Want to confirm that a nat 20 is no longer an automatic critical, nor even an automatic success


Rules Discussion


I think I found an error in the rulebook, basically now we have this system in place:

Core Rulebook pg. 445 wrote:

You critically succeed at a check when a check’s result meets or exceeds the DC by 10 or more. If the check is an attack roll, this is sometimes called a critical hit.

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.

So it seems to say that no longer nat 20 are instant-hit, but then on page 278 you can read:

Core Rulebook pg. 278 wrote:

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).

It feels like this second text is not correctly updated, so for now I'm playing as if the nat 20 just gets you one level up the 10-scale (from a failure to a success, from a success to a critical success, etc), but I would love to get some official confirmation.

Thanks!


You are correct. A nat 20 upgrades you result by one step.


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In practice a nat 20 is a success. For it not to be you would have to critically fail on a nat 20, because a nat 20 boosts the success category by 1 step.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
thorin001 wrote:
In practice a nat 20 is a success. For it not to be you would have to critically fail on a nat 20, because a nat 20 boosts the success category by 1 step.

Not quite. If your nat 20 would be a critical failure, you would improve it one step to a failure. If your nat 20 were a simple failure, it would improve one step to a simple success. Only if your nat 20 would be a success is it improved one step to a critical success.

The second text does appear to be lacking an appropriate caveat, like "most of the time". Most of the time, a nat 20 *will* be a critical hit. Only in circumstances where your adversary overshadows your ability by a wide margin will it not be.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I have actually already had this happen. A barbarian did a third attack and rolled a natural 20, but his total was not enough to hit the AC. So his failure got upgraded to a regular success


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Wheldrake wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
In practice a nat 20 is a success. For it not to be you would have to critically fail on a nat 20, because a nat 20 boosts the success category by 1 step.
Not quite. If your nat 20 would be a critical failure, you would improve it one step to a failure. If your nat 20 were a simple failure, it would improve one step to a simple success. Only if your nat 20 would be a success is it improved one step to a critical success.

...That's what he said.

thorin001 wrote:
For it not to be [a success] you would have to critically fail on a nat 20
Wheldrake wrote:
If your nat 20 would be a critical failure, you would improve it one step to a failure.


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Wouldn’t this read as “Checks” in general follow the one step rule, but “Attacks”, as a more precise rule, would override with a natural 20 roll being a critical hit (as opposed to a general check’s critical success)

I don’t think it’s the fact that what you’re referring to as the second text isn’t updated, but instead that in the instance of an Attack a more precise rule applies...


This is interesting, I did not realize it. But makes sense it you could use it as math justified plot armor. Example the cut scene in most JRPG games. Where the hero have their 1st run in with the big bad. They are supposed to lose. Every now and again if you set up a scene like that players will attack and hit with a 20 then roll a confirmed critical hit. In do massive damage to your big bad. Then you have to fudge they big bad hp if it was a wizard with low hp for plot sake. Your players end up feeling cheated, because they earned that hit. This way even on natural 20 they will not even hit. they just won't critically fail. Player will then know for sure they they are way out classed and should run. It also justify why the big bad does not see them as a threat when he take one or two of them out and just walks away.


Yes, higher level enemies can be terrifying because even nat 20s may do very little them.

But @ KainPen, IIRC weapon attacks don't have a critical failure condition, only a simple failure. Which means all nat 20 rolls will hit, but they wont be a critical unless they would also hit vs the AC.


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Claxon wrote:

Yes, higher level enemies can be terrifying because even nat 20s may do very little them.

But @ KainPen, IIRC weapon attacks don't have a critical failure condition, only a simple failure. Which means all nat 20 rolls will hit, but they wont be a critical unless they would also hit vs the AC.

I believe the four degrees of success applies to all checks, including Strikes. It's just that a critical failure on a Strike doesn't have any effect beyond that of a normal failure. However, it might still be relevant due to other effects - for example, the opponent might have the Dueling Riposte feat, which lets them make a Strike as a reaction in response to a critical failure on an attack.


Staffan Johansson wrote:
Claxon wrote:

Yes, higher level enemies can be terrifying because even nat 20s may do very little them.

But @ KainPen, IIRC weapon attacks don't have a critical failure condition, only a simple failure. Which means all nat 20 rolls will hit, but they wont be a critical unless they would also hit vs the AC.

I believe the four degrees of success applies to all checks, including Strikes. It's just that a critical failure on a Strike doesn't have any effect beyond that of a normal failure. However, it might still be relevant due to other effects - for example, the opponent might have the Dueling Riposte feat, which lets them make a Strike as a reaction in response to a critical failure on an attack.

Rereading rules section I think you might be right.

I think what threw me is that there is no difference between a failure and a crit failure on attack rolls.

Not that I want there to be.

Sovereign Court

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It does prevent weird things happened. Like your wizard wearing heavy armour rolls a Natural 20 and is able to climb a sheer wall with no handholds.

In the new rules, if your wizard has STR 0 and is untrained in Athletics his climb would be 0. His heavy armour gives him a check penalty of -3 so his best possible result, on a Natural 20, is 17.

A sheer smooth and slippery surface would be of legendary difficulty, so as GM I’d set the DC at 40.

So the wizard would critically fail and probably injure himself on any roll except a Natural 20. On a Natural 20 he gets lucky and doesn’t totally humiliate himself by his failure. He does not, however, have a 5% chance of miraculous scrambling up the surface like some kind of super monkey.

Dark Archive

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This has been discussed in he GM slack channel when prepping for GenCon. The devs confirmed that the text listed under OP’s second quote are an accidental holdover from playtest text. The rule “increase/decrease one degree of success/failure” is the correct rule to apply in all situations.

I expect there will be a bunch of Core Rulebook errata for our Christmas present. :)

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
The Diplomat wrote:
It does prevent weird things happened. Like your wizard wearing heavy armour rolls a Natural 20 and is able to climb a sheer wall with no handholds.

A natural 20 has never been an automatic success on skill checks, so I don't think this example could have happened in PF1.


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

Even if there is currently no special effect from a critical failure in combat, there will be an option for such an effect soon, with the release of Paizos critical hits and critical misses decks.

I loved those decks in PF1.

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