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Ability Check Criticals

When you roll a natural 20 and succeed on an ability check, or when you roll a natural 1 and fail on an ability check, if you’re using a skill roll 1d6 to determine what special effect occurs. Because of the benefits of ability check criticals, some players may try a variety of easy ability checks to get a critical effect. The Narrator is always the arbiter of these critical effects and can rule that if an ability check is superfluous or insignificant, any resulting natural 20s and natural 1s have no special effect.

Tool Kits. Whether or not a tool kit is appropriate for an Ability Check Critical and for which type it qualifies is at the Narrator’s discretion.


Arcane criticals only occur when an active magical effect is involved. This might be the response to a counterspell or dispel magic , the curious activation of a specific magic item, or interaction with a ritual or permanent enchantment.

When an arcane critical success or critical failure would not apply to the effect that activated it, reroll.

Critical Success

  1. Arcane Surge. You gain temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus. These temporary hit points last 1 hour.
  2. Comfort in the Arcane. You may take 10 on Arcana checks for the next 24 hours, even if it is not normally allowed.
  3. Expanded Use. If the magic item or effect targets a set number of targets, you may add one additional target within range. When this does not apply, reroll.
  4. Free Use. If activating a scroll or item with charges (such as a wand), you do not use the scroll or any charges. When this does not apply, reroll.
  5. Lucky Magic. You gain an expertise die on Arcana checks for the next 24 hours.
  6. Metamagic Use. Choose one minor metamagic from those found in the sorcerer class and apply it to the spell. When this does not apply, reroll.

Critical Failure

  1. Arcane Feedback. You take 1 point of damage per spell level. When this does not apply, reroll.
  2. Break Device. The activated item gains the broken condition or, in the case of a scroll it is destroyed entirely. When this does not apply, reroll.
  3. Delayed Activation. At some point within the next 1d12 hours, the magic device randomly activates. The target is chosen by the Narrator. When this does not apply, reroll.
  4. Misaligned Aiming. The device activates, but the target of the item’s effect or spell changes to a target of the Narrator’s choosing. When this does not apply, reroll.
  5. Unlucky Magic. You are rattled for the next 2d4 hours.
  6. Wasteful Usage. If activating an item with charges (such as a wand), you use 5 charges (even if the device does not activate). When this does not apply, reroll.

Facts and Discoveries

Includes skills such as Arcana, Culture, Engineering, History, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival.

Critical Success

  1. Doctorate. This subject is one of your areas of study and some of it is coming back to you. For the next 24 hours, you gain an expertise die on ability checks using this skill so long as the check is for similar subjects.
  2. Forgotten Language. Choose the language most closely associated with the target (if none or if you already know the language, roll again). If this is your first time getting a critical success with that language, you remember that you studied it long ago. Write down the language. The next time you roll this result, you permanently learn the language.
  3. Moment of Revelation. You gain the benefits of a single augury spell (although no magic is involved).
  4. Related Expertise. For the next hour, you may add half your proficiency bonus (rounded down) to any Intelligence or Wisdom check that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.
  5. Relevant Tidbit. You recall some important bit of information relevant to the target.
  6. View Auras. For 1 minute, you gain the benefits of detect magic against targets related to your check.

Critical Failure

  1. Aggressive Handling. If you are examining something, you either break it or worsen a creature’s attitude towards you (as Gossip). When this does not apply, reroll.
  2. Arcane Fatigue. You lose one of your highest level spell slots. When this does not apply, reroll.
  3. Boring Topic. You find this topic incredibly boring. For the next 24 hours, you take a –2 penalty on checks against similar targets.
  4. Earworm. You are trying to concentrate but all you can remember is an advertising jingle. For the next hour, you cannot gain expertise dice on Intelligence and Wisdom checks.
  5. Frightening Revelation. You become frightened for 1d4+1 rounds. There is no direct source of your fear.
  6. Misinformation. You are positive of the veracity of some false bit of information.


Critical Success

  1. Buffer. The target gains a number of temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus. These temporary hit points last 1 hour.
  2. Comprehensive Checkup. The target heals 1 level of fatigue or strife (reroll if neither applies).
  3. Expertise. You may take 10 on Medicine checks for the next 24 hours, even if it is not normally allowed.
  4. Repeat the Procedure. You may treat your next Medicine check as a natural 20 so long as it is made before you complete a long rest . This does not result in a critical success.
  5. Spur Natural Healing. The target’s natural healing improves dramatically. For the next 24 hours, double the hit points the target regains from spending Hit Dice during a short rest .
  6. Superb Healing. The target regains additional hit points equal to your proficiency bonus.

Critical Failure

  1. Amputate Toe. You accidentally amputate the patient’s little toe (or similar non-vital extremity). Now, how did you do that?
  2. Disgusting Procedure. You and the target are poisoned for 1 minute.
  3. Harm. The target takes 1d4 bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage.
  4. Infect Wound. The target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or becomes infected with sewer plague (see Diseases in Chapter 12: Gamemastery).
  5. Open Wound. The target takes 1 ongoing damage for 1 minute. Each turn the target can use its bonus action to make a Constitution saving throw (DC 20 – 1 per previous save) to stop the bleeding. Any amount of magical healing also stops the bleeding.
  6. Organ Damage. The target suffers one level of fatigue.

Physical Skills

Includes skills such as Acrobatics, Athletics, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth.

Critical Success

  1. Cool Confidence. You may take 10 on these skill checks for the next 24 hours, even if it is not normally allowed.
  2. Impressive Success. You impress others with your physical feat. For the next hour, you gain an expertise die on Intimidation and Persuasion checks against targets who saw your success.
  3. Lead the Way. Your allies who attempt a similar check in the next 5 minutes gain an expertise die .
  4. Like Wearing Nothing at All. For the next hour, you ignore any disadvantage to Stealth checks gained from wearing armor.
  5. Satisfying Exhaustion. You’ll sleep well tonight. For the next 24 hours, double the hit points you regain from spending Hit Dice during a short rest .
  6. Speedy. You can immediately use your reaction to move half your Speed.

Critical Failure

  1. Fumble. An item held in your hands (Narrator’s choice) gains the broken condition.
  2. Jam. You jam your fingers or toes, and for the next 10 minutes your melee attack bonus or AC are reduced by –1 (Narrator’s choice).
  3. Loosened Latch. Something you are wearing inexplicably gains the broken condition (Narrator’s choice).
  4. Off Balance. You fall prone .
  5. Pull a Ligament. Your Speed is reduced by 5 feet for the next hour.
  6. Pushed Too Hard. You suffer 2 levels of  fatigue . After 1 round one of these levels of fatigue is removed, and the other is gone after 1 hour.

Social Skills

Includes skills such as Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion.

Special: When using a disguise kit, the effect of the natural 20 or natural 1 is “stored” until a particularly opportune or inopportune time.

Critical Success

  1. Clever Banter. Improve the target’s attitude toward you—someone that was put off might become apathetic, and an apathetic person might become friendly.
  2. Friendly Crowd. The target calls over some friends that are friendly to you and interested in what you are doing.
  3. Gift. The target wants to give you some small gift outside the scope of this conversation.
  4. Good Reputation. After this conversation, the attitudes of the target’s closest allies improve towards you (as Clever Banter).
  5. Loose Lips. The target accidentally reveals a useful piece of information.
  6. Love Interest. The target may become romantically interested with you.

Critical Failure

  1. Accidental Reveal. You accidentally reveal a piece of information best kept hidden.
  2. Escalating Tension. The target calls over some friends that are not fans of you and your cause.
  3. False Negative. You believe something truthful that the target says to be a lie.
  4. Gossip. After this conversation, the attitudes of the target’s close allies worsen towards you. Someone who was apathetic might be put off, and someone put off might become borderline hostile.
  5. Suspicious. The target believes something truthful to be a lie.
  6. Unfriendly Banter. Worsen the target’s attitude toward you by one step (as Gossip).