I'm a new DM (my party just finished the Lost Mines of Phandelver and I'm homebrewing a Skyrim campaign) and was wondering about Advantage and Disadvantage.

Is there ever a situation where a player would roll only 1d20 instead of the normal 2d20 for a check? Like could something happen where they don't have advantage or disadvantage, just normal circumstances. If not, how do you tell if a situation has advantage over disadvantage.

For example: The party came up to a house and the Paladin, while riding his tiger steed, decided to ram the door with the tiger(wanted him to roll more than a 10 to break it). Nothing was hindering him, the door wasn't gonna move out of the way, door wasn't reinforced or anything, weather was perfect, etc. Would he just roll 1d20 to beat my DC10, or would he roll 2d20 and I as DM decide if he has advantage or not?

(BTW he rolled a 2 and 5, knocked his tiger out for a couple rounds xD).

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are special situations where a player may have an advantage and a disadvantage, cancelling each other out; so the player just rolls 1d20. Having never DM'd myself, I don't exactly know the correct way of doing things, but in my experience as a player, the normal situation is to roll 1d20, and special occasions allow for advantage/disadvantage (as KorvinStarmast explains) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Sep 22, 2016 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


"Neither advantage nor disadvantage" is the normal ability check.

A normal/typical ability check is rolled with 1d20 (modified for Proficiency and Ability scores). It takes "something extra being involved" for an ability check to accrue advantage or disadvantage. (Spell effects, class features, conditions, etc).

The D20
Every character and monster in the game has capabilities defined by six ability scores. {snip} These ability scores, and the ability modifiers derived from them, are the basis for almost every d20 roll that a player makes on a character’s or monster’s behalf.{snip} Ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws are the three main kinds of d20 rolls, forming the core of the rules of the game. All three follow these simple steps.

  1. Roll the die and add a modifier.

  2. Apply circumstantial bonuses and penalties.

  3. Compare the total to a target number.

Advantage and Disadvantage
Sometimes an ability check ... is modified by special situations called advantage and disadvantage. Advantage reflects the positive circumstances surrounding a d20 roll, while disadvantage reflects the opposite. When you have either advantage or disadvantage, you roll a second d20 when you make the roll. (Basic Rules, p. 4 / PHB p. 7)

  • An ability check with advantage is rolled with 2d20, take the highest one.

    Example: Ranger. (Class feature Favored Enemy)

    You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

  • An ability check with disadvantage is rolled with 2d20, take the lowest one.

    There are a variety of things which will cause disadvantage on an ability check, such as a level of exhaustion.

    Exhaustion (Appendix A, Conditions)
    1...................Disadvantage on ability checks

Those are the three cases of ability checks: normal, with advantage, with disadvantage.

Trying to create advantage

Whenever the party/players use the "help" action (working together) an ability check can be made with advantage.

Working Together (Sub category of Using Ability Scores)

Sometimes two or more characters team up to attempt a task. The character who’s leading the effort—or the one with the highest ability modifier—can make an ability check with advantage, reflecting the help provided by the other characters. In combat, this requires the Help action. A character can only provide help if the task is one that he or she could attempt alone. For example, trying to open a lock requires proficiency with thieves’ tools, so a character who lacks that proficiency can’t help another character in that task. Moreover, a character can help only when two or more individuals working together would actually be productive. Some tasks, such as threading a needle, are no easier with help.

Where it makes sense

You as DM can, whenever you feel that the circumstances warrant it, apply either advantage or disadvantage based on what the character is trying to do, and what judge makes it easier or harder to achieve based on their situation and their description of the attempt. (from Advantage and Disadvantage)

The GM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for going so in-depth! I guess I must have missed that part when reading through the manual. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2016 at 17:39

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