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In my campaign, we've used the old mechanics for Aid Another up until now: roll 10 or more to assist with a +2, if you roll under you simple fail to assist. I recently became aware of the errataed Aid Another, which looks like this:

The assisting creature makes a skill check or an ability check against a DC equal to 10 + one-half its level.

My players are currently level 18, which means their Aid Another DC is 19. A lot of the players have a 17 or higher in a few skills, though. For example, the ardent has 24 in diplomacy, 18 in endurance and 17 in insight - does this mean automatic success is guaranteed when she assists with those skills (barring a 1, which we assume is always automatic failure)?

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Yes, they'll auto-succeed, but the people who can auto-succeed are the ones who should be receiving help via Aid Another, not giving help via Aid Another. – Oblivious Sage Apr 22 '13 at 15:26
No harm, no foul! Tagging issues are very much inside baseball anyway. It's currently being discussed; feel free to chime in. – SevenSidedDie Apr 22 '13 at 16:18
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, for skills, it’s an automatic success, even on a Nat-1

You succeed on a skill check every time your roll plus your bonus meets or exceeds the DC. If your bonus is as large or larger than the DC, then there is no possible roll that results in you failing to meet the DC, and thus you automatically succeed.

The auto-failure on a natural-1 rule does not apply to skill checks (nor does the auto-success on a nat-20 rule).

As an important aside, there are a lot of very good reasons for natural-1 not applying to skill checks, and it is strongly recommended that you not houserule that particular feature.

Skills are supposed to be things you are reasonably good at, particularly when you’re trained and high level. A 5% chance of failure is much too high a rate for the kinds of activities we’re usually talking about. Worse, in some cases, like jumping, there is no particular set DC: you just go as far as you can based on what you roll. What does an “automatic success” even mean in that case? Does that mean I have a 5% chance of successfully jumping to the moon?

Even in less silly cases, training is supposed to represent a deep internalization of the skill. At appropriate levels of training, you are intended to be able to accomplish certain tasks – indicated by having a DC low enough that they can be hit automatically – as easily as the average person can sit down in a chair. People do, on rare occasions, mess up sitting in a chair, particularly in poor conditions (poorly-balanced chair, person is inebriated, whatever), but it happens way less frequently than 5% of the time, even in poor conditions. The d20 simply doesn’t have the granularity to measure that. Changing this is a severe nerf to the skill-based folks in the party, and causes some pretty serious problems.

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I would never have anyone roll to see if they could jump over the moon. If it's impossible, it's impossible. And the other way around, if it's so easy that there is no chance of failure, I don't make the players roll for it. So I feel comfortable having auto success and auto failure on skill checks. – Ravn Apr 22 '13 at 15:13
@Ravn The game says you are supposed to automatically succeed when you are trained. For a trained person, making that check is as easy as successfully sitting down in a chair is for us. Sure, once in a long while, they might flub it (particularly in poor conditions), but almost always this is a thing they can do. The d20 does not have enough granularity to model this. You are pretty seriously nerfing your skill-based characters with this houserule. – KRyan Apr 22 '13 at 15:16
So a player trained in a skill should never have to roll for it? – Ravn Apr 22 '13 at 15:19
@Ravn If they have a bonus high enough/they're aiming for a low enough DC? Yes. That is how the game works. – KRyan Apr 22 '13 at 15:19
I did an example edit that doesn't reduce the tangent, but marks it clearly as an "I'm going to go off on a tangent now, but dammit this is important" thing. By separating it, it prevents confusion of the "but that's not what I was talking about… maybe they misunderstood my question?" kind, and calling it out as a tangent makes it more prominent, as a bonus. – SevenSidedDie Apr 22 '13 at 15:20

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