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D&D 5E Questioning Nat 20's: Opposing Skills Checks.

So while DMing a session last night, there was a situation where the Ranger pc attempted to intimidated a Knight npc. So an Intimidation roll vs a Wisdom check, IIRC. The Knight npc has Advantage due to being Brave and rolled a Nat 20 on the roll to oppose the Ranger. The Ranger, though, was two points ABOVE the Nat 20 result after his roll+CHA modifier. I ruled that because it was a Nat 20, and an astounding success on the Knight's part, he wasn't intimidated by the Ranger. My buddy, who played the Ranger, took it in good stride and understood that a Nat 20 is the apex number when rolling, did mention "Even though I was two points above said 20?"

Fast Forward to today while I'm at home, I'm now wondering if I made a mistake on my part. I'm trying to become a better DM and I supposed that I am gonna be making mistakes. (On the plus side, my buddy's Ranger was able to score the Killing Blow on a Warg boss, after it had reduced him from 40 HP down to 20 hp after missing him for most of the battle, by rolling a Nat 20 and killing it. (So Dice Karma came around and gave me the comeuppance I would say. Plus the Warg boss, despite having Pack Advantage before getting Disadvantage later thnx to fire.)

But now I'm still wondering if I made the wrong judgement call, as a DM, earlier with the Intimidation vs the Opposed Wisdom check. Now I did have it where the Knight wasn't intimidated by the ranger pc, but gave him a slight nod of "respect/appreciation" by recognizing the ranger's skills. Which wouldn't have happened at all if the rolls turned out different and if the ranger rolled SUPER low.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
A natural 20 on an ability check or saving throw means nothing in particular per the rules. It's only on attack rolls where a 20 is a critical hit/success, though arguably the same is true for death saves (in a sense).
Huh. Is my playing that a nat 20 on a save is an auto-success a vestige of a previous edition then? (Not that I plan to change that).
 




For what it's worth (and it might not be much) I don't think either a one-time judgment call or a standing houserule is going to damage the game, though they should both (and I presume are/will be) communicated as such to the players.
True. And yeah the next time we have another session I'll will probably address it. The more I keep on thinking about it, I am personally feeling that perhaps I did judge it the wrong way. So now I have to come up with something to make up for that. which I did for the other player, a Warlock, who I had accidently forgotten to show him the Cleric cantrips list when he chose the Tome of Shadows pact boon during character creation.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Fast Forward to today while I'm at home, I'm now wondering if I made a mistake on my part. I'm trying to become a better DM and I supposed that I am gonna be making mistakes.
So just noting.... while you are mechanically incorrect, you weren't wrong.

DMs are going to make judgement calls, that's part of the game. You will do the best you can, and as long as your rulings have a reasonable basis your doing fine. No issue with double checking on the forums after the fact and changing your mind for future work, but never beat yourself up about those judgement calls!
 



Per the official rules nat 20s are only special on attacks and death saves. This is fuddy-duddy and boring. Yes you could try to train players to not get excited by nat 20s on ability checks, but that just kills a source of fun at most tables in favor of... accounting. And the price they pay for nat 20s being special is that sometimes the specialness works against them.

This is not to say that a nat20 should be instant success on anything, but for purposes of a contested check (or if for some reason I'm letting someone roll for an impossible task) I'd let it count as equivalent to a 25 or so on the die. Exceptional success within the realm that success is possible, is the idea. Certainly I would let a nat 20 beat a contested check that with bonuses came out just a couple points higher.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Another options you could always go with is that you can play the knight as not "intimidated" (IE scared) per se, but still willing to go along with what the Ranger put forth since they lost the roll. Maybe instead they were awed by the ranger... not frightened or browbeaten, but impressed enough to follow along with any good idea the ranger might present. That would get the ranger what they wanted from winning the contested roll, but the Nat 20 (from Brave) could also keep the knight from looking like a shlub (especially considering they even have an ability called Brave).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
A 20 doesn't mean automatic success, a 1 doesn't mean automatic failure except for attack rolls. It's fine if you want to handle it otherwise, but for me it's really situationally dependent and a 20 only "automatically" succeeds in rare cases.
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
So just noting.... while you are mechanically incorrect, you weren't wrong.

DMs are going to make judgement calls, that's part of the game. You will do the best you can, and as long as your rulings have a reasonable basis your doing fine. No issue with double checking on the forums after the fact and changing your mind for future work, but never beat yourself up about those judgement calls!
From the Wild Beyond the Witchlight:

"Dungeon Masters are fallible, just like everyone else, and even the most experienced DMs make mistakes. If you overlook, forget, or misrepresent something, correct yourself and move on. ... As long as your players are having fun, everything will be just fine."
 

Another options you could always go with is that you can play the knight as not "intimidated" (IE scared) per se, but still willing to go along with what the Ranger put forth since they lost the roll. Maybe instead they were awed by the ranger... not frightened or browbeaten, but impressed enough to follow along with any good idea the ranger might present. That would get the ranger what they wanted from winning the contested roll, but the Nat 20 (from Brave) could also keep the knight from looking like a shlub (especially considering they even have an ability called Brave).
That's pretty much what I didish to not like mood kill the Ranger getting a two point high number on the roll: Neither character intimidated the other or what not, but I had the Knight do a slight nod of acknowledgement to the Ranger in regards to recognizing their skills. Had the Ranger rolled a super low or lower number than 20 after the CHA modifier, then the Knight would've rubbed it in the Ranger's face more on wasting everybody's time and not even acknowledge him at all.
 

In your shoes I'd own up to the mistake, clarify the rule for the future, but also give that player their next nat 20 skill roll a spectacular success to make it up to them.
Part of me is willing to legit give them an one-time auto Nat 20 on ANY roll of their choice during the session or future session in that regard basically.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
One option, instead of auto-success on 20 or auto-fail on 1 is to use one of the sidebar rules from 3e. You add +10 to the result for a natural 20, subtract 10 for a natural 1 and then adjudicate based on the results. Given the bounded accuracy of 5e, I'd pare it down to more like +5/-5 but it can give you some wider result ranges without giving out auto-success/fail.
 

delericho

Legend
Huh. Is my playing that a nat 20 on a save is an auto-success a vestige of a previous edition then? (Not that I plan to change that).
Actually, I don't think it is - certainly, in 3e skill checks didn't grant auto-success on a 20 (only for attack rolls and saves), and in 1st and 2nd Ed proficiencies were roll-under. I'm not super-familiar with 4e, but a quick scan of the PHB didn't spot an auto-success for skill checks there either.

That said, it was always a common house rule, and appears to be far from uncommon in 5e too. :)
 

Horwath

Hero
One option, instead of auto-success on 20 or auto-fail on 1 is to use one of the sidebar rules from 3e. You add +10 to the result for a natural 20, subtract 10 for a natural 1 and then adjudicate based on the results. Given the bounded accuracy of 5e, I'd pare it down to more like +5/-5 but it can give you some wider result ranges without giving out auto-success/fail.
we did +5/-5 in 3.5e(+10/-10 was too much).
It was dumb that a weapon master would ever miss an unarmored peasant, unless very difficult situation(large penalties)
 

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