There’s one rule in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition that both players and Dungeon Masters seem to forget or ignore. In fact if you watch the some live play games on Youtube you’ll see even the big names play it differently. So here it is, ready?
Rolling a 20 on a skill check is not an automatic success!
Rolling a 1 on a skill check is not an automatic failure!
Now those are the rules as written in the official books, but you still need to check with your Dungeon Master, house rules always trump the official rules.
“So if it’s not in the rules, why do so many people play that rule?”
It’s fun? People like playing it that way and if everyone is happy why not play it that way?
The memes are everywhere because they can be the source of the most memorable, funny situations.
And if the Dungeon Master and all the players are ok with it, why not?
“Is there any reason not to use critical successes for skill rolls?”
Well, let’s think about a hypothetical situation.
Your rogue is locked up in a cell, he’s managed to kill some rats and he’s pulled out some small sharp bones from their bodies to use as lockpicks.
If you play the critical success on skill rolls, and each attempt takes about 30 minutes, that means the player really just needs to keep rolling until they get a 20. It might take most of the night and maybe harvesting some more rats (if the picks break on natural 1s) but it’s do-able.
Realistically, the Dungeon Master should say it’s impossible, the bones are too brittle, the lock to complex, but it takes some of the control from the players hands to tell them to not bother rolling.
If nothing is impossible just because you can keep trying until you roll a 20 then where’s the challenge?
Let’s take a different situation, and one you’ve probably seen on one of those never ending memes; THE BARD TRIES TO SEDUCE THE DRAGON!
(Seriously, I hate that one)
Even on a natural 20 with an amazing modifier, if a dragon catches your party trying to rob it’s stuff, you’re getting eaten. Roll all the natural 20’s you want, make those pouty lips, kissy eyes and come-hither groin thrusts, you’re a dead bard.
Really though, it’s down to your group, if you like playing that way, carry on. But, if you’re starting with a new group it might be worth asking how they play the rule before you try to intimidate that door into opening or use persuasion on that oh-so-flirty deadbolt.