I have an odd inquiry, this happened during a D&D 5e session. We were travelling in a cavern hunting a necromancer, as myself and a party member parted to a path further exploring away from the group. We were then apparently disadvantaged on a Wisdom saving throw regarding a spell or (something), because we had no idea it was happening.

I had my Dark One's Own Luck with my level 6 warlock, and was told that I couldn't have used it but because I was surprised by a spell, and I had to "call my patron", and I was not told I was disadvantaged. As such I was unaware that I was even being disadvantaged to begin with and presumed my positive 19 roll on a DC of 16 succeeded when in fact it failed as my disadvantage roll was 15.

Is such a thing even possible, or was I correct in the assumption such a thing can't happen?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Playing on roll20 we check in the box to double roll automatically, so that whether i have advantage or disadvantage, the option would be available. If neither advantage or disadvantage the left most number "first roll" is the number. \$\endgroup\$
    – IBeCrazy
    May 5 '17 at 6:25

When you're surprised you:

can't move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can't take a reaction until that turn ends.

Surprise, PHB, pg.189

That's all the rules say happen when you're surprised. Therefore, as per the rules you would not have disadvantage on any roll.

Dark One's Own Luck says:

When you make an ability check or a saving throw, you can use this feature to add a d10 to your roll.

This doesn't take an action or reaction to use. It's just something you can do. As such, you would be able to use it even if you're surprised.

However, as THiebert has stated, a DM is free to rule as they please, especially when it comes to advantage/disadvantage, as per page 173 of the PHB:

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.

Surprise and having no idea what's happen could be a reasonable circumstance to impose disadvantage, though I will say it may pay to discuss this ruling should it become used unfairly. It's also worth pointing out that there could have been some other influence (creature ability or the like) that imposed disadvantage in that specific situation.


Dark One's Own Luck does not cost a reaction, so you should be able to use it even when surprised.

Nothing in the rules states that surprise incurs disadvantage on saving throws, but the DM is free to determine whether any circumstance might warrant advantage or disadvantage for either party. It's hard to say for certain whether it was or was not justified in this case, but he's within his right to do so.


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