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Sudokori
2014-12-09, 09:40 PM
Has a situation ever come up in your group where a natural 20 or critical success wasn't enough? And if so, how did you react?

I once had a dm rule that a natural 20 on an attack roll failed to hit a demon that was attacking a fellow party mate. After the ensuing argument he finally let it out that the demon was supposed to be a re-occurring enemy and he didn't want it to be one-spotted on its first appearance. He allowed me to crit kill it after more arguing. Now we have a different demon harassing the party for unknown reasons.

EDIT: story didn't make sense so I replaced it with a friend's. Sorry I made the first one up just to get the idea across.

Sith_Happens
2014-12-09, 09:49 PM
At a local game I once played I started out as a level 1 fighter in a level 6 party. This was okay because the dm said he'd give my character an xp bonus to catch up quickly. Now the party is traveling and the dm rolls an encounter. Red dragon. Combat ensues and I roll for an attack. Natural 20. I was so exited to finally get a hit in on the dragon after so many misses. Well the Dm made me miss through fiat because "his scaly hide is too tough for your non-magic sword". Now understandably I got mad and argued and stuff, but that made me think.

Which edition was this in and what's the highest damage you could have rolled (assuming a failure on the critical confirmation roll)? The "non-magic sword" part of your DM's comment makes me think he was actually referring to your attack having not overcome damage reduction.


Has a situation ever come up in your group where a natural 20 or critical success wasn't enough? And if so, how did you react?

Every now and then, yes, considering that you still need to meet the DC on anything other than an attack roll or saving throw.

...Is this thread supposed to be more about the first paragraph or the second?

Sudokori
2014-12-09, 09:52 PM
...Is this thread supposed to be more about the first paragraph or the second?

I made up the first paragraph to get the point across that a 20 can still fail. The second paragraph is what the threads about. I replaced it with a friend's story because.... I'm nervous that I'll sound like a complete idiot.

Esprit15
2014-12-09, 10:38 PM
Hypothetical scenarios work too. There's no need to lie or steal examples. :smallsmile:

Ex: A party is fighting a demon, but through use of debuffs, even the highest a character can hit doesn't reach AC. Should a nat 20 still work? Similarly, if the highest someone can roll on a save doesn not meet that save DC, should a nat 20 still work?

As to the example given, that's just DM fiat. A better way to handle it should be to let the attack hit, and if the demon is really that crucial to the story, tweak its HP. Alternately, as someone said, DR is a good "Nope" button for high damage early on.

However, in the example given, it is made clear that it is DM fiat. Since fiat is an active suspension of the rules, the best way to go about it is not to argue, since it was part of the plot anyways.

Sith_Happens
2014-12-09, 10:42 PM
I'm still confused about what kind of story the thread is supposed to be about:

1. In which you rolled high but the DM fiated away what obviously should have been a success, and how you felt about and/or reacted to that.

or

2. In which it turns out that a task was legitimately impossible for you from the start, and how you worked around that.

Jay R
2014-12-09, 10:45 PM
A natural 20 will always fail when you are attempting the impossible. "My first level rogue attempts to pick the pocket of the king, 500 feet away, surrounded by his guards." That's absurd, and you don't get a 5% chance of making it work.

Which leads to the second principle: If what you want to do is significantly less likely than 5%, then a natural 20 shouldn't be enough to make it happen. Who decides what counts as "significantly less likely than 5%"? The DM does, and if you argue, you're only making it less likely that your next attempt will be analyzed generously.

Third principle: I've just announced a new rule in my 2E game. If you attempt something cool but reasonable ("I attempt to leap off the stairs over the heads of the gnolls to attack them from behind"*), then I may decide to have it automatically succeed, and you only roll for consequences. If you roll a 1, it succeeds, because I approve of the move. But you twist an ankle. You cannot jump or run today, but you landed where you wanted to, and can continue to fight.

Natural 20s aren't ways to do the impossible, or to frustrate the game system. The are ways to do the possible with swashbuckling gusto and panache.

*This is a real example, from a recent game, which spurred the new rule.

Milodiah
2014-12-09, 11:06 PM
...if I understand the OP correctly, the issue is that the DM appears to have moved the goalposts simply to preserve the big baddie. That's not something I support, personally. But if his sheet has an AC of above your modifiers + 20, then the attack doesn't hit. I've flipped through the PHB, and I can't find anywhere that actually says "20 is an automatic success in combat". It's a crit. But that's it.

The_Snark
2014-12-09, 11:12 PM
I've flipped through the PHB, and I can't find anywhere that actually says "20 is an automatic success in combat".

Top left of page 134, assuming you're talking about D&D 3.5. Not one hundred percent certain about other editions, but I'm pretty sure it's present.

Jak
2014-12-10, 01:43 AM
In a dark sun campaign, my friend (who was playing a thri-kreen) attempted to jump off of his own head. There was no ravine, no icky pile of goo, no imminent danger. He just wanted to. He legit rolls a nat 20 with a bunch of racial and other bonuses besides. He is still upset that the dm wouldn't let him do it. This was over a year ago.

Ksheep
2014-12-10, 02:23 AM
Well, for one, a Nat 20 doesn't mean an automatic success on skill checks, no matter how much the players want it to (at least in 3.5).

We've also had instances in combat where someone rolled a Nat 20, then a nat 19 to confirm, only to be told that was 5 too low to even hit. DM ruled that the attack hit, but wasn't a crit, and basically said the only way for that player to hit was with a crit threat.

Milodiah
2014-12-10, 04:49 AM
Top left of page 134, assuming you're talking about D&D 3.5. Not one hundred percent certain about other editions, but I'm pretty sure it's present.


So it does. I stand corrected!

Mr Beer
2014-12-10, 06:27 AM
Basically agree with Jay R, nat 20 will do anything cool that's not horribly less likely than 5%. Super unlikely stuff may need additional roles. Impossible stuff won't happen no matter what you roll.

Don't like the GM ruling re. the demon, if nothing else because it shows the rails in a clumsy fashion. Much better to say it hits but make sure the demon survives...it's not like the players get to read it's hit points anyway.

oxybe
2014-12-10, 06:35 AM
Last i checked in 3.5, the only thing a natural 20 succeeds is attack rolls and saving throws.

Skills/ability/caster level/whatnot checks treat a 20 as just that: you got a 20, now add your applicable modifier and compare to the DC.

People tend to get confused with how far-spanning the 20=success actually is since the d20 is generally used most often in combat, or at least is given spotlight more often in those situations.

Raimun
2014-12-10, 08:54 AM
Yeah.

If the DC of a skill roll is 28 and you have total modifier of +7, you can't succeed. It's impossible, until you have a total modifier of +8.

As for combat... heh. This has worked for my advantage in Pathfinder many times . Many a monster has rolled a natural 20 against my character but failed to hit.

Lord Torath
2014-12-10, 09:06 AM
This is the case in 2E AD&D also. Natural 20 is always a hit, and natural 1 is always a miss, but only for "to hit" rolls and saving throws. This was not the case in 1e AD&D, where sometimes you needed a number higher than 20 to hit.

Mark Hall
2014-12-10, 01:17 PM
A natural 20 can't make her love you.


More seriously, it depends largely on system, and as Torath pointed out, it can even vary among relatively similar games. I mean, RAW 3.x, a natural 20 doesn't automatically succeed on skill checks, but many people treat it as a critical success or something.

Galen
2014-12-10, 01:38 PM
Ex: A party is fighting a demon, but through use of debuffs, even the highest a character can hit doesn't reach AC. Should a nat 20 still work? Similarly, if the highest someone can roll on a save doesn not meet that save DC, should a nat 20 still work?
The rules of the specific game you're playing are usually pretty clear on this. In D&D 3.5, for example, a natural 20 always hits and succeeds on a save.

Back to the topic, one thing a natural 20 can't always do is succeed on an opposed check. Example, a fighter is trying stealthily sneak past some guards. Due to wearing armor, his Move Silently modifier is actually negative, let's say -3. He rolls a natural 20, for a total of 17. Well, with all respect to a natural 20, the guards can still beat this with a good Listen check.

Milodiah
2014-12-10, 01:54 PM
The most important thing about a nat-20 is that if it's possible to do, it's done in style. Obviously a nat-20 on tumbling isn't gonna get the rogue out of the way of a Magic Missile, because...Magic Missile. But to give an example, in a Call of Cthulhu game (percentile dice, same general concept though) one of my players decided he was going to jump from a rope ladder hanging off a ship through a half-closed porthole several feet away. I told him he'd have to crit the roll, or odds are he'd be picking up the backup character sheet.

Aught-one.

Springs off the ladder, elbows the porthole open, catches onto the rim, uses the inertia to fling himself through, shoulder-checks the dude hiding in the room sending his rifle sliding across the floor, and unintentionally pinning him. Was there a dude in there before? No. But aught-ones are to be rewarded. And besides, I believe nat-1s in D&D are critical failures, so might as well be equivocal about things and make nat-20s critical successes.

AuraTwilight
2014-12-10, 03:18 PM
My games let nat 20s auto-succeed at everything. Nothing makes the group crack-up more than doing a literally impossible stunt with the flimsiest justification.

ReaderAt2046
2014-12-10, 03:32 PM
My general interpretation would be: If you roll, then a nat-20 will always succeed. If not even a nat-20 can succeed, you don't roll at all.

GrayGriffin
2014-12-10, 03:45 PM
I remember seeing an optional rule in what I think was the 3.5 DMG, that says you can instead treat natural 20's as "reroll with a +20 bonus" and natural 1's as "reroll with a -20 penalty." Do you guys think this is more fair?

Jay R
2014-12-10, 08:19 PM
I remember seeing an optional rule in what I think was the 3.5 DMG, that says you can instead treat natural 20's as "reroll with a +20 bonus" and natural 1's as "reroll with a -20 penalty." Do you guys think this is more fair?

Any rule is equally fair as long as the players know what the rule is and it applies equally to the PCs and their foes.

I would never apply such a rule blindly, or you could get absurd results. A halfling with STR 3 could lift a mountain if he rolled three 20s in a row. A blind man could see the orcs coming from a distance, etc.

Always make sure that the rule of cool is limited by the rule of "Don't be ridiculous."

Alex12
2014-12-10, 08:24 PM
I remember seeing an optional rule in what I think was the 3.5 DMG, that says you can instead treat natural 20's as "reroll with a +20 bonus" and natural 1's as "reroll with a -20 penalty." Do you guys think this is more fair?

What my group does is for attack rolls and saves, nat-20s and nat-1s are auto-hit & threaten crit or auto-miss and look silly, respectively. For skill checks, nat-20s do this (and can keep on doing this as long as you keep getting 20), and nat-1s are basically "that roll was 0."

In one notable instance, a character was (through a misreading of Autohypnosis, we all thought it let him replace all his saves against poison with it, not just against the secondary effect) eating everything, even things that are obviously bad to eat. Then he decided to eat sharp freshly-broken glass. He really wants to. OOC, I tell him that's a bad idea, but he persists. I'm feeling generous, and decide that if he can then and there hit a DC60 autohypnosis check, he gets the DR1 for the day thing and takes no damage, otherwise he'll take damage. For perspective, he was level 1. Double-20, and then something else. Ended up with a total of 57, not quite enough. Still one of the highest rolls I've ever seen.

SowZ
2014-12-10, 09:52 PM
If the best roll possible can't succeed, I will simply tell the player it is impossible for whatever reason. If I let them roll, I feel like I am admitting there is a chance.

Ksheep
2014-12-10, 10:08 PM
If the best roll possible can't succeed, I will simply tell the player it is impossible for whatever reason. If I let them roll, I feel like I am admitting there is a chance.

Personally, I still let them roll. While I might know what their bonus to the particular skill is, and that the DC is higher than 20+skill level, I never know when they might find some way to boost their check. If I just said "no, you can't do it, period", that wouldn't necessarily be fair if they COULD make it after, say, getting assistance from another player, having the bard sing encouraging things to them, after quaffing a potion of Eagle's Splendor/Fox's Cunning/one of the other similar spells that boost your stats, and using a set of masterwork tools for whichever skill he's working on. Of course, they'd have to have a specific sub-set of skill-boosting items or abilities handy, but I know at least a few of my players do plan ahead that much. They'd still have to be ridiculously lucky, or spend a lot of time to work on it, but if there is some slim chance due to a combination of effects, I'll still let them roll.

GrayGriffin
2014-12-11, 02:09 AM
Any rule is equally fair as long as the players know what the rule is and it applies equally to the PCs and their foes.

I would never apply such a rule blindly, or you could get absurd results. A halfling with STR 3 could lift a mountain if he rolled three 20s in a row. A blind man could see the orcs coming from a distance, etc.

Always make sure that the rule of cool is limited by the rule of "Don't be ridiculous."

Ack, I wasn't clear. That rule was only meant to apply to attack rolls, aka the only ones where by RAW 20 always hits and 1 always misses.

Milodiah
2014-12-11, 02:37 AM
I'm sure we've said it enough, but even then sometimes it wouldn't work...thrusting your dagger so expertly that the intangible ghost gets stabbed, etc.

You laugh, but I've seen it. If the only thing you can say in your own defense is "It's RAW", and other people are disputing even that, you should probably shut up and let it go.

Sith_Happens
2014-12-11, 06:05 AM
A natural 20 can't make her love you.

It can with a high enough Diplomacy modifier.:smallwink:

Amphetryon
2014-12-11, 06:23 AM
Yeah.

If the DC of a skill roll is 28 and you have total modifier of +7, you can't succeed. It's impossible, until you have a total modifier of +8.

As for combat... heh. This has worked for my advantage in Pathfinder many times . Many a monster has rolled a natural 20 against my character but failed to hit.

Actually, you can succeed in that circumstance, if you're in 3.P and use the Aid Another rules.

A Natural 20 can't tell you why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Zombimode
2014-12-11, 07:21 AM
We've also had instances in combat where someone rolled a Nat 20, then a nat 19 to confirm, only to be told that was 5 too low to even hit. DM ruled that the attack hit, but wasn't a crit, and basically said the only way for that player to hit was with a crit threat.

Thats not a ruling. That is how the rules actually work.

Heliomance
2014-12-11, 08:50 AM
I'm sure we've said it enough, but even then sometimes it wouldn't work...thrusting your dagger so expertly that the intangible ghost gets stabbed, etc.

You laugh, but I've seen it. If the only thing you can say in your own defense is "It's RAW", and other people are disputing even that, you should probably shut up and let it go.

That's covered by miss chance, which is a separate rule and not affected by your attack roll. A ghost has a flat 50% chance for you to just not hit it no matter how high your roll, if using a magical weapon. If using a non-magical weapon, you just can't hit it at all.

Jay R
2014-12-11, 09:03 AM
Personally, I still let them roll. While I might know what their bonus to the particular skill is, and that the DC is higher than 20+skill level, I never know when they might find some way to boost their check. If I just said "no, you can't do it, period", that wouldn't necessarily be fair if they COULD make it after, say, getting assistance from another player, having the bard sing encouraging things to them, after quaffing a potion of Eagle's Splendor/Fox's Cunning/one of the other similar spells that boost your stats, and using a set of masterwork tools for whichever skill he's working on. Of course, they'd have to have a specific sub-set of skill-boosting items or abilities handy, but I know at least a few of my players do plan ahead that much. They'd still have to be ridiculously lucky, or spend a lot of time to work on it, but if there is some slim chance due to a combination of effects, I'll still let them roll.

I understand. You're applying a rules-based approach. What I was saying was a different approach. If by all logic the thing is impossible, then they cannot do it, and shouldn't roll.

Even with all the buffs in the world, a natural 20 with a non-magical weapon won't hit a ghost.

137ben
2014-12-11, 11:47 PM
For 3e, I use the "open ended rolls" variant from the ELH: A 'natural 20' means you reroll, and add 20 to your roll. If you roll a 20 again, you reroll again with a +40 bonus, etc.
So, if you have a modifier of +5 and attempt something with DC 30, a natural 20 might succeed, or it might fail (if your second roll is 4 or lower).
If you had any hope of succeeding without a natural 20, then a natural 20 is a guaranteed success.

Milodiah
2014-12-12, 03:23 AM
That's covered by miss chance, which is a separate rule and not affected by your attack roll. A ghost has a flat 50% chance for you to just not hit it no matter how high your roll, if using a magical weapon. If using a non-magical weapon, you just can't hit it at all.

Precisely. But the idiot in question was trying to argue that the phrase "a natural 20 is always a hit" somehow supersedes...y'know, logic.

Ninjaxenomorph
2014-12-13, 09:16 AM
I can think of several from my Pathfinder experiences:

ME: Yes! Natural 20, and natural 20 again to confirm!
GM: Alright, lemme roll versus his mirror images... nope. Hit an image.

ME:Ahahaha! Crit with a spellstrike! 18d6 electricity damage!
GM: Yeah, don't bother rolling, this angel is immune to electricity.
ME: *whimper*
GM: Hey, you still do crit damage! But your weapon isn't evil-aligned, so DR applies.

Gracht Grabmaw
2014-12-13, 12:19 PM
Heal a broken heart.

Milodiah
2014-12-13, 12:59 PM
ME:Ahahaha! Crit with a spellstrike! 18d6 electricity damage!
GM: Yeah, don't bother rolling, this angel is immune to electricity.


I was about to say "Woah dude, don't just out-and-out tell them that", but then I realized that their characters would probably figure it out with context clues anyway.

*Pumps small power-plant of electricity through the enemy*
*Enemy frowns*

Probably didn't do anything.