I was listening to a podcast on D&D 5 discussing its design. They mentioned the mechanic of Dis/Advantage as being one of the coolest aspects of the game. I was wondering: Is this innovation created by the D&D 5 designers, or did this pre-exist in prior role playing games in a recognizable form? If D&D 5 was not the original innovator, which published RPG first presented this idea of Dis/Advantage?

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    \$\begingroup\$ As the two answers show it's not clear how close to 5e advantage specifically this needs to be. Every dice pool system ever deals with multiple rolls and taking best. Does stat rolling 4d6 drop lowest count? Tweens? Why or why not? "Where the designers got the idea from" is hard to answer with proof, but is on topic. "Tell me of similar mechanics in history" is just kinda listy. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Oct 15 '16 at 2:47

Advantage and Disadvantage

This mechanic acts as a replacement for crunching plusses and minuses for a lot of different rolls for hits, saves, and DC based ability checks from previous editions.

Advantage's direct ancestor is from the D&D 4E Avenger, who can roll 2d20 on certain attacks and take the highest score as the roll. Disadvantage is its opposite. An excellent explanation of how this differs from plus and minus to die rolls is in the thread called How does rolling two dice and taking the highest affect the average outcome?.

Given the hundreds (thousand?) of RPG's that exist, other influences will hopefully be cited. It is interesting to note that the idea behind the DM ruling on advantage and disadvantage, based on circumstance, isn't new to this edition.

Sometimes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw is modified by special situations called advantage and disadvantage. Advantage reflects the positive circumstances surrounding a d20 roll, while disadvantage reflects the opposite. (Basic Rules, p. 4)
The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.(Basic Rules, p. 57)

While the advantage/disadvantage mechanic is now formally part of the d20 system, it is strikingly similar to Gary Gygax's guidance (AD&D 1e DMG, p. 110) on how a DM handles Rolling the Dice and Controlling the Gamee.

There will be times in which the rules do not cover a specific action that a player will attempt. In such situations, instead of being forced to make a decision, take the option to allow the dice to control the situation. This can be done by assigning a reasonable probability to an event and then letting the player dice to see if he or she can make that percentage. {my comment: this is similar to the DM assigning a DC in D&D 5e} You can weigh the dice in any way so as to give the advantage to either the player or the non-player character, whichever seems more correct and logical to you while being fair to both sides.


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