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Let's say my character Strikes an enemy with AC 35. My attack bonus is only +10.

I roll a natural 20, making my total 30 vs his 35 AC. Is this attack treated as a regular hit, because it would have been a failure but the nat 20 improves the degree of success by one step? Or is it treated as a critical hit, because it's a nat 20?

Similarly, if I'm subjected to a spell with a saving throw I can only fail at, and I roll a nat 20, does that mean I reach a success on the saving throw or a critical success?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that these examples are useful for understanding the system but very unlikely to happen in real games (barring the party fighting creatures way outside their 'weight class') because Pathfinder 2e has its own version of bounded accuracy. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Sep 10 '20 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso - I know, but I just wanted an exaggerated example to illustrate my point -- as you said, to understand the system. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben R. Sep 10 '20 at 12:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for accepting my answer. I just edited it in light of some new information that came out on another question. \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild Sep 10 '20 at 19:58
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In General

Chapter 9: Playing the Game (Core Rules) describes how criticals work. As you noted, a critical success and failures occur when your result is the DC +/- 10. You seem to misunderstanding how rolling a natural 20 works. From page 445:

If you rolled a 20 on the die (a "natural 20"), your result is one degree of success better than it would be by numbers alone. If you roll a 1 on the d20 (a "natural 1"), your result is one degree worse.

A natural 20 is not a critical hit. A natural 1 is not a critical failure. They only modify what your result would have been by one step.

Your Examples

In your first example (a strike against a DC 35), you have a success. Your result of 30 would normally be a failure, but since it is a natural 20 it becomes a success.

The second example works the same. If you would have failed your saving throw, that natural 20 makes it a success. If it would have been a critical failure, then it now becomes a failure instead.

About Attacks...

The current printings of the Core Rulebook do have a different section which addresses critical success on attacks. These are on page 278 (in the Weapons section). Under these rules, a natural 20 is a critical success on an attack.

However, as this answer on another question on the same rule points out, Paizo announced at PaizoCon their intent to errata this rule away as it was an error.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the concise answer. I thought that was the case, but my experience is mostly with 5e, where nat 20s are always crits on attacks - hard to get out of that mindset. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben R. Sep 10 '20 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't the attack still be a failure? A result of 30 vs a AC 40 would normally be a critical failure because it fails by 10. Then rolling a natural 20 improves it from a critical failure to a normal failure. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Sep 10 '20 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ it would need to be 1 less for that to be the case, you need to match the value not exceed it. \$\endgroup\$ – CaptianObvious Sep 10 '20 at 11:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CaptianObvious Actually, it is a critical failure if you roll 10 or more below the target number. "or even a failure if 20 plus your total modifier is 10 or more below the DC." \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Sep 10 '20 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ I'll change the numbers in order to make it clearer then, thanks for pointing that out \$\endgroup\$ – Ben R. Sep 10 '20 at 12:01

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