If a character has at least 11 Rogue levels, they get the "Reliable Talent" class feature.

Reliable Talent

By 11th level, you have refined your chosen skills until they approach perfection. Whenever you make an ability check that lets you add your proficiency bonus, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

What happens if you then Roll a Nat 1 on a roll with which you would add a proficiency bonus? Is it neutralized or is it a Critical Fail?


1 Answer 1


Ability checks don't critically succeed or fail.

In 5th edition, ability checks don't typically automatically succeed on a 20, or automatically fail on a 1. It's only attack rolls that have automatic failure or critical success.

The only rules relating to critical success or failure for ability checks is on page 242 of the DMG:

Rolling a 20 or a 1 on an ability check or a saving throw doesn't normally have any special effect. However, you can choose to take such an exceptional roll into account when adjudicating the outcome. It's up to you to determine how this manifests in the game.

However, Reliable Talent would bypass this. The wording of the ability says that you treat any roll of 9 or lower as a 10. Effectively, you totally ignore the number on the die and instead treat it as if you rolled a 10.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin I don't think I understand what you mean. Skill checks didn't have crits in 3.x or 4th ed, either. If you want to talk about it, come to Role-playing Games Chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Oct 7, 2016 at 17:48
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I wish I could +More this. The idea of 'crit fail' on a 1 is so old it's time to put it to pasture. Crit fails haven't been part of D&D for a long time. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2016 at 18:53
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Christopher: Unless I missed some detail for an edition, I think for skill rolls that they have never been part of D&D. Perhaps buried in some optional extra, although I don't think I've seen it if so. However, the idea persists, it's one of those memes that's stronger than the facts. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2016 at 19:57
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater Critcal success and failure for skills was an optional rule in 3.5. DMG p. 34. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Oct 7, 2016 at 20:00
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I cannot +1 this enough. The number of times I've had people treat 1's or 20's as crits for something other than an attack roll drives me nuts. \$\endgroup\$
    – RonLugge
    Oct 7, 2016 at 23:23

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