Natural 1 on skill checks


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1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Is it true this was removed for Pathfinder? Its not auto-fail? Does anyone know the story/reasoning behind this? Just curious.


It was never there, at least not in 3.5.

SRD wrote:
Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure.

Using skills d20srd.org


1 on a skill does not auto fail, and 20 on a skill check does not auto succeed. Not sure that as ever been part of the game.

Grand Lodge

FarmerBob wrote:
1 on a skill does not auto fail, and 20 on a skill check does not auto succeed. Not sure that as ever been part of the game.

Not sure about 3.0, but as of 3.5 it was NOT part of the game. Just numbers on the die with no significant special effects.


Huh, guess that was a house rule. Thanks for the clarification.


In 3.0 if you rolled a 1 it carried a penalty of -10 on the final result, and a 20 gave a +10 bonus.


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Pathos wrote:
In 3.0 if you rolled a 1 it carried a penalty of -10 on the final result, and a 20 gave a +10 bonus.

Nope. Must have been a houserule of yours. It's a common one, but it's not even 3.0 RAW.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just returned to RAW on that issue two weeks ago. Man, did that start a discussion - bigger than the squabble about being awarded too less XP.


kikkoman wrote:
Is it true this was removed for Pathfinder? Its not auto-fail? Does anyone know the story/reasoning behind this? Just curious.

There never were auto-results for skill checks, neither in PRPG nor D&D.

For 3.5 Unearthed Arcane (I think it was) an optional rule that allowed openended rolls for skillchecks on natural 20s was introduced.


The Grandfather wrote:
kikkoman wrote:
Is it true this was removed for Pathfinder? Its not auto-fail? Does anyone know the story/reasoning behind this? Just curious.

There never were auto-results for skill checks, neither in PRPG nor D&D.

For 3.5 Unearthed Arcane (I think it was) an optional rule that allowed openended rolls for skillchecks on natural 20s was introduced.

To be fair, in 2nd ed and presumably OD&D it was a roll under system so under normal conditions a 1 would always succeed because you couldn't have a 0 in a stat, and a 20 would fail because you couldn't have a 20.

But yeah, skills don't auto-fail and one shouldn't mess with that too much IMO.


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Skill checks don't have the natural 1/20 rule for a reason.

Let's say there's a 100 foot cliff. You stand at the bottom. According to the rules, it's a DC 400 check to jump that high (800 without a running start).

With the natural 20 autosuccess rule, this would mean that it would take anyone 2 minutes on average to jump that high, since statistically, every 20th roll is a natural 20, and that makes you succeed whatever you're doing. Even if you stand there and have to try 100 times, or 1000 times, it doesn't matter. One does not simply jump up a 100 foot cliff under his own power.

This isn't a Mordor thing, either. You just don't.

I can see the -10/30 rule (nat 1 means -10, nat 20 means 30), but that's about it.

meatrace wrote:

a 20 would fail because you couldn't have a 20.

You could with the right gear. Girdle of Storm Giant Strength and stuff like that.

Liberty's Edge

I am having issues with the nat 1 on climb checks, I have players climbing 80 feet of rope, no tie offs or safety precautions. i stated that fine as long as they dont roll a 1, then it was referred to me you cant fail on a skill check by rolling a 1. I read it as its not an auto fail which means they dont automatically fall but get a chance (DM's description) to attempt to avoid falling by grabbing the rope or something similar but then if that fails they fall. Also if there is a dc attached to it then anything less than that would fail which would include a 1. Now some characters wind up with such high skill numbers that they can meet any dc presented to them, but even heroes and legends can die so a natural 1 to me IS a fail though not automatic. and that is the contention if there is no chance of failing then why present the risk?

anyone's thoughts on this or have you faced a similar problem. Old school DM

Contributor

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If your characters are high enough level or magically augmented enough that they can't fail a Climb check on a 1 for a routine climb, then they are cool heroes and don't fail that sort of climb. Falling to your death from that sort of climb shouldn't happen to heroes of a certain level.

Falling off of a greased, burning rope, on the other hand....

Liberty's Edge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

If your characters are high enough level or magically augmented enough that they can't fail a Climb check on a 1 for a routine climb, then they are cool heroes and don't fail that sort of climb. Falling to your death from that sort of climb shouldn't happen to heroes of a certain level.

Falling off of a greased, burning rope, on the other hand....

Exactly my point but i get the rebuff the RULE states you cant fail a skill check with a 1 which I find ridiculous at best.


Well yeah, but what if they have a bajillion skill points in something, does it make sense that they have a 5% chance to botch something up every time they carry out a routine task?

Liberty's Edge

again my take is if your going to allow them a bajillion skill points why bother to have a dc at all?


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ancientdm wrote:
again my take is if your going to allow them a bajillion skill points why bother to have a dc at all?

You don't 'allow' them anything, they can spend their skill points on what they like, and if they dump a ton of points into becoming the Cirque D'Soleil Acrobat then why ask them to make a roll for what should be some routine 5' jump? At some point the task becomes so trivial for them you just accept they are 'awesome' at whatever and just move on. As a player, it doesnt add value when a trivial task can be so arbitrarily failed because of a bad roll when the task is so far beneath my skill that I dont feel I should be rolling anyway.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

ancientdm wrote:
again my take is if your going to allow them a bajillion skill points why bother to have a dc at all?

At a certain point, you should stop caring about certain skill DCs. If your characters all have a climb modifier of +10, then don't bother making them roll for climb checks below DC 10.

Instead, introduce more difficult climb checks (by greasing the rope, or lighting it on fire, etc)


ancientdm wrote:

I am having issues with the nat 1 on climb checks, I have players climbing 80 feet of rope, no tie offs or safety precautions. i stated that fine as long as they dont roll a 1, then it was referred to me you cant fail on a skill check by rolling a 1. I read it as its not an auto fail which means they dont automatically fall but get a chance (DM's description) to attempt to avoid falling by grabbing the rope or something similar but then if that fails they fall. Also if there is a dc attached to it then anything less than that would fail which would include a 1. Now some characters wind up with such high skill numbers that they can meet any dc presented to them, but even heroes and legends can die so a natural 1 to me IS a fail though not automatic. and that is the contention if there is no chance of failing then why present the risk?

anyone's thoughts on this or have you faced a similar problem. Old school DM

Forget the issue of whether or not a 1 is an auto-failure, why aren't your players taking 10 on this?


The only time a 1 on a skill check is any worse than one point lower than a 2 is with UMD. Using that skill specifically, if the you roll a 1 and also fail, then you can't try again for a day. If you can roll a 1 and succeed, then you're still fine. High level characters do that all the time.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
ancientdm wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:

If your characters are high enough level or magically augmented enough that they can't fail a Climb check on a 1 for a routine climb, then they are cool heroes and don't fail that sort of climb. Falling to your death from that sort of climb shouldn't happen to heroes of a certain level.

Falling off of a greased, burning rope, on the other hand....

Exactly my point but i get the rebuff the RULE states you cant fail a skill check with a 1 which I find ridiculous at best.

Do you crash your car 1 out of 20 times you go someplace in it?

Do you fail at anything routine 1 in 20 times at any skill you are marginaly skilled at?

Grand Lodge

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I understand the logic behind the question to be, simply put, as the PCs level up and gain more skill points, doesn't mundane skill use become obsolete.

To which I answer, "yes it does. Just like a 16th level fighter finds no challenge in defeating a lowly goblin any more."

Allow the PCs the glory of blowing through the mundane skill uses, but then, just like with combat, design skill challenges that truly do challenge the PCs.

Have the acrobat carry a maiden (perhaps a bard, same thing really) across a rope spanning a chasm. The rope is being sawed at one end and jostled, while the other end is burning. Time is of the essence, and he is encumbered.

Perhaps, instead of a simple rope, you must cross an ice bridge that is rapidly crumbling from the weight of the Balor that is gaining quickly. Carry the unconscious maiden (perhaps bard, same thing) across the slick surface without careening off the edge into the chasm of Hell below even as the ice bridge crumbles beneath your very feet and the fire of the Balor's whip toasts your bottom.

THIS is what all that training was about, my boy, show us your true skills or die in the process. Tick-tock the clock is ticking!


ancientdm wrote:
again my take is if your going to allow them a bajillion skill points why bother to have a dc at all?

Your skill bonus is your ability to do something well. If there is no auto succeed there should be no autofail.

I look at like this. Sometimes a task is so far beyond your skill level that even on your best day you can't do it, and sometimes are you so skilled that even on your worst day you can't mess it up. Those those are the times that rolling a nat 1 comes into play, but you pass anyway.


Bobson wrote:
The only time a 1 on a skill check is any worse than one point lower than a 2 is with UMD. Using that skill specifically, if the you roll a 1 and also fail, then you can't try again for a day. If you can roll a 1 and succeed, then you're still fine. High level characters do that all the time.

That, or a disable device on a trap where the total with a 2 does not set off the trap, but the 1 is low enough to set it off.

And a craft check for making a magic item where a roll of 1 results in a cursed item, but 2 is high enough to just fail.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Traken wrote:
Forget the issue of whether or not a 1 is an auto-failure, why aren't your players taking 10 on this?

They can't take 10 - see SRD:

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/skills#TOC-Taking-10 wrote:


When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible for a character to take 10.

My understanding is, that climbing an 80ft rope puts them into immediate danger.

Shadow Lodge

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RuyanVe wrote:


My understanding is, that climbing an 80ft rope puts them into immediate danger.

Not if their bonus is high enough =P

Climbing a rope is dangerous, but you can take your time and do it right if you're not in danger because of it being on fire, surrounded by archers, and also you've angered a storm cleric.

Further, mechanics-wise, the length of the rope has no bearing on its DC, just on the time it takes. climbing 10ft is just as hard for someone as climbing 80, the latter just takes 8 times longer.

I'm getting the feeling (I might be wrong) that some posters here want PCs to fail a simple action such as climbing a rope. Don't want your PCs to fail on something like that. You should want them to succeed and be awesome. I mean, given them challenges, but let them show their levels from time to time. They'll love you. The 5% you screw up no matter how awesome you are at this thing helps no one.

It doesn't help you. If you want something hard, make it hard. Nat 1 failure just increases the chance you accidentally kill someone with falling damage on a thing that you expected to pose no real challenge, throwing kinks in design. It also leads to angry Players, and it really decreases the awesome feel of high level play.

It's fail all around. Don't do it. You can. You're the GM, but it adds nothing.

It doesn't add an element of risk. Risk is something in game that can be mitigated by an intelligent party. The mitigation option here is don't do anything ever, because everything can fail, and will eventually. You want an element of risk, just provide a suitable challenge.

It also takes away your ability to place the temple or whatever in an epic-feeling location accessible only by a 1000 ft climb. They won't fail the climb, and it won't (and shouldn't) be rolled out, but it feels better for an upper-level character than "you see ruins in the forest. Perhaps an old temple, now fallen into darkness."

You also make spellcasters even better. The fighter climbs, the caster flies. One might fall to his death any round, and if the rope is long enough, his chances raise to near certainty. The caster just goes up because he thinks it. Or teleports. Or dimension doors. The caster has no risk.

Why would you punish someone for not playing a caster? Were you attacked by monks? Don't let one rogue monk attack color your view of all the non-magics.

Besides, monks have their own dimension door thing anyway, so you're really just taking your anger out on the fighter. The fighter takes enough abuse, thank you very much.

But honestly, in doing this, you don't really constrain your players (as you have ways of making a climb that takes checks) as much as you constrain yourself. You don't want that.


RuyanVe wrote:
Traken wrote:
Forget the issue of whether or not a 1 is an auto-failure, why aren't your players taking 10 on this?

They can't take 10 - see SRD:

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/skills#TOC-Taking-10 wrote:


When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible for a character to take 10.
My understanding is, that climbing an 80ft rope puts them into immediate danger.

Here is what I've always wondered about taking 10. If Take 10 is enough to auto succeed, are you really in immediate danger?

Shadow Lodge

Slaunyeh wrote:


Here is what I've always wondered about taking 10. If Take 10 is enough to auto succeed, are you really in immediate danger?

My thinking exactly


The skill determines if you can take 10, not the skill check modifier.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think the issue has to be tackled the other way round. First examine the situation to find out if you are entitled to take 10 in the first place.
E. g.: are you in combat? --> Taking 10 is right out. Or could your failure in meeting the DC of the skill check in question put you into danger --> again, taking 10 is right out.

Easy to figure out examples (although I know, they will be countered...) are knowledge checks (Is this ruin of elven origin?) or perception checks (Now, where did that young fellow go with my wallet?).

If you can stay clear of e.g. hp loss, stat drain, being captured etc. due to the action/skill check you are going to take than you can take 10 and apply the result.

Ruyan.


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.
RuyanVe wrote:


My understanding is, that climbing an 80ft rope puts them into immediate danger.

This particular argument gets brought up a lot, despite the fact that the rulebook uses climbing as a specific example of taking 10.

Edit:

RuyanVe wrote:

Or could your failure in meeting the DC of the skill check in question put you into danger --> again, taking 10 is right out.

Ruyan.

Not to pick on Ruyan, but this is also incorrect. The rules for taking 10 state that one of the reasons for doing so is when a low roll will hurt you, but a high roll won't bring any additional benefit.

Edit2: Removed redundant quote.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

No problem, I've been playing for a long time now, but the rules on taking 10 and 20 feel still weird to me - we were always rolling and it never occured to us doing it differently.

Now that I have a new player in my group who brought that up, I'm still trying to come to grasp with these rules.

And taking 10 on climb is only allowed if you have a climb speed listed.

For me, the fulcrum of the issue is the surrounding: danger or distraction.

Therefore, I would say that a failure of a skill check which puts you into danger does not allow for taking 10.
To fail in your task when rolling < 10 when attempting a knowledge skill while sitting in your comfy chair in your study is different, IMO, to failing a climbing check 80 feet up a cliff (In my game it would be different if the climbing takes place in a gym with safety ropes and nice thick cushions on the floor).

Again, I just can say the ruling feels weird to me. Esp. taking 20 on a disable device...

In short: I most probably do not follow RAW here.

Ruyan.

Shadow Lodge

RuyanVe wrote:


In short: I most probably do not follow RAW here.

Ruyan.

We all have some part of it we don't like. The beautiful thing about GMing is we can fix those things... well fix them to the satisfaction of our various groups.

Make sure your new player knows your feelings about the rule, so he doesn't have any surprises.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hehe, I did that (see above post somewhere) and that's what started the discussion ...but, but, it is RAW!...

Ruyan.


RuyanVe wrote:
No problem, I've been playing for a long time now, but the rules on taking 10 and 20 feel still weird to me - we were always rolling and it never occured to us doing it differently.

I was the same way. I can't count the discussions I was in on the various boards before I finally wrapped my head around it and came to my (current, hopefully correct) understanding of it.

And I hate to be "that guy", but...

RuyanVe wrote:
And taking 10 on climb is only allowed if you have a climb speed listed.

I'm afraid this isn't correct. A climb speed grants a +8 bonus to the climb skill and allows you take 10 on climb checks "even if rushed or threatened while climbing." Anyone can take 10 on Climb under normal conditions.

RuyanVe wrote:
Again, I just can say the ruling feels weird to me. Esp. taking 20 on a disable device...

Well, don't forget that not all disable device checks allow taking 20. Opening a lock does, disabling a trap doesn't.

There's a lot of confusion surrounding taking 10 and taking 20. The similar "names" certainly don't help. I've found them to be a big time saver, tho, and well worth considering.

In the end, what works for you and your players is what's best for you and your players. This shall (or at least should) be the whole of the law (or the RAW, for that matter).

Good Luck with your game.


In my group we play it that way: nat 1s auto fail (if it was an attack roll it has extra effect), nat 20 always succeeds (barring insanely stupid things, in those cases you just an increased benefit), that affects nearly every roll.
Now i am sure nearly all of them are house rules but i think that they make the game a little more interesting. (these rules also apply to NPCs)


RuyanVe wrote:

I think the issue has to be tackled the other way round. First examine the situation to find out if you are entitled to take 10 in the first place.

E. g.: are you in combat? --> Taking 10 is right out. Or could your failure in meeting the DC of the skill check in question put you into danger --> again, taking 10 is right out.

Easy to figure out examples (although I know, they will be countered...) are knowledge checks (Is this ruin of elven origin?) or perception checks (Now, where did that young fellow go with my wallet?).

If you can stay clear of e.g. hp loss, stat drain, being captured etc. due to the action/skill check you are going to take than you can take 10 and apply the result.

Ruyan.

The way I remember it is this:

1) Take 10: Are you distracted? No, then Take 10.
2) Take 20: Are you distracted? No, then you may be able to Take 20. Is there a penalty for failure (beyond just failing)? No, then Take 20 if you have the time.

You'll notice that Taking 10 does not have any restrictions on failure. In fact, if you decide that you want to Take 10 and it's not good enough, then you fail. This can bring consequences.

Of course those only apply to skills where you can Take 10 or 20. You can't Take 20 with any skill that doesn't allow a retry (and I would say that has penalties to the check for retries). So Knowledge skills are right now for the most part. You can't Take 10 with Use Magic Device.


RuyanVe wrote:

I think the issue has to be tackled the other way round. First examine the situation to find out if you are entitled to take 10 in the first place.

E. g.: are you in combat? --> Taking 10 is right out. Or could your failure in meeting the DC of the skill check in question put you into danger --> again, taking 10 is right out.

Easy to figure out examples (although I know, they will be countered...) are knowledge checks (Is this ruin of elven origin?) or perception checks (Now, where did that young fellow go with my wallet?).

If you can stay clear of e.g. hp loss, stat drain, being captured etc. due to the action/skill check you are going to take than you can take 10 and apply the result.

Ruyan.

In other words, you would rule that you can never take 10 on climb, acrobatics unless on safe ground, disable device on traps, fly, handle animal on something that might attack you, bluff on someone who might attack you, intimidate on someone who might attack you, perception to notice traps, ride to keep from being thrown, stealth if anyone might see you, and swim.

That's pretty close to saying "You can only take 10 on knowledge checks".

I read "When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted" as "as long as you are not in danger before you make the check, then you can take 10. If failing the check could you in danger, you can still take 10, but if you fail, you're now in danger and can't take 10 any more." So you can take 10 on climbing, even if you're going hand-over-hand across handholds on the ceiling above a 400' pit. But if you're climbing a 20' rope and fail, you can't take 10 on the roll to catch yourself when falling.


Auto-success on 20 is 100% unrealistic, see: jumping over the moon.
Auto-failure on 1 is simply rather annoying and not very realistic.
DC for hearing a battle is -10. Now if you're right next to the battle, and you roll a 1, apparently you're oblivious that there's a heated battle happening right next to you. Also DC to see that there's a person right next to you: 0. However, 5% of the time, you'll be completely oblivious to their presence. Just say the PC's are competent.

Liberty's Edge

ok having read all the answers let me see if I can better clarify the situation. the party had an 80foot climb up a rope which was near to a collapsed interior circular staircase so they have viable footholds at some points to help with the climb. i assigned a DC5 climb skill to it and as a circumstance due to some of the remaining stair features being able to crumble out of the wall and the darkness they were climbing in I added that as long as they did not roll a 1 they could make it all the way to the top with one roll.. the response back to me was you cant fail a skill check on a 1 only on saves or UMD. Thats where it didnt make any sense to me. Granted a highly skilled person doing the same thing repeatedly might even be able to do it blindfolded but knowledgable mountain climbers still fall, great race car drivers still crash, the best golfers still hook or slice it into a hazard. Thats how I see a 1. Now in this case it did not mean they would fall to the ground and kill themselves but it did mean there footing gave out or there grip loosened and they would have to then make another climb check to avoid falling and if successful would be able to regain control as well as there hold on the rope. To fall would have required successive 1's.I have looked in the SRD as well as the players guide the advanced pg the game master guide for both skills and climb and NOWHERE can I find any reference about 1 affecting or NOT affecting anything, so I am curious as to how anyone came up with the term 1 is not an auto fail or 1 does not affect skill checks. As stated I am old school and new to all the changes in pathfinder and just want to make fare a relevant decisions that dont unnecessarily bias the campaign one way or the other.


KaeYoss wrote:

Let's say there's a 100 foot cliff. You stand at the bottom. According to the rules, it's a DC 400 check to jump that high (800 without a running start).

With the natural 20 autosuccess rule, this would mean that it would take anyone 2 minutes on average to jump that high, since statistically, every 20th roll is a natural 20, and that makes you succeed whatever you're doing. Even if you stand there and have to try 100 times, or 1000 times, it doesn't matter. One does not simply jump up a 100 foot cliff under his own power.

This isn't a Mordor thing, either. You just don't.

I can see the -10/30 rule (nat 1 means -10, nat 20 means 30), but that's about it.

Your example, is why I miss the 3.0 max jump distance. I routinely see the party monk making jumps that would cause a wuxia writer to gape in disbelief.


On experts in their field suffering accidents- those are usually due to bad circumstances. Equipment failure during a race (combined with a poor roll), bad weather/weak ledge/forgot something/got drunk (combined with a poor roll), botched a ranged to-hit (bad pitch/slice/serve - notice, that's not a skill check, so 1 could auto-fail). Pretty much any of those could be explained through penalties applying to a low roll despite a pretty good skill level.

In the case of the Climb skill, it has your "don't roll a one" situation built into it already. If they miss the DC by 5 or more, they fall, otherwise they catch themselves and don't make progress, but don't lose progress either. They can still miss a DC 5 climb check by this margin thanks to penalties, but they'd have to roll pretty close to 1 to do that.

On the subject of "1 is auto-fail," I hate punishing players despite success. If they have accumulated legitimate bonuses enough to dodge the effect (and didn't game the system to do it), then by all means, don't take their success away from them just because of some arbitrary notion about statistics.

Liberty's Edge

Parka wrote:

On experts in their field suffering accidents- those are usually due to bad circumstances. Equipment failure during a race (combined with a poor roll), bad weather/weak ledge/forgot something/got drunk (combined with a poor roll), botched a ranged to-hit (bad pitch/slice/serve - notice, that's not a skill check, so 1 could auto-fail). Pretty much any of those could be explained through penalties applying to a low roll despite a pretty good skill level.

In the case of the Climb skill, it has your "don't roll a one" situation built into it already. If they miss the DC by 5 or more, they fall, otherwise they catch themselves and don't make progress, but don't lose progress either. They can still miss a DC 5 climb check by this margin thanks to penalties, but they'd have to roll pretty close to 1 to do that.

On the subject of "1 is auto-fail," I hate punishing players despite success. If they have accumulated legitimate bonuses enough to dodge the effect (and didn't game the system to do it), then by all means, don't take their success away from them just because of some arbitrary notion about statistics.

I agree with your statement about not punishing the players which is not my intent. The intent is to make them wary and add to the dangers of the game to make them still wonder should they just do this or should they take precautions. with some of the new methods IE. skill points is there any need then to tie oneself off to insure they dont slip and fall or have someone fly up and secure a second rope etc etc . with the new skills it pretty much eliminates that and I want to put the mystery and wonder back into the game. with a DC of 5 the most they could miss by would be 4 which is not enough to garner the4 threat I intended as a counter balance to making the climb with just one roll. therefore the 1 became the counter balance not the actual 4 that it would ordinarily be. Cause mostly by the condition of the surrounding environment not the characters skill set.


ancientdm wrote:
I have looked in the SRD as well as the players guide the advanced pg the game master guide for both skills and climb and NOWHERE can I find any reference about 1 affecting or NOT affecting anything, so I am curious as to how anyone came up with the term 1 is not an auto fail or 1 does not affect skill checks.

You're absolutely correct in that there is no place that says that natural 1's/20's are not automatic fails/successes on skill checks. That's because the opposite is true. The only place that they're mentioned, IIRC, are in the Combat section for attack rolls and saving throws. These are the exception to the general rule. Skills, ability checks, caster level checks, they're all straight rolls, no automatic anything.

Shadow Lodge

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My other problem with auto fail on skill checks is the flat probability of a d20. Every number has the same chance of coming up on a roll. Always 5% to fail. If it were more a bell curve I would find a critical failure more stomachable. But in d20, no matter how awesome I become at climbing, no matter how many demon lords I and my companions have slain, I have the same chance to fall off the DC 5 rope as when I was 1st level and had +4 to climb.

There are systems where more skills give you more dice, and I'm more comfortable when these systems have an auto-fail mechanic, as the freak accident situations are far less likely, and they don't lie on a flat 5% chance - increasing your skill actually decreases the threat of the auto-fail option.

Don't get me wrong, I like d20 - love it even, and pathfinder is by far the best ruleset I've ever played under in any d20 game (and I've played more d20 games than just 3.0 and 3.5), but there are things it can do well and things it cannot. An auto-fail on skills is one of those things it cannot simulate well.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I don't care for automatic hits/misses. I accept it on attack rolls to represent those random flukes. I don't add any fumbles to natural 1s, however, unless it is confirmed by a second natural 1. I dislike the frequency of it.

As to skill checks, I ask 'what does a random chance of failure add to this challenge?' Should I tell the players 'your characters think they can make it as long as nothing goes horribly wrong'? What does that serve? If I want them to worry about failing, shouldn't I make the DC higher?


Parka wrote:

On experts in their field suffering accidents- those are usually due to bad circumstances. Equipment failure during a race (combined with a poor roll), bad weather/weak ledge/forgot something/got drunk (combined with a poor roll), botched a ranged to-hit (bad pitch/slice/serve - notice, that's not a skill check, so 1 could auto-fail). Pretty much any of those could be explained through penalties applying to a low roll despite a pretty good skill level.

In the case of the Climb skill, it has your "don't roll a one" situation built into it already. If they miss the DC by 5 or more, they fall, otherwise they catch themselves and don't make progress, but don't lose progress either. They can still miss a DC 5 climb check by this margin thanks to penalties, but they'd have to roll pretty close to 1 to do that.

On the subject of "1 is auto-fail," I hate punishing players despite success. If they have accumulated legitimate bonuses enough to dodge the effect (and didn't game the system to do it), then by all means, don't take their success away from them just because of some arbitrary notion about statistics.

yeah, but the frequency of such things requires both the circumstances and a low roll. I can repeatedly do calculus flawlessly, far more than 20 checks worth. It takes circumstances and a low roll to fail the check.


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ancientdm wrote:
The intent is to make them wary and add to the dangers of the game to make them still wonder should they just do this or should they take precautions. with some of the new methods IE. skill points is there any need then to tie oneself off to insure they dont slip and fall or have someone fly up and secure a second rope etc etc . with the new skills it pretty much eliminates that and I want to put the mystery and wonder back into the game. with a DC of 5 the most they could miss by would be 4 which is not enough to garner the4 threat I intended as a counter balance to making the climb with just one roll. therefore the 1 became the counter balance not the actual 4 that it would ordinarily be. Cause mostly by the condition of the surrounding environment not the characters skill set.

I would have set the wall you describe at a DC15 (10 for rough surface with handholds, +5 for being slippery/crumbly). Characters who are decent at climbing can take-10 and make it automatically. Those who can't can either risk it, or improve their chances by having a capable climber use Aid Another, drop a rope down (DC5 if knotted, DC10 if not), or any other of the myriad ways of improving a skill check. Tying off a character with a rope has no affect on their Climb checks, but it will stop them from falling if they do slip.

In other words, if the characters who aren't good climbers are reckless and just go for it, they've got real danger of falling to their death. If they stop for a moment and think it through though, work as a team, then they can probably get through it. Sounds exactly the way its supposed to work to me.


Sorry, ancientdm, I didn't mean to imply you like to arbitrarily punish your players. It was more aimed at the same "they" conspiracy theorists talk about.

I tried to mention this, but even with a DC 5 climb check, if any player is wearing armor with a check penalty or has a strength penalty, they can fail the climb check by 5, or more. Heavy gear, if you track encumbrance, can do this too. If you want to encourage your players to loop their rope around themselves and things like that, tracking encumbrance ought to help get them in the mindset of "everything you do and carry has an effect." It's not my preferred style of play (my favorite games handwave a lot to get to the interesting bits), but it has no less merit.

Liberty's Edge

ZappoHisbane, 10 minutes ago
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ancientdm wrote:

The intent is to make them wary and add to the dangers of the game to make them still wonder should they just do this or should they take precautions. with some of the new methods IE. skill points is there any need then to tie oneself off to insure they dont slip and fall or have someone fly up and secure a second rope etc etc . with the new skills it pretty much eliminates that and I want to put the mystery and wonder back into the game. with a DC of 5 the most they could miss by would be 4 which is not enough to garner the4 threat I intended as a counter balance to making the climb with just one roll. therefore the 1 became the counter balance not the actual 4 that it would ordinarily be. Cause mostly by the condition of the surrounding environment not the characters skill set.

I would have set the wall you describe at a DC15 (10 for rough surface with handholds, +5 for being slippery/crumbly). Characters who are decent at climbing can take-10 and make it automatically. Those who can't can either risk it, or improve their chances by having a capable climber use Aid Another, drop a rope down (DC5 if knotted, DC10 if not), or any other of the myriad ways of improving a skill check. Tying off a character with a rope has no affect on their Climb checks, but it will stop them from falling if they do slip.

In other words, if the characters who aren't good climbers are reckless and just go for it, they've got real danger of falling to their death. If they stop for a moment and think it through though, work as a team, then they can probably get through it. Sounds exactly the way its supposed to work to me.

Parka, 7 minutes ago
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Sorry, ancientdm, I didn't mean to imply you like to arbitrarily punish your players. It was more aimed at the same "they" conspiracy theorists talk about.

I tried to mention this, but even with a DC 5 climb check, if any player is wearing armor with a check penalty or has a strength penalty, they can fail the climb check by 5, or more. Heavy gear, if you track encumbrance, can do this too. If you want to encourage your players to loop their rope around themselves and things like that, tracking encumbrance ought to help get them in the mindset of "everything you do and carry has an effect." It's not my preferred style of play (my favorite games handwave a lot to get to the interesting bits), but it has no less merit.

Thanks everyone these last two seem to express what it was i was looking for, I will both assign a better DC to fit the situation as well as look for armor penalties and encumbrance thank you everyone for your insightful replies to my dilemma

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