D&D: Advantage vs. Flat Bonuses

Photo Credit: MegaBeeThere are a lot of people talking about the D&D Next open playtest, and one of the subjects I hear about a lot is the way Advantage/Disadvantage are currently working. The general opinion I’ve heard is that it is overpowered when compared to the +2/-2 bonus we’re used to from previous editions of D&D. My gut reaction to hearing that something is overpowered isn’t to jump into the mob and swing my nerf-bat around, it’s to look at as much data as I can and figure out if I agree or not. So that’s what I’m going to do!

Disclaimer: I am not a professional statistician, though I do a lot of analysis and number-crunching for my day job and both of these things are something I somehow enjoy doing. If you are a professional statistician, or love statistics, please leave a comment here and let me know if you agree/disagree with what I’m presenting! I’m open to the possibility that I’m working on false assumptions about math/statistics or that I’ve made a mistake somewhere in my processes. For most of my calculations I used math from the excellent site Anydice.com.

If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about for the open playtest rules on Advantage / Disadvantage, they involve rolling 2d20 and taking the highest or lowest (respectively) of what you roll. My instant, gut reaction to this rule was “Ugh, more dice to roll? No thank you!” However, when you combine it with the idea that Wizards of the Coast is trying to reduce the number inflation in D&D and that these new rules keep the numbers rolled between 1 and 20 but change the odds of success or failure in interesting ways then I was thoroughly convinced.

Just to get some basic statistics out of the way, if you’re rolling  a single d20 then your odds of rolling any one number are 5%. Therefore, in D&D you are trying to roll equal to or higher than a target number so your chances for rolling a 10 or higher are 55% and your chances for rolling a 15 or higher are 30%. Basic, I know, but I just have to lay down the framework. I find the 2d20 (highest/lowest) rule very interesting because it increases your odds of rolling a 20 (highest) or a 1 (lowest) from 5% to 9.75%. For further comparison, with 2d20 (highest) you have a 51% chance or rolling a 15+ and an 79.75% chance of rolling a 10+. You might be tempted to compare it to a single d20 roll, but what this really needs to be compared to is a flat +2 bonus that Combat Advantage gives in 4th Edition.

The crucial difference between the highest/lowest of two dice and a flat bonus is that with a flat +2 bonus your range of rolls goes from 1-20 to 3-22. With a +2 bonus your odds of rolling a 20+ go up to 15%, which is a decent amount higher than the 9.75% from Advantage. Just one step up, to a target roll of 19+, and a +2 bonus is at 20% while the Advantage rule is only slightly lower at 19% (9.75% chances of a 20, 9.25% chances of a 19). Here is a full comparison (with better option highlighted in green):

As you can see, unless your target number is between 1-3 and 19-20, then 2d20 provides up to a 15% better chance of success (at a target of 11+). If you take the numbers and compare them to an array of flat bonuses (+2, +3, +4, and +5) you get the following results:

What you can see from this data is that it would take a +5 flat bonus to a d20 roll to make it universally better than Advantage, and even then if your target is a 11+ the odds of success are exactly the same (75% for both). However, before I take these results and decide that I agree that Advantage is overpowered, let’s look at what is happening on the edges of the scale. Let’s say you’re facing a monster that is heavily armored and has an Armor Class of 19. With Advantage I have a 19% chance of hitting and with a +2 bonus I have a 20% chance, not much of a difference there. Even though Advantage is better than a +4 bonus on targets between 7 and 15, with a +4 bonus you would have a 30% chance of hitting an AC 19. What I’m starting to really like about the idea of Advantage/Disadvantage is that it preserves the highest numbers of 19 and 20 as difficult results to achieve while still keeping numbers in the 1-3 range as possible (though unlikely) results.

The next crucial consideration for whether or not the Advantage rules are overpowered (or unbalanced, take your pick) is to look at Disadvantage (2d20 and take the lowest roll) and how it compares to taking a -2 penalty on a roll:

What we see here is that it is actually better to have a -2 penalty on a roll when your target is between 4-18. That’s not too surprising considering we’re dealing with the same math, but what this means is that when taken as a complete rules package, Advantage and Disadvantage may actually balance each other out in addition to the other benefits of keeping the 1-20 range in tact and the dynamic changing of odds across the possible results. It also avoids the issue of having a 15% chance of rolling a 1 (much higher than any other roll due to the -2 penalty).

To put it another way, if your target to beat with your roll is between 7 and 15, you would actually be better off taking a -4 penalty than taking Disadvantage on the roll (even with the 25% chance of rolling a 1 that the -4 penalty causes). This is a very important consideration for us to keep in mind as we discuss, playtest, and provide feedback on these rules for D&D Next. In discussing this topic with a few of my players, something else that I am starting to like about the idea of rolling a second d20 is that when you already have one or more modifiers applying to your roll, it can be a lot easier to just roll extra dice than it is to remember a handful of different conditional modifiers. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to really like what the Advantage/Disadvantage rules are doing with the math of D&D.

Photo Credit: MegaBee
Special thanks to Joshx0rfz for helping me out with this post.


  1. I don’t think I understood a word of that until the last paragraph. But I agree: I’m loving the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.

  2. Like Lizzy B I too just read the first and last paragraphs, sorry maths turns me right off, but I can appreciate the sentiment. I appreciate the the thinking that this is more simple that loads of fiddly modifiers. But in terms of the aesthetic, when my player rolled a 5 on his D20 but got advantage and then rolled a 3, for the second time that evening he flatly admitted he preferred the feel of flat bonuses than taking another random chance on a d20 roll.

    You also make a good point about the number of dice being rolled. If this mechanic can be cleaned up (as a DM I have no problem with it per see) so that if you are already rolling 20d20 for that rat swarm, then having to roll again for all the misses, this would be better. For me its the pragmatics, for my players it was aesthetics, a flat bonus felt better, especially when that second roll came in lower.


  3. Someone pointed out to me this post by the OnlineDM that put the math for Advantage and Disadvantage together and made his own observations: http://onlinedungeonmaster.com/2012/05/24/advantage-and-disadvantage-in-dd-next-the-math/

    Liz: I <3 you.

    Arbanax: Lots of bad rolls is always going to be a problem with D&D. I can understand the sentiment of “if I roll low a second time then a flat bonus is better”, but in most D&D terms if you’re getting a +2 and roll a 5, is that 7 really earning you much? Personally if I rolled a 5 and someone offered me a +2 bonus or the chance to roll a second d20, I’d take the d20 (without knowing the target number first, obviously). I think the 20 rats issue is more a concern with the number of rats (or attacks they make) than a concern with the Advantage/Disadvantage rules. 🙂

  4. Having a bad monster mechanic (20 rats with Advantage) isn’t the same as the mechanic itself being bad- I think it’s more likely that the monster is bad in this case. I’d rather have swarm rules back then say it’s a problem with Advantage/Disadvantage.

  5. I don’t think the 20 rat attack is any different than what we’ve dealt with in other systems. Like a 20d6 fireball where you have to reroll all the 1s. Or sneaking into a goblin camp and needing 100 perception rolls.

    You can easily handle these extreme situations by dividing the swarm into smaller groups and having one roll represent that entire group. (ie. 1 roll for every 4 or 5 rats) Whether you have to deal with advantage or not does not change our basic time saving measures.

    I had written a while ago about ways to use a single roll to represent multiple d20 rolls as well. The same concept can apply here as well.

  6. Alhazred says:

    I think one has to consider one additional factor. What ARE the actual distribution of required rolls (particularly in combat). That is to say you can probably assume MOST of the time people WILL have a target roll in the range of say 7-15. This was almost always true in 4e and I don’t see it likely to change much in 5e. In other words, yes, technically Advantage can be worth as little as a +1 static bonus (slightly less with a target roll of 19 actually), but this is unlikely to come up very often. There’s no way to know what the actual distribution people see is exactly, but advantage should be measured against that curve, not against some idealized linear weighting of all target values. Of course one should then also weigh the ‘impact’ of each check (IE really hard to make checks are probably ‘worth more’ in terms of their impact on the in-game situation or may mitigate more dire consequences).

    Honestly, I don’t have an issue with the whole advantage mechanic. It seems workable. What I have more concern about is the flat math. I’m highly skeptical that flat math is a viable approach in D&D.

  7. TheMainEvent says:

    I think advantage is a great way to fight inflation on to-hit rolls, the key will be being cognizant of it to avoid the groan-inducing situations where the number of dice rolled becomes excessive.

  8. I really enjoyed this article, but I wish you hadn’t used a red/green breakdown for the results on your charts – I’m red/green colorblind, and I can’t see the difference.

  9. Alzrius: Sorry about that! The Red/Green just came from Excel’s conditional formatting, I typically try to choose lighter/darker shades to help alleviate it but I was throwing these charts together very quickly.

  10. For the 20 rats scenario, the DM knows in advance how many rats there are and what their defenses are. The DM knows what percentage of rats you’re likely to hit with your attack. I’ve handled this before. You can ask your PC to roll you up a table of d20 rolls before the session starts, so you can consult it when the attack is made… or you can substitute an equivalent distribution that returns the number of hits. So for 20 rats where the PC has a 75% chance of hitting one, have the PC roll 5d4 (or 6d4 drop lowest, or 7d4 drop lowest pair) to count up the number of hits. Mark the center of the distribution 15 rats (or what have you), and then walk up and down the distribution in increments of one rat. Or you can roll 20d20 up front, mark off the hits, and then roll the misses. On a 75% chance-to-hit, that drops your re-rolled dice to 5d20.

    If D&D Next does go with flatter combat systems — where many low-level enemies can attack you — then they probably do need to address this with a mechanic that a DM can implement easily rather than relying on us to homebrew it.

  11. Roger Alix-Gaudreau says:

    My group tried the open playtest rules this weekend and everyone LOVED the advantage/disadvantage mechanic — especially since the PC playing the cleric of Moradin thwarted several crits by imposing disadvantage on an attacking monster.

    The analysis confirms something I had just started working on, namely that advantage/disadvantage is roughly equivalent to a +5/-5 adjustment to the roll. Your observation that it remains challenging even with advantage to succeed when you need a 19 or a 20 on the die is a good one, but it leaves out an important quality that comes up in combat — namely that a natural 20 on an attack roll is a critical hit. While a natural 18 gives me the same final total in the “+2 bonus” case as I get with a 20 in the advantage case, the advantage scenario is a crit while the total attack bonus the old way is not. So, when the required d20 value is very high, the advantage scenario may be slightly worse than the old +2 bonus, but it’s more likely to be dramatically more successful. With advantage, you’re almost twice as likely to crit.

    That said, I always felt the +2/-2 approach was fairly weak and didn’t change the ratio of success all that often. And rolling 2 dice is just plain fun, which you can’t ignore. 🙂

  12. The advantage/disadvantage gimmick was the one thing my group liked from the play test and very little else. However, they had questioned the number scaling compared to a simple +2/-2 to the roll as most of our “test” rolls had only a 2 or 3 point difference, nothing extreme.

    Maybe that’s just how we “roll.” 🙂

    I’ll point them at your statistics breakdown, err, well,everyone except the colorblind guy in the group. He’d only hate me afterward.

  13. (forewarned: I had to take Probability three times in college before I made it through, so all maths should be taken as if coming from a dumb-ass, which they are.)

    I thought I remember something from Probability where rolling dice in series made for weird math when computing the likelihood of getting a particular number or range. Even though each roll has its own distinct and unaltered odds, the overall odds change. I.e. the odds of rolling three 5s in a row on a d6 is different from each distinct roll of the d6 and getting a 5. It’s very likely that’s what you’ve already done above and I’m just not getting it. My apologies if that’s the case.

    Also, it seems to me that with Adv/Dis, there is not necessarily more (or at least much more) dice rolling needed. Actually, you only roll another die if the first roll was unsuccessful or successful respectfully. If you have Adv and the first roll is a hit, no need to roll the second one, amiright?

  14. Thank you for breaking down the math. I enjoyed the read. Prior to reading through the comments though, I was not aware rolling two dice was undesired or somehow a burden. My players would heartily disagree.

    Roll two dice and take the higher (if advantaged) is simple. Play moves on.

    We like the system, and as two of my three players are new to roleplaying, anything I can add simply that increases their enjoyment is worth it.

  15. rmalena says:

    A friend sent me a link to your article, but I thought the graphed data set was also really interesting. Not only is Advantage better more often, but it is SO much better than +2. Anyway, the graph is also good for those who like pictures (like me!). This is a fun problem!


  16. The math is wrong. You correctly note that if you roll 1d20, you have a 55% chance of rolling a 10 or higher. But then you incorrectly say that if roll 2d20 and take the highest, you now have a 84% chance of rolling a 10 or higher. The actual probability is 79.75%. Imagine you are repeating this excercise 10000 times. 5500 of those times (on average) will result in a 10 or higher on your first d20. In the remaining 4500 times in which you rolled a 9 or lower on the first d20, 55% of the time you will roll a 10 or higher on your second d20. 55% of 4500 is 2475. 5500 + 2475 = 7975, or just under 80%. Where did you get 84% from?

  17. Paul: Thanks for catching that! When writing the post I glanced at the Excel file instead of my screen grabs and I guess I looked at the row number instead of the d20 result number. Sorry about that! The math isn’t wrong, I just looked at the wrong line in my chart. Fixed it in the post!

  18. e4mafia says:

    Mister Bartoneus speaks truth. Keep on doing it, my friend.

  19. joshx0rfz says:

    Just so you know, if you want to see what the probability of rolling 10 or higher is you’d setup this equation:
    1 – 9^2/20^2 == .7975 == 79.75%
    or more generally
    1- (target -1)^2/(number of sides)^2

    You can plug that directly into google calculator.

    We aren’t dealing with the concept of 0 here so it’s easy enough to be off by 1 on these sorts of things.

  20. Ah, got it!

    I think there are two other important factors. First, how often will PCs have advantage, and how often will they have disadvantage? I imagine that as they become higher in level, they will have more ways to secure advantage, so it would be important for challenges to scale with that in mind. Second, how difficult should it be to hit without advantage in any given situation? With a static +2, the advantage is constant no matter how difficult the challenge is without advantage, but as you demonstrate, the advantage of 2d20 changes depending on how hard the challenge is. Thus, the relative importance of having advantage depends on what minimum roll the ‘average’ challenge requires.

    Anyway, I tend to agree that it is a cool mechanic. My group is going to do the playtest soon, so we’ll see…

  21. A similar idea is found in the RPG for A Song of Ice and Fire, where the un-used dice are called Bonus dice, and the dice you get to count (the highest rolls) are called Test dice. For example, if you have 3 Test dice and 3 Bonus dice in a particular skill, you roll 6 dice and add up the 3 highest rolls to get your result. One of the things I detest about the d20 system is that it you have no idea what to expect on any given roll – it could be anything from a 1 to a 20, with equal odds for each result. In d20 games, any time I try anything risky, I get a bad roll, and fail miserably.

    Bonus dice have the effect of skewing the distribution to the right, so that you are more likely to get a higher result. (By comparison, rolling a single die, even with a bonus like +2, simply creates a flat distribution, where you have an equal chance of getting any particular result within the given range, in this case 3-22.) I find that having a lot of bonus dice in a particular skill is much more reliable than having a high bonus to a single die roll (eg. d20 + 5) – the odds are essentially stacked in your favour. I think we have only seen the beginning of Bonus dice in tabletop RPGs, so get used to them people, they are here to stay. What I usually hate about rolling lots of dice is the time it takes to add all the dice up (e.g. the original Star Wars RPG put out by WEG), but Bonus dice mitigate this problem by requiring only a few (or none) of the dice to be added.

    If the Advantage “bonus” die is overpowered for D&D, I’m sure that can easily be mitigated by simply raising certain stats by a point or two, such as AC or Defense. That way a result of 20 remains as rare and exciting as it should be, while at the same time lower roles become rarer, which is good for player morale. In my opinion, there should be situations where 3 or even 4 d20s can be rolled – but only the highest roll is kept… For now I’m just glad to see a trend in this direction.

  22. ShnizmuffiN says:

    So, I guess if you’re going to double the chance for a critical hit, you really have to use Critical Misses.

    (Especially since I’m the kind of guy who shows up with a pair of Keen Fire Burst Scimitars and a shit-eating grin.)

  23. I’m curious why people are comparing Advantage/Disadvantage to +2/-2. It struck me as being more equivalent to 3.5e’s ubiquitous +4/-4 (like for whether you had a Feat or not for doing a combat maneuver, or whether you were prone, etc). The +2 from 4e tends to make changes in status somewhat small and wonky to deal with–one of my players refused to attack from prone, but happily ate that -2 for a Power Attack. The +4 seems to be a much more suitable “hey, there’s something going on that affects you!” number.

  24. Arbanax says:

    Hey guys thanks for the response, I appreciate the thought that if you roll a 5 and just get a flat out +2 or have the opportunity to roll another d20 its flat out better.

    For my players I think its still a shift in thinking. Like any game, and this is one in flux as its playtested and pulled about, reactions and responses will very something take a while to settle down. As for myself I’m keeping an open mind on things.

    So as regards swarms of creatures, I do hope there is a better approach. If at higher levels you can use say 30 Orcs where at 1st you’d have 3, rolling 30d20 would seem cumbersome (not to mention annoying to have to have that many d20s or re roll just to get to the requisite rolls), but I keep reminding myself this is the purpose of a playtest so I to am hoping for a more elegant situation. After all there is plenty of time to add polish and get this right. Thanks again.

  25. Gargs454 says:

    For me, the issue in 4ed isn’t with a simple +2/-2. I think if that’s all it was, I would still prefer the +/-2 option. The issue, particularly in 4ed came with the:

    Player: Okay, so, he’s granting me combat advantage so that’s +2, I have a +4 power bonus from the invoker, and a +2 untyped bonus from the cleric, but he’s got partial cover, so that’s a -2, and I’m prone, so that’s another -2, so that’s a net of +4, which when added to my regular bonus and die roll is a . . . 29 vs AC?

    DM: Well, did you remember the -3 from the effect the other monster put on you?

    Player: Oh shoot, so 26.

    DM: Well that would be a miss.

    Player 2: Wait! I have a reaction! You get another +2 from (insert power here).

    DM: Well that might hit, but the leader here is going to react now, Player 1 does a *rolls* 28 hit your reflex?

    Player: Yes.

    DM: Okay, that’s another -2.

    Player: Anyone else got anything? This is really good if it hits.

    Player 3: Have you used Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes yet?

    Player: Oh good call! *Rolls* crap only a +1.

    Player 4: Wait! I also gave you a +2 bonus.

    Player: Oh sweet!

    DM: Yeah, but that was also a power bonus so it doesn’t stack.

    Player: Oh hey, I just remembered, I have prime shot on this guy!

    DM: Isn’t Ted closer to him though?

    Player: Yeah, but I have the feat that lets me ignore an adjacent ally for prime shot.

    DM: Oh ok, so what’s the total roll now?

    Player: Damn, I picked up my die like 5 minutes ago, forgot.

    So yeah, the issue wasn’t really the +/-2, it was all the other conditional modifiers that came into play and then you ran the risk of simply forgetting what the total was by the time you added it all up. I think if bonuses could rarely get more than a total of +/- 2 I would be fine with that, but the way it is now in 4ed, the math just starts to create a headache. It perhaps doesn’t help that half the time my players are not paying attention when bonuses are handed out, but I also think that this is probably not altogether uncommon for “beer and pretzel” groups.

    At least with Advantage/Disadvantage it should ordinarily be a quick resolution though I agree that certain monsters will need to be designed better.

  26. The players at my game table love the advantage/disadvantage mechanics, and I like them, too. I agree with Dave “the Game:” swarm rules should make a reappearance. Doing so will quickly take care of this minor infestation problem with the rats.

    @Roger Alix-Gaudreau: You’re right about the critical hits being effected by the new mechanic. However, I’d like to point out that the system of using a natural 20 to result in crits is a bad one to begin with. Why? Because the chances of obtaining a critical hit, as a percentage of the hits you make, increases as the to-hit number increases. For example, a PC who needs a 19 to hit will get a critical hit 50% of the time on a hit (every time they roll a 20, but not when they roll a 19). By contrast, a PC who needs only a 9 to hit will obtain a critical hit only 8.3% of the time when they hit. I think the designers need to come up with something better, like this: http://houserules4dnd.weebly.com/critical-hits–chart.html

    @everyone and Gargs454: I don’t see any problem with having the advantage/disadvantage mechanic reserved for instances that involve bigger benefits and drawbacks, while continuing to use the +2/-2 mechanic for instances that involve minor benefits and drawbacks. As Gargs454 pointed out, the real problem in 4e was with the millions of conditional modifiers players had to add up every time they made an attack. I think all of that can be simplified into simply providing one bonus or the other (i.e. if the attacker gains some minor advantage the DM gives him a +2, if the attacker gains several small advantages or one big one the DM gives him the extra advantage roll). That way you don’t have to add up a bunch of modifiers every time you make an attack: you simply either get a standard roll, or you get a +/-2 to your roll or you get advantage/disadvantage, nothing else, and you can’t even combine the +/-2 with advantage/disadvantage. You either get one or the other, not both.

  27. ExitNodeIsWatching says:

    In most cases, advantage/disadvantage is a powerful, well, advantage or disadvantage, in a general sense. Thus I see the problem being overuse of the mechanic, which seems to be the case in some of the playtests. Also, I suspect DMs will dole out advantage to parties more often than their monsters, unconsciously, given that most DMs don’t really want to hammer their players too severely (also, due to excessive squawking from players suffering from Precious Snowflake syndrome).

    You need to be careful when examining the distribution. There are really only three important variables in D&D terms: Original chance to hit (success), the equivalent “plus” the new mechanic provides, and the percentage improvement. This of course applies to disadvantage, as well.

    Chance to Hit … Equivalent “plus” with 2nd roll … % Total Improvement.

    01in20 +0.95 95% improvement
    05in20 +3.75 75% improvement
    10in20 +5.00 50% improvement
    15in20 +3.75 25% improvement
    19in20 +0.95 05% improvement

    So the lower your original chance to hit, the better the mechanic is in terms of improving your chance to hit (go figure).

    What’s interesting is that the equivalent “plus” peaks at 10in20, then decreases identically on BOTH sides of the distribution curve.

    So both 1in20 and 19in20 have an identical equivalent “plus” to hit (0.95) when a second die is rolled, but 1in20 has a 95% improvement to hit with an extra roll, while the 19in20 has only a 5% improvement to hit with an extra roll.

    The mathematics of the mechanic isn’t hard, but how the math gets translated into D&D terms (plusses and minuses) is misleading.

    The only real question is: Does the mechanic provide too much of an advantage of disadvantage in the situations in which it is used?

  28. Philo Pharynx says:

    My issue is that advantage is a “one-size” modifier. It’s a big bonus when they need an average roll and a small bonus when they need a high or low roll. I prefer to have the option of assigning a big bonus or a small bonus. I usually use +/-2 for routine modifers and +/-5 for major modifiers.

  29. DarkplaneDM says:

    Philo Pharynx: I think that’s one of the interesting things about advantage/disadvantage: if something about a situation is giving you an edge, you’re likely to do much better on moderately difficult tasks, but not necessarily on very difficult tasks. To my mind the adv./disadv. mechanic is more realistic that way.

  30. Norcross says:

    I like the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. It doesn’t replace all modifiers, like most detractors seem to erroneously think. It just gives a different mechanic for environmental influences. Flat modifiers can quickly make success certain or failure impossible – which is fine when you are talking about skill levels and equipment. Environmental factors do matter more when you are at the middle of the road.

    I see this as reflecting that experts have the experience to deal with bad conditions without much loss of ability, and poorly-skilled people have almost no chance of success if conditions turn against them. It’s the ones in the middle that have some skill but are not experts yet that are affected the most by good conditions (which they have the training to take advantage of) and bad (which they don’t yet have the experience to counteract). Flat modifiers can’t handle that. Having both modifiers and advantage/disadvantage gives more flexibility.

  31. Philo Pharynx says:

    @Darkplane, But advantage also provides less of a bonus to those that need to make a difficult target number. It’s harder for those fighting uphill.

    @Norcross, having flat modifers and advantage/disadvantage is going to be very confusing. You’ll need to decide which modifer to use when. Also, advantage and disadvantage seem to be built into the system. As a rogue, I’d prefer advantage to getting a +5 bonus or even a +10 bonus because the bonus doesn’t trigger sneak attack.

  32. I haven’t run the math on this, I just thought of it as I was reading through these comments and figured I would throw it out as a different approach to this issue. What about counting the number of advantages/disadvantages that are affecting a person, and adding a ‘bonus die’ to the d20 roll, where the size of the bonus die is affected by the number of advantages/disadvantages? Start at d4 and increase the die size by one (d6, then d8, d10, max d12) for each advantage, and decrease it for each disadvantage. Roll the die and add it to the d20 result to get a final number. If there are more disadvantages than advantages then it subtracts from the d20 roll. I feel like this would simplify the point that @Gargs454 makes: the character has 2 disadvantages affecting him, so start counting advantages. If you make it to at least 7 advantages you can stop counting because you have already reached the d12 bonus, which is the maximum bonus. Less math, simply count on your fingers. And the DM could fiat that some advantages or disadvantages are so important that they move the dice by 2 sizes instead of 1.

  33. @Erik
    I gotta disagree on that one. Let’s say you’ve worked your way into a great tactical position, earning 3 advantages so your bonus is a d8. You roll and get a 2. A measly +2 on an attack that you worked hard to optimize. As a player, I’d feel cheated in that case.

    Now, what about compounding ideas? Major/Minor Advantage. Major Advantages give you an extra d20 for each one you have, essentially giving you another crack at whatever it is you’re trying to do. Minor advantages add a flat increase to each of the rolls. Same concept applies for Disadvantage but in reverse, with Adv and Dis canceling each other out.

    To me, this seems better. With a major adv, you can botch the roll, multiple times even, but still possibly succeed. If you don’t have major advantage, but lots of minor ones, they’ll add up to give you one really good attempt at whatever it is you’re doing.

    Personally, if I was playing this way, I’d make a natural 1 or 20 on any of the rolls end all attempts with a fail or success respectively, but that’s just me.

    Is this overpowered? Underpowered? Would this be too complex and slow down combat? One of the major design reasons for Adv/Dis d20 method was it’s simplicity and speed.

    PC: {Rolls and misses.}
    DM: Next player.
    PC: Wait, I had advantage from Brother Soansos Bless! {Rolls another d20. Still misses.}
    PC: Nevermind.

    *Note: Edited for grammar stupidity.

  34. Nullzone says:

    Honestly, I’m less caring about the particulars of the math of it; somewhere in my head I understand all of that, but it’s not the first part of my brain that gets engaged when I’m at the table. As long as the system accounts for said math I don’t think it’s going to put much strain on the game.

    What I *DO* care about is that Advantage has a visceral feel to it that a simple +2 could never accomplish. Rolling extra dice is fun, and awesome, and feels important/special. Just adding an integer value is an exercise in mathematics, but doesn’t really add to the feel of the game.

    So all things considered, I would much rather take the Advantage concept.

  35. @Nullzone: Good point, and I agree with you. The visceral feel of rolling an extra die is better than implementing a flat bonus. This new advantage/disadvantage mechanics is just–well–fun. It’s also easy to implement at the table.

  36. Philo Pharynx says:

    @Justin, Combining two different systems will be hard to manage. Why grant one type of bonus rather than another? You now need to keep track of what type of bonus or penalty you granted before. How do you deal with minor advantage and major disadvantage? Roll twice, take the lowest and then add +2? That seems odd and ungainly.

  37. @Philo

    That’s about the way I was imagining it, yeah. This is how I see a scenario running:

    DM: Well Sir Ralphie of Bunnysuit, that wizard’s icicle spell is coming straight at your eyeball. Better make a Dex save.
    PC: OK. The Winter Elves tied my boots together last round so we said that puts me at a major disadvantage for Dex, right?
    DM: Right
    PC: And then Randy shouted “Look out!” so that gives me a minor advantage.
    DM: Uh huh
    PC: Which way is the wind blowing?
    DM: Uhm … {rolls a d4} East.
    PC: The icicle is coming from the West! That’s into the wind which would slow it down a little bit giving me extra time to dodge. Can that count as a Major?
    DM: Nope, icicles are aerodynamic. That’s a minor, at best.
    PC: OK. Fine, fine. {rolls d20} Got a 13, plus 2 is 15?
    DM: You saved.
    PC: YES!!
    DM: Roll again because of your disadvantage.
    PC: Oh yeah. {rolls a 1} FUDGE!!! {except he didn’t say fudge}

    Red Ryder BB guns aside, does that still seem ungainly? I feel this balances out the conditionals of a situation without requiring a whole lot of math.
    1) Determine the # of rolls (majors)
    2) Determine the modifier (minors)
    3) Get to rolling

  38. Philo Pharynx says:

    It’s just feels wrong to have two different types of bonuses. When everything is one type of bonus it’s easier to keep track. Also minor bonuses/penalties can have more effect than majors depending on the target number needed. That’s just wrong. (and caused by the fact that rolling more than once gives a variable bonus)

  39. oregonpinkrose says:

    For those that have an issue with this making it difficult for the untrained to succeed, or for those highly skilled to get a godly number like you did with the +/-, you can still give a +2/-2 if the situation warranted.
    Nothing precludes having both. Look to prone as an example.


  1. […] and a 15 on the dice) which is about the same. Bartoneus  over at Critical-hits has an interesting article on the statistics of just that […]

  2. […] Controlling How Much Detail is Needed for the Game The Ultimate Disruption: The loss of a player D&D: Advantage vs. Flat Bonuses Bucket Lists For Players and Characters Things You Can Learn From Pixar’s 22 Story Basics – […]

  3. […] The Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic has certainly garnered quite a bit of attention in the playtest. But is it really overpowered compared to the old flat bonuses of previous editions of D&D? Bartoneus @ Critical Hits took some time to answer that question… […]

  4. […] Critical Hits follows a very similar line and plots out 2d20 versus a flat +2 bonus, and shows that the +2 bonus out-performs 2d20 at the extremes (and makes a 21 or 22 even possible).  Then he plots out +3, +4, and +5 and shows a sort of pyramid pattern, with 2d20 out-performing flat bonuses in the mid ranges and losing effectiveness toward the extremes.  That is to say, flat bonuses favor longshots more than Advantage (flat penalties potentially hurt more than Disadvantage) — and in fact, bonuses make otherwise impossible targets (like a DC25) possible and Advantage doesn’t (similarly, Disadvantage makes a DC20 unlikely, but even a -1 penalty makes DC20 impossible). […]