[RPG] How to giving skill checks critical fails and successes affect game balance


At my table there is the house rule that skills can crit on a natural 1 and 20.

At least I think a natural 20 would be treated special over a 19. But I do know that 1's give harsh consequences.

In my last session I rolled natural ones on 2 separate skill checks.

One was a Perception check to listen to the mutters of nearby NPCs, I rolled a natural 1(I had a +6 to it) and the DM said I was talking so loud that all the other PCs had to do their checks at disadvantage.

The second time I rolled insight to see if i could figure out about how badly our setting the dock ablaze affected an invading orc army, whose ship was also set on fire. I rolled a natural 1(+6) and the DM said I did not think it had any effect at all and was going to be frightened for the 1st 3 rounds of the next encounter.

I'm all for having fun and silly things with low skill rolls. And am ok with these harsh consequences if everyone at the table are for the most part. But I feel this kinda screws over bards and rogue who get expertise.

Continuation of another question.

Best Answer

It makes your characters erratically be heroically skillful and tragically incompetent. 5% of the time you can manage almost anything, regardless of your ability. 5% of the time you horribly screw up almost anything, regardless of your ability.

It would take a pretty big idiot to be talking loudly while trying to listen carefully. Your DM is letting these 1s take away your player agency while also allowing for 20s to let you do things or have extra effects that you probably shouldn't be capable of.

I'm not a fan of 1s and 20s being automatic for skill checks. I like the Degree of Success idea (which I have seen used in some 5e adventures) that certain skill checks can have multiple DCs, and depending on where your modified check falls you can do badly, simply fail, succeed, succeed better, along the lines of: DC 15 to climb the wall. Fail by 5 or more and you fall down.

This is especially unfair for characters with Reliable Talent. The idea is that they are so good at their skills, they always do at least average.