What Failure Can Mean
When you fail on a (non-combat) attribute check, usually it doesn't mean the status quo is reinforced or that your hero is incompetent. The GM may fictionalize the reason why you failed, so that you can take a different tact if it's possible to try again. For example, here are a list of reasons why you might have failed:
- Your tools failed you.
- Your skill is insufficient to accomplish the task.
- You lack some key knowledge to pull it off.
- There was outside interference.
- The target involved in your task thwarted you.
- The environment is the problem.
- You lacked finesse or power (you were too fast, too slow, or too clumsy, etc).
- You ran out of time.
- Your luck ran out.
The GM always assumes the heroes are competent at what they do, not a bunch of goofballs who constantly drop their swords and stab their friends. The same thinking applies to critical failure.