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What I mean is if a character gets a crit on something like a appraise check should I reward them or say the just know the history about the weapon. I have a character who got a crit on appraise and to reward him I made a gave him a weapon that has +2 dmg, can store a lv.1 spell of his choose once per day, and counts as a rod implement.

I didn't realize what I was doing at the time and now I regret it. I gave it to him at lv.3! If someone lands a crit I want it to be rewarded but not to over power the group. Please help!

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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

On D&D 3.X and Pathfinder, you can't really crit on Skill Checks. A 20 is just a 20, and a 1 is just a 1. There's no auto-fail and auto-win associated with Skill Checks.


I, for one, simply love the moments of "awesomeness" that rolling a Natural 20 brings to the table. So, even if, by the rules, rolling a 20 on a Skill Check does nothing special, I bend the rules a bit so cool things can happen. I elaborated a few rulesets on this:

Ruleset 1 - The Boost: When a Player rolls a 20 on a skill check, add a +10 to his check and make him roll again! This will make rolling a 20 almost a auto-success.

Ruleset 2 - The Boom: Similar to the Boost. When a player rolls a 20 on a skill check, "explode" the dice: make him roll again and add the results. (First roll was a 20, second roll was a 15 - Total roll: 35!)

Ruleset 3 - The Token: When a character rolls a 20 on a Skill Check, he gains a Skill Token for that Skill. Later, he can spend that token to reroll a Failed Skill check. - Example: Bob the Bard Rolls a 20 for a Bluff Check. He gains a Bluff Token. Next time he fails on a Bluff Check, he can spend his Bluff Token to roll again! He can't use this Bluff Token on another Skill, however.

Ruleset 4 - The Glory: When a character rolls a 20 on a Skill Check, you can improve the result of what happened removing the need of repeated tests - On your case, the Appraise Check would not only evaluate the magic sword, it would also evaluate every other item in the Hoard Pile!

You can create new things yourself, and you are not, by any means, obligated to use only one ruleset for "Critical Skill Checks". I mix Boom and Glory most of the time in my games, for example.

What you don't do, however, is to change what being successful means. If a player rolls a 20 on the Appraise check, he can get exactly what the item costs, and maybe what the item does (Appraise don't, by default, reveal the magic item's abilities), but the check should not grant the item extra abilities.

Think this way - Rolling a 20 on a diplomacy check against a random commoner won't make the commoner suddenly knows where the lost son of the Duke is hiding: the commoner don't have this info from the start, so you can't really make it appear from nothing just because someone rolled a 20.

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Thank you sooooooooo much! this will help me in future ventuers as a DM. May the gods smile upon you and all you childern. –  Ice900 4 Jul 10 '14 at 20:55
@Ice9004 You Welcome! Just wait a few hours before accepting, so other answers can come by. –  Thales Sarczuk Jul 10 '14 at 20:56
Hmm, in the case of The Boost, it actually works out so that rolling a 19 is safer than rolling a 20 for a check which you need, say, a 19 to meet, because there's the chance you'll get the effective 11. I'd just have a 5% chance of treating any given natural 20 as a natural 30. –  Iron Heart Jul 10 '14 at 23:36
This is what our DM used to do all the time. Rolling a 20 on anything should MEAN something, so sometimes just making it up(as long as it isnt stretching the original intention of the rule too far) makes for a much more fun experience for everyone –  MikeR Jul 11 '14 at 13:34
Why the downvotes? –  Thales Sarczuk Jul 14 '14 at 10:39

Unless I'm COMPLETELY mis-remembering 3.5 (I mostly play Pathfinder), I don't think you can "crit" skill checks anyway. They don't even follow the Rules of 20 and 1 (meaning you can still fail on a 20 or pass on a 1, unlike, say attack rolls). Only attacks can typically do something more on a 20 than they do on a 19.

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That's true. "Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure." - d20srd.org/srd/skills/usingSkills.htm#skillChecks –  Marcus Morrisey Jul 10 '14 at 20:26

Natural-20 and natural-1 have no meaning for skill checks, and it is a really bad idea to change that.

Jump checks, for example: if I say I attempt to jump to the moon, and then roll a 20, do I get to the moon? The DC is (approximately) 5,044,617,600, but I nat-20’d, right?

And on the other end, there are lots of tasks that should not fail 5% of the time. Remembering the name of the street you were born on? In theory, that’s Knowledge (local), though the DC is 0 or less, but nat-1 is nat-1, so 5% of the time, you can’t remember it. Do people sometimes “blank” even on extremely obvious stuff like that? Sure, but not 5% of the time. Not 0.005% of the time. There is just no reasonable risk of that.

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I disagree with your arguments against bringing crits into skill checks, because in those 2 situations, dice should not be rolled. For impossible checks, the DM should not allow a roll at all. For completely trivial tasks that would have a DC of 0, you do not enforce a roll. Much as you don't enforce a DC 0 balance check to walk. Slightly less trivial tasks, performed out of combat, the players will take 10 or 20. In combat, I think it's quite reasonable that a person who knows their way around town would make a wrong turn 5% of the time while dodging arrows etc –  Scott Jul 11 '14 at 0:27
The querent is not talking about automatic success. Your concerns are perfectly valid for that case, but it's not the only way to make that 20 more "special". –  Zachiel Jul 11 '14 at 10:57

Well, despite of the rules, as @ThalesSarczuk says, I love when a player roll a 20 or a 1, because it adds thrills to the game, so I allow autosuccess/fail for skill checks, adding some storytelling stuff in both cases.

Clearly: if a player wants to jump on the moon I do not allow it, as if a player ask to a commoner where the Duke's daughter and roll a 20 on a diplomacy check, the commoner would have a particular feeling with PG, maybe he'll try to help someway, but he simply doesn't know where the girl is. I don't remember if I read this in D&D manual or in WoD one, but dices are used to see how things go when there is a reasonable (because yes, you matemathically ask to someone in the crowd if he knows where she is, but...) chance that can go bad, this seems a good general rule to me.

Anyway, as said above, a 20 on Appraise MUST NOT add extra abilities to items, but error is done and you can do nothing with it; leave it to him/her, simply give less rewards on further quests until their level are high enough.

Have a nice game.

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In general, if you think critical successes are fun and want to use them, I'd say you should have the skill succeed in a plausibly amazing way, and leave it up to the players what to make of it. So a critical success on appraisal would tell you that this hammer gives +1 to damage... and is approximately 65 years old... and was forged in the city of Northwood... probably in one of the workshops on the north side, judging from the influence of the wind on the pattern of the grain. Generally they should just laugh at that and move on, but if they really want to they can search the city for a shop specializing in items from that region and see if they can sell it for a higher price, or use it in some kind of far-fetched bluff, or something.

Just to play devil's advocate, a fantastically successful appraisal could make an item more powerful if the character recognized some feature that was intentionally hidden or hard to activate, or because of some other insight (e.g., the shape suggests that the optimal grip is half an inch higher than you'd expect). But that's an issue of story, not mechanics.

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It's not really a good idea to add up things to an item because an Appraise Check. Appraise is to check the approximataded value of a given item. It can't really identify details about the magical properties of said item. Success in avaliating something shouldn't raise the overall value of that item. Your ideas about origin and history are ok, tho. –  Thales Sarczuk Jul 14 '14 at 10:38
I agree that it's not a good idea, and I hoped my answer was clear on that. Thank you for elucidating the distinction between appraisal and more general item identification; it sounds like my idea was somewhat off-target in that light. –  octern Jul 14 '14 at 15:45
You can always edit you answer! If you can clarify it a bit more, I will surely put my +1! –  Thales Sarczuk Jul 14 '14 at 16:15

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