When is a natural 20 on an attack roll a critical hit?


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On page 278 in the Weapons section, a natural 20 results in a critical success:

Quote:

Critical Hits

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, you achieve a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

However, in "Chapter 9: Playing the Game" on pages 445-446, the book gives a general rule for determining critical successes on all checks:

Quote:
If you rolled a 20 on the die (a "natural 20"), your result is one degree of success better than it would be by numbers alone. If you roll a 1 on the d20 (a "natural 1"), your result is one degree worse. This means that a natural 20 usually results in a critical success and natural 1 usually results in a critical failure. However, if you were going up against a very high DC, you might get only a success with a natural 20, or even a failure if 20 plus your total modifier is 10 or more below the DC.

(The same chapter is followed by sections on "Specific Checks," including "Attack Rolls" and "Spell Attack Rolls," but those sections do not delineate any exceptions to this rule.

Since "Specific Overrides General" (p. 444), do natural 20s on weapon attack rolls operate differently than all other checks, as per the rule on page 278? (While natural 1s do not?) And if yes, I am assuming that spell attack rolls also automatically crit on a natural 20, even though this rule is listed in the "Weapons" section?


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

RAW you're correct because that's specific vs general.

I think the former rule is a mistake though and that natural 20s that would not normally result in a success do not crit. That's consistent with the rest of PF2 (and even PF1).


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One thing that's been clear all the way through the playtest is that the 4 levels of success (crit fail/fail/success/crit success) is supposed to work the same way across the whole system.

Page 278 looks like it's left over from the playtest "20 always succeeds" rule, while page 445/446 is the "20 makes things a step better" rule which is actually a bit simpler.


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Thanks, folks.

Okay, so it looks like this needs a correction.

I didn't follow the Playtest all the way through and I appreciate the perspective of people who know what versions of rules came later.

Yes, the revised rule is much easier to understand ("one step better"), and I prefer that for simplicity's sake. The original playtest rule was too confusing.


I feel like the situations in the OP are basically the same, since how often do you call for a roll in which the highest number on the die would not be enough to succeed?


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Against a higher level monster, this could be the case.


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And taking into account MAP, it will not even be a rare Occasion.

Sovereign Court

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It seems that monster AC goes up by 1 or maybe 1.5 per level. If you're fighting a monster that you can't hit without a 20 on your first attack, you're probably so far outmatched in CR that you should be running at full speed.

But yeah, MAP is a thing.


On this topic...

On page 446, it states: “If a feat, magic item, spell, or other effect does not list a critical success or critical failure, treat is as an ordinary success or failure instead.”

Does this mean that if (for example) a spell does not have a critical success listed, then a natural 20 will net you only a success? So no double damage, for example?


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yes, if a critical effect isn't listed, use the normal result. (Of course if it lists 'Basic Save' then there's a listed critical effect.)


Gamuniga wrote:

On this topic...

On page 446, it states: “If a feat, magic item, spell, or other effect does not list a critical success or critical failure, treat is as an ordinary success or failure instead.”

Does this mean that if (for example) a spell does not have a critical success listed, then a natural 20 will net you only a success? So no double damage, for example?

That seems to be the case, yes. I'm away from the book, but unless there's another rule somewhere that says something like "All Critical Successes on spells that deal damage deal double damage in addition to other effects." then if the spell deals damage but has no Critical Success entry, and you Crit, you only do what it says under Success.

Not sure if this happens anywhere though. If it does, it's something to mark.


Here in Brazil we are having the same discussion, probably going to be corrected in future erratas. Just assuming page 445-446 are final and 278 are playtests leftovers.


TheFinish wrote:
Not sure if this happens anywhere though. If it does, it's something to mark.

Its called "Basis Save." Its on page 449.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
Draco18s wrote:
TheFinish wrote:
Not sure if this happens anywhere though. If it does, it's something to mark.
Its called "Basic Save." Its on page 449.

Link

As for an example, Burning Hands allows a basic reflex save.


Franz Lunzer wrote:

Against a higher level monster, this could be the case.

Or DC for things that are at or beyond your ability to actually accomplish. A natural 20 could give you a success but not a crit on those.

Grand Lodge

Are there spells that require you to make an attack check that doesn't have the attack trait? And don't you always deal double damage on critical successes with attacks?


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Just for answering, Jason was Dming and this went out:

A NPC rolled 3 attacks and on the third one, it was a natural 20. Because of the quantity of the minus, it became a miss BUT the natural 20 turned it into a hit (NOT A CRITICAL ONE).

The video is at the exact moment:
https://youtu.be/V0RypeXjabU?t=8708

Have good gaming!


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I've seen those videos clear up SO many rules like this!


Yeah, the first quote in the OP is given in an overview sense, which is worth noting. Like, it's at a part of the book that's just giving you an idea of what crits are, and it would be detrimental to dump the extra info in there of "unless you wouldn't hit normally, then it's only a success. Oh, and if the Nat 20 would have been a crit fail, it's instead a fail." At which point the new player is probably scratching their head at the blast of info, and also probably wondering what a critical Failure is since I'm not sure I it's even come up by that point in the book.

It's like how the overview of each spell in the start of the spells chapter isn't hard mechanical function, that's determined by the actual spell entry.

Also, even in the Playtest a Nat 20 that wouldn't have otherwise hit was still only a success (and a 1 that would have hit was a failure). They just didn't have the extension that a Nat 20 that would crit fail was a fail rather than success, and vice versa for Nat 1s.

So it isn't even a Playtest holdover, it's a matter of context and what depth of the rules that bit of the book is providing.


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Would it be detrimental for that first quote to say "you usually achieve" (indicating that the exact rules must be found elsewhere when they matter) rather than "you achieve" (indicating that it does actually work as stated)?

'Cause IMHO that's all that would be necessary.

Dark Archive

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In my opinion, and the way I understand the system, I think it should work as stated on pages 445-446 and that the entry on page 278 was an oversight.
Since I have to argue with "rule-lawyers" on tables, I would appreciate an official clarification on the point of attack rolls.


This is a major typo that really effects how the game is played. How did no editor catch this? Does the editor play the game? Loving the system but that's an unacceptable oversight that shouldn't have made it to production.

The Rot Grub wrote:

On page 278 in the Weapons section, a natural 20 results in a critical success:

Quote:

Critical Hits

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, you achieve a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

However, in "Chapter 9: Playing the Game" on pages 445-446, the book gives a general rule for determining critical successes on all checks:

Quote:
If you rolled a 20 on the die (a "natural 20"), your result is one degree of success better than it would be by numbers alone. If you roll a 1 on the d20 (a "natural 1"), your result is one degree worse. This means that a natural 20 usually results in a critical success and natural 1 usually results in a critical failure. However, if you were going up against a very high DC, you might get only a success with a natural 20, or even a failure if 20 plus your total modifier is 10 or more below the DC.

(The same chapter is followed by sections on "Specific Checks," including "Attack Rolls" and "Spell Attack Rolls," but those sections do not delineate any exceptions to this rule.

Since "Specific Overrides General" (p. 444), do natural 20s on weapon attack rolls operate differently than all other checks, as per the rule on page 278? (While natural 1s do not?) And if yes, I am assuming that spell attack rolls also automatically crit on a natural 20, even though this rule is listed in the "Weapons" section?


Syries wrote:
Are there spells that require you to make an attack check that doesn't have the attack trait? And don't you always deal double damage on critical successes with attacks?

Per this thread, it seems the answer to your second question is, "no, not necessarily". You have to read the spell description. For example, in Acid Arrow a crit doubles the acid damage but not the persistent damage.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
WytDvil wrote:
This is a major typo that really effects how the game is played. How did no editor catch this? Does the editor play the game? Loving the system but that's an unacceptable oversight that shouldn't have made it to production.

Quite often, it appears that the do not really care about 'accuracy' as much as literary flourish - which should embarrass anyone making a 'Rulebook'. I do think that in tis case, it will eventually be corrected in an errata - so that attacks are handled just like every other check - but for now, the editors will likely say 'the GM should be able to decide what to do'.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
CraziFuzzy wrote:
I do think that in tis case, it will eventually be corrected in an errata - so that attacks are handled just like every other check - but for now, the editors will likely say 'the GM should be able to decide what to do'.

Or, you can follow the Rules As Written, and not allow a natural 20 automatically be a critical success on anything except the specific instance of an attack roll.

There's already been a major errata published after this thread was started and all the previous comments posted (except yours).

PF2 Core Rulebook Errata October 30, 2019

The editors had a chance to make a change. If the issue were as egregious as the posters in this thread seems to believe, then it's likely that the editors would have taken that opportunity to fix a glaring problem

But they didn't.

Which leads to the conclusion that, upon review, they decided that this was not an error to be corrected. That the general rule holds, as does the specific exception.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Except that they have stated elsewhere, and have ruled on streamed play, that it does not stand as the specific RAW implies - Jason Buhlman even making a point to highlight a time when a natural 20 changed a miss to a hit, instead of it being a critical hit. Paizo not fixing something in the book has NEVER been an indication that they feel the book is right. Many of the 'higher-ups' at Paizo don't seem to think 'rules' are as important as many of the players do, so they don't bother fixing things like this in their 'rule' books.


For what it's worth, the chance that a nat-20 results in anything other than a success or crit-success by sheer nature of the value obtained is staggeringly low. Its pretty much only happens with things you are Untrained in.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
CraziFuzzy wrote:
- Jason Buhlman even making a point to highlight a time when a natural 20 changed a miss to a hit, instead of it being a critical hit.

Got a link to that?


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Draco18s wrote:
For what it's worth, the chance that a nat-20 results in anything other than a success or crit-success by sheer nature of the value obtained is staggeringly low. Its pretty much only happens with things you are Untrained in.

Not really - the third MAP can bring it about a not-inconsequential number of times.

CrystalSeas wrote:
CraziFuzzy wrote:
- Jason Buhlman even making a point to highlight a time when a natural 20 changed a miss to a hit, instead of it being a critical hit.
Got a link to that?

Yes, here (from about 13 posts up).


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Thanks

That's obviously not an on-the-fly GM decision. He's clear that he's doing the calculations carefully and that the 20 rolled on the attack roll is not an automatic crit.

And he uses it as a teaching moment about nat 20s for the players.

(the link goes to 2:25:08 in the nearly 3 hour video)


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Hi everyone.

So the conclusion is, that since this wasnt fixed on the errata then specific for attack roll stands as a villager being able to hit a Red Wyrm? - Or as it happens more, every other creature in PF2e being able to hit with their 3rd action strike.

No one official ruled on this on comments or interviews or anything?

Its sad we have to take by stream-play examples as reference.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I definitely wouldn't take that conclusion. Especially not from that reasoning.

No one ever claimed that errata was every clarification that would be made. It was round 1.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
HammerJack wrote:

I definitely wouldn't take that conclusion. Especially not from that reasoning.

No one ever claimed that errata was every clarification that would be made. It was round 1.

You are correct! Though it sounds a flagrant and most pointed rule, its weird that it was not on the first round.

Hope it does get addressed at some point.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Paizo Blog wrote:
We should note that not every problem has been addressed in this document. Some are a bit complicated, and the solution is going to take more time to fully test before releasing it to all of you. Just because you don’t see an answer here doesn’t mean that we aren’t aware of and considering the issue—we’re likely just trying to figure out the best way to handle it.

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, you achieve a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

Apparently it's not as simple as saying "remove the words 'and roll a natural 20' from this sentence on page 278".


CrystalSeas wrote:
Apparently it's not as simple as saying "remove the words 'and roll a natural 20' from this sentence on page 278".

It genuinely isn't, since that change would still be incompatible with how critical hits are meant to work since it's not just when you exceed your target's AC by 10.

The change that actually needs to be made to page 278's text is to add text specifying that it's a natural 20 roll with a total that would be a success - not every natural 20 roll - that results in a critical success.

And since that could easily change the amount of page space needed, which would cause a change in the layout of the book that could cascade for pages, it makes sense to me for them to leave that re-wording for later and try to rewrite the paragraph to be accurate and the right size to still fit the layout.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
thenobledrake wrote:
And since that could easily change the amount of page space needed, which would cause a change in the layout of the book that could cascade for pages, it makes sense to me for them to leave that re-wording for later and try to rewrite the paragraph to be accurate and the right size to still fit the layout.

Well, they've inserted whole sections in the Round 1 errata, so the layout has already been changed in a way that cascades for at least 18 pages (see Fast Healing And Regeneration in the 'Playing The Game' chapter).

And there are numerous other errata that are whole paragraphs and multi-lined sentences.

So "don't want errata that change the layout" certainly wasn't a criterion for Round 1 errata.


CrystalSeas wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
And since that could easily change the amount of page space needed, which would cause a change in the layout of the book that could cascade for pages, it makes sense to me for them to leave that re-wording for later and try to rewrite the paragraph to be accurate and the right size to still fit the layout.

Well, they've inserted whole sections in the Round 1 errata, so the layout has already been changed in a way that cascades for at least 18 pages (see Fast Healing And Regeneration in the 'Playing The Game' chapter).

And there are numerous other errata that are whole paragraphs and multi-lined sentences.

So "don't want errata that change the layout" certainly wasn't a criterion for Round 1 errata.

They inserted 1 new section. The rest of the errata is generally careful re-writes and replacements, not changes to the layout of the book.

There's a reason for that.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

All that has to be done to fix pg. 278 is to delete the entire first paragraph of the Critical Hits section. It would then say:

CRITICAL HITS
If you critically succeed at a Strike, your attack deals
double damage (page 451). Other attacks, such as spell
attack rolls and some uses of the Athletics skill, describe
the specific effects that occur when their outcomes are
critical successes.

That is all that is needed since critical success is already defined elsewhere.

Though honestly, I'm not sure that section even needs to be there. Critical hits are not a property of the weapon, they are a result of the STRIKE action, which is already well defined on pg. 471.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Jason Bulmahn stated in the Paizocon Online Panel PATHFINDER RPG Q&A today that a nat 20 increases the success level by degree.

So a succuss becomes a critical success.
Failure become a success.

Ect.....


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Prince Setehrael wrote:

Jason Bulmahn stated in the Paizocon Online Panel PATHFINDER RPG Q&A today that a nat 20 increases the success level by degree.

So a succuss becomes a critical success.
Failure become a success.

Ect.....

So, same thing he explained in the previously-linked video.


Draco18s wrote:
TheFinish wrote:
Not sure if this happens anywhere though. If it does, it's something to mark.
Its called "Basic Save." Its on page 449.

The "this" that TheFinish ws referring to, may or may not happen, is a spell that does damage and has an attack roll or a save but no specified crit effect.

Anything that has a basic save has a specified crit effect (by reference), so is not an example.

--------

Regarding the actual question, it seems that natural 20s on attack rolls (only) are always crits by RAW, despite Jason's protestations to the contrary. Paizo have an unfortunate tendancy of pretending the rules say something other than they do, instead of issuing errata to make them say what they want.

That said, I intend to run it as ignoring page 278, but until they issue an erratum to that effect it will technically be a houserule.

_
glass.


glass wrote:
That said, I intend to run it as ignoring page 278, but until they issue an erratum to that effect it will technically be a houserule.

Not really.

It's a friendly reminder that happens to be in error, or a "general rule" to which everything that could use it instead makes specific exception.

Otherwise just ignoring that one bit of text wouldn't be a fix, it'd be removing critical hits from the game.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

This was finally cleared up at a PaizoCon panel: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/633545875?t=1h23m35s


thenobledrake wrote:
glass wrote:
That said, I intend to run it as ignoring page 278, but until they issue an erratum to that effect it will technically be a houserule.

Not really.

It's a friendly reminder that happens to be in error, or a "general rule" to which everything that could use it instead makes specific exception.

I am confused, you say not really, and then outline exactly the same issue with the RAW that I did.

Tarpeius wrote:
This was finally cleared up at a PaizoCon panel: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/633545875?t=1h23m35s

No, it hasn't been. No number of streams, Q&A sessions, or panels can change the rules as printed in the actual books. Only errata can do that.

_
glass.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
glass wrote:
Tarpeius wrote:
This was finally cleared up at a PaizoCon panel: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/633545875?t=1h23m35s
No, it hasn't been. No number of streams, Q&A sessions, or panels can change the rules as printed in the actual books. Only errata can do that.

I refute your claim thus.


"Natural 20 is a critical hit" is the general rule and "if you roll a natural 20 and still get a result lower than the DC you succeed instead of critically succeed or fail" is the specific rule that overrides it.

Some people thought that, "Natural 20 is a critical hit" was intended as a specific rule for attacks, but this was just a (re?)statement of the general rule. Paizo apparently believes that the RAI is clear enough and no errata is needed.


Matthew Downie wrote:

"Natural 20 is a critical hit" is the general rule and "if you roll a natural 20 and still get a result lower than the DC you succeed instead of critically succeed or fail" is the specific rule that overrides it.

Some people thought that, "Natural 20 is a critical hit" was intended as a specific rule for attacks, but this was just a (re?)statement of the general rule. Paizo apparently believes that the RAI is clear enough and no errata is needed.

Honestly that thread only serves to make things more confusing, as two diametrically opposed consensuses are reached in that thread.

1. A 20 on an Attack Roll increases the level of Success/Failure by 1, like every other roll.

2. A 20 on an Attack Roll that results in a total 10 less than the AC is a Hit.

Both of those things cannot be true at the same time, as the only way a 20 can turn a result 10 less than the AC into a Hit is if it first turns the overall result into a Crit and then the -10 reduces it to a standard hit.

Liberty's Edge

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glass wrote:

No, it hasn't been. No number of streams, Q&A sessions, or panels can change the rules as printed in the actual books. Only errata can do that.

_
glass.

Okay, so serious question here: what exactly do you hope to accomplish by maintaining this position?

The rules as printed are contradictory, and we've been given irrefutable evidence of what the designer intent was on how to resolve the contradiction. In a home game, whether errata appears or not means nothing, as the GM will rule however they are going to rule, and in PFS, do you truly think a VC or VL is going to argue with the GM, given the information we have from Mr Bulmahn?


glass wrote:
I am confused, you say not really, and then outline exactly the same issue with the RAW that I did.

Try focusing on the part of my post you left out when you quoted me. That should clear up the confusion you are experiencing.


I really hope that errata is done faster in second edition than was done in first. While I agree it's clear what the rule should be, the lack of things being put in errata really make correct rulings difficult to parse. No one should have to read a thread in forums or watch a video to know what the rule should be.

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