Advantage vs. Re-Roll

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
There have been a lot of debates about whether abilities that modify rolls, such as Inspiration, should be declared before the roll, or invoked after the roll.

Rather than treat each one on a case-by-case basis, I have a general design principle that I think should be applied:
  • Abilities that consume a resource to modify your chances on a single roll should be after-the-roll.
  • Abilities that are situational, at-will*, or apply to multiple rolls should be declared before.
*At will abilities are typically those with tradeoffs, such as Reckless Attacks.

The thinking behind this is that when you consume a resource (such as spending Inspiration, or even using your reaction) to modify a roll, it has such a high probability of being wasted...either because you fail anyway, or because you would have succeeded without it...that people tend to keep hoarding those resources, hoping for an even more important situation, and then never using them. It's the same phenomenon that leads to certain kinds of potions staying in the backpack forever.

Inspiration is the canonical example, but the current version of Protection fighting style is another: in this case it's your reaction that is the resource, because if you use it now you can't use it again (until your next turn). It's a bummer to spend your reaction to protect a companion, only to have it not matter (again, either because the enemy still hits, or would have missed anyway) and then have the monster hit on its next attack, or another monster hits on its attack, or a monster incurs an opportunity attack...and you've already spent/wasted your reaction and can't do anything.

On the other hand, when you don't have to spend anything...in other words, when using an ability now does not prevent you from using it later...then getting a bonus to the roll is perfectly fine. If you attack a prone enemy, or one with faerie fire, or you come out of stealth to attack, and you miss (or hit) anyway, nothing is wasted. And the same applies if it's an at will ability, or something that affects multiple rolls.

Note that I'm not claiming anything is broken, or that white room theorycrafting proves I'm right, or that it needs to be this way for 'balance'. This is purely about fun, and what is enjoyable (to me, and others) at the table. YMMV.
 

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I think the concept should average around here, but particularly powerful resource cost abilities might require before, while some weak non-resource abilities might be fine afterwards.
 

I agree in general, but I think it depends what ludonarrative you are telling with the ability. Allowing rerolls for inspiration, an already metagame resource is unproblematic to me. Letting the fighter only decide to block with the protection fighting style when he knows the attack has already hit only really makes sense if the character has some sort of precognition.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I agree in general, but I think it depends what ludonarrative you are telling with the ability. Allowing rerolls for inspiration, an already metagame resource is unproblematic to me. Letting the fighter only decide to block with the protection fighting style when he knows the attack has already hit only really makes sense if the character has some sort of precognition.

Ehh. Or they are skilled enough to recognize when an attack will hit and that they can intervene in time. I suppose it depends on what you assume the attack roll represents: does a success mean that you did hit, or that it will hit? Pretty simple to adopt the 2nd interpretation, if one chooses to.
 

Ehh. Or they are skilled enough to recognize when an attack will hit and that they can intervene in time. I suppose it depends on what you assume the attack roll represents: does a success mean that you did hit, or that it will hit? Pretty simple to adopt the 2nd interpretation, if one chooses to.
I guess I'll concede that completely changing the whole way I conceptualize the meaning of announced roll results would be a "simple" thing, but I don't think it would be a particularly easy or trivial one.
 

MarkB

Legend
I like what they've done with Bardic Inspiration and Guidance to make it only apply on a failed check, it makes it much easier to only decide to use it when it matters.

On the other hand, making Heroic Inspiration advantage means that rogues can use it to qualify for sneak attack when they otherwise wouldn't.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I guess I'll concede that completely changing the whole way I conceptualize the meaning of announced roll results would be a "simple" thing, but I don't think it would be a particularly easy or trivial one.
Yeah, that’s fair. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be dissociative.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I don't mind the idea of inspiration allowing after the fact rerolls but 5e as implemented has a big problem that results from doing that. Specifically the fact that tsrget AC & DC values tend to be so low that it's already rare to fail so an after the fact reroll turns into basically all rolls are pretty much certain. Even things like the occasional god or similar with a hard to save ability don't generally matter much in the grand scale of things on a fail.
 

pemerton

Legend
Ehh. Or they are skilled enough to recognize when an attack will hit and that they can intervene in time. I suppose it depends on what you assume the attack roll represents: does a success mean that you did hit, or that it will hit? Pretty simple to adopt the 2nd interpretation, if one chooses to.
I guess I'll concede that completely changing the whole way I conceptualize the meaning of announced roll results would be a "simple" thing, but I don't think it would be a particularly easy or trivial one.
Doesn't the Shield spell already work like Bill Zebub is describing the (hypothetical) feat ability?
 

Doesn't the Shield spell already work like Bill Zebub is describing the (hypothetical) feat ability?
I suppose. That always sat with me a little weird, but it feels more reasonable since a spell slot and reaction is a pretty substantial investment to make (at least for a mage with other reaction spells). Also it's magic.
 


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