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Related question

I was going over the degrees of success rules in relation to the above question and it's answers and came across a bit of rules that seem contradictory.

Step 4: Determine degree of success (Core Rulebook, General Rules, Checks p445)

You critically succeed at a check when a check’s result meets or exceeds the DC by 10 or more. If the check is an attack roll, this is sometimes called a critical hit. You can also critically fail a check. The rules for critical failure—sometimes called a fumble—are the same as those for a critical success, but in the other direction: if you fail a check by 10 or more, that’s a critical failure.

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.

We are, in general, pretty familiar of this concept introduced in the playtest era. However, there are more rules that seem like they may be more specific.

Critical Hits (Core Rulebook, Equipment, Weapons, Attack Rolls p278)

When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 (the number on the die is 20), or if the result of your attack exceeds the target’s AC by 10, you achieve a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

If you critically succeed at a Strike, your attack deals double damage (page 451). Other attacks, such as spell attack rolls and some uses of the Athletics skill, describe the specific effects that occur when their outcomes are critical successes.

This second section makes no accounting for "would have been a success/hit", and says that "When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 [...] you achieve a critical success." Does this make attack an exception to the rules that natural 20's only take you one degree higher on success?

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As written, yes

As noted in the origin of my question and RevenantBacon's answer, that section is more specific and indicates that attacks would be an exception to the general rule.

However

As of writing this, that is the official status. Paizo has indicated that the section was written in error, and should be fixed in the second Core Rulebook Errata.

Unfortunately, the video indicating this has been removed and it has not been posted to their FAQ/Errata page yet.

Regardless, in light of their intent, I recommend game groups (continue) to have attacks operate per the rules on Checks, including natural 20's only causing one degree of success increase.

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It would appear so

To requote the text on Critical Hits:

When you make an attack and roll a natural 20 (the number on the die is 20), or if the result of your attack exceeds the target’s AC by 10, you achieve a critical success (also known as a critical hit).

We can see by the intervening or clause that only one of the two conditions must be met, you either need to roll a 20 on the die, or beat the targets AC by 10 points or more. As long as one of those two conditions are met, it should be counted as a critical hit.

This appears to be an exception to the normal rule of "natural 20 improves the success by one step" that applies on other d20 rolls.

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