I'm new at Pathfinder and have a question nobody in my group of newbies knows the answer to.

Can you attempt a DC 16 strength check if you have 12 strength?

Option 1: With 12 strength you have a +1 modifier. This would mean that you need to throw 15 on the d20 to succeed (15 + 1 str mod = 16 = yay you made it).

Option 2: I read somewhere (yes, somewhere I don't remember) that you need to have 16 strength to be eligible to attempt a DC16 strength check. Is this true?

And how about intelligence? The ''Maze'' spell requires a DC20 intelligence check to escape. If the above is true that would make this spell pretty strong versus anything with 19 or less intelligence.

Will a natural 20 help make otherwise impossible ability checks succeed? For example breaking manacles with DC26 while having only 2 strength mod.I know it doesn't work on skill checks. Is it the same with these "ability checks"?


1 Answer 1


Option 1 is the correct answer here

Ability checks always add up d20 + ability modifier + situational modifiers, as long as this is greater or equal to the DC then you succeed at the task. This applies to all ability checks for all ability scores.

In terms of a natural 20, this is entirely up to your DM from what I can find. For the group that I DM I allow success on the task if it seems fairly reasonable, but for instance a player trying to punch through a dungeon wall would never succeed with fists alone (without special fists too).

Generally if the task is impossible, the DM should directly say that you make the attempt and fail, no roll necessary.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ By RAW, "Automatic success on natural 20" only applies to attack rolls and saving throws versus spells. As you've mentioned, there are GMs who houserule that apply to everything or to a broader set of things. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 4:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Any saving throw succeeds on a natural 20, not just saving throws against spells. (I hate being that guy, but I was just imagining a question 3 mo. from now from an angry player whose DM says he failed a saving throw against poison on a natural 20 because the DM read somewhere on the Internet that that totally happens.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ah, thanks for the correction. I'd edit my comment if I could. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 1:02

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