The Blade of the Raven Queen
Advantage and Disadvantage
Advantage and disadvantage are among the most useful tools in the DM’s toolbox. They reflect temporary circumstances that might affect the chances of a character succeeding or failing at a task. Advantage is also a great way to reward a player who shows exceptional creativity in play. Characters often gain advantage or disadvantage through the use of special abilities, actions, spells, or other features of their classes or backgrounds. In other
cases, you decide whether a circumstance influences a roll in one direction or another, and you grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.
Consider granting advantage when
- Circumstances not related to a creature’s inherent
capabilities provide it with an edge.
- Some aspect of the environment contributes to the
character’s chance of success.
- A player shows exceptional creativity or cunning in
attempting or describing a task.
- Previous actions (whether taken by the character
making the attempt or some other creature) improve
the chances of success.
Consider imposing disadvantage when
- Circumstances hinder success in some way.
- Some aspect of the environment makes success less
likely (assuming that aspect doesn’t already impose a
penalty to the roll being made).
- An element of the plan or description of an action
makes success less likely.
Because advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out, there’s no need to keep track of how many circumstances weigh on both sides. For example, imagine a wizard is running down a dungeon corridor to escape from a beholder. Around the corner ahead, two ogres lie in wait. Does the wizard hear the ogres readying their ambush? You look at the wizard’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score and consider all the factors weighing on it. The wizard is running, not paying attention to what’s ahead of him. This imposes disadvantage on the wizard’s ability check. However, the ogres are readying a portcullis trap and making a lot of noise with a winch, which could grant the wizard advantage on the check. As a result, the character has neither advantage nor disadvantage on the Wisdom check, and you don’t need to consider any additional factors. Past encounters with an ogre ambush, the fact that the wizard’s ears are still ringing from the Thunderwave spell he cast at the beholder, the overall noise level of the dungeon- none of that matters any more. They all cancel out.
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