D&D Next : Advantages/Disadvantages

I’m not sure.  That is the sum up.

The mechanic is slick, interesting and easy.  It will create great storytelling moments like the time you fumbled with advantage.  But I have a number of reservations.

OK – D&D Next is the 5th edition of the venerable tabletop RPG D&D.  The owning company (WoTC) started a massive playtest of the new rules on Thursday.

Advantage/Disadvantage is a new rule.  When you have advantage you get to roll two dice and keep the highest.  When you have disadvantage you roll two dice and keep the lowest.


First the math.  It is a little tricky.  Folks are used to each an equal probability – d20 have 5% chance of any number being rolled or a bell curve – 2d20 has a greater likelihood of the middle numbers being rolled.  The advantage system is neither.  It is a linear progression.  There is 1 chance in 400 of rolling a 1, 11 of rolling a six, 21 of rolling an 11, 31 of rolling a 16 and 39 of rolling a 20.  (e.g. 2n-1).

What matters though is your chance of rolling x or higher.  95% chance of 5 or higher, 75% of 11 or higher, 50% of 15 or higher and 10% of 20.  Trying to align it with a flat bonus doesn’t work.  It looks like a plus 5 bonus compared at 11.  But compared at 20 it is not quite +2.  Also unlike a bonus it never eliminates the chance of getting a 1 or provides a chance of getting 21.  The range stays the same. (Note: I’m rounding all over the place.)

Crits and Fumbles change.  The chance of crit’ing nearly doubles and the chance of  fumble is reduced by 20 times.

(You can basically just reverse everything to talk about disadvantage.)

Basically it is not a probability progression taught in junior high math.  I see a lot of mistakes in analysis because of that.

Advantage doesn’t dramatically improve your chance of rolling really high.  A flat bonus does that better.  But it almost eliminates your chance of rolling very poor.

But is it D&D?

This is my biggest issue.  This little mechanic is a big change.  Checks in D&D have almost exclusively been based of flat probabilities.  This is very different.

One of the stated goals was to provide a core ruleset that invokes the classic D&D feel – whatever that is.  I’m not sure if I like this rule or not, but it isn’t classic D&D.  It is something new.  Which is exciting, but also different.

And it is all over the rules.  Conditions (restrained, prone, etc) all invoke it.  Spells use it.  And the rogue depends on it.  Like any new rule the temptation is to try and use it everywhere and that is what I see.

So it had better be something that can be lived with.

Rules Worries

The rest of my worries can likely all be cleared up with rules clarifications.

First, does advantage replace situational bonuses in combat?  Cover is still listed as a bonus.  But otherwise it looks like things that are written on your character sheet are bonuses (ability mods, weapon focus, etc.) and conditions are about advantages/disadvantages.

I ask because I’m worried the player/DM will get into the problem of should X provide a bonus or should it provide an advantage?  We now have two different ways of giving modifiers so this simple new system actually layers on complexity rather than removing it.

Second, stacking.  The rules say that if you affected by two advantages act as though they are one.  Same with multiple disadvantages.  If you have both they cancel out.  But what about two advantages and a disadvantages.  Is that a null or a net advantage?  And it seems that being at long range, while restrained and drunk should be more disadvantageous than a single disadvantage.

One of the benefits of the system is eliminating the search for that extra +1 you need, but if you need to track stacking bonuses than you get into that again.  Which would suck.  It also comes into play if you have to use both bonuses and advantages for different situational modifiers.

Thirdly and finally, what if what you need is an extra +1?  If you can roll a maximum of 22 and you need a 23, you used to be able to come up with an appropriate situational modifier and convince the DM of it.  Then you would likely fail the roll.  With just advantages, you can never get that ephemeral extra +1.  [Note any resolution to this issue likely conflicts with a resolution to the first rules issue.]


Curious to see if I’m making a mountain from a molehill.  Tough to say.  We aren’t planning on actually running any D&D Next sessions.

After my first two reads of the rules that is my first big issue.  I’m not sure there are others.  I need to look closer at the spells next.


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