Critical Failure -- some numbers (lockpicking)


Playing the Game

Liberty's Edge

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Superscriber

First, I want to say that I really don't like the critical failure rules. When accomplished adventurers fail spectacularly 5% of the time they make a check (which is more often than it used to be, thanks to a lack of "Take 10"), they aren't epic heroic adventurers, they're bumblers. This could be modified with a "Fail Forward" advice such as is found in 13th age, but that wouldn't really be consistent with the huge number of enumerated effects of critical failures. (Pathfinder is just a much more rules-heavy system than 13th age.)

I've tried to put some numbers on one example case. Consider somebody with +10 to Thievery picking a DC 20 lock. In Pathfinder 1, they could just do it by taking 10. Assume that the lock takes 3 successes to pick (based on "Pick a Lock" saying that the simplest lock requires 3 successes). I ran some simulations, and discovered that 9% of the time you will break your lockpicks before you succeed at picking the lock. That's distressingly large. (It's not quite as bad as Skyrim, only there you carry around dozens of zero-weight lockpicks, so it's not the same thing.) As another note, 34% of the time it will take more than 6 rolls to succeed.

Picking a lock has turned into a boring minigame with a high chance of receiving an irritating penalty for playing.

What is the design goal of the critical failure rules? If this were Paranoia, or a game which in general was supposed to be set to "Yakkity Sax" as background music, then having frequent critical failures might make sense. For Pathfinder, though, it's just irritating. Run the numbers on some of these things; do we really want players accruing these crit fail penalties as often as they will in the system as presented?

(Also, please bring back Take 10!)

Here is the code I used to simulate the numbers above.


Well we have T10 (sorta) in feat form allowing for treating yoru roll as 10 better with Prof. And when you ran you numbers did you consider any feats that the player might have to boost lockpicking?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Talonhawke I thought so too with the feat assurance, but it lets you not roll and just get a result of a 10 with no bonuses, penalties or modifiers. expert a total of 15 master 20 and legendary 30. once more it is not that you rolled that number, that number is now your total.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, but that means you need to be 7th level before you can reliably pick a DC 20 Lock, which is insane.

And there's no feats that make you better at lockpicking except Quick Unlock, which makes every success count as 3. Which is good but, level 7, requires Master in Thievery. And that just lets you get at a bog standard Lock. Expert Locks are DC 25 and require 4 succeses.

Expert/Master Thieves' Tools help (+1/+2, respectively) but until you're 7th level you're basically out of luck and are always looking at a 5% chance of breaking your picks even on the lowest rated Lock, which is really bad.


Yeah I could have said that better sorry.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
TheFinish wrote:
Yeah, but that means you need to be 7th level before you can reliably pick a DC 20 Lock, which is insane.

According to the chart on page 337, DC 20 at 7th level is considered "low"


A 1 is not an automatic critical failure. It might be possible in some situations to meet the DC even on a 1. If your roll would equal or exceed the DC even on a 1, you don’t critically fail, but you still fail instead of succeeding. You can’t succeed when you roll a 1 no matter what your modifier is.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pepor wrote:
A 1 is not an automatic critical failure. It might be possible in some situations to meet the DC even on a 1. If your roll would equal or exceed the DC even on a 1, you don’t critically fail, but you still fail instead of succeeding. You can’t succeed when you roll a 1 no matter what your modifier is.

There are ver very few situations in PF2 where a 1 would succeed at the DC. Everything's heavily HEAVILY balanced at needing a 9 to 11.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I would also point out that thieves tools should indicate how many lack picks you have. Since they can break, you outta know how many you have.


DC 20 for 1st level exceeds the extreme difficulty by 2. And yet you need 3 successes. This is not the game I would like to play.

I guess just a single roll will more than enough and in result the player do succeed or just not good enough to pick a lock. Also may be she can try to pick a lock next day.


While the lack of take 10 (or even take 5 which I would be okay with) will still be an issue, the problems with lockpicking could be largely mitigated by changing the approach. Instead of three one-action checks, it should generally be one three-action (full-round) check for a regular lock, two full-round checks for an expert lock, etc. With quick unlock reducing it to a single action per check instead of a full round per check.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Yes, I've had the exact same experiences.

In playtest I have found that:
- Breaking lockpicks is frequent, highly annoying, and not a fun type of gameplay.
- Not having Take 10 slows down gameplay. Assurance is not a replacement for Take 10, not even for the skill you have it for.
- Critical failures on rolls of "1" is making gameplay like the Three Stooges, silly stuff happens far too often.

Please, for picking locks, critical failure should mean you can no longer try that day.

Please remove critical failures on rolls of "1" for a high fantasy game.

Please consider bringing back Take 10, it helps speed up gameplay.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

End result of this mess was that, when my players saw the rules on lockpicking they decided then and there to resort to smasshing any lock they needed open, faster, simpler and less failure prone...


Ikusias wrote:
End result of this mess was that, when my players saw the rules on lockpicking they decided then and there to resort to smasshing any lock they needed open, faster, simpler and less failure prone...

Yep, us too. I broke far less hairpins in my entire fallout game than our rogue did in the first adventure. :(

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
graystone wrote:
Ikusias wrote:
End result of this mess was that, when my players saw the rules on lockpicking they decided then and there to resort to smasshing any lock they needed open, faster, simpler and less failure prone...
Yep, us too. I broke far less hairpins in my entire fallout game than our rogue did in the first adventure. :(

We had the same issue with the party giving up on lockpicking. My question is what role should locks and lockpicking play in the adventure?

Should there be locks that can stop the party in the adventure and force them to go around or make a bunch of noise? Or should most locks encountered be a one or two round distraction from the rest of the adventure?


I think a big part of the problem is that skill DCs appear to have been ported directly from PF1E without taking into account that skill bonuses are lower now, or that lockpicking DCs in particular were designed with the assumption that you could take 20 if you had to because there was no penalty for failing.

With PF2E, your odds of crit failing a DC 20 are as good or better than your odds of succeeding, turning it into a Sisyphusian limbo of non-progress.

Community / Forums / Archive / Pathfinder / Playtests & Prerelease Discussions / Pathfinder Playtest / Player Rules / Playing the Game / Critical Failure -- some numbers (lockpicking) All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Playing the Game