So, one of my players asked me a question: can he “take 1” on his skill check. And it was a good question, because while it doesn’t come up very often, but occasionally a PC doesn’t want to succeed at something.
Maybe they’re trying to buy time. Maybe they’re trying to throw a contest. Maybe they’re trying to enrage a crowd. (It turns out, the player was attempting to make use of deflect blame)
But when it boils down to it, there are two things involved in Failing on Purpose.
How Bad Are You?
When you are deliberately throwing a check, you still need to know how ‘well’ you are failing. However, the more you know about the subject you’re failing at, the better you can deliberately do it wrong. You can use the wrong ink, say the wrong thing, or press the wrong button – on purpose. To deliberately fail, you still roll a skill check, but instead of adding your modifier, you subtract it. You still might do an okay job, but even your best work will probably be much worse than you would normally be able to produce. And, if you’re not hurried, you can even take 10, minus your normal modifiers.
You cannot deliberately fail a check you don’t have a positive total modifier in – wearing plate gauntlets and trying to screw up picking a lock isn’t going to help you out.
Can Anyone Tell?
Usually, if you’re making a mistake on purpose, you want to hide the fact that you’re doing it deliberately. Whenever you fail in purpose and want to keep it secret that you’re sabotaging yourself, you have to roll a Bluff check, just like anything else. However, you can take a penalty to your skill check up to the number of ranks you have in that skill (in this case, adding the number to your subtracted modifier) to give yourself an equal bonus to your Bluff check to hide your deliberate errors.