Rolling a natural 20 or a natural 1: in which case is it always a critical hit / failure?


Rules Discussion


I'm not against a part of randomness in the result of a decision, but one thing that particularly bugs me is the idea that no matter how much you work on a particular skill to be the best, there is always a 1/20 chance that you fail miserably at even the simplest of tasks, sometimes having nasty or long-lasting consequences (a critical failure at earning income essentially gets you blacklisted as a terrible employee in a community, a critical failure at treating wounds might kill your patient).

The rules themselves don't really make anything clear about natural 20s and natural 1s:

Chapter 1: Playing the Game wrote:
Once a check is rolled, the GM compares the result to a target number called the difficulty class (DC) to determine the outcome. If the result of the check is equal to or greater than the DC, the check is successful. If it is less, the check is a failure. Beating the DC by 10 or more is referred to as a critical success, which usually grants an especially positive outcome. Similarly, failing the check by 10 or more is a critical failure (sometimes called a fumble). This sometimes results in additional negative effects. You also often score a critical success by rolling a 20 on the die when attempting a check (before adding anything). Likewise, rolling a 1 on the die when attempting a check often results in a critical failure. Note that not all checks have a special effect on a critical success or critical failure and such results should be treated just like an ordinary success or failure instead.

What is "often"?


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

There are 4 levels of success.

Critical success
Success
Fail
Critical Fail

If you roll a natural 20, your result is one level higher than it would have been from the number alone. If you roll a natural 1, the result is one level lower than the total would indicate.

So, if your natural 20 has a total with all modifiers that would be at least a success, you have a critical success. If your total with a natural 1 is a failure, then it becomes a critical failure.

If the task is so easy for you that the total with a natural 1 would still be a success, the result is only downgraded to failure, not critical failure.


It is pretty much always a critical failure and critical success.

Unless your fighting something well outside your level with a lot of bonuses/penalties.


In that case, while some wonder what the point of the Assurance feat is, I wonder what the point of not taking it is. It seems to be the only way to make the game remotely playable.


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HammerJack wrote:
If you roll a natural 20, your result is one level higher than it would have been from the number alone. If you roll a natural 1, the result is one level lower than the total would indicate.

Just to clarify "the number" is the total of

the dice roll plus all applicable bonuses minus all applicable penalties

So rolling a 20 or a 1 is just the first step in calculating a critical success or critical failure.

And remember that a high enough total can give you a critical success too, even if you don't roll a 20.

Same for critical failure: even if you don't roll a 1, you can sometimes have a critical failure AND even if you do roll a 1, you still add all the bonuses and subtract all the penalties before you know if it was a critical failure


Yes, to clarify:

Lets say you're targeting AC 10, with your 20th level fighter. Your fighter has an attack bonus of 35 for his first attack. Even on a 1, your attack total is 36, meaning you would critical hit this AC 10 target (because you exceed the AC by 10). But because you rolled a 1 its down graded to a regular success.


FlashRebel wrote:
In that case, while some wonder what the point of the Assurance feat is, I wonder what the point of not taking it is. It seems to be the only way to make the game remotely playable.

I don't see how a 5% chance of having something bad happen makes the game unplayable. Failure is the spice of life in RPGs.


1 or 20 is never an automatic result - the 1 or 20 simply reduces or improves the degree of success you got from the raw numbers.

So if you have a +20 in Deception, rolling a DC 15 Deception Check;

First, you roll and get a 1,

1+20 = 21, which is sufficient to get a success on this check,

then you decrease that success to a failure because of the 1.

If you have a +30 in Deception against the same DC;

First, you roll and get a 1,

1+30= 31, which is sufficient to get a critical success on the check,

then to decrease that critical success to a success because of the 1.

So if your character is particularly masterful at something, it is possible that they can actually never fail except against particularly difficult challenges (such as competing with another master).

Sovereign Court

FlashRebel wrote:
In that case, while some wonder what the point of the Assurance feat is, I wonder what the point of not taking it is. It seems to be the only way to make the game remotely playable.

The thing about Assurance is that since you don't add any bonuses, you also don't add ability bonuses. So at level 2 for example on a trained skill it gives you 10 + level 2 + trained = 14. But a level-appropriate DC at level 2 is 16.

Assurance basically lets you perform tasks under your paygrade with no chance of failure.

But also keep in mind that "the right way to run" Pathfinder 2 is to not ask people roll checks for obviously trivial tasks. So while with a +30 Deception you will never fail a DC 15 Deception check, you probably shouldn't have to roll that check in the first place.

The main philosophy in Pathfinder 2 is "you only roll for stuff that matters, where the outcome could go either way, and you don't get to be certain of the outcome of those rolls".

Whether you like that is a matter of taste, but that's how the game seems to be written.

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