting a turn. So you either cast the save or lose spell and win, or you cast it and waste the turn. Having those as the only two outcomes is not a great proposition, and of course, players and GMs often maximize their DCs and saving throw bonuses in order to tilt the outcome to their side as much as possible.

But with four degrees of success, suddenly the design space broadens significantly. You can still suffer an effect that takes you out of the action entirely on a critical failure, and you can completely ignore the effect on a critical success. But on a failure, you suffer a powerful effect but not one that takes you entirely out of the fight in one go, and even on a success, you suffer a milder effect that is still useful for the spell's caster. For example, if you critically fail your save against dominate, you are completely under the spellcaster's control, but if you only fail, you can try to break out of the effect each round. On a successful save, you aren't controlled, but you still lose an action on your next turn as you struggle to fight off the mental commands, which could be a serious problem—you might not be able to step away before casting a spell, or have time to raise a shield.

Some Mysterious Critical Effects

I'm closing out with some cool critical effects that result from critical successes on your attack rolls or skill checks or from critical failures on your enemy's saving throws. See if you can figure out where they come from!

  • The creature is banished and can't return to your home plane by any means for 1 week.
  • The creature takes the full collapse damage and falls into a fissure.
  • The target believes the fact for an unlimited duration.
  • The target's intellect is permanently reduced below that of an animal, and it treats its Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom modifiers as –5. It loses all class abilities that require mental faculties, including all spellcasting. If the target is a PC, she becomes an NPC under the GM's control.
  • The creature is pushed 30 feet in the direction of the wind, is knocked prone, and takes 2d6 bludgeoning damage.
  • You grant a +4 circumstance bonus.
  • Per a failure, except the target believes that everyone it sees is a mortal enemy. It uses its reactions and free actions against these enemies regardless of whether they were previously its allies, as determined by the GM. It otherwise acts as rationally as normal and will likely prefer to attack enemies that are actively attacking or hindering it.
  • The target must succeed at a Fortitude save or die. Even on a successful save, the target is frightened 2 and must flee for 1 round.
  • Your target regains Hit Points equal to 2d10 + your Wisdom modifier.
  • Per a success, but even afterward, the target is too scared of you to retaliate against you.

Mark Seifter
Designer

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Mark Seifter wrote:
NielsenE wrote:
For those complaining about the success (save) branch of dominate, isn't that actually a buff to the spell compared to the current system? in P1E if they saved nothing happens, now they still lose an action. You always used the spell hoping/trying to get them to fail; so if they passed it was wasted... Now at least its saying that since its such a powerful spell, even on a successful save it still does _something_.
Indeed! There's also a spell one level higher than dominate that actually confuses for 1 round even on a success! However, in the best case for the dominator where you have someone like Jason's wizard who can devastate the rest of the party, dominate's failure effects could be more dangerous. Ultimately, though, a spell like dominate is going to be your highest level spell at one point, and it'll be only in the middle of the pack later on. Since spell DCs do not decrease for your lower level spells, you're not going to want the spell that someone can cast 20 times in a row to stunlock even on a success, for instance, or else you can win any encounter with N opponents by having N wizards (with DCs high enough to make critical success unlikely) stunlock the enemies while the remaining party members kill the foes who are unable to act.

Now spells are no longer Save-or-Lose, they're Save-or-Lose (But even if you do Save, you still Lose)?

That's just bloody awful. You took the one drawback of the strongest options for the strongest classes in the game and removed it.

Casters now win by simply having their turn come up in the Initiative order.

Liberty's Edge

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Ninja in the Rye wrote:

Now spells are no longer Save-or-Lose, they're Save-or-Lose (But even if you do Save, you still Lose)?

That's just bloody awful. You took the one drawback of the strongest options for the strongest classes in the game and removed it.

Casters now win by simply having their turn come up in the Initiative order.

I'm...not even sure how you can reach that conclusion from the listed data. I'm legitimately befuddled.

Dominate Person is debatably much weaker, and certainly a little weaker, in this variation. You need to fail the save by 10 to get the result failing it gave you before. That's a pretty low probability event. Any time you'd have failed by less than 10 you're much better off in this version. You're a little worse off if you succeed...but not ridiculously so, and only for one round.

That's...not a stronger spell, it's a weaker one that doesn't feel wasted if the foe saves.


Rysky wrote:
BryonD wrote:

The fact remains that I want the option to recreate Medusa.

The fact remains that "As presented here" it can't truly without house rules.

Uh, it hasn’t been presented here, this is not a blog about monster creation.

Using the monster creation rules to recreate the mythical Medusa that can easily TPK groups will not be “house rules”.

"Here" meant including the conversation within the thread.

Your second sentence is pointless.
Changing the official medusa to a narratively correct representation of mythological Medusa would indeed be a house rule. I suppose creating a TPK machine with the monster creation rules will be viable, but I've been using Medusa on occasion in 3X for (not quite) two decades. I've turned a few PCs to stone, but not one Medusa TPK. So the presumption implicit in your statement fails to bring value.


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I'm liking this change. I'm running a campaign (Rappan Athuk, if you can believe it), where the party is constantly running into creatures much lower level than they are. This might have maintained some excitement in AD&D 1e, but in PFRPG it means they are facerolling through the encounters.

The 4 degrees of success makes it possible to have a more sandbox-like setting, as the PCs can encounter creatures much higher level than they are and, because there is not a simple binary save-or-die effect when it comes to the bad guy's abilities, they can still walk away alive. Conversely, they can encounter creatures that are lower level than they are and be largely impervious to what they can do, but the chance of a critical fail can keep the PCs on their toes.

Similarly, there could be interesting ways of stacking effects from regular failures, so that a large number of low-level enemies could pose a serious threat to the party if they roll more than one natural 1.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
BryonD wrote:
I've turned a few PCs to stone, but not one Medusa TPK.

Then you were not running the correct representation of mythological Medusa.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Ninja in the Rye wrote:

Now spells are no longer Save-or-Lose, they're Save-or-Lose (But even if you do Save, you still Lose)?

That's just bloody awful. You took the one drawback of the strongest options for the strongest classes in the game and removed it.

Casters now win by simply having their turn come up in the Initiative order.

I'm...not even sure how you can reach that conclusion from the listed data. I'm legitimately befuddled.

Dominate Person is debatably much weaker, and certainly a little weaker, in this variation. You need to fail the save by 10 to get the result failing it gave you before. That's a pretty low probability event. Any time you'd have failed by less than 10 you're much better off in this version. You're a little worse off if you succeed...but not ridiculously so, and only for one round.

That's...not a stronger spell, it's a weaker one that doesn't feel wasted if the foe saves.

Crit fail your save, you're Dominated.

Regular Fail your save, you're Dominated for at least 1 round, but you only break free if you make your save the next round.

Pass your save, you still lose your turn.

That's much, much worse than it was before. You have to crit succeed against this spell to even get to take your turn.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Pass your save, you lose an action, not your turn.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
BryonD wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:

Mathfinder 2e, now with even more math!

Please make the crit system intuitive!

Really? They need to assume the players can't handle +10 and -10?

Expecting that makes it "Mathfinder"?

That was more of a joke. But my point still stands. I feel like this is too complicated for a crit system.


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Well Mark's post says generic success on Dominate+'s save slaps Confuse on the person for a turn which does indeed sap a full turn 75% of the time presuming the condition hasn't changed (which we don't know). Being worried about that is pretty valid since ostentatiously the entire point of crit fails/successes was to avoid the save/lose paradigm that PF1 was loaded to the gills with. Having the BBEG stunlocked because the sorc had Dominate+ and the guy couldn't fish a crit success (or was just flat immune) would be awful design at work.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Do most people still roll if the outcome is certain? If the expert horse-rider can do all manuevers even on a natural 1, do you still require the roll? If someone asks pull an oak tree up from its roots, you ask them to roll for it?

For groups I’ve played in, the entire point of the d20 roll is to resolve what would otherwise be an uncertain outcome. Every roll made matters (which is why we’re making it), because the outcome could theoretically go either way, and fate will determine the ultimate narrative for that one attempt (modified by skill of course). Even in systems in which a 1 is not an auto fail and a 20 an auto-success, it works that way in practice because no roll would even be made unless there was both a chance of success and a chance of failure (no matter how slim).

I can only imagine my players faces if I required a check and they rolled a 1 and I said “You succeed!” Their reaction would certainly be, “WTF!? What was the roll for?”

Do people have the same hang ups about auto fails and successes for attacks, in that a level 20 archer will miss the cow she is aiming at 15 feet away approx 5% of the time?


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I agree with that concern on dominate+, add the rider that if you save you're unaffected by that spell for 24 hours style thing and it should be ok.


I do love the idea of the 4 stages of success/failure. We have a tough time in our group with all-or-nothing approach to so many spells. I assume this is partially the reason why monster saves are so high.
Wondering about how we can expect the range of saves, to-hits, and ACs to be different than they are now?
We have a hard enough time getting a monster to fail a save as it is, so critically failing one seems right out (with current numbers obv).
Similarly, monster to-hits are so high they hit everyone (even the tank) often on a 2 or 3.
Critical hits are kept at a known chance rate when they need a 20 (or 19-20) to crit. Seems like they’ll be more prevalent against the characters least likely to be able to survive them.
But perhaps that’s the point? Balance by expecting them to crit the average ACs so against the tanks they do less damage, making them more effective tanks?
Same goes for PC saving throws. For a current character’s “low save” they are going to almost always critical fail for the save to be at all challenging to the good-savers.
I assume all this has been taken into account; very interested to see how the changes to AC, hit, saves reflect this.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
KingGramJohnson wrote:
BryonD wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:

Mathfinder 2e, now with even more math!

Please make the crit system intuitive!

Really? They need to assume the players can't handle +10 and -10?

Expecting that makes it "Mathfinder"?
That was more of a joke. But my point still stands. I feel like this is too complicated for a crit system.

The advantage to it however is that they will be using the same system for skills and saves. It's more complicated but at the same time it will apply more broadly across the game, so in the end will require less time to learn, especially for new players who are not working through the baggage of multiple rule systems being in there head and the associated assumptions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

P1E Medusa *already* assumes that you can survive looking at Medusa. That's what the save against the gaze attack represents, explicitly. Not looking at Medusa *avoids the save*, it is not what the save represents. The new system *better* represents the mythical Medusa if that is your concern, because it means that looking at her now will turn you into stone if you look at her, succeed or fail, just partially on the save.


What if a Nat 1 beats the DC by 10+? Like if a 20th level antipaladin attacks a common farmer? Is it still a failure despite otherwise being a critical success? Does any case where this could happen just not involve a roll?

Overall I like the system. Having actions more likely to have an impact even if it wasn't the desired outcome is definitely a plus, solving my biggest issue with the system. The 1/20 think is wonky but I won't mind if it stays or leaves, it is a rare event anyways.

One concern though, this seems hard to future proof. Right now for PF2 the math is clean and well-contained, but if new sources are released at the rate PF1 has them, it could quickly be easy for +1s or +2s to slide through the cracks and this system seems vulnerable to huge numbers by adding a lot of small ones. Not necessarily a problem, but something to keep an eye towards.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Pass your save, you lose an action, not your turn.

That's better than I initially read it, but still absolutely awful that you're still being penalized even if you make your save.

Mark also mentions another spell were you're confused on a successful save, which is what prompted my initial response. That's absurdly bad. A fighter who is confused for one round can be the difference between a win and a TPK.

Grand Lodge

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We have plenty of effects that penalize you on a successful save already. (Burst of Radiance, Cloudkill, etc) This isn't a new thing.

Paradozen wrote:
What if a Nat 1 beats the DC by 10+?

Then you fail but do not critically fail, the same as in PF1e.


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Paradozen wrote:

What if a Nat 1 beats the DC by 10+? Like if a 20th level antipaladin attacks a common farmer? Is it still a failure despite otherwise being a critical success? Does any case where this could happen just not involve a roll?

Overall I like the system. Having actions more likely to have an impact even if it wasn't the desired outcome is definitely a plus, solving my biggest issue with the system. The 1/20 think is wonky but I won't mind if it stays or leaves, it is a rare event anyways.

One concern though, this seems hard to future proof. Right now for PF2 the math is clean and well-contained, but if new sources are released at the rate PF1 has them, it could quickly be easy for +1s or +2s to slide through the cracks and this system seems vulnerable to huge numbers by adding a lot of small ones. Not necessarily a problem, but something to keep an eye towards.

potentially ignoring attacks I would like to see if your bonus equals the DC no role is required.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
We have plenty of effects that penalize you on a successful save already. (Burst of Radiance, Cloudkill, etc) This isn't a new thing.

Yes, they took a bad design element of some spells from 1E and have now applied it to all spells.


Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Well Mark's post says generic success on Dominate+'s save slaps Confuse on the person for a turn which does indeed sap a full turn 75% of the time presuming the condition hasn't changed (which we don't know). Being worried about that is pretty valid since ostentatiously the entire point of crit fails/successes was to avoid the save/lose paradigm that PF1 was loaded to the gills with. Having the BBEG stunlocked because the sorc had Dominate+ and the guy couldn't fish a crit success (or was just flat immune) would be awful design at work.

It's not Dominate+. It's some spell, one level higher than Dominate, that has a particularly nasty on-save effect. Dominate has a particularly nasty failed save effect, and whatever it's on-save effect is, it's much gentler than that.


QuidEst wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Well Mark's post says generic success on Dominate+'s save slaps Confuse on the person for a turn which does indeed sap a full turn 75% of the time presuming the condition hasn't changed (which we don't know). Being worried about that is pretty valid since ostentatiously the entire point of crit fails/successes was to avoid the save/lose paradigm that PF1 was loaded to the gills with. Having the BBEG stunlocked because the sorc had Dominate+ and the guy couldn't fish a crit success (or was just flat immune) would be awful design at work.
It's not Dominate+. It's some spell, one level higher than Dominate, that has a particularly nasty on-save effect. Dominate has a particularly nasty failed save effect, and whatever it's on-save effect is, it's much gentler than that.

The fact its not a dominate derivative doesn't exactly change much. ??? Spell is still locking down targets outside of a crit success/immunity most of the time unless the Confuse condition has been made more manageable in the transition or paradoxically the fail condition is less debilitating than the pass.


Going back to Dominate example:

In 1E if you fail your save you're dominated, but get a new save with a bonus each time the caster tries to make you do something against your nature. Your character is still able to fight in some way.

In 2E you're apparently just completely dominated. No trying to resist an order to murder your children.


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MMCJawa wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:
BryonD wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:

Mathfinder 2e, now with even more math!

Please make the crit system intuitive!

Really? They need to assume the players can't handle +10 and -10?

Expecting that makes it "Mathfinder"?
That was more of a joke. But my point still stands. I feel like this is too complicated for a crit system.
The advantage to it however is that they will be using the same system for skills and saves. It's more complicated but at the same time it will apply more broadly across the game, so in the end will require less time to learn, especially for new players who are not working through the baggage of multiple rule systems being in there head and the associated assumptions.

1 is bad, 20 is good, with GM having final say in what happens. Short sweet to the point and is usually the accepted rule across games(roll lowest = bad, roll highest = good. Unless it's a system you want to roll under then reverse this).

Now? Rolling 1 is bad, missing by 10 is really bad, 20 is good, beating by 10 is really good. And do bonuses count for this, and what about this floating number and what happens if I don't make it, what do you mean lose a turn anyway? Etc etc.

Really I see this causing more arguments down the line.


Tarik Blackhands wrote:
The fact its not a dominate derivative doesn't exactly change much. ??? Spell is still locking down targets outside of a crit success/immunity most of the time unless the Confuse condition has been made more manageable in the transition or paradoxically the fail condition is less debilitating than the pass.

I think your assessment of the confused condition is wrong if confusion still works the same way. There's only a 25% chance of acting normally, it's true, but "attack the nearest creature" is often pretty close. It's also a mutual lock, in that hitting the creature will trigger confusion's retaliation clause.

It's a 50% the target won't attack for one round if nobody attacks. That seems fair enough for the higher end on-save effects..


The Rot Grub wrote:

I'm liking this change. I'm running a campaign (Rappan Athuk, if you can believe it), where the party is constantly running into creatures much lower level than they are. This might have maintained some excitement in AD&D 1e, but in PFRPG it means they are facerolling through the encounters.

The 4 degrees of success makes it possible to have a more sandbox-like setting, as the PCs can encounter creatures much higher level than they are and, because there is not a simple binary save-or-die effect when it comes to the bad guy's abilities, they can still walk away alive. Conversely, they can encounter creatures that are lower level than they are and be largely impervious to what they can do, but the chance of a critical fail can keep the PCs on their toes.

Similarly, there could be interesting ways of stacking effects from regular failures, so that a large number of low-level enemies could pose a serious threat to the party if they roll more than one natural 1.

Wouldn't the change mean the reverse? The low level orcs who only hit your high level PF1 characters on an 18+ and got hit on a 2+ now find that the PC's super critical tricks are going off against them on a 12+ and they're getting extra disadvantages when they crit fail on a 8-. Surely the changes make life harder for severe underdogs, not easier.

The orcs go from mostly missing and getting hit to mostly missing, frequently critically fumbling, mostly getting hit, and frequently getting crit.

Likewise if the PCs wander into a high CR area, the liche's fireball isn't doing a scary 15d6 on a failed save, it's doing a lethal 30d6 on a save failed by 10.

The changes seem to me like they make level and CR *more* important, not less.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ninja in the Rye wrote:

Going back to Dominate example:

In 1E if you fail your save you're dominated, but get a new save with a bonus each time the caster tries to make you do something against your nature. Your character is still able to fight in some way.

In 2E you're apparently just completely dominated. No trying to resist an order to murder your children.

But what about kicking puppies? I'm fine with murdering children, but kicking puppies should warrant another save.

Paizo Employee Designer

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GlennH wrote:


3) On the auto 1 and 20, I find it helps me to think of it as increasing the severity of a fail or success by one level. That would take care of the %5 success on an impossible task (Still if something is impossible don't allow the check.)

Incidentally, the "increase/decrease one degree of severity" is how it originally worked several years ago, but simplified to the current system for ease of play. Also, I've seen a lot of people make the apt suggestion just not to roll checks that don't matter that are lower than everyone's bonus, and others make the equally apropos conjecture that it's tough to do that if the rules don't support it. Worry not! The rules have a section about when not to call for a roll.


TiwazBlackhand wrote:

Crafting a Laser Rifle requires Gunsmithing at Legendary
Crafting an automatic Rifle requires Gunsmithing at Master
Crafting single action pin fire gun requires Gunsmithing at Expert
Crafting a smooth bore black powder gun requires Gunsmithing at Trained
Not accidentally shooting yourself in the head and dying is a dc 20 untrained check.

An interesting theory, and it makes sense. We know levels of training exist, and the feats that make skill checks mundane tasks will be locked behind training ranks, right?. Meaning a Rouge, with a ton of trained skills and 20feats to customize them, can make many skills a trivial task, and actually be well trained and versatile in a lot of things.

Remember ya'll, every aspect of the game works off of 4 levels of success, so trap finding will be just as layered with feats (To trivialize lower level challenges), legendary level challenges and all that, as attacking or diplomacy, so a Legendary Rogue could blaze thru a dungeon past all guards and beasts with no feared failure, because her legendary skill feats make it all mundane to her. It seems like proficiency, training, whatever, is everything. It's likely why everyone gets so many feats. The rogues character is in their skills.

Likewise, a Fighter, with his early weapon training advancement, if combat feats are training level gated, can not only gets more combat feats, but better combat feats sooner. Imagine what a legendary level feat looks like. Beautiful.

Again,just conjecture. Idealistic conjecture.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
ryric wrote:
I am making it my mission to find those holes. Already looking forward to a playtest barbarian rolling a 20 on her untrained Craft(laser rifles) check, which she of course has +level-2 to the roll of.
It seems likely that actually building things is a Trained Only skill use. Repairing things is likely untrained, but that's a lot less disruptive.

This is not only a great guess, it's not even the only reason that the barbarian couldn't build the laser rifle (assuming the rules for one exist).

Paizo Employee Designer

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Ninja in the Rye wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
NielsenE wrote:
For those complaining about the success (save) branch of dominate, isn't that actually a buff to the spell compared to the current system? in P1E if they saved nothing happens, now they still lose an action. You always used the spell hoping/trying to get them to fail; so if they passed it was wasted... Now at least its saying that since its such a powerful spell, even on a successful save it still does _something_.
Indeed! There's also a spell one level higher than dominate that actually confuses for 1 round even on a success! However, in the best case for the dominator where you have someone like Jason's wizard who can devastate the rest of the party, dominate's failure effects could be more dangerous. Ultimately, though, a spell like dominate is going to be your highest level spell at one point, and it'll be only in the middle of the pack later on. Since spell DCs do not decrease for your lower level spells, you're not going to want the spell that someone can cast 20 times in a row to stunlock even on a success, for instance, or else you can win any encounter with N opponents by having N wizards (with DCs high enough to make critical success unlikely) stunlock the enemies while the remaining party members kill the foes who are unable to act.

Now spells are no longer Save-or-Lose, they're Save-or-Lose (But even if you do Save, you still Lose)?

That's just bloody awful. You took the one drawback of the strongest options for the strongest classes in the game and removed it.

Casters now win by simply having their turn come up in the Initiative order.

If you take a look at the bolded part of my quote, I'm agreeing with you. You make a great point, and that's why we don't have even a 1 round stun on a successful save (I was responding to a request for why the successful save effect wasn't more devastating with an example of why the game would break into "casters win" if we did that).

Paizo Employee Designer

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Ninja in the Rye wrote:

Going back to Dominate example:

In 1E if you fail your save you're dominated, but get a new save with a bonus each time the caster tries to make you do something against your nature. Your character is still able to fight in some way.

In 2E you're apparently just completely dominated. No trying to resist an order to murder your children.

I was thinking the blog addressed that, but it looks like the wording is subtly different now. Anyway, because it implies what you've said here, I wouldn't say "if you critically fail your save against dominate, you are completely under the spellcaster's control". There is still some possibility to resist a particularly abhorrent new order on a critical failure, but you're going to have to fulfill that first command no matter what.

Dark Archive

I like nearly everything in this post, except one thing. When I read "if you rolled a natural 20 and met or exceeded the target DC" and "if you rolled a natural 1 and didn't meet the target DC" it sounds like a natural 1 is not an auto-fail and a natural 20 is not an auto-success any longer. Would love a confirmation or correction on this.

If this is the case I'm extremely disappointed. There are any number of times where nothing but a natural 1/20 will fail/succeed and that slight chance makes things extremely fun and interesting. If a goblin attacks a paladin and the paladin has his AC maxed, the goblin has no chance to hit, except on that natural 20 which at least gives the little guy a slight chance to find that one seam in the paladins armor. This is but a single example of hundreds.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Invictus Novo wrote:

I like nearly everything in this post, except one thing. When I read "if you rolled a natural 20 and met or exceeded the target DC" and "if you rolled a natural 1 and didn't meet the target DC" it sounds like a natural 1 is not an auto-fail and a natural 20 is not an auto-success any longer. Would love a confirmation or correction on this.

If this is the case I'm extremely disappointed. There are any number of times where nothing but a natural 1/20 will fail/succeed and that slight chance makes things extremely fun and interesting. If a goblin attacks a paladin and the paladin has his AC maxed, the goblin has no chance to hit, except on that natural 20 which at least gives the little guy a slight chance to find that one seam in the paladins armor. This is but a single example of hundreds.

As mentioned earlier in the comments, the 20 that isn't a critical success is still a success, and the 1 that is not a critical failure is still a failure.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

My laser rifle post was more about how if every character gets untrained bonuses even in things they want to actively ignore, then they are Untrained in every theoretical skill past, present and future. Some of those skills will have things that can be done Untrained and thus any PC can succeed at those things, autosucceeding on a 20. For example, if it's possible to "have heard of a famous person" untrained, then every character has heard of famous people from Earth 5% of the time. The DC might be stupendous but it's immaterial. Unless you decided that certain tasks are too unlikely to even attempt; but even then, there is the issue of, say, knowing something being DC50 or so(but still Untrained in rank). Well within the range of a high level knowledgeable character, but apparently also on the tip of the tongue of every 20th commoner in a remote village.

I'm hoping, regarding nat 1s on skills, that somewhere around Expert there will be generic language that lets you forgo rolling if your bonus exceeds the DC. That would let you trade away your chance at crit success(which you might not care about) to remove your chance of failure.

(Earth exists in the Pathfinder multiverse, btw, if you're wondering where that came form. I won't spoil where it is published if you don't know already, but it is certainly a fair target for absurdly high Knowledge type checks)

Dark Archive

Ninja in the Rye wrote:

Going back to Dominate example:

In 1E if you fail your save you're dominated, but get a new save with a bonus each time the caster tries to make you do something against your nature. Your character is still able to fight in some way.

In 2E you're apparently just completely dominated. No trying to resist an order to murder your children.

Fish live in water, Trout are fish, therefore you get no further saves against Dominate ever.

You're assuming things that we don't know yet.

This is a Teaser, not full rules.

Don't assume that the stupidest possible implementation is the one they've chosen.

Dominated is PROBABLY a condition, and they've shown already that conditions can generally be shaken off with specific actions (Like mentioned earlier in (I think) this thread, Nauseated can be decreased in severity one step by taking an action to Vomit).

The logical conclusion is that even if you Crit Fail your save v. Dominate there will be the possibility to resist and try to shake off the condition.

Dark Archive

Mark Seifter wrote:
Invictus Novo wrote:

I like nearly everything in this post, except one thing. When I read "if you rolled a natural 20 and met or exceeded the target DC" and "if you rolled a natural 1 and didn't meet the target DC" it sounds like a natural 1 is not an auto-fail and a natural 20 is not an auto-success any longer. Would love a confirmation or correction on this.

If this is the case I'm extremely disappointed. There are any number of times where nothing but a natural 1/20 will fail/succeed and that slight chance makes things extremely fun and interesting. If a goblin attacks a paladin and the paladin has his AC maxed, the goblin has no chance to hit, except on that natural 20 which at least gives the little guy a slight chance to find that one seam in the paladins armor. This is but a single example of hundreds.

As mentioned earlier in the comments, the 20 that isn't a critical success is still a success, and the 1 that is not a critical failure is still a failure.

Thanks Mark, you are quick today! I just started reading through comments and saw that. I was going to edit my post saying I found the answer, but you beat me to it.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
MerlinCross wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:
BryonD wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:

Mathfinder 2e, now with even more math!

Please make the crit system intuitive!

Really? They need to assume the players can't handle +10 and -10?

Expecting that makes it "Mathfinder"?
That was more of a joke. But my point still stands. I feel like this is too complicated for a crit system.
The advantage to it however is that they will be using the same system for skills and saves. It's more complicated but at the same time it will apply more broadly across the game, so in the end will require less time to learn, especially for new players who are not working through the baggage of multiple rule systems being in there head and the associated assumptions.

1 is bad, 20 is good, with GM having final say in what happens. Short sweet to the point and is usually the accepted rule across games(roll lowest = bad, roll highest = good. Unless it's a system you want to roll under then reverse this).

Now? Rolling 1 is bad, missing by 10 is really bad, 20 is good, beating by 10 is really good. And do bonuses count for this, and what about this floating number and what happens if I don't make it, what do you mean lose a turn anyway? Etc etc.

Really I see this causing more arguments down the line.

Exactly! This is going to cause so many headaches.

Edit: I see that I was wrong with my next statement, so I removed it.

But I still think this will cause more problems than it solves.


Mark Seifter wrote:
Ninja in the Rye wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
NielsenE wrote:
For those complaining about the success (save) branch of dominate, isn't that actually a buff to the spell compared to the current system? in P1E if they saved nothing happens, now they still lose an action. You always used the spell hoping/trying to get them to fail; so if they passed it was wasted... Now at least its saying that since its such a powerful spell, even on a successful save it still does _something_.
Indeed! There's also a spell one level higher than dominate that actually confuses for 1 round even on a success! However, in the best case for the dominator where you have someone like Jason's wizard who can devastate the rest of the party, dominate's failure effects could be more dangerous. Ultimately, though, a spell like dominate is going to be your highest level spell at one point, and it'll be only in the middle of the pack later on. Since spell DCs do not decrease for your lower level spells, you're not going to want the spell that someone can cast 20 times in a row to stunlock even on a success, for instance, or else you can win any encounter with N opponents by having N wizards (with DCs high enough to make critical success unlikely) stunlock the enemies while the remaining party members kill the foes who are unable to act.

Now spells are no longer Save-or-Lose, they're Save-or-Lose (But even if you do Save, you still Lose)?

That's just bloody awful. You took the one drawback of the strongest options for the strongest classes in the game and removed it.

Casters now win by simply having their turn come up in the Initiative order.

If you take a look at the bolded part of my quote, I'm agreeing with you. You make a great point, and that's why we don't have even a 1 round stun on a successful save (I was responding to a request for why the successful save effect wasn't more devastating with an example of why the game would break into "casters win" if we did that).

But you mention that there's another spell that causes confuse on a successful save, unless confusion is drastically different in 2E this is nearly as good as stun locking (and actually better than simply denying the target a turn in many respects, as it makes the target a danger to themself and their allies instead of just inactive).


ryric wrote:
For example, if it's possible to "have heard of a famous person" untrained, then every character has heard of famous people from Earth 5% of the time. The DC might be stupendous but it's immaterial.

Interesting. Suppose Valeros finds a copy of Macbeth in a tomb and takes it into a crowded bar in Magnimar and says to the crowd (of ~30 friendly patrons) "Hey, any of you guys heard of this 'Scotland' place?". Everyone (1st level commoners all) makes a check against some knowledge geography and someone will roll a 20.

There are a couple obvious options:
Set the DC at 45: A bad option, since whatever the DC someone will probably roll 20 and know.

Not allow a roll:: An ok, but not great option. Since when they run into the level 20 super scholar with +30 knowledge geography you want him to have a chance to know it and there is significant elegance to not changing the mechanics based on who is making the check (what I hate about the troop rules btw...).

Gate the Knowledge behind a feat:The DC is only 20, but to even attempt it you need the "Other worlds scholar" feat. Normal people have no chance, but some master scholars have studied other planes, alternate timelines, and the like and can attempt it. This option gets the right results, but it does lead into the "You have to take feats to attempt things anyone should be able to try" problem if you're not careful.

Allow rolls only if you would succeed on a roll of 30. Or 25, or some other number. If you have a +0 to a check you can attempt anything up to DC 30, but DC 31+ checks are just zero chance. The barflies haven't possibly heard of Scotland (DC 45) and can't even roll, but the master scholar (geography +15) has a 5% chance. Of the various options I like this best.


So far the only thing in PF2.0 that I like. More than likely I will steal this to use in all my years of 3.X/Pathfinder stuff.


NielsenE wrote:
I agree with that concern on dominate+, add the rider that if you save you're unaffected by that spell for 24 hours style thing and it should be ok.

I hope they remove that kind of constraints, they are very unfun.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

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Ring_of_Gyges wrote:
ryric wrote:
For example, if it's possible to "have heard of a famous person" untrained, then every character has heard of famous people from Earth 5% of the time. The DC might be stupendous but it's immaterial.

Interesting. Suppose Valeros finds a copy of Macbeth in a tomb and takes it into a crowded bar in Magnimar and says to the crowd (of ~30 friendly patrons) "Hey, any of you guys heard of this 'Scotland' place?". Everyone (1st level commoners all) makes a check against some knowledge geography and someone will roll a 20.

There are a couple obvious options:
Set the DC at 45: A bad option, since whatever the DC someone will probably roll 20 and know.

Not allow a roll:: An ok, but not great option. Since when they run into the level 20 super scholar with +30 knowledge geography you want him to have a chance to know it and there is significant elegance to not changing the mechanics based on who is making the check (what I hate about the troop rules btw...).

Gate the Knowledge behind a feat:The DC is only 20, but to even attempt it you need the "Other worlds scholar" feat. Normal people have no chance, but some master scholars have studied other planes, alternate timelines, and the like and can attempt it. This option gets the right results, but it does lead into the "You have to take feats to attempt things anyone should be able to try" problem if you're not careful.

Allow rolls only if you would succeed on a roll of 30. Or 25, or some other number. If you have a +0 to a check you can attempt anything up to DC 30, but DC 31+ checks are just zero chance. The barflies haven't possibly heard of Scotland (DC 45) and can't even roll, but the master scholar (geography +15) has a 5% chance. Of the various options I like this best.

But what if you don’t allow the commoners a roll because knowing about Scotland is a task that requires Trained proficiency in Lore: Other Worlds, and none of them have a rank in that skill?

I mean, that’s how it works in PF1. You can’t try an untrained Knowledge check on anything over DC 10. If knowing about Scotland is DC 11+, nobody in the bar gets to roll.

PF2 is extending and expounding on that concept. 20 may be autosuccess, but what you can attempt is gated by how many ranks you have in the skill. No ranks, and you’re likely SOL.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I dig it! Like how it opens up the possibilities, while still retaining the “bite” of a serious saving throw failure.


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Stone Dog wrote:

I like the reminder up thread that "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose."

To pull another Star Trek reference, there is a podcast of the new Star Trek Adventures RPG that I saw a couple of episodes of. In that game the helmsman rolled results that, in other games, would be critical failures. In that game though, rolls on the extreme end of the failure side (20s in this case. weird, I know.) could simply indicate misfortune. The helmsman didn't fail the piloting task, but the ship was hit by ion discharges.

Maybe the degrees of success work out like that for some things?

Failures and Critical failures could be set up as no particular mistakes made, but still something didn't go quite right.

This is how I tend to roll with higher level characters, myself! If someone with a high skill bonus fails a non-opposed check due to simple bad luck on the dice, it's not so much that the character failed but rather that there was bad luck in-game. Maybe that surface they're climbing on is just soft and crumbly and part of it falls away, maybe the actions you were taking to try to calm a wild animal were ones that a hunter previously used to try to trick and kill it so now it has a bad reaction to them.

All this requires is a little willingness to improv on the GM's part. I hope this is explicitly described in the published rules.

And outside of encounter time, it wouldn't even be a concern anyway due to taking 10, unless the player is voluntarily rolling to try to get a higher degree of success.

TiwazBlackhand wrote:

Why are they adding the 1 20 Auto-Fail/Success mechanic to skill checks?

Why, when it is not the rule in PF1, Not in 5e, specifically called out in the rules of 3.5 as not the way skill checks work, are they putting this into the PF2 playtest?

I think it's because they pay attention to how people play. You listen to D&D podcasts? Most of them do it. Most game groups do it. It even happens, INCORRECTLY, at Adventurer's League and Pathfinder Society tables (YES it DOES, I have personally witnessed it).

The human brain likes patterns that match, and if 1 is auto fail and 20 is auto success on a d20 roll for COMBAT, and for SAVES, SURELY, SURELY our brain tells us, SURELY it MUST be the rule on this other d20 roll.

It is how, to my observation at least, the majority of people play the game. Paizo is simply changing the rule to accommodate the fact that the majority of their customers are going to do it that way at home, to avoid confusion and arguments at Con tables.

This is actually very insightful and probably correct. It's actually why I started using critical success and failure on skill checks in my own games. The players were confused when nothing special happened most of the time, whereas it did for the other major types of rolls, and even more confused because it actually did for some skills (Climb) but not others. Keeping things consistent across the board allows the game to be learned, intuited and run more easily.

KingGramJohnson wrote:
BryonD wrote:
KingGramJohnson wrote:

Mathfinder 2e, now with even more math!

Please make the crit system intuitive!

Really? They need to assume the players can't handle +10 and -10?

Expecting that makes it "Mathfinder"?
That was more of a joke. But my point still stands. I feel like this is too complicated for a crit system.

More complicated than having to roll an entirely separate confirmation roll which might have different modifiers applied to it than the original roll? Really? Anyone can add and subtract 10. It's literally just increasing or decreasing the 10s place in a DC by 1.

Mark Seifter wrote:
GlennH wrote:


3) On the auto 1 and 20, I find it helps me to think of it as increasing the severity of a fail or success by one level. That would take care of the %5 success on an impossible task (Still if something is impossible don't allow the check.)
Incidentally, the "increase/decrease one degree of severity" is how it originally worked several years ago, but simplified to the current system for ease of play. Also, I've seen a lot of people make the apt suggestion just not to roll checks that don't matter that are lower than everyone's bonus, and others make the equally apropos conjecture that it's tough to do that if the rules don't support it. Worry not! The rules have a section about when not to call for a roll.

Hopefully our playtest surveys can convince you to bring that back. It's really not that complicated. The fact that we are playing this game and not Monopoly or King's Cup means we can handle something like that. :)


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Mark Seifter wrote:
Incidentally, the "increase/decrease one degree of severity" is how it originally worked several years ago, but simplified to the current system for ease of play.

Really? That seems way more intuitive than "a nat 1 is always a fail except when it's a critical fail, even if you can beat the DC by +10 on a roll of 1". Like Fuzzypaws says, hopefully the playtest group as a whole agree that it's easier to understand and we get that rule brought back.


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I like this set up overall, but I think that ones and twenties rolling the result down or up the success scale is way better than making it an automatic success or failure.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
GlennH wrote:


3) On the auto 1 and 20, I find it helps me to think of it as increasing the severity of a fail or success by one level. That would take care of the %5 success on an impossible task (Still if something is impossible don't allow the check.)
Incidentally, the "increase/decrease one degree of severity" is how it originally worked several years ago, but simplified to the current system for ease of play. Also, I've seen a lot of people make the apt suggestion just not to roll checks that don't matter that are lower than everyone's bonus, and others make the equally apropos conjecture that it's tough to do that if the rules don't support it. Worry not! The rules have a section about when not to call for a roll.

My worry is that the "section about when not to call for a roll" will be one of suggestions and not hard rules so someone like myself that has different DM's all the time will NEVER know when to expect to roll or not. For myself I'd rather see a 'if a roll of 1 would normally succeed if it weren't a natural 1 then...' instead of a total DM fiat like 'if you wish, you don't have to call for rolls if the character is likely to make the check but it's totally up to your mood at the time...' :P


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MidsouthGuy wrote:

Oh boy, yet another solution in search of a problem.

The more I see, the more I am not looking forward to PF2.

I mean, "save or sucks are the absolute WORST" has been a complaint since 3rd edition started, let alone pathfinder, to the best of my knowledge. People have long greatly disliked the binary of "either the enemy saves and you have wasted your time and resources because nothing happened" or "the enemy has failed his save and this fight is now all over but the crying."

This is a solution to a very old and very annoying problem. Having degrees of success and failure means you have fewer cases of "this spell either fizzles or stun-locks a bad guy so badly your friends are reduced to playing mop-up with the gormless sots that failed their saves" and makes "save or something bad happens" monsters less of a dick move to throw at your players more frequently. Toss out a batch of basilisks in PF1 and you can often get situations where polite dice make the encounter a non-threat because basilisks aren't scary if you save against their gaze, while a bad batch of dice can murder the entire party before blows are even exchanged. Having a wider variation between "nothing happens" and "you are boned" is a very welcome change.

On a similar note, I like the idea that it matters if you beat the enemy's AC by a LOT because that means a player whose great combat skill gives him a much higher to-hit than his comrades is rewarded for his prowess while the guy who can consistently beat the enemy AC but not by a wide margin is contributing but not doing just as well as the guy who is seeing right through the enemy defenses. It'll help further distinguish classes that are really good at combat from the dabblers even though they both hit.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I think I must be misunderstanding how you want the nat 1/20 to work, since it seems to give worse results for most common play situations, but better results for "impossible" situation.

On the success side of things.

if you need a 1-10 to succeed. Under the dev's rule a 20 is a crit in all cases, and the same under your rule.
if you need a 11-20 to succeed. Under the dev's rule a 20 is a hit, under your rule its a crit.
if you needed a 21-30 to succeed, Under the devs rule a 20 is a hit, and under your rule its hit. (was a miss, became a hit)
If you needed a 31-40 to succeed, under the dev's rule its a hit, under your rule its a miss (was a crit fail, bumped up to a miss)
If you needed a 41-50, dev=hit, your's a miss (crit fail, bumped up)

The negative side looks symmetrical. So where are things different.

For all the rolls where you need to roll 11-20 to hit, you've generated new crits. I'd argue this is a pretty common place in the game/encounter design, so you're giving away a lot of free crits. This makes it easier to crit, the harder (but still 'doable') the task is.

For all the roles were you need to roll 31+ on the day to succeed your proposed rule looks more logical.

To me the best approach is the dev's rule, plus a "you can't roll and/or auto-fail for tasks you need a 30+ on the die to succeed on"


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Stone Dog wrote:

I like this set up overall, but I think that ones and twenties rolling the result down or up the success scale is way better than making it an automatic success or failure.

Well thankfully the game is in alpha testing!! And what you suggest is a simple, yet fundamental change that all the dev's are seeing. I like the idea. If you couldn't tell from my posts, I like the removal of randomness (Bad fumble rules, save or dies, etc), unnecessary minutia (Million tiny damage bonuses and careful positioning due to the melee/mobility paradigm) and weak, poorly built classes. I see Paizo working to alleviate these issues. It won't be perfect, but that's what a playtest is for, right?

I will say this, if checks and feats are heavily decided by you level of training (Untrained to Legendary) then the current success system is fine. I'm more willing to believe that a specialist at something, while amazing, isn't perfect, but is good enough to mitigate failure, rather than a specialist that never fails. A rocket scientist is obviously well trained in his field, but mistakes are human, and PCs are "human." Just say more capable.

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