Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Advantage-Disadvantage

Hey, people...I have a very, very serious question for y'all.

I'd like some feedback on 5E's advantage-disadvantage game mechanic. Do people like it? Do people hate it? It's easily adaptable to earlier editions of D&D (and the usual bunch of retro-clones). How many folks are using it and loving it? And how many people have tried it and kicked it to the curb?

Here's why I ask: I'm putting the finishing touches on a little B/X supplement of mine, and originally I had included a section that added a straight adaptation of advantage-disadvantage to the rules (though I feel my write-up of the mechanic is a bit more succinct...*ahem*). I did this for a couple reasons:

  1. I think it's a neat little system/shortcut.
  2. It allowed me to add a bunch of bits and pieces that rely on the mechanic. Examples include: new maneuvers/options in combat, cleaned up B/X mechanics, and certain treasure items and magical/spell effects.

HOWEVER, as said this is going to be a supplement designed for use with B/X...and I have heard from a person or two that they are not fans of advantage/disadvantage. Right now, I'm looking for some feedback, in order to make a product that's more palatable to my readers (i.e. the folks most likely to buy the thing). SO...assuming the supplement ends up sounding like a product you're interested in:

Do you want to see advantage-disadvantage?

Or would you prefer 5E mechanics were left on the cutting room floor?

I realize that, for many folks, it's not a big deal...that people can modify these books as they see fit and that some are more than happy to edit things out that doesn't work for them. I get that. I'm trying to find out what y'all would LIKE to see in the book, AND what you feel about the mechanic in general. Because the fact is, I haven't had much experience with 5E or advantage/disadvantage and maybe I'm throwing a Big Fat Flaw into an otherwise sharp little product.

So PLEASE: any feedback folks can provide is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

46 comments:

  1. It's better than tracking a bunch of modifiers, and there's a fun tactile element to rolling multiple dice, but I don't think it's the Most Amazing Rules Mechanic Ever Seen™ that some people seem to think it is.

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  2. I’m a fan. It gets rid of basically all situational modifiers, and my non-wizard players enjoy rolling more than one die. Its the one 5e mechanic Ive ported to all non dice pool rpgs.

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  3. I'm all for it. Simple and elegant, a perfect addition/simplification to add to B/X!

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  4. It's easily my favorite mechanic from 5e, because it neatly gets rid of the false precision implied by most static bonuses as well as almost all of the incidents at the table when you realize too late there was another modifier that should have been applied last round that would have changed the outcome. I'd cheerfully use it in any B/X etc D&D... The only reason I don't use it now is I'm mostly playing DCC and the dice chain is even better (because the math is less wonky at the extremes) ... But even there I try to follow the 5e principle of no stacking

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  5. I am cool with it. For something like B/X that is built on simplicity it adds another simple mechanic.

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  6. I like that it's easy to use and at the table it really feels like the odds are significantly with you or against you. I'm not so crazy about the way that it hits its limits so immediately--having four sources of advantage is no different than having one; one source of disadvantage will cancel out any amount of advantage. There's also a disconnect between how the system feels to the player and the less intuitive bell-curve reality of the math under the hood.

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  7. I like it, but I'm playing 5e right now so maybe my opinion is invalid. I think rolling more dice while simultaneously reducing complexity improves fun at the table.

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  8. Math speaking... Advantage gives you an equivalent bonus between +1 and +5. If you are good/bad, it gives you a +1 bonus. If you are 50-50, it gives you a +5 bonus.

    Examples (using Roll over):
    1) If you roll 1d20 and needs a 20 (or a 2, whatever), Advantage gives you just a +1 bonus to the roll.
    2) If you roll 1d20 and needs a 11 (exactly 50%/50% to win or lose), then Advantage you give you just a +5 bonus to the roll (turning the 50%/50% into 75%/25%).

    Same thing applies to Disadvantage.

    That being said, I and my players would welcome the mechanic because it is intuitive for them and I now how to translate back and forth bonus.

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  9. When I was crunching numbers I found it averaged out to about a +2/-2 adjustment. That’s something I figured I could live with, but I wanted others’ opinions.

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  10. I’m not a huge fan of ADV/DIS - coming from a guy who is running a 3 year long 5E campaign, I feel it is a major oversimplification and (according to WoTC) averages around +/- 4/5 in many cases. This is way to high of a swing for most B/X things. I prefer the granulatarity of bonuses/penalties that range from 1-5 or what have you.

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  11. As a quick and dirty mechanic, I think it really useful; however, in play I have found it to have a much greater impact on the game than +/- bonus/penalty mechanics. This is especially true in combat situations. Thus, when I use it, I tend to apply it random results like damage rather than to-hit roles or saving throws.

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  12. I'm in favor, though I'm unlikely to be a customer. (Family is buying me 5E for Fodder's Deigh.)

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  13. I'm a fan of the mechanical ease of use and have used it, albeit sparingly.
    I would not want to see it replace B/Xs modifier +4/-4 range as it is too swingy and not suitable for subtle nuance. Perhaps largely due to the fact that B/X does not get bogged down with a horde or player side modifiers that convolute assorted checks and what not.
    Totally fine with ADV/DIS as an optional mechanic but would not want to see it as integral.

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  14. I am in favor of it in general, however you do have to be careful with how it is used because of the wonky probability distribution others have mentioned. The angrygm did a pretty good statistical analysis of it awhile back. I wouldn't completely replace modifiers with advantage, but only have advantage apply in very specific scenarios.

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  15. Replies
    1. Sorry that shows disadvantage can be utterly crippling. It's not just an average.

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  16. I rather like it. It is simple and easy to use. And there is nothing like the joy (or sorrow) of getting double 20s (or double 1s)!

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    1. Tim, do you have a house-rule for double 20s and 1s?

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    2. I was thinking the same thing.

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  17. I find it's simple and easy to use as a player. As a DM, my players also seem to enjoy it. Rolling more dice is fun (even with disadvantage), and since there are three kids in my game, "more fun than extra math" is a significant boon.

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  18. I really liked this at first. Now I don't. I'm a fan of the bell curve and this colors how I look at all game mechanics, but for me this adds variation in the wrong way. I want my results to cluster, unpredictably and randomly, but still cluster about an expected result in a natural way. Flat probability curves bug me and this mechanic makes an odd distribution, depending on the inputs, as another commenter has already noted.

    It is something that you might nevertheless consider for sales purposes for its "curb appeal" as it has a novelty that, at least for me, made it's impact non-obvious at the start. It wears thin now that I get it. As does much of 5e. The best thing is this edition has led me to look at the various incarnations with the critical eye which sends me back to AD&D 2nd.

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  19. I like it, but I'm not sure how much of a problem it solves in B/X. With 5e, it prevents overmuch stacking of bonuses since you can only have it once. Still, in my "perfect" B/X, I'm totally porting over ADV/DIS and maybe the saves as well.

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  20. I hate it, due to the probability issues that others have mentioned, and due to the fact that WotC apparently thinks we're all too dumb to do simple math.

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  21. I like it, I personally prefer the basic version of +/- 5, for simplicity sake

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  22. Out of our five man group we're half and half on it. I personally don't mind it if i'm plwying but am more orientated towards the plus or minus bonus myself.

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  23. I think for a game with a lot of different situational bonuses/penalties, the dis/advantage system can be a nice simplification. However, I don't think that applies to B/X. There just aren't that many modifiers in the rules as written. Dis/advantage would end up being an extra complication in that context, I feel: when do you apply a modifier and when dis/advantage? I don't feel this really adds anything worthwhile to B/X.

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  24. I like and have stolen it for use in all my other games. It's a simple mechanic that condenses the managing of bonus and negative modifiers in a very elegant way. The new version of Call of Cthulhu even makes use of it in their d% system.

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  25. I appreciate it, and have used it in many old school D&D games since 5e came out. Most players seemed very satisfied.

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  26. I like it. Modifiers that aren't yet more addition or subtraction to do on the fly, making the other players wait that little while longer.
    The odd probability doesn't bother me, and if fact makes intuitive sense. Of course an "advantage" is most significant at middling skill: if you're good, you don't need it, and if you're terrible, you'll still be terrible.

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  27. The thing that baffles me in all of this are the claims of, "it's easier than math." That may be true, but are we really saying that addition and subtraction are that difficult?

    That said, I find the psychological appeal to be the defining benefit. There's something tangible about rolling extra dice; and the math shows that it significantly swings results one way or the other (except for middle-of-the-road rolls).

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    1. Ozymandias: Addition and subtraction aren't difficult for me personally, but I play and have played with several people whose mental math is not great. Waiting an extra couple seconds for someone to add up their roll, every round, really adds up over time.

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    2. I, at least, didn't say it was hard. I said it was more fun for the kids (ages 11, 10 & 8) in my game. The less gaming seems like homework to them, the better.

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  28. To be sure, there are circumstances that affect this.

    But if you're someone who struggles with simple math... wouldn't it be better to, like, practice it and get better?

    Most people can learn just about anything if they're willing to apply themselves.

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    1. I think a lot of the "too much fiddly math at the table" excuse is propaganda by WotC to try to make 3e (and by extension, Pathfinder) look bad. (4e made itself look bad, so they didn't even have to bother with it.) Where were all these supposed endless modifiers when I was playing? Nobody had to sit there and calculate, "Let's see, +5 from BAB, +3 from Strength, +1 from my magical sword..." All the modifiers were already tallied on your character sheet; you'd already finished your "math homework." Players whose characters' stats changed often, such as barbarians or druids, just kept a separate sheet for rage or shapechange. Nobody had to wait on anybody (to do math, anyway).

      I hate to be a "gatekeeper" or whatever, but if adding 1–20 to an already-calculated bonus (and maybe stacking on an additional +1 from bless or ±2 from good/bad circumstances) is too difficult for someone, I think they've probably chosen the wrong hobby.

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  29. I have heard the person I've played with longest give, as a roll, "whatever 7 plus 10 is." Some people just aren't good at things. Telling them they should apply themselves and get better—even if it's true—doesn't seem like a way to get a harmonious play group.

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    1. Perhaps, but it is a way to weed out ineffective and unmotivated players.

      Still, we are talking about JB's rules and I'm not familiar with them, so it's very likely that the, "math is hard," argument is applicable. To each his own, I guess.

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  30. I tried a system similar to 5e's ADV/DIS system back in the 1980s. The only difference was the names (I think I used bonus die and penalty die)and that bonus dies and penalty dies canceled. That is, if you had more bonuses than penalties, you rolled a bonus die, if you had more penalties than bonuses, you rolled a penalty die. I dropped it quickly as it was more work for me as GM. If I had ten orcs fighting the PCs, I could roll 10 dice at once and determine add numerical bonuses and penalties to each orc's die as needed. (That is I could roll for all ten at once). With the bonus/penalty die system, I had to make separate rolls for each orc (as some would need more than one die rolled) -- greatly slowing down combat. I dropped it after a couple of weeks of testing it. I'll admit a lot of people today seem to love it, but I do not. I'll use it if I have to, but tend to convert systems that use it back to a more standard add/subtract numbers from the die roll system if I am going to run them.

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    1. I'm not entirely sure I understand what the problem was. If some orcs have bonuses and some don't, then you have some way of determining that this particular die belongs to an orc that has a bonus, right? How is that different from determining that these two dice belong to an orc that has a bonus?

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  31. Are we saying people have problems with simple addition and subtraction? Well, a lot of people still complain about THAC0, which I find simple.

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  32. Roger: the real issue has two parts. First, there's the visceral fun of rolling two dice instead of one. The other is that advantage/disadvantage limits how many bonuses you get. You can always add another +2 or -1. But you can only have advantage or disadvantage once (and if you have both they cancel out). This can be a big deal because if you've got a bonus that gives you advantage, you can't benefit from an additional spell that also gives you advantage.

    In WotC-era D&D, this goes a long way towards limiting just how much buffing/debuffing a character can get. I'm not sure it's as big a deal in TSR-era D&D (at least not until you get to higher levels or you've got a really wonky party with lots of clerics in it stacking bless spells or the like). I did see it in higher-level play in 2e, but it wasn't that huge a deal.

    The cost, of course, is that advantage/disadvantage creates wonky probability curves. It's a small price to pay to limit the giant pile of buffs common in WotC-era D&D and Pathfinder. Is it worth it in TSR-era D&D? That might depend on how much you enjoy rolling lots of dice. ;)

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  33. Roger: Or I could have missed the part of the thread where they were talking about folks having issues with math. My bad. >.<

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  34. I like it but I think it should be limited in where it is used in old school play, rather than applied broadly for ease of use.

    For example, where something is meant to be tightly predictable, like reaction rolls, surprise, or initiative, something like advantage adds an unwelcome amount of swinginess, doubly so if for a d20.

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  35. I've actually houseruled it out of much of my version of 5e because of the non-stacking nature really screwing with my idea of how the game should work.

    That said, I do like the mechanic, but I've relegated it to things that are more ...occasional in nature. I don't know how else to describe it. Some racial, class, or spells give it, attacking from behind gives advantage, and I think I did concealment as disadvantage.

    I had to make the change to regular +/- modifiers for most of what they gave adv/disadv because I was running into too many situations like a ranged attack at long range (disadv) and in poor lighting (disadv) and I think I had one other thing on there as well that turns into just disadvantage. Its even worse if they had something that gave them advantage in that situation, cause then they're just rolling a straight d20.

    I hope that rambling made any sense at all.

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    1. The fact that disadvantage + disadvantage + disadvantage + advantage = nothing is some we've houseruled away at my table. I appreciate that the default rule is really easy to track, but we prefer that more disadvantages gives you disadvantage and vice versa.

      We also (I think?) have it that too many disadvantages, like 3 or 4, means you just fail. The reason I don't remember for sure, though, is that it's never come up.

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  36. The Advantage/Disadvantage "If you miss, try again/It's hard, so hit it twice" mechanic is easy & fairly intuitive. It's useful & reasonable-seeming for many things. My only quibbling concern has been where that feels like too large a benefit (but what's a momentary player blessing when you're a DM & have a whole campaign in which to screw them over?).

    I've actually considered expanding on the whole "roll twice" mechanic, especially for maneuvers; this seems to be the Modiphius scheme.

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    1. I do have a player who dislikes the official "No more than 1 Advantage die". I appreciate that 5E is designed to be easy to houserule (& to not include by default, limitations which many people do away with/ignore anyway).

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