PSA: You're Probably Doing the Critical Rules wrong (I was!)


General Discussion


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Hey everyone! So, this is something that seems that blew my mind a bit, that a lot of people online on other sites and in my real playgroup has been playing wrong, and it really changes how the Critical Success/Failure system works, especially at higher levels.

The important part involves Nat 20s and Nat 1s. From Page 292-

Success: However, if you succeed and rolled a 20 on the die (often called a “natural 20”), or if your result is equal to or greater than the DC plus 10, you critically succeed.

Failure: If you fail and roll a 1 on the d20 (also called a “natural 1”), or you fail and your result is equal to or less than the DC minus 10, you critically fail instead of just failing. A critical failure is sometimes called a “fumble.”

Notably, to turn a success into a crit success into natural 20, or a fail into a crit fail, it still has to succeed in the first place or fail in the first place. You have to fail the DC AND roll a nat 1 to crit fail. Rolling a nat 1 does NOT automatically cause a failure or a critical failure, and you can still succeed on a Nat 1 if your check is high enough to still pass with only a 1 on the die roll.

So, no failing to climb a ladder of DC 5 on a Nat one for your Rogue who's a master at athletics, no failing to hit a near stationary Ooze with a nat 1 from your high level fighter, Ect.

Just something I thought I'd point out cause I've see a lot of groups read nat 1s as a automatic failure and nat 20s as a automatic success.


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GM_Starson wrote:

Hey everyone! So, this is something that seems that blew my mind a bit, that a lot of people online on other sites and in my real playgroup has been playing wrong, and it really changes how the Critical Success/Failure system works, especially at higher levels.

The important part involves Nat 20s and Nat 1s. From Page 292-

Success: However, if you succeed and rolled a 20 on the die (often called a “natural 20”), or if your result is equal to or greater than the DC plus 10, you critically succeed.

Failure: If you fail and roll a 1 on the d20 (also called a “natural 1”), or you fail and your result is equal to or less than the DC minus 10, you critically fail instead of just failing. A critical failure is sometimes called a “fumble.”

Notably, to turn a success into a crit success into natural 20, or a fail into a crit fail, it still has to succeed in the first place or fail in the first place. You have to fail the DC AND roll a nat 1 to crit fail. Rolling a nat 1 does NOT automatically cause a failure or a critical failure, and you can still succeed on a Nat 1 if your check is high enough to still pass with only a 1 on the die roll.

So, no failing to climb a ladder of DC 5 on a Nat one for your Rogue who's a master at athletics, no failing to hit a near stationary Ooze with a nat 1 from your high level fighter, Ect.

Just something I thought I'd point out cause I've see a lot of groups read nat 1s as a automatic failure and nat 20s as a automatic success.

Uh, you are incorrect.

This just means you cant critically fail to climb the ladder, and you can't critically miss the ooze. You can still fail on a natural 1.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

Yesssss!

All level 10 characters report to the ladders for a drunken ladder dance party, stat!


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Thanks for the OP's post.

I do wish this was spelled out more clearly, however. Those words "succeed and" can get lost in the above-quoted passage.

Granted, it IS in the "Success" result line. But most people roll a 20 and yell "I succeed!" and go to the "Success" line. This is an assumption that players from PF1, 5e and most other systems come in with.

But PF2 asks people to first add d20+modifiers to determine success or failure. AFTER that, is when you consider whether it's a natural 1 or 20. (Perhaps this could be called out specifically within the text.)


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just to backup what is being said, later in the Failure and Critical Failure section, it says:

Quote:
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 is a similar line for natural 20.

EDIT: The success line

Quote:
If your enemy is far more powerful than you or a task beyond your abilities, you might roll a natural 20 and still get a result lower than the DC. In this case, you succeed instead of critically succeed or fail. If you lack the proficiency for a task in the first place, or it’s impossible, you might still fail on a natural 20.

Scarab Sages

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Using Bullet Points would be a great tool to make sure the rule was clearly understood, instead of writing 2 or 3 sentences in 2 or 3 different places in the book that are complex sentences.


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Well you thought it was a ladder, until you realised near the top it was an upset doppleganger.

And before you point out my error: my ladder is a specific individual. That's what the guy in the shop said and why I paid extra for it!


Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

True... But you can fall from a ladder that is wobbly, in the wind, in the rain, while drunk. There are enough penalties there to probably make it difficult.

By the way Mark...

*Kidnaps you and drags you to the class forums to talk about Paladins.*


HWalsh wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

True... But you can fall from a ladder that is wobbly, in the wind, in the rain, while drunk. There are enough penalties there to probably make it difficult.

By the way Mark...

*Kidnaps you and drags you to the class forums to talk about Paladins.*

Can you? Drunk seems like it would be covered by sick, which only the most virulent poisons seem to inflict more than 2, so I'd say sick 2 for well and truly drunk. On top of that circumstance penalties, which I'd see as in the wind, rain, and wobbly, don't stack, but let's say wind and rain was in one category of "weather circumstance penalties" and at max penalty of -4. so that's -6 due to penalties, but a Master rogue would have proficiency of +9, at minimum, so a master rogue with at least 12 str couldn't fall off a ladder while drunk, in a hurricane.

Now, I don't think the niche case of a drunken rogue in a hurricane is that much of a problem, since you're probably not going to have the luxury of a ladder in such a circumstance, unless it's somehow affixed to the top of whatever you're trying to climb to.


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Xethik wrote:

Just to backup what is being said, later in the Failure and Critical Failure section, it says:

Quote:
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 is a similar line for natural 20.

EDIT: The success line

Quote:
If your enemy is far more powerful than you or a task beyond your abilities, you might roll a natural 20 and still get a result lower than the DC. In this case, you succeed instead of critically succeed or fail. If you lack the proficiency for a task in the first place, or it’s impossible, you might still fail on a natural 20.

Ugh! So it appears I was wrong then. So there is a HIDDEN rule about natural 20s and natural 1s which is an exception to how we choose from among FOUR possible outcomes, which already has its own exceptions? AND we're talking about the central mechanic in the game?

This is a core rule that is confusing, and it desperately needs a visual explanation.


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I'd honestly rather nat 20's and nat 1's were removed from the game. They're unnecessary with the +10/-10 system, and the legendary athletics rogue still should not have a 5% chance to fail to climb the ladder even if it doesn't mean she falls off.


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No, don't remove them - they add drama and excitement to the play. However, the rules (as with many others in the playtest book) need a serious editorial overhaul.

"A natural 20 is always a success. If it would be a natural success anyway, it become a critical success. A natural 1 is always a failure. If it would be a natural failure anyway, it becomes a critical failure."


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Given the number of different variations of critical hits and failures lately (Starfinder had its own system, which is clouding expectations a little), and the importance of PF2e's new +/-10 critical system, I feel like this is an area that really needs attention to make sure the description is clear. People above, reading the same paragraph, have come away with a different understanding of what it means.

I feel like auto-hit on 20 and auto-fail on 1 are both misplaced. "The orc is over two miles away. Your arrows won't even reach that far, never mind hit." "But I rolled a 20!" "Ugh, fine."

Grand Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber

Natural 1 on skill checks being a fail, even if your bonus would mean that you would succeed (or critically succeed) at the roll, is something of a sticking point for myself (and for some others I know, a point of intense rage). I get the new system, new paradigm, but with this and the move to assurance over a Take 10 rule, I'm less and less enthused with skills.

(To be clear, my 'objection', if one wants to raise it to that level, is one of perception and feeling, and not so much the mechanic in and of itself. And is for skill checks only, not the general critical system.)


I don't really like Critical Confirmation rolls (too anti-climactic), never really liked critical failures (though, some old school RPGs, like Arduin Grimoire, have some hilarious ones), so delving this much into critical successes/failures is not really my bag. It's not a deal-breaker or anything, they are really leveraging it with the 4-Tiers deal.


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In my group's playtest game we had a cleric nat 20 on his third iterative while making a desperation swing. It turned a miss into a hit (at least if we understood it correctly, which we're not sure of), but didn't have a meaningful affect on the encounter outcome, which was still a dead cleric and a dead animal companion, basically bringing the adventure to a screeching halt.

Back on topic, a simpler way to word it would be to just say that nat 20's increase your success degree by one and nat 1's decrease your success degree by one in most cases? It would work the same as it is now in 99% of cases?


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sadie wrote:
I feel like auto-hit on 20 and auto-fail on 1 are both misplaced. "The orc is over two miles away. Your arrows won't even reach that far, never mind hit." "But I rolled a 20!" "Ugh, fine."

One, the rules specify that you can't hit anything at a range penalty of over -10. Two, they also say

page 292, Success and Critical Success wrote:
If you lack the proficiency for a task in the first place, or it’s impossible, you might still fail on a natural 20.

I agree that we don't need 20s and 1s to be special, but because that's overly complex, not because it's broken (it isn't).


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I actually *really* don't like the way this is handled. I'd prefer they get rid of natural 1's and natural 20's entirely. The fact is, if a task is so trivial that players will only fail on a natural 1, then I don't want to have my players bother to roll for it, that's not really fun, just let them succeed. Similarly, if they only succeed on a natural 20, I want to simply tell them "that task is impossible for you right now".


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tivadar27 wrote:
I actually *really* don't like the way this is handled. I'd prefer they get rid of natural 1's and natural 20's entirely. The fact is, if a task is so trivial that players will only fail on a natural 1, then I don't want to have my players bother to roll for it, that's not really fun, just let them succeed. Similarly, if they only succeed on a natural 20, I want to simply tell them "that task is impossible for you right now".

Yes, I thought the commonality of only hitting/saving on a natural 20 and failure only on a natural 1 in 3rd Ed/PF1 at higher levels was something people were trying to get away from.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
tivadar27 wrote:
I actually *really* don't like the way this is handled. I'd prefer they get rid of natural 1's and natural 20's entirely. The fact is, if a task is so trivial that players will only fail on a natural 1, then I don't want to have my players bother to roll for it, that's not really fun, just let them succeed. Similarly, if they only succeed on a natural 20, I want to simply tell them "that task is impossible for you right now".

On average, they will end up succeeding if they can / have to roll enough times, but it will take a long time (ie, what was covered by Taking 20 in PF1). Same for the failing thing.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Is the algorithm something like this ?

- Nat 20 ?
=> Yes = if impossible / lacking proficiency => (Simple) failure ; else => meets the DC ? => Yes = Critical success ; No = (Simple) success

- Nat 1 ?
=> Yes = fails the DC ? => Yes = Critical failure ; No = (Simple) failure

- Other number : Meets the DC ?

=> Yes = Exceeds by 10+ => Yes = Critical success ; No = (Simple) success

=> No = Misses by 10+ => Yes = Critical failure ; No = (Simple) failure


The Raven Black wrote:

Is the algorithm something like this ?

- Nat 20 ?
=> Yes = if impossible / lacking proficiency => (Simple) failure ; else => meets the DC ? => Yes = Critical success ; No = (Simple) success

- Nat 1 ?
=> Yes = fails the DC ? => Yes = Critical failure ; No = (Simple) failure

- Other number : Meets the DC ?

=> Yes = Exceeds by 10+ => Yes = Critical success ; No = (Simple) success

=> No = Misses by 10+ => Yes = Critical failure ; No = (Simple) failure

That matches my understanding.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

For what it’s worth, I find the “one degree of success” rule to be much easier to remember than the current rule, which I find it’s easy to get confused by. (And the number of people expressing confusion in this thread suggests that I’m not alone.)

Given that the two rules yield the same results most of the time, it might be worth shifting to the less confusing “one degree of success” rule instead of the current one.

(That said, I prefer the simplest option — no special rule regarding natural 20s/1s — to either of those rules. But if we’re going to have special natural 20s/1s rule, the simpler “one degree of success” rule seems preferable to the current one.)


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I agree, It is much easier to explain to a player that a natural 20 improves the outcome of the roll by 1 step and a natural 1 reduces the outcome of the roll by one step. This boils down to giving a +10 bonus for a nat 20 and a -10 penalty for a nat 1


The Raven Black wrote:
tivadar27 wrote:
I actually *really* don't like the way this is handled. I'd prefer they get rid of natural 1's and natural 20's entirely. The fact is, if a task is so trivial that players will only fail on a natural 1, then I don't want to have my players bother to roll for it, that's not really fun, just let them succeed. Similarly, if they only succeed on a natural 20, I want to simply tell them "that task is impossible for you right now".

On average, they will end up succeeding if they can / have to roll enough times, but it will take a long time (ie, what was covered by Taking 20 in PF1). Same for the failing thing.

That's not the way it works though. Let's say I have a DC 50 lock, and the player has a +10 to Thievery. This *should* be impossible, but the fact is that a natural 20, while it isn't a critical success, is still a success:

"If your enemy is far more powerful than you or a task
beyond your abilities, you might roll a natural 20 and
still get a result lower than the DC. In this case, you
succeed instead of critically succeed or fail."

That's not a gameplay mode I want, at all...


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Porridge wrote:

For what it’s worth, I find the “one degree of success” rule to be much easier to remember than the current rule, which I find it’s easy to get confused by. (And the number of people expressing confusion in this thread suggests that I’m not alone.)

Given that the two rules yield the same results most of the time, it might be worth shifting to the less confusing “one degree of success” rule instead of the current one.

(That said, I prefer the simplest option — no special rule regarding natural 20s/1s — to either of those rules. But if we’re going to have special natural 20s/1s rule, the simpler “one degree of success” rule seems preferable to the current one.)

I guess I could get behind this. At least it lets me set DCs that are trivial/impossible, even if they do need to be +-20 away from normal DCs rather than +-10.

Liberty's Edge

Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

But... why are you even rolling unless the GM has decided there should be a non-zero chance of failing/falling?

Also... people fall of ladders all the time. Fumbling is life.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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Jester David wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

But... why are you even rolling unless the GM has decided there should be a non-zero chance of failing/falling?

Also... people fall of ladders all the time. Fumbling is life.

Not 5% of the time though. Imagine a world where you had a 5% chance to fall down the stairs every time you used them, or everyone had a 5% chance to get into a car crash every time they drove. That is the world of PF2e. Yes, critical failures happen in real life, but the d20 is not granular enough to express their frequency correctly.

I'm in favor of the +/- one degree of success model, or just getting rid of 1/20 being special altogether.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Y'all inspired me to make a thing.

http://imgur.com/a/r1w5Gsy


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GinoA wrote:

Y'all inspired me to make a thing.

http://imgur.com/a/r1w5Gsy

Awesome, a flow chart. Haven't needed one of those for a game mechanic since D&D 3.0 grappling!


ryric wrote:
Jester David wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Which does mean you can never fall from the ladder, though.

But... why are you even rolling unless the GM has decided there should be a non-zero chance of failing/falling?

Also... people fall of ladders all the time. Fumbling is life.

Not 5% of the time though. Imagine a world where you had a 5% chance to fall down the stairs every time you used them, or everyone had a 5% chance to get into a car crash every time they drove. That is the world of PF2e. Yes, critical failures happen in real life, but the d20 is not granular enough to express their frequency correctly.

I'm in favor of the +/- one degree of success model, or just getting rid of 1/20 being special altogether.

I like that 1's mean failure and 20's mean successes.

Too many people in PF1 were like, "I've got a +35 in X, I take 10 and auto succeed."

It is like, dude, the DC is 26...


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waynemarkstubbs wrote:
No, don't remove them - they add drama and excitement to the play.

What drama and excitement do they add that the +10/-10 system does not already provide? Against a reasonably challenging opponent a 20 will usually critically succeed and a 1 will usually critically fail without any special rules regarding those numbers. Removing that rule just means that you don't randomly look like an idiot at something you're supposed to be a pro at 5% of the time, and looking like an idiot is generally never fun.

Shadow Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I be happy to see the Natural 20/1 thing removed. The four degrees of success makes up for this.

Liberty's Edge

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Starfinder Superscriber

I too would like to see the Nat 20 and Nat 1 rules removed from skill checks.

Lots of systems have critical failure and critical success rules. I thought that PF1e not having them for skills was a really good feature of the system.

However, I can see the benefit of saying that you really crushed it, or really bobbled it; rolling >=DC+10 or <=DC-10 for those conditions is enough. The random chance 5% chance of a failure no matter what is just disheartening. (For example, lockpicking has become something that you take big risks to attempt if you aren't pretty sure that your skill is at least the DC+9; I argued that in a thread here..)

I also really want to see Take 10 brought back. People who are really good at something should just be able to succeed at tasks that are commensurate to their abilities, or easier, when there's no pressure on them. The Take 10 rules are also something really nice about 3e/Pathfinder. I suspect that the Take 10 rules were a casualty of always needing to have a 5% chance of failure, and usually having a 5% chance of critical failure. And, yes, I know that "Assurance" exists, but it's a really really week replacement for Take 10. (It might be good at the lowest levels, but eventually the auto-result you get is going to be worse than your average roll... and it only gives it to you for a single skill. It's a trap feat. Trap feats just shouldn't exist; they're a waste of space, and why set traps for your players?)

I see the draw of critical success and critical failure for either crushing the DC or falling way short of it, but always having a 5% chance of failure no matter how amazing you are at something, and nearly always having a 5% chance of critical failure, is, as I said in that other thread, more appropriate for a game whose soundtrack is Yakkity Sax than for a mythic/legendary high fantasy game with highly competent heroes.


Arachnofiend wrote:
Against a reasonably challenging opponent a 20 will usually critically succeed and a 1 will usually critically fail without any special rules regarding those numbers.

That isn't quite true. With just the +/-10, you'll never be have the chance to critically succeed or critically fail on the same roll.

For example, a DC 10 flat check can critically succeed on a 20 but never critically fail (because there's no 0 on a d20). And a DC 11 flat check can critically fail on a 1 but never critically succeed (because there's no 21).

Cheers!
Landon

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber
rknop wrote:
... pretty sure that your skill is at least the DC+9;...

Oops -- that should have been DC-9.

(If your skill is DC-9 or higher, then a Nat 1 will not fail by 10 or more.)


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That flow-chart is well made - thanks, GinoA - but it makes clear that there are too many moving parts here and they don't interact cleanly. You have proficiency gating, DC +/- 10 and nat 20/1 all on the same check. We need at most two of those mechanics, and Paizo need to make clear how they interact, otherwise you end up with both confusion and weird edge cases.

For example, if I'm reading it correctly, somebody who lacks proficiency in a skill always fails, but only somebody with proficiency can critically fail. I guess a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
sadie wrote:

That flow-chart is well made - thanks, GinoA - but it makes clear that there are too many moving parts here and they don't interact cleanly. You have proficiency gating, DC +/- 10 and nat 20/1 all on the same check. We need at most two of those mechanics, and Paizo need to make clear how they interact, otherwise you end up with both confusion and weird edge cases.

For example, if I'm reading it correctly, somebody who lacks proficiency in a skill always fails, but only somebody with proficiency can critically fail. I guess a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

Someone not proficient is actually not able to attempt the check. (As in: "You can't roll Arcana to identify that spell. You aren't trained in Arcana.)

Thus he can't critically fail such a check.

But yeah, for the few things an untrained character might try that he has no training for (Disable a Device, Decipher Writing...) he shoould actually face the critically failure results.

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