Dungeons & Dragons Online

Why it makes sense that Darkness cancels out the advantage and disadvantage

Content of the article: "Why it makes sense that Darkness cancels out the advantage and disadvantage"

I see people complain about this a lot, and I'm starting to think it's derived from a misinterpretation of what the rules represent in 5e. I'm getting tired of seeing this meme, so I though I'd make this post.


TLDR: Advantage, Disadvantage, and chance to hit have as much to do with the defender's ability to dodge an incoming attack as they do with the attacker's accuracy

When one creature attacks another creature and neither can see each other, the attack is made normally (without advantage or disadvantage). This includes attacks that would otherwise grant advantage or disadvantage such as attacks from prone or at long range. This makes perfect sense, but first you have to understand the assumptions that the rules make.

  1. Everyone is pretty decent with their attacks. A commoner with 10 Dexterity and no weapon proficiencies still has a 55% chance of hitting a commoner with no armor and 10 Dexterity with a longbow up to 150 feet away. That's really good odds for a commoner with little to no longbow experience. Even at long range, if the attacker has a friend distract their target with the help action, they can still knock, aim, and fire their arrow with 55% percent accuracy at up to 600 feet. That's a 5×5 target two football fields away.

  2. Advantage and disadvantage come from both the attacker's ability to hit and the defender's ability to dodge. That commoner above could have disadvantage if their target backs up to 155 feet away, or if their target takes the dodge action. Both of those choices have equivalent effects on the attacker's ability to make their hit (roughly minus 20%). The attacker gets advantage if the target does not see them coming and therefore cannot get out of the way of the arrow, or if the attacker is a rogue who can use the Aim bonus action (UA Class Feature Variants).

  3. Advantage and disadvantage cancel out, not because of simplicity, but because it's not worth trying to quantify every form of advantage of disadvantage and compare. It might seem like an unseen attacker firing an arrow at a prone target with the benefit of the help action ought to have advantage still, but how do you quantify how much that help action actually helps? Does it really help exactly as much as being prone hurts accuracy? And does being unseen really help as much as the dodge action helps someone dodge an attack? What if the unseen attack was from 150 feet away instead of 10 feet away? Would the dodging target being able to avoid both of those equally? What about effects that don't exist in the real world like sunlight sensitivity? These aren't questions avoided to make things easy on new players, these are questions left unanswered because they're not worth answering.

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Let's go back to the original situation. You have one person trying to hit another in total darkness, and neither can see each other. One person who could pretty accurately place an arrow within a 5ft. by 5ft. target fires at where they think the other person is, and the other attempts to dodge an arrow they can't see coming. If the person knows where they are trying to place the arrow, then they still need to find a chink in their target's armor without being able to see them, and the person attempting to dodge needs to be able to protect those chinks without seeing the arrow coming. Both the advantage and disadvantage cancel out, and you have an attack roughly as accurate as one it bright sunlight.

Now let's imagine that same attack at 600 feet. It's a pitch black night, neither creature has darkvision, and on creature is trying to hit a creature within a known 5×5 square with a bow and arrow. Reminder that his creature could do so at 55% accuracy if they have an ally distract their target with a help action. They fire at their target, and hope it finds a weak spot while the target attempts to dodge the arrow without being able to see it coming.

In melee combat, this becomes a little trickier to imagine as we don't have something as clear as an arrow flying through to air to picture. However, it comes back to advantage, disadvantage, and chance to hit having as much to do with the target's ability to avoid incoming attacks as it does the attacker being able to hit.

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Now, in all this, it's not like darkness makes everything work exactly the same as it does in light. It still benefits those trying to avoid being hit and hurts those doing the attacking, as it would in real life, for one big reason: the attacker has to know where they are aiming. If an attacker fired an arrow into a 10 ft. x 5 ft. rectangle, they would be less likely to hit their target than if they could see them but had disadvantage (50% chance of choosing the right section of the area, 55% chance of then hitting, for a total of a 27.5% chance to hit).


So please, for the love of Aureon, please chill with this meme. It just shows a lack of understanding of what the game is abstracting, and makes it look like you're imagining your fights actually involving people just standing still between turns and taking arrows to the face.

Source: reddit.com

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