Nat 1 and 20 on skills


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells

Silver Crusade

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I apologize if the issue has been raised before, but I just wanted to make sure that I mention it, since it has been a factor that was very unwelcome among my players.

Right now the effect of nat. 20 is that characters will be able to reach a critical result, while those who have invested into a skill might not even have a larger crit range (the option to achieve a critical success by rolling a result that is 10 higher than the DC).
The feedback I have received is that getting a crit success is more dependant on luck (rolling that 20) than actually feeling that their investment mattered.

Early in the playtest (and later towards the end) my player requested more impact of proficiency and less impact from items (removing the bonus to skills from some items might help, since right now they are absolutely essential, and this was not the case in PF1).

That is one problem, the second one is rather more problematic:

A Nat 20 usually means that the check is a success, that might be fine for some situations, but looking at something with a set DC like:

From the Playtest handbook wrote:

BREAK OPEN

Using your body, a lever, or some other tool, you
attempt to forcefully open a door, window, or container; lift a heavy
gate; or break open some kind of bonds restraining your mobility.
With a high enough result, you can even smash through walls.
Success You break the door, window, or container open, and
the door, window, or container gains the broken condition.
Critical Success You open the door, window, or container but
can avoid damaging it in the process.
Critical Failure Your attempt jams the door, window, or
container shut, imposing a –2 circumstance penalty on all
future attempts to open it.

And

Page 292 wrote:


Success and Critical Success
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.
Critical successes usually have greater effects than
regular successes. For instance, if you succeed at a Strike,
you deal damage, but if you critically succeed, you deal
double damage. If an ability doesn’t specify a critical
success effect, then the effect for a critical success is the
same as that for a success. A critical success counts as a
success for rules that have different effects depending on
whether you succeed or fail.
success for rules that have different effects depending on
whether you succeed or fail.

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.

Failure and Critical Failure
If your result is less than the DC, you fail. For actions you
initiated, this typically means there is no effect. If you were
rolling a saving throw, failing generally means you are
affected by a spell or ability. If there is no failure effect
listed, the ability simply has no effect if it fails.
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.” If an action
or activity does not specify a critical failure effect, then the
effect for a critical failure is the same as that for a failure.
The effects of a critical failure are often more detrimental
than those for a failure and can be debilitating or even
deadly. If an ability does not specify a critical failure effect,
then the effect for a critical failure is the same as that for
a failure. A critical failure counts as a failure for rules that
have different effects depending on whether you succeed
or fail. 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.

Right now, anyone will eventually crack the DC 45 safety deposit box at level one, and even high-level Barbarians will fail at breaking a fortune cookie.

Without having the ability to take 10, that is a bit of a problem, and I feel that the old rules of nat 1s and 20s not being relevant (in PF1) for skills, might have been a good thing, at least when it comes to a situation like this.

Could we maybe add something like "if the DC would require the player to roll higher than a 20 to succeed, even a nat 20 is not a success", so it does not fall on the GM to define what is impossible for a particular character?


I've thought about having the "Nat 1/20 has an effect" be a thing that can toggle on or off depending on the circumstances (maybe leave it up to the player?) Since a lot of times you're rolling where a 19 would already give you a crit by passing the +10 threshold, so a 20 is nothing special. In those circumstances I don't know if "I have a 5% chance of failing" is even worth keeping around.


Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Could we maybe add something like "if the DC would require the player to roll higher than a 20 to succeed, even a nat 20 is not a success", so it does not fall on the GM to define what is impossible for a particular character?

They made the conscious decision to say "it's a success but not a critical success" so I doubt they'd change it to that.

Maybe a rule like "a natural 20 is a success unless you're still 10 below the DC" would work?

Silver Crusade

Matthew Downie wrote:
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Could we maybe add something like "if the DC would require the player to roll higher than a 20 to succeed, even a nat 20 is not a success", so it does not fall on the GM to define what is impossible for a particular character?

They made the conscious decision to say "it's a success but not a critical success" so I doubt they'd change it to that.

Maybe a rule like "a natural 20 is a success unless you're still 10 below the DC" would work?

Well, everything in the book was a conscious decision, that does not mean that it can not be improved.

Personally, 10 under the DC is still excessively amazing 5% of the time, its like a long jump champion getting beaten by someone untrained every 20 jumps.

EDIT: So I would draw the line of a 20 working significantly below that, personally, but some sort of limit should definitely be there.

We really don't want level 1 NPCs to open CR20 bank vaults, by just trying a couple of times.


Its a 5% chance of being Extremely Lucky or Extremely Unlucky.

The barbarian trying to crush a fortune cookie succeeds 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time something happens that prevents him from crushing it. Maybe it was positioned in just the right way that it wouldn't break. Maybe the barbarians arm twinged and they were too exhausted after devouring their meal it just didn't work.

A level 1 NPC opening a CR20 Vault is so unlikely. Assuming a typical lock needs 3 successes that NPC is going to have to roll 3 20's at the least to open the lock. Now every time they crit fail the amount of successes goes down by 1 as well. So they are going to need to get 20's more than they get anything else which is statistically unlikely. And if they did. Maybe the gods smiled down on this person and gave him the information they needed to succeed in opening the lock or it was just blind luck.

Now even after all that in the bold sections it even mentions if you don't have the proficiency to achieve something you will still fail on a nat 20. And this lvl 1 NPC is not going to have the master proficiency required to pick a CR20 Vault.

As well as they have mentioned that once you become so proficient or high enough level some tasks just become trivial which means you just succeed at what you were doing. Such as a lvl 8 character free climbing a Crumbling/slick/sloped cliff.


I would just House Rule that a 20 gives you a +10 in the final roll and a 1 gives you -10 in the final roll.

Silver Crusade

Dante Doom wrote:
I would just House Rule that a 20 gives you a +10 in the final roll and a 1 gives you -10 in the final roll.

+5/-5 might be interesting ^^


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm not a fan of the natural 1/natural 20 rule for skills, for much the same reasons that Sebastian brings up. I'd very much prefer to see it eliminated. I don't feel having all four degrees of success being possible at the same time is necessary or even desirable. If you can't succeed even on a natural 20, then that task is impossible for you. If you can't fail even on a natural 1, then that task is trivial for you. That's much simpler, cleaner, and more responsive to player decisions than the GM arbitrarily deciding when the natural 20 roulette works and when it doesn't.


I don't know about anyone else, but my players won't succeed on something that a 20 wouldn't be good enough in (ignoring critical success).

You can't try a 90 long jump across a chasm because the math works out that you'd need a roll of 125 to make it... but a natural 20 still works? No.

You can't crack open a safe with a DC 30 with a +5 skill because it's beyond your capabilities. Etc.

"So you're saying there's a chance..." Yeah, even knowing that your +5 skill has a remote chance on a DC 25 vault, it's still a chance. They have also introduced multiple successes needed to beat a DC, too, so if you want it to be worse than 5%, that's very possible as well.

Similarly, if a character is +10 on an Athletics check (base or with boosts) against a DC 10 obstacle, I am not going to make a player roll for failure. They are clearly past the point where that activity has risk for them.

However, in the level appropriate challenges where success and failure are both possible, I think Critical Success and Critical Failure adds some extra intrigue, roleplay, and excitement to the game.

In our playtest campaigns, it has definitely enhanced the gaming experience and I hope to see it remain through to the final product.


I should note that I take the following passage:

Quote:

SKILL CHECKS AND SKILL DCS

When you’re actively using a skill (usually by engaging in one of its uses), you’ll often attempt a skill check by rolling a d20 and adding your skill modifier.

And really examine what it means when it says "you'll often". It doesn't mean "you'll always." It means that a GM can require you to roll a skill, but they could also rule that you don't need to - some things are trivial and somethings are impossible.

That said, maybe it should be clearer that there are some activities that don't require rolls (for various reasons) because obviously some interpret the rules to mean you can try anything and there's always a chance of success.


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I feel like a roll in which only a 1 fails should not need to be attempted, you can handwave "you succeed" 9 times out of 10. Similarly I don't think it's unreasonable to disallow or discourage attempting anything where they have a 95% chance of failure.


ShadeRaven wrote:

I don't know about anyone else, but my players won't succeed on something that a 20 wouldn't be good enough in (ignoring critical success).

You can't try a 90 long jump across a chasm because the math works out that you'd need a roll of 125 to make it... but a natural 20 still works? No.

You can't crack open a safe with a DC 30 with a +5 skill because it's beyond your capabilities. Etc.

Agreed. The GM still has to make the call if a skill roll is needed, or possible. A PC shouldn't be asked to roll for mundane tasks like breaking an ordinary nut, nor should they be allowed to roll to open the world's greatest vault at level 1. Skills like Athletics or Diplomacy give very precise measurements for success (how far they can jump, how much it takes to bring an unfriendly NPC to friendly, etc.), but the same principle should be applied to the other skills. Let players roll for skills that they can succeed at between 10% and 90% of the time: anything higher or lower than that, the GM should just say "It happens" or "You can't do it".


I definitely agree that in some circumstances a 20 shouldn't be enough (like jumping to the moon for example). But im gonna be honest there's nothing that sucks more than attempting something you feel like is possible to do. Rolling a nat 20. And then having the GM say you failed. At that point it kinda would feel like you're being pigeonholed down a certain path and you're not allowed to make creative skill checks.

The same way people are saying you shouldn't roll when only a nat 1 would result in a failure. If your player shouldn't be able to complete the task even on a natural 20, just don't have them roll and say it's impossible.

Silver Crusade

Any suggestion that is based on the GM checking if a player has a high enough bonus... honestly that feels a bit clunky and diverts too much work on the GM.
I hope that the Game is solid enough not to have to resort to the GM stopping these kinds of rolls.


Honestly, it should be clear that the GM has the choice to decide to have a player not need to roll a die, and indicate that it would clearly be a success of failure. Although I think in those cases it should generally include that information prior to them having to commit to the action.

Really, as a general rule, I'd say treating a natural 20 as a 30 and treating a natural 1 as a -9 seems like a reasonable general rule of thumb for what to expect, and general line to determine if a roll is necessary or not.

But I see it being perfectly reasonable to allow the peasant with a +1 to hit get to roll their d20 and if they get a 20, allow them to hit the AC20 wizard, if it adds some decent drama to the story.

In a fantasy world, if having a natural 20 mean someone can end up jumping 30 feet instead of 20 feet, and generally you wouldn't say that it is possible for your average peasant, in a fantasy world, I'm fine with it happening periodically.

Honestly, if something is easy for someone, perhaps a 'tier' of difficulty below their skill, but if you wanted them to still have a chance of failure, albeit small, I'd say have them roll twice and take the higher result. That means a critical failure on such almost trivial tasks would probably be a 1 in 400 occurrence, which is much easier to believe.

But some things won't be worth a roll, and most game acknowledge that. If you don't need to have a chance of failure, and any greater degree of success is irrelevant, then don't bother rolling, and simply advance the story.


The rules actually have you covered.

PTrulebook wrote:

(p336] you can usually skip rolling and assume the characters succeed against trivial DCs.

(p337) Ordinary tasks become trivial at a certain level, listed in the final column so you have some idea when these tasks no longer present even a minor challenge for the characters. Some tasks are always trivial and have no need to be rolled, like climbing a ladder in ordinary circumstances. You can allow automatic successes at lower levels than listed if that makes your game run more smoothly.

If the DC is trivial, you shouldn't really be asking for rolls.

"You break that fortune cookie easily"

PTrulebook wrote:
An extreme-difficulty skill DC defeats even the most skilled characters most of the time, but it’s just low enough that there’s some chance of success. Use these DCs if you want success to be unlikely but not impossible.

There exist things that are flat out impossible, and you don't need a roll as you will auto-fail.

"I'm afraid that lock is too difficult, no matter how lucky you get you will not be able to unlock it without the key".


dragonhunterq wrote:
The rules actually have you covered.

They don't, because they don't define "impossible". All they really say is, "The GM can ignore these rules when they make the game annoying or silly." Is a DC 25 lock impossible for a level 1 PC? DC 30? DC 35?

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Matthew Downie wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
The rules actually have you covered.

They don't, because they don't define "impossible". All they really say is, "The GM can ignore these rules when they make the game annoying or silly." Is a DC 25 lock impossible for a level 1 PC? DC 30? DC 35?

Exactly. What constitutes a trivial jump for a 12th level monk? How about an impossible one? Is it fair to declare that some PCs don't have to roll, yet others do?

Also, remember that players can still "take 20" the long way, by rolling over and over and over until they get the 20. So by taking a few tries, anyone can succeed at anything that isn't flat out impossible. The most insanely difficult, but technically possible, tasks, are easily surmounted.

A 5% chance is far too granular for success/failure at the extreme ends of skills.


trivial is easy - if the DC is equal to, or less, than the DC in the leftmost column it is trivial.

I for one do not want them to remove all GM adjudication from the game, pathfinder can handle many types and flavours of games and what should be impossible for one game might just be legendarily difficult in another - I can decide what is impossible as appropriate for my game.


Matthew Downie wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
The rules actually have you covered.

They don't, because they don't define "impossible". All they really say is, "The GM can ignore these rules when they make the game annoying or silly." Is a DC 25 lock impossible for a level 1 PC? DC 30? DC 35?

Well let's see.

To start, let's look at what Paizo themselves say: By the updated DC chart, an ultimate challenge for a level 1 character, what is supposed to be the hardest of hard level 1 challenges, is DC 18.

But let's step beyond that and look at your options. 25? Possible. A Rogue (or other Dex-stat class) that maximized Dex and trained in Thievery can succeed that on a natural 20 even if the 1/20 rule didn't exist, and with the rule in effect is going to have only 3 degrees of success: Crit Fail, Failure, or Crit Success. Since I don't think item bonuses are really feasible at level 1, I'll take this as the absolute max.

30, 35? Well, let's say we use the "Nat 1/20 subtracts/adds 10" idea as a benchmark for the luck factor of nat 1s and 20s (with or without applying it as an actual rule, IMHO it makes a nice benchmark). As I said, the rogue can make a DC 25 just with 20+Mod, so applying that benchmark, then both of these would fall into the realm of 'possible with extreme luck'. So if I was running a game, I'd consider that within the realm of physically possible, and let someone try for that Nat 20.

36+? Well now you're at the point even with the 30 it is beyond the Rogue's ability, so that becomes the starting point for no, you cannot even try IMO.

EDIT: TL;DR: If the absolute maximum bonus can manage it on a 30 at that level, I'd allow anyone (with the appropriate proficiency level) to try for a nat 20.


My version of this is

"Any action you can possibly succeed at in encounter mode is automatically successful in 10 minutes of exploration mode. Any action you can possibly succeed at in 10 minutes of exploration mode is automatically successful in 1 day of downtime mode."

This handles the old Take 10 and Take 20 decently.


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Dante Doom wrote:
I would just House Rule that a 20 gives you a +10 in the final roll and a 1 gives you -10 in the final roll.
+5/-5 might be interesting ^^

And confusing. +/- 10 is far easier to calculate (as you really don't have to "calculate" it at all).


+1d20/-1d20 can be fun.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

When it comes to skill checks rolling a Natural 20 does not always result in a Success.

If you roll a Natural 20 and you would meet or beat the DC of the check then it is a Critical Success.

If you would not beat the DC then it is a normal Success.

If you do not have the required proficiency or if the task is impossible then even with a Natural 20 you would not be able to succeed.

In the example given, it would be nearly impossible to crack open a vault or safety deposit box with a DC of 45 at level 1 unless the proficiency required for it is either 'Trained' or 'Expert', in which case it may be possible but only with that 5% bit of luck. You're much more likely to Critically Fail and break your picks.

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