# The game cannot decide on a core mechanic, and simultaneous critical failure and critical success seems possible

### General Discussion

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This game cannot decide on a core mechanic. There could really stand to be clarification on this.

According to page 8:

Quote:

Rolling 20 is better! Rolling a 20 on the die means you critically succeed, which often has a greater effect than normal. You also gain a critical success if your total meets or exceeds the Difficulty Class by 10 or more.

Rolling 1 is bad. When you do, you critically fail your check. This is even worse than a regular failure. You also critically fail if your total is lower than the Difficulty Class by 10 or more.

According to page 178:

Quote:
When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 (the number on the die is 20), or if the result of your attack exceeds the target’s AC by 10, this is called a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

So far, so good. Everything is consistent is so far.

Then we get to page 292, and the mess begins:

Quote:

If your result is equal to or greater than the DC, you succeed and apply any success effect (or generally achieve what you set out to do). 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. You apply the critical success effect instead of the success effect. If the critical success was an attack roll, it is sometimes called a critical hit.

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.

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.

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.

Okay... there are some contradictory statements here, and I cannot make heads or tails of them. So then, let us have a look at a few scenarios involving natural 1s and natural 20s.

I roll a natural 1 on a DC 20 skill check, and due to my modifier of +19, the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, or a success?

I roll a natural 1 on a DC 10 skill check, and due to my modifier of +19, the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, a success, or a critical success?

I roll a natural 20 on a DC 25 skill check, and due to my modifier of +0, the final result is 20. Is this a failure, a success, or a critical success?

I roll a natural 20 on a DC 30 skill check, and due to my modifier of +0, the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, a success, or a critical success?

I roll a natural 20 on an attack roll against AC 25, and due to my modifier of +0 (perhaps due to multiple attack penalty), the final result is 20. Is this a failure, a success, or a critical success?

I roll a natural 20 against AC 30, and due to my modifier of +0 (again maybe due to multiple attack penalty), the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, a success, or a critical success?

The fact that the core mechanic cannot easily answer these questions means that the core mechanic should be elucidated.

I have been running the game for half a dozen premade scenarios so far, and these issues with the core mechanic have cropped up numerous times when it comes to rolling natural 20s on second and third attacks.

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I will agree it needs to be clarified where to look but once you read the rules on pg 292 it's fairly straightforward. A roll of a 20 is ALWAYS a success but not always a Crit Success unless the DC/AC is met. A roll of 1 is ALWAYS a failure but not always a Crit Failure if the DC is met. Feats or abities may change this, such as something says treat crit failures as failure or successes as crit successes.

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Uh, no? It's literally covered in the text.

If you roll a natural 1 and you would have failed, it's a crit fail. Otherwise, it's a standard failure.
If you roll a natural 20 and you would have succeeded, it's a crit success. Otherwise, it's just a standard success.

So let's go through each of these.
1. 20 vs DC 20. You would have succeeded, therefore it's a fail.
2. 20 vs DC 10. You would have succeeded, therefore it's a fail.
3. 20 vs DC 25. You would have failed, therefore it's a success.
4. 20 vs DC 30. You would have failed, therefore success.
5. 20 vs AC 25. Would have failed, therefore success.
6. 20 vs AC 30. Would have failed, therefore success.

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The problem is that page 8 dictates that a natural 20 is a critical success and a natural 1 is a critical failure, and page 178 says that a natural 20 on an attack roll is a critical hit.

Page 292, taken on its own, could work, but bringing in page 8 and page 178 muddies the waters.

Simple: "Basic concepts" don't encompass the whole of the game.

If you check the index for critical success/failure, it points to 292.

If you check the glossary, you get:

Quote:

Critical Failure A critical failure is a degree of success that results from a check result that is 10 or more lower than the Difficulty Class, or is a result of a natural 1 (as long as that natural 1 does not result in a roll that is higher than the Difficulty Class). A critical failure is also a failure, though a critical failure entry supersedes the failure entry if present.

Critical Success A critical success is a degree of success that results from a check result that is 10 or more higher than the Difficulty Class, or a result of natural 20 (as long as that natural 20 does not result in a roll that is lower than the Difficulty Class). A critical success is also a success, though a critical success entry supersedes the success entry if present.

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Then we still have the matter of page 178's claim concerning natural 20s and critical hits.

I think that the cleanest possible way to handle this would be for Paizo to write in something like:
First, calculate success or failure.
Then, check for beating the DC by 10. If this is true, then increase the success level by one.
Then, check for a natural 20. If this is true, then increase the success level by one.
Then, check for failing the DC by 10. If this is true, then decrease the success level by one.
Then, check for a natural 1. If this is true, then decrease the success level by one.
Attack rolls are no different from any other kind of roll for this procedure, and an outcome cannot be adjusted higher than a critical success or lower than a critical failure.

This is just my suggestion for rewriting the core mechanic though.

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The contradictory bits are: "Rolling a 20 on the die means you critically succeed" and "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"

The latter is more specific, so it takes precedence.

Counterpoint: You fail on a natural 20 by more than 10.

1. Calculate failure.
2. Result was not > DC+10. Ignore.
3. Natural 20, increase success level by one to success.
4. Failed the DC by 10, decrease success level by one to failure.
5. Check for a natural 1. Ignore.

Output: Failure.

This doesn't satisfy the same conditions as the original rule.

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Cyouni wrote:
This doesn't satisfy the same conditions as the original rule.

I really cannot tell what the original rules would actually do in this case though:

I roll a natural 20 on a DC 30 skill check, and due to my modifier of +0, the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, a success, or a critical success?

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A success, because:
"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"

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Colette Brunel wrote:
Cyouni wrote:
This doesn't satisfy the same conditions as the original rule.

I really cannot tell what the original rules would actually do in this case though:

I roll a natural 20 on a DC 30 skill check, and due to my modifier of +0, the final result is 20. Is this a critical failure, a failure, a success, or a critical success?

Success. Rolled a 20 but didn’t beat the DC. Didn’t fail and miss DC by 10, so not critical failure. Didn’t roll a 1, so not downgraded to failure or critical failure.

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Is there any new word on this? I have run 21 playthroughs so far, and this has come up multiple times, especially the part on "critical hits" when people are rolling with -10 MAP and hoping for a natural 20. We really cannot tell if a natural 20 on, for example, an attack roll is a critical hit even if the final total result is less than the target's AC.

Sorry, not having the difficulty with it. Your latest example is a successful hit, but not a critical as per page 292.

****

"If you lack the proficiency for a task in the first place, or it’s impossible, you might still fail on a natural 20."
-this statement is annoying as it infers a skill (ie proficiency for a task), whereas they prior line defines the success on a natural 20 against an AC it can't actually hit.

Everything would be easier if the earlier explaining statements on page 8 and 178 had the word 'typically'on the definition.

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But this does highlight the clunkiness that can be the critical success or failure due to the +/-10 situation.

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Yet page 178 says, for attack rolls specifically:

Quote:
When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 (the number on the die is 20), or if the result of your attack exceeds the target’s AC by 10, this is called a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

So would a natural 20 thus not be a critical hit no matter what?

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Wow, I actually thought this was a joke when I first read it. This is a whole new level on your unreasonable rules-quibbling, Colette. It's blatantly clear that there is no actual ambiguity or question here actually looking at the rules.

Page 8, Basic Concepts, very introductory stuff. Explaining the concept of die rolls and the basic of crit success and failure.

Page 178, Weapons, discussing attack rolls. The base conditions for a crit are specified here again as it is also introducing what the critical effect of a Strike is.

Page 292, Playing the Game, discussing the process of making checks. Attack rolls are specifically called out here as a type of check. It then says that when making a check (which the text makes clear includes attack rolls) and you roll a Nat 20 but it would be a failure otherwise or you roll a Nat 1 but would otherwise succeed it is instead a normal success or failure respectively rather than a crit. This is applying a -specific- exception in a specific case "Nat 20/1 that would otherwise fail/succeed" to the -general- rule that a Natural 20/1 is a critical success. The reason this distinction is clear (And likely the reason it is not included in the previous entries) is that failing on Nat 20 and succeeding on Nat 1 are extreme outliers that seem to be restricted to certain extreme ends such as tackling a majorly above/below level task, targeting the strongest save of an enemy 3-4 levels above you, or making a 3rd attack against an enemy whose defense outclasses your offense (That is to say you had less than 50% ht rate on first attack).

I do not believe putting this exception on Page 8 would have been a good idea as it is a needless complexity for corner cases to be added into the part of the book newbies will be reading. Should it be specified on Page 178? Maybe, since as mentioned it can certainly crop up on third strikes. But it doesn't NEED to be there as the specific case is handled for attack rolls AND all other types of checks on Page 292. Nothing about Page 8 or 178 supercedes 292, and they are not really in contradiction. 8 and 178 do not offer contradiction to 292, they simply do not list a specific exception which is then revealed on 292.

So the opinion that the formatting could stand to be different is a valid one but don't even try to pretend there is any real confusion or question as to how it works. Saying that Nat 20 on an attack roll is an auto-crit despite 292 saying it isn't just because 8 and 178 don't say its not is no more reasonable than, say, arguing that the Keen Rune does not allow weapons to crit on a 19 because the other entries on critical hits don't specify "If you roll a Nat 20, or a Nat 19 on an attack roll with a weapon with the Keen Property Rune, or if you beat the DC by 10, then your roll is a critical success!". In both cases the rules make it clear that there is an exception to the general rule, this is not overridden by the exception to the rule not being stated in every instance of the rule.

I think that the intention is pretty clear cut. A nat 20 does NOT always crit

Ironically, one fairly strong argument is Colette's summary. To rule otherwise would allow a 20 to be a simultaneous critical hit and fumble. Which is clearly ridiculous

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If a natural 20 is not always a critical hit for an attack roll, then page 178 should not be saying, "When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 (the number on the die is 20), or if the result of your attack exceeds the target’s AC by 10, this is called a critical success (also known as a critical hit)."

Page 178 should instead simply refer the reader to the rules on resolving critical successes, and mention the entry for Strikes.

The job of an RPG should be to present clear and consistent rules.

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Colette Brunel wrote:

The job of an RPG should be to present clear and consistent rules.

That is ONE of its jobs. It also has to be readable. There is constantly a tension between those two. Constantly referring to a term defined elsewhere makes it hard to read.

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Well, I was going to chime in and say they should probably clarify that 292 is the full rules and that the other sections are just abridgements, but then I started looking at what 292 says.

It literally is one of those paragraphs that looks worse the more you read it. Sure the RAI is pretty obvious, but wow, that RAW has the potential to get hilariously atrocious. Paizo, you should definitely rewrite this segment before going to print.

I recommend doing what I do as a programmer and listing out what takes priority first, then clarifying from there. (i.e. Nat 1 always fails, Nat 20's always succeed (unless the task is literally impossible), beating/failing the DC is a success/fail, success by +10 or a 20 that beats the DC is a critical success, failure by 10 or a 1 that fails to make the DC is a critical failure).

Plus its not the final product. They probably threw it together with the focus on testing the big issues and neglected the little things. They were probably more worried about class mechanics resonance etc. rather then focusing on easily edited and changed things. If you can shoot through walls my Raw It's safe to assume that wasn't the intention it was just a mistake. Its a can't see the forest for the trees situation. They threw something together as a vehicle for there testing so they could test the mechanics they wanted to test. Should they have shored up the holes first? probably but It will be easy enough to fix that in the final version.

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If it should be fixed in the final version, then that should be acknowledged. It should not simply be glossed over with, "Eh, close enough."

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Thank you for highlighting the issue, which will help improve the final text. To avoid ambiguity, pages 8 and 178 should be revised to make them fully consistent with page 292, and they can still be readable, e.g.:

Rolling 20 is better! Rolling a 20 on the die means you succeeded, and you might have "critically succeeded" too. You also critically succeed if your total exceeds the Difficulty Class by 10 or more. More about critical successes is on page 292.

I like that, it keeps the info from being frontloaded but lets the reader know there's more to it to check out later.

 Director of Game Design

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There is a bit of ambiguity here that is worth addressing in the final language, but the examples posted seem like a bit of a stretch. Since it seems the RAI is clear enough, we can move on.