Wizards of the Coast is looking to make some major changes to how a Natural 20 dice roll works in Dungeons & Dragons. Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast released the first playtest packet for One D&D, a new "backwards compatible" version of Dungeons & Dragons due out in 2024. The playtest material covered character building options for race and backgrounds, and it also contained a glossary where many more proposed changes could be found. One major revision being considered is how "Natural 20s", that is a roll of 20 on a d20 roll, works both in and out of combat.
The first notable change is that a Natural 20 is now considered an automatic success on d20 rolls made outside of combat. Dungeons & Dragons 5E rules only counted natural 20s as a "critical hit" within combat, and a 20 was not supposed to be counted as an automatic success on things like Perception checks or Insight checks. Many fans already adopted the "Nat 20=automatic success" rule in their home games, so Dungeons & Dragons is really just codifying a popular rule that many fans already use.
Some significant changes are being proposed to how critical hits work in Dungeons & Dragons as well. For one, a critical hit will be limited to weapon attack rolls or unarmed strikes. Spellcasters who make spell attack rolls seem to no longer benefit from a critical hit (although this could change when the playtest for spells is released.) Additionally, players only roll their weapon damage dice a second time when they get a Critical Hit. So, if a Rogue scores a Critical Hit while Sneak Attacking, they don't get to roll their Sneak Attack damage a second time.
While this seems like a big nerf to Critical Hits, there is another big change that should benefit players. Monsters cannot Critically Hit a player with an attack. While the rules still indicate that a Natural 20 still counts as an automatic success for monsters, they cannot deal extra damage should they score a Natural 20 on a player.
The other thing to consider is that Natural 20s will hypothetically be much more common for players in the new version of Dungeons & Dragons. The game is adding mechanical rules to receive Inspiration, which should allow players to roll with advantage more often and thus have greater odds of getting a Natural 20 on a roll.
You can check out the full set of playtest material over at D&D Beyond. Be sure to tell us what you think about these new changes in the comment section!