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Critical Rolls For Skill Checks

By DMJustJace



Charts and generators can be a handy resource for DMs to not only add flavor to their game but to keep things organized. But where does one draw the line? Should everything be on a chart of randomness? Does a Nat20 or a Nat1 mean auto pass or auto fail? The community had a discussion about this topic this week and there were a lot of diverse opinions. Here are some of the comments made on the subject.

“No because crits aren't a thing for skills. There is a reason SOME checks have a DC 25 etc. Because if a player only has a +3, then even on a roll of 20, they can't succeed. If a nat 20 ok skill checks is a crit, then having higher DCs is useless. By RAW, skill checks have no crit success or failure. My artificier has a +12 to sleight of hand. If a DC is 13, and I roll a 1, I should still succeed. UNLESS you are implementing a passive crit fail/success effect, like "you pass your sleight of hand check, but...." then I can see MAYBE something working out...depending what you make up.... Not taking the extreme situations out, but still...implementing a crit success/fail on skill checks is not necessary is the point. Skill checks are meant purely for DC checks.... I'm not as against it for attack rolls....but skills checks? No.. The game is already designed so that potential extreme situations can still happen. Your rolls determine it. I rolled a natural one to jump over a pit trap that was filling with lava....it doesn't get any more extreme than that. I would have had to make a new character had my party member not given me their DM Inspiration. Shit was hitting the fan in this part of our game already, and it was fun. Without crit tables. We are purely discussing crit pass and fail charts/decks for skill checks. I'm all for crazy things happening in combat for attack rolls. Or called shots that you crit on etc.”
Joshua W.
“No crits or fails on skill checks” - Anthony R.
“Only in improved hilarity of description of what happens, but no extra effects.”
Justin M.
“RAW, there are no crits on skill checks or saving throws. Just attack roles.
However, I usually give something a little extra for a 20 (only if this would pass the DC anyway, it's not an autosuccess) or make things a little worse for a 1. No charts though, and I'd think the circumstances would be too varied to actually make something usable.”
Duncan T.
“I tend to play it by ear, but usually for rule of cool, or comedic value” - Peter G.
“I don't ever use crit charts. I tend to freestyle based on the situation.”
Joshua M.

It seems the majority had negative views on using charts for skill checks. A common theme was that crit fails and a chart usually has drastic consequences and takes away from the fun aspect of the game. In line with that, rolls of a Nat20 seem to garnish some rules of cool flavor from the DMs but not necessarily in the sense of auto pass. As always it is tough to have fun the wrong way and is up to you and your players how you wish to run your games. Until next time, happy gaming!


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