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D&D 5E Arguing for Advantage

Fauchard1520

Explorer
If there are any rogues in your life, you may be familiar with a certain strain of argument. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“But I’m standing slightly to one side of the golem. It didn’t know I was there!”

Or how about this one?

“I thought we were playing with the flanking rules?”

Or if you have the questionably-good fortune to party with an assassin, perhaps you’ve heard some variation on this one?

“I’m first in the initiative. That’s surprise, right? That’s an auto-crit, right?”

Part of this is just the nature of the game. You're incentivized to ask for advantage by the mechanics of the game. But part of this is egregious argument, and it can get old in a hurry if you let it.

Therefore, in the name of amusing D&D anecdotes, what is the most egregious example you’ve seen of “greedy PC rhetoric?” Did it work, or did it get shut down? And more generally, how for should DMs be willing to put up with this behavior?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)
 

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TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Different groups play differently. I don't actively discourage these requests that are based on rules more than roleplay.

It's the same difference as between: a) A player asking if he can jump on the ogre's shoulder, to then jump on a ledge and b) A player asking if he can roll acrobatics to increase his jump height. Option A fits and tends to create the type of games that I'm interested in participating in, the second one doesn't.

So, I would shut down anything like "Can I get advantage because I've opened the blinds and he has the light in his face?" but would be happy to have players ask "As I opened the blinds, could it be possible that the light coming in blinds some of the enemies?".

The end result might be the same. But they both foster a very different mindset and approach. So, that stuff will happen, just try and encourage players to do it in a way that fits the game environment that you're trying to create.
 

I had a Player with an Assassin who thought he could get Surprise multiple times during a combat encounter.

In the past, during a Session Zero, I have asked Players to tell me what their Characters are doing rather than what they themselves are doing. I will decide what needs to be rolled, if anything.

For instance, tell me that your character, "is shaking the hand of this suspicious stranger we met in the forest, and patting him down nonchalantly in order to see if there is any 'funny business' going on." Do that rather than grab a d20 and say, "I roll to disbelieve!"

Half the time I won't even ask for a roll, I'll just give you the information you seek, like, "this person is garbed in illusion, in fact the seem to be naked, as you only feel bare skin. It's probably that hag you're looking for."
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I experienced this a lot more during the playtest and the early days of 5e. As players have gotten more familiar with the system and as more codified options have been published, there’s been less and less of it. Which I understand is probably a positive thing for the players, since it means they know what they can and can’t reliably do. But as a DM I do kind of miss the more conversational feel of early 5e.
 

Let me just pop in to say this is why Burning Wheel is great: the players are expected to negotiate for a bonus die on their rolls. The GM is expected to give it to them. The mechanics work with the system whereas in 5e it often feels like it's a tightrope between the GM being too lenient or too strict. Don't want to hand out too much advantage, or dice rolls are superfluous, but you also don't want the players to feel discouraged.

Generally, I err on the side of giving it to them. My suggestion: let them argue for it every time and get advantage every single time. But make the consequences of a failed roll absolutely dire if they do so. Yes, you can have advantage, but if you fail XYZ will happen.

Say yes and roll the dice.

Obviously this doesn't address the question posed, and alas, I've never had players wheedle advantage out of me.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I don't mind players asking (once) - It's in the nature of the game.

I've had players make the argument that the target is too big too miss (I'm a Halfling and that's an ogre - I should get advantage here).

With Tasha's and steady aim (which I allow), it's a near moot point now. For the cost of a bonus action and your movement for the turn the rogue is guaranteed advantage. No wheedling necessary.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
They can ask, but don't argue if I say no. Clarifications are okay, and I do sometimes grant advantage outside of strict rules based on some kind of other check. For example, leaping off a balcony, aiming for the back of the ogre roll an athletics check and if you succeed you have advantage on a failure disadvantage and you fall prone no matter what.

It can add some fun flavor to the game if not abused.
 



So, I would shut down anything like "Can I get advantage because I've opened the blinds and he has the light in his face?" but would be happy to have players ask "As I opened the blinds, could it be possible that the light coming in blinds some of the enemies?".

The end result might be the same. But they both foster a very different mindset and approach. So, that stuff will happen, just try and encourage players to do it in a way that fits the game environment that you're trying to create.

Maybe I'm just not getting it, but this sounds toxic and terrible to me. Two players can have PCs who do the exact same act, but one gets a bonus and the other doesn't because they didn't phrase the question correctly? I want my game to have consistency. I don't want that consistency to be "pander to the DM".
 

Maybe I'm just not getting it, but this sounds toxic and terrible to me. Two players can have PCs who do the exact same act, but one gets a bonus and the other doesn't because they didn't phrase the question correctly? I want my game to have consistency. I don't want that consistency to be "pander to the DM".

Yeah, you do need to be careful with these things.

Really, it comes down to “tell me what your character wants to achieve and what they are doing to achieve it. Then I’ll tell you what happens (and if the dice will be involved.)”

Players can can get as creative as they like as long as they are reasonably specific about the approach and goal for their PC. I prefer a game where players are describing what their characters are doing rather than invoking game mechanics explicitly as a substitute for those descriptions. The DM will adjudicate with game mechanics as necessary.

Further, when the players are asking a lot of questions, it’s a signal to me that I, as DM, haven’t described the current situation very well. That and/or they’ve been on their freaking phones again.
 


Players can can get as creative as they like as long as they are reasonably specific about the approach and goal for their PC. I prefer a game where players are describing what their characters are doing rather than invoking game mechanics explicitly as a substitute for those descriptions. The DM will adjudicate with game mechanics as necessary.

For fighting and moving around the battlemap, this sometimes makes sense. For social and mental interactions, it doesn't. I don't want to see a fighter penalized because the player physically can't riposte with a 20 Dex; likewise, I don't think a bard should be penalized because the player can't verbally riposte with a 20 Cha. For that reason, I think it's completely acceptable to just have someone invoke game mechanics like "I try Intimidation" or "I use my Actor feat to mimic" without penalty, even if there's no or minimal attempt at acting it out.

There are, of course, boundless gray areas between these two examples. Tactics with high Int characters, high Str characters knowing if they can break something, etc. The arguments can (and have) gone on for years.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Maybe I'm just not getting it, but this sounds toxic and terrible to me. Two players can have PCs who do the exact same act, but one gets a bonus and the other doesn't because they didn't phrase the question correctly? I want my game to have consistency. I don't want that consistency to be "pander to the DM".
No, it's not a case of me having two players asking for things over and over in different ways and only one is getting it. My point is that when I make a campaign of 5E, everyone is aware (and I generally pick my players accordingly) that I run campaigns that emphasizes more roleplay, acting and storytelling than tactics and mechanics.

One approach (the meta one) does not reinforce immersion and can lead to some of the issues described in this thread. I'm not interested in having to argue with a rogue every turn to see if they have advantage. However, I am interested in them building on what's happening in the game to creatively solve issues. This is also why I don't use inspiration. The language and nature of a meta currency takes me (and some players) out of immersion.

So, when I start playing with a new player, I will absolutely reinforce behaviors that are beneficial to the type of experience that we are trying to create, and discourage behaviors that don't. Just like in many roleplaying spheres people are not fond of people turning to OOC (out of character) talks at every turn.

As a counter-example, many of the 4E campaigns that I've ran were quite different. 4E strengths lie in the tactical option and depth of its combat. This is super suited to discussing meta currency, exchanging ideas for plans and asking out-of-characters about mechanics and edge cases. It's fine, because we all agreed that that's the kind of experience we wanted. We wanted to have five players leaned over a battlemap trying to find a tactical way to win a very tough encounter.
 


For fighting and moving around the battlemap, this sometimes makes sense. For social and mental interactions, it doesn't. I don't want to see a fighter penalized because the player physically can't riposte with a 20 Dex; likewise, I don't think a bard should be penalized because the player can't verbally riposte with a 20 Cha. For that reason, I think it's completely acceptable to just have someone invoke game mechanics like "I try Intimidation" or "I use my Actor feat to mimic" without penalty, even if there's no or minimal attempt at acting it out.

There are, of course, boundless gray areas between these two examples. Tactics with high Int characters, high Str characters knowing if they can break something, etc. The arguments can (and have) gone on for years.

I’m not saying the DM should penalize someone for saying “I try Intimidation”. As a DM, I would simply ask “ok, what is your character doing to intimidate the guard?” The whole “I try Intimidation” just isn’t specific enough to adjudicate and, to me, is uninteresting. Again, it’s as simple as: What are you doing and what are you trying to accomplish? It doesn’t need to be dressed in flowery language not does it require any special knowledge: “my barbarian puffs out his chest and speaks gruffly to the guard in an attempt to get him to stand down and let us past.” That I can work with. I want to encourage players to use their imagination so we can all picture the scene. I don’t want players treating their character sheet as buttons on a video game controller - that doesn’t produce the desired game experience for our table.
 

I actually don't see too much of that at my tables. My general view is that if you're going to have advantage on something, you need to have done the work to set it up - whether it's spending a turn going into hiding or swinging from a chandelier onto the dragon's back.

It's funny, at Gen Con 2014 at an "introducing 5e" seminar I asked the very question - what if players are constantly asking about and wheedling for advantage. The response was that advantage should be granted on exceptional circumstances, or when the rules clearly dictate it. I've tried to follow that and make it clear to my players.

The most egregious advantage mechanic situation was at an early AL table at Origins. There was a player running a halfling (monk, I think, but I could be wrong - I don't remember much more other than this and that he liked to paint makeup on his foes' corpses) and said that he automatically got advantage on any foe taller than him. I have no idea where this came from - I assume it was some weird conglomeration of rules from other editions all stacked up together in a terrible palimpsest.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Maybe I'm just not getting it, but this sounds toxic and terrible to me. Two players can have PCs who do the exact same act, but one gets a bonus and the other doesn't because they didn't phrase the question correctly? I want my game to have consistency. I don't want that consistency to be "pander to the DM".
That type of interaction usually would occur subconsciously for me. Not knowing the purpose of the action before its done makes me consider the factors here and now, which may lead me to not even realize that the purpose of the action was anything other than flavorful. I might, in my mind, have a picture of indirect sunlight beaming through. I'd also answer them less as a means of shutting them down and more as clarification.

However, when a player establishes the purpose of his action, I can adjudicate with their purpose in mind. Oh, the sun's positioning didn't matter so maybe the window just so happens to be in direct sunlight. Something like that.

If its something I don't think would work at all, I can easily warn them rather than retconning the last 3 turns or having them waste their action.

So for the player's sake to keep their intentions in the best possible light, I do prefer the players stating their intentions beforehand rather than hoping I'll recognize their efforts later. Plus, I have alot to keep track of and if it was something as nonmechanical as opening blinds, I might not mark it down and I'm likely to completely forget it happened.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I’m not saying the DM should penalize someone for saying “I try Intimidation”. As a DM, I would simply ask “ok, what is your character doing to intimidate the guard?” The whole “I try Intimidation” just isn’t specific enough to adjudicate and, to me, is uninteresting. Again, it’s as simple as: What are you doing and what are you trying to accomplish? It doesn’t need to be dressed in flowery language not does it require any special knowledge: “my barbarian puffs out his chest and speaks gruffly to the guard in an attempt to get him to stand down and let us past.” That I can work with. I want to encourage players to use their imagination so we can all picture the scene. I don’t want players treating their character sheet as buttons on a video game controller - that doesn’t produce the desired game experience for our table.
In my experience, "I try Intimidation" often then leads to the DM saying what the character does, perhaps after the roll: "You puff out your chest and speak gruffly to the guard and he lets you past." This is on the wrong side of ledger in my view. The players say what the characters do. The DM just narrates the results e.g. the guard lets you past.
 

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