Take 20

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Here's a list of D&D skills, whether or not you can take 20 on them, and why or why not. If you disagree with my reasoning, I'd love to hear about it in my message boards (I fully admit my reasoning may be wrong on some of them).

(Revised 11/10/02: Hide)
(Clarifications 11/13/02: Alchemy, Craft, Disable Device, Move Silently, Perform, Search

Alchemy:
    Identifying substances: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (the substance isn't harmed or consumed by the testing), so you can repeat it indefinitely. It does cost you 1 gp per try, or 20 gp to take 20. Note: identifying a poison as part of using the detect poison spell does not allow you to take 20 because the spell has an instantaneous duration; in this way, the Alchemy check works much like a Knowledge check.
    Creating substances: No, because there is a penalty for failure (according to the Craft rules, if you fail by 5 or more you ruin what you're trying to create and have to start over). Technically if your Alchemy check was so high that you could never fail by 5 or more (i.e., even a 1 doesn't mean you fail by 5 or more) you could take 20 on the check, but you wouldn't want to because it would take 20 times as long and cost 20 times as much; it would be more efficient to take 10 -- and since you don't fail even on a 1, the only reason to take 10 instead of rolling is to (a) save you the energy needed to actually lift and roll a die, and (b) if you want to achieve a higher minimum progress (since the amount of progress is based on your roll, you could go for the 10 instead of risking less progress by rolling 1-9).

Animal Empathy:
    No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.

Appraise:
    No, because there is no retry on this skill.

Balance:
    No, because there is a penalty for failing the check (even though feather fallor other circumstances may prevent you from being harmed if you fall, they don't prevent you from actually falling, and not falling is what is needed to allow a retry and thus taking 20).

Bluff:
    Bluff: No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.
    Feint: No, because it is a combat ability, and you do not have enough time to take 20.
    Create a diversion to hide: No, because there is a penalty for failing the check (people are not distracted, and therefore continue to look at you, which prevents you from using Hide).

Climb:
    No, because there is a penalty for failure (failure means your stop or fall). Technically if the Climb check were so easy or your skill were so great that you could never fail, you could take 20 because the failure penalty no longer is possible. For example, an unarmored person with Str 10 should be able to take 20 when climbing a DC 0 slope ("too steep to walk up" because it is impossible to fail a DC 0 skill check with no penaltie (it's far more efficient for the person to  used accelerated climbing and take 10 to beat the DC 5 Climb check).

Concentration:
    No, because there is a penalty for failure.

Craft:
    Earn a living: Yes, although you have to wait until the end of the 20-week take 20 period to see any results.
    Make an item/repair an item: No, because there is a penalty for failure (if you fail by 5 or more you ruin what you're trying to create and have to start over). Technically if your Craft check was so high that you could never fail by 5 or more (i.e., even a 1 doesn't mean you fail by 5 or more) you could take 20 on the check, but you wouldn't want to because it would take 20 times as long and cost 20 times as much; it would be more efficient to take 10 -- and since you don't fail even on a 1, the only reason to take 10 instead of rolling is to (a) save you the energy needed to actually lift and roll a die, and (b) if you want to achieve a higher minimum progress (since the amount of progress is based on your roll, you could go for the 10 instead of risking less progress by rolling 1-9).

Decipher Script:
    No, because there is no retry.

Diplomacy:
    No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.

Disable Device:

    No, because there is a penalty for failure (if you fail by 5 or more). Technically if you couldn't fail the check, blah blah blah; you'd be better off taking 10 (there's an advantage to beating the device's DC by 10 or more, so there are still times you might want to take 10 instead of rolling).

Disguise:
    No, because the normal Disguise check represents 10-30 minutes of work, which implies the patience and attention to detail assumed in taking 20 (plus, taking 20 would mean you're working on the disguise for 3-10 hours, and this isn't Hollywood).

Escape Artist:
    Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (unless it's an opposed check, or circumstances disallow it, such as if you are in a cell and watched once a minute for unusual activity).

Forgery:
    No, because Forgery implies patience and care already, and because taking 20 would mean you'd end up with either 20 copies of the document (none of which look obviously better because the check is made secretly by the DM) or a single document that has parts that are brilliantly forged and other parts that  are incompetently forged (and again, the forger can't tell).

Gather Information:
    Yes, because there is no penalty for failing the check (you don't anger bar patrons, for example). Taking 20 does mean that you spend 20 evenings scouring the town for information and spend 20x as much gold to do so. Note that repeated asking for info of the same group may annoy them and give you an overall penalty for the take 20 result.

Handle Animal:
    Handle/push a domestic animal: No, because there is a penalty for failure (the animal refuses, or other circumstances that warrant failure).
    Teach an animal task/unusual tasks: No, because there is no retry.
    Rear/train a wild animal or beast: No, because there is no retry.

Heal:
    First aid: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (the character is already losing hit points, and failing the check doesn't change that, so the absence of a reward should not be seen as a penalty). Note that in the case of someone at -1 hp and losing 1 hp per round, you don't have enough time to take 20.
    Long-term care: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (as above). Note that since each try assumes a day of assistance, and taking 20 doesn't give a result until the end of the 20 increments, a resting wounded person is likely to have recovered from all hit point damage by the time the 20 days are up, making taking 20 on this sort of check pointless. In any case, the take 20 result should only apply to week 20.
    Treat wound: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (as above).
    Treat poison: No, because in standard D&D a character is only going to make 2 saves against poison, and as they occur within 1 minute of the attack, taking 20 rounds (2 minutes) with this skill means the help comes a minute too late. However, if you are using the variant rule of continuing poison damage I created, poison saves continue hourly after exposure, and you ought to be able to take 20 on Heal checks to help with those.
    Treat disease: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure. However, as with long-term care, after waiting 20 days for the healer to take 20, most characters will have either recovered from the disease or succumbed to it, making taking 20 on this sort of check pointless. In any case, the take 20 result should only apply to week 20.

Hide:
       Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (really, there isn't ... a low roll means you're setting a low DC for people to Spot you, and while the result of your opposed roll may be bad, the roll itself is not a success or failure).

Innuendo:
    Send/receive a message: No, because there is a penalty for failure. Technically if you couldn't fail the check, blah blah blah; you'd be better off taking 10.

Intimidate:
    No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.

Intuit Direction:

    No, because you use the first roll for all of your checks that day, which means there's no retry for that initial roll. Taking 20 on later rolls has no effect, since you're still using the result of the first roll.

Jump:
    Maybe. If it's a situation where a failed roll isn't actually a penalty (such as jumping up to touch the ceiling, and failing means you just land back on the floor and can try again), you can take 20. If it's a situation where a failed roll is a penalty (such as trying to cross a 100-ft. deep chasm, and failure means you fall into the chasm), you can't take 20.

Knowledge:
    No, because the skill represents an on-the-spot perusal of your memory, and you can't retry being put on the spot. I would like to see a mechanic for a more thorough search of your memory (because your mind holds a lot of info that sometimes takes a minute to ferret it out), and I'll address that in my analysis of the Skills chapter later.

Listen:
    Yes, because you can retry as often as you like to hear recurring or continuous sounds (so you could take 20 and listen for water in a cave). You can't take 20 to listen for singular sound events (like a hiding person clearing her throat ... once she makes the sound, you get one chance to hear it).

Move Silently:
    No, because using this skill isn't an action on its own, it's a modifier to another action. Take 20 also means you're repeating something about 20 times, and if you're trying to Move Silently you're not going to cover a particular stretch of grass 20 times in hopes of the guard not hearing you. Also note that since you can move up to half your speed and make a Move Silently roll without a penalty, if you could take 20 on a Move Silently check it wouldn't matter if you were moving 15 feet or 2 feet over the course of those two minutes, which would be absurd. People that are inching their way across the grass in an attempt to Move Silently are either taking 10 or rolling, and probably hoping for some sort of circumstance bonus using the DM's best friend rule.

Open Lock:
    Yes, because there is no penalty for failure.

Perform:
    No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.
    Q: But what about taking 20 to compose a poem or write a play? Doesn't your work normally improve with effort?
    A: I would argue that Perform is the skill used to actually perform in front of an audience, not the skill to compose something for a performance -- that might be Profession (playwright) or Profession (songwriter)). So you can still have a great playwright (many ranks in Profession (playwright), reasonable Wis, some synergy bonuses from Knowledge (history)) who can't act or even speak clearly (no ranks in Perform, low Charisma).


Pick Pocket:
    No, because there's a penalty for failure (the +10 increase to the DC for successive attempts).

Profession:
    Earn a living: Yes, although you have to wait until the end of the 20-week take 20 period to see any results.

Read Lips:
    No, because Read Lips implies careful study already, and because taking 20 would mean you'd have 20 minutes of conversation and at least some of it is likely to be missed or outright wrong.

Ride:
    Guide with knees: No, because taking 20 to be able to leave your hands free for a single round is nonsensical.
    Stay in saddle: No, because there is a penalty for failure (you fall).
    Cover: No, because taking 20 to "react instantly and drop down" is nonsensical.
    Soft fall: No, because this is a combat/fast application (you're not going to fall 20 times in a row, and there is a penalty for failure: falling damage).
    Leap: See the Jump skill.
    Control mount in battle: No, because this aspect of the skill is basically turning a full-round action into a move-equivalent action, and taking 20 to reduce an action's duration is nonsensical..
    Fast mount or dismount: No, because taking 20 to accomplish something as a free action is nonsensical.

Scry:
    Scry: No, because the scrying spell doesn't let you retry without casting the spell again.
    Detect scrying: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (lack of success does not equate to a penalty). It's just like the Search skill, in fact.

Search:
    Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (if you don't find what you're looking for, you're no worse off than if you had never looked in the first place, so there isn't a penalty). This means that you can take 20 when searching for something dangerous, like a trap, since searching doesn't make you any more likely to set off the trap than you would just by walking around (again, using the skill and failing does not put you in a worse position than not using the skill).

Sense Motive:
    Hunch: No, because there are no retries.
    Sense enchantment: No, because there are no retries.

Speak Language:
    No, because you don't make Speak Languages checks.

Spellcraft:
    Maybe. Most uses of Spellcraft don't allow retries, but some do (learn a spell from a book or scroll, prepare spell from borrowed spellbook, and decipher a written spell). Of those that do, you can take 20 on them, except for learning a spell from a book or scroll (because you can't retry until you have gained a rank in Spellcraft, and taking 20 across the span of 20 character levels is absurd).

Spot:
    Yes, because you can retry as often as you like to see recurring or continuous things (so you could take 20 and look for a sentry walking behind a parapet). You can't take 20 to watch for singular events (like a mysterious person flashing a concealed weapon ... once she makes the move, you get one chance to see it). However, extreme scrutiny of an area starts to fall into the category of Search, not Spot.

Swim:
    Swimming: No, because there is a penalty for failure (if you fail by 5 or more). Technically if you couldn't fail the check, blah blah blah; you'd be better off taking 10.
    Resist fatigue from swimming: No, because there is a penalty for failure (you take subdual damage).  

Tumble:
    Entertain: No, because retries generally don't work in influencing creatures.
    Reduce falling damage: No, because you can only try to reduce damage from a fall once per fall (essentially there are no retries per fall).
    Avoid attacks of opportunity: No, because there is a penalty for failure (you suffer an AOO).

Use Magic Device:
    No, because if you roll a 1 while using this skill, you can't try to use the item for 1 day.

Use Rope:
    Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (while not getting the rope to perform as desired is disappointing, you're not damaging the rope and can try again).

Wilderness Lore:
    Get along in the wild/gain bonus to weather saves: Yes, although the one-check-per-day means you won't see any results for 20 days (note that if you fail the weather save bonus check you're not getting a penalty for failing the check, even though the save you'd make has a penalty).
    Avoid getting lost or hazards: No, because there is a penalty for failure (getting lost or stumbling into a natural hazard).
    Track: Yes, because there is no penalty for failure (although the time increment on retries -- 1 hour outdoors or 10 minutes indoors -- makes taking 20 on tracking a long process).