"Advantage" is Awkward in Mass Combat

I love the advantage/disadvantage rule in theory, but it gets real awkward in larger combats. For example, last night I had my fighter burst into a room of 40 kobolds, who all immediately threw their spears at him. Their racial trait gives them advantage when they outnumber their opponents (which is all the time), so that meant I had to roll 80 dice for one round of combat. I decided to "forget" about their racial trait for that round.

I love that D&DN is a fast-playing game like BD&D/AD&D where you can have an absurd number of combatants, and just pick up a giant handful of dice, roll them, and count the hits, but the advantage rule makes this awkward for the DM when handling multiple attacks at once. Not just for the 40 kobold scenario (which is not likely to happen often), but also for smaller things: the owlbear has three attacks, so I have to roll six times? I can only imagine this getting worse when players have multiple attacks and/or henchmen fighting with them.

I'm considering replacing the roll-twice mechanic with a simple +3 or -3 when it would be awkward to roll twice, and I wonder if it might be a good idea to put this (or a similar solution) in the DM book as a suggestion.

Tangentally, I'd welcome some other guidelines on abstracting large numbers of die rolls--when the wizard cast sleep and burning hands on the horde, I made a few on-the-fly decisions about how to decide how many kobolds made their saves (I ended up rolling 4 saves, each of them representing 3d8 kobolds... it made sense at the time). This experience actually boosted my confidence, and got me in the hang of making up whatever crap necessary to keep the game going smoothly (which I now understand is what "DM empowerment" means, and I love it), but I'd like to see some clear guidance.

How have y'all dealt with large numbers of rolls? Even things like 8 kobolds carrying 1d8 sp apiece--do you roll 1d8 x 8? Do you roll 8d8? I'm curious to know how other DMs have been resolving situations like these.
I had this same situation come up tonite but with goblins. I have already houseruled that having a partner in melee against a single enemy should give advantage, sort of like 4e flanking. I dropped this when I realized I would need to roll even more dice and keep track of them. 
How about to help get rid of some of those extra dice, if both sides are being granted some sort of advantage, negate an equal amount from each side? Not sure how much it would help with massive numbers of monsters, but it could help with slightly large groups. Now on the other hand, if only one side has the advantage, you may just need to make-up some sort of combination attack.
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In the case of fourty kobolds throwing spears, I would have likely just rolled some amount of damage. Unless you really dig the storm trooper effect, you should assume that some number of kobolds probably hit the guy.

As for lots of attacks with advantage, I'm considering only giving advantage to the first attack per critter. Obviously if you end up with a character surrounded on all sides, you're still talking about a lot of dice rolling, but maybe that's another time to assume someone probably gets a successful hit in there and abstract away the actual to hit rolls.

Doesn't feel as heroic, but I'm kind of a harsh DM.

I'm interested if anyone has good ways to handle these kinds of issues that are quick, efficient, and can maintain that heroic feeling though! 
Off the top of my head:
1) I'd probably group attacks. So 10 attacks, 2 rolls each, becomes 5 attacks, 2 rolls each but double damage. 40x2 attacks could be 20x2, with double damage. still a lot of dice in this particular situation.

2) Another idea, since the second die only matters when the first misses, roll the number of attacks then reroll missed attacks once. This will decrease crits, since the crit after hit never gets rolled, but that seems acceptable to decrease the dice rolled.

If we are saying that the fighter has a 50% chance to get hit, and combine both ideas, the number of d20s rolled will be about 30, with each hit doing double damage, instead of the initial 80. It's a lot of dice still, but hey the fighter busted into a room full of 40 kobolds.

For the sp example, I'd probably do something like 4d8x2, since 8d8 is a hassle, and 1d8x8 is to swingy.

Two seperate diceless options
Write a program to deal with it, or use the expected averages.
I still haven't played yet, but I picked up on this problem right away. And when I saw the sheer amount of kobolds in their lair, I laughed.

The advantage/disadvantage mechanic is something that when you first look at it, seems amazingly cool and fun. But if you look at it any deeper than that, its riddled with problems.

Unfortunately, it seems to be one of the core mechanics.
Even more unfortunately, I think everyone's initial WOW COOL reaction is going to override people who test it out.

I'm still going to play with it before I give my feedback, but it frighten me.
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I noticed the same problem yesterday, playing with my group. Until the number of combatants is limited, it's doable, and when it's under 8 it's all good, but when the number grows.... it's a HELL of dice rolling.

So, I house ruled immediately that if both sides of a fight have an advantage, they cancel each other's advantage. I mean, it sounds logical to me: you don't have an advantage if the other has too, you're sort of "even". 
The fighter burst into a room of 40 (!!) kobolds?  Why are you bothering to roll dice?

Script the scene or give the fighter a chance to creatively escape.  Otherwise, the fighter is simply dead.

But, this is true in basically any edition of the game.  The fact that a particular mechanic breaks down during mass combat is nothing new to D&D.  That has been true in basically every edition of the game.  If you think about it carefully, rolling 40 d20s is basically just as bad as rolling 80 (most people don't own that many d20s... heck, there aren't usually that many d20s at the entire game table when I play D&D).

Complaining that the mechanic breaks down during mass combat is meaningless, given that the entire game basically breaks down during mass combat.

-SYB
The solution for fastest rolling multiple attacks with advantage:

1. Roll plenty of dices.
2. Separate Critical Hits.
3. Separate Hits and roll them again; look for Criticals and add them you CH group.
4. Roll Misses, pick up Hits and Criticals, assign them to appropriate groups.

I like the idea of grouping attacks, but personally I would treat rain of 40 spears as a 5-foot-radious area attack, let’s say 4d8 piercing, half on successful Dex Save. Or said “It deals 50 dmg minus double your AC”. But my players are ok with these kind of immediate house rules.

As for sp, I would arbitrary decided that it is… 35sp.
Advantage/Disadvantage for players, should probably not be too much of a problem. Worst case scenario, you have a fighter who uses his surge plus gets to cleave, giving him three attacks in a round. It shouldn't slow them down.

DMs are going to vary based on their monsters, and different scenarios. So, for DMs, it becomes "not all monsters work the same, nor do all encounters work the same". While not available yet, the modularity approach would hopefully give options for mass combat, different ways to use advantage/disadvantage, etc. That's one of the good things about using the words advantage/disadvantage ... you can change it's definition as part of the modular houserules, and yet use the same monster stat block/adventure as everyone else without changing 'it'. 
Sometimes encounters are not meant to be overcome head on. In this case, it's probably a better idea to try to wear down the kobolds over several forays into their lair, rather than trying to beat them all at once.
I think it's simple. Kobolds, having attack +0 hit AC15 fighter on 15+. So of every 20 attacks 6 hit. You have 40 kobolds with advantage. It's 80 rolls. 24 hits. 24d8-40 dmg. 0-152 dmg, 56-80 average. So we have a very dead fighter probably.
Here's a radical suggestion that might not work at all since I have put zero thought into it...

Kobold's attack is no longer +2; it's DC 12.
The PC's AC is no longer, 15; it's +5.  or whatever their AC is -10.
Move all the Kobold's to where they need to be to attack.
Tell players that they need to roll an AC save for each kobold next to them, DC 12.  And they have disadvantage.  And if they roll a "1", the kobold got a crit.  They can make those rolls at the same time.

Now you have 4 players rolling dice insead of one.  That should be faster.  And if I know anything about players, I know they looooove rolling dice.  The players are no longer the passive observers of the GM rolling over and over and over and over...
The fighter burst into a room of 40 (!!) kobolds?  Why are you bothering to roll dice?

Script the scene or give the fighter a chance to creatively escape.  Otherwise, the fighter is simply dead.

I rolled 40 attacks against him, and like 7 hit. He was fine. They're just kobolds.
Complaining that the mechanic breaks down during mass combat is meaningless, given that the entire game basically breaks down during mass combat.


I have not found this to be the case in D&DN. Have you playtested it much?
I think it's simple. Kobolds, having attack +0 hit AC15 fighter on 15+. So of every 20 attacks 6 hit. You have 40 kobolds with advantage. It's 80 rolls. 24 hits. 24d8-40 dmg. 0-152 dmg, 56-80 average. So we have a very dead fighter probably.




Actually if you do the correct calculation the average is 19,6 hits. If they can all melee you'll have 49 HP of damage in average, if all use a ranged attack you'll have about 10 HP of damage.

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How about just drop the advantage die for NPCs and monsters and just give them a flat bonus of +2 when they have advantage? I might just do this. 
This is what I'm liking about 5e so far; it's very easy to drop in mechanics from previous editions. I'm considering porting over some feats from 3.5 and M&M without many changes.  
@tpamwow
Just make it +5 and you'll be ok.

I didn't experience this until the 18 rats.  Fortunately the wizard used burning hands after round one.   
I didn't experience this until the 18 rats.  Fortunately the wizard used burning hands after round one.

In my game, they chased the fighter into the pit trap. The fighter then climbed out and the rogue threw burning oil in the pit. I was so proud.
1)  I like the advantage mechanic, in general (and especially for PCs).

2)  I agree that having to roll a bazillion dice for some encounters is poor design.

Conclusion:  Creatures should not be designed with mechanics which routinely give them advantage for superiour numbers.  Either give them a different type of benefit for superior numbers OR give them a different mechanism by which they can gain advantage.

When you find that some uses of advantage/ disadvantage cause problems, that doesn't necessarily mean that the problem is with the core mechanic.  It could equally well be a red flag about when and how a creature should get advantage.

Carl
I usually just keep a tab sheet on each player and monster where I mark down advantages and disadvantages so that I can cancel them out and reminded them how many dice to roll. It would be nice Wizards could tack on an area for this use onto the character sheet so as to allow players to keep track of themselves in this way.
Conclusion:  Creatures should not be designed with mechanics which routinely give them advantage for superiour numbers.  Either give them a different type of benefit for superior numbers OR give them a different mechanism by which they can gain advantage.

When you find that some uses of advantage/ disadvantage cause problems, that doesn't necessarily mean that the problem is with the core mechanic.  It could equally well be a red flag about when and how a creature should get advantage.

I can agree with these points.  I think that if a creature gains advantage on the case of numbers, there could also be a ruleset regarding being able to reduce the amount of rolls needed.

A group I play with plays a non D&D game where we've had encounters with 30+ Enemies at once, and when it came to things like initiative or otherwise, the Gm assumed a 'rote' result, since they all had similar dice pools, and averages would play out.

The advantage of increasing dice rolls is that you can assume more about the average results.  In my head, I could almost picture a situation where for an encounter with a high volume of relatively low risk enemies, a DM could do a smaller pool of d20 rolls, and parse out a number of successful hits across the enemies based on that...though I don't have the math worked out in my head. 
I think it's simple. Kobolds, having attack +0 hit AC15 fighter on 15+. So of every 20 attacks 6 hit. You have 40 kobolds with advantage. It's 80 rolls. 24 hits. 24d8-40 dmg. 0-152 dmg, 56-80 average. So we have a very dead fighter probably.




Actually if you do the correct calculation the average is 19,6 hits. If they can all melee you'll have 49 HP of damage in average, if all use a ranged attack you'll have about 10 HP of damage.




OP said they threw spears.
@tpamwow
Just make it +5 and you'll be ok.

I didn't experience this until the 18 rats.  Fortunately the wizard used burning hands after round one.   



I ran a quick adventure of my own design. The wizard used burning hands on some Goblins and took 9 of them out in one round. 

I saw the +5 somewhere else. I'm lazy. Could you tell me how you came to that average? I keep jumping around the forums and don't want to stop to figure it out.

@tpamwow
Just make it +5 and you'll be ok.

I didn't experience this until the 18 rats.  Fortunately the wizard used burning hands after round one.   



I ran a quick adventure of my own design. The wizard used burning hands on some Goblins and took 9 of them out in one round. 

I saw the +5 somewhere else. I'm lazy. Could you tell me how you came to that average? I keep jumping around the forums and don't want to stop to figure it out.



It's based on the more or less offset bell curve that's made when you are rolling the d20 twice, and picking just one result.   The probability scales in a way where for the majority of the middle results, it sort of has an effective '+5 bonus' scaled into it.

I don't remember the full numbers off hand, myself, so this is me more or less just recalling as well as I can. 
I'm starting to have misgivings about "advantage" and "disadvantage" as a primary condition, as opposed to a secondary condition as well.

What do I mean by that - let me explain.

Situaion 1:  The character is prone (primary condition).  Because he is prone, he grants advantage (secondary condition).  It is not difficult to determine - when the attack occurs - whether or not the character grants advantage because it is due to a 'visible' effect.  Advantage is a logical consequences of the fiction.

Situation 2  The attacker is hidden (primary condition).  Because she is hidden, she has advantage (secondary condition) against those she attacks.  Again, it is not difficult to determine - when the attack occurs - whether or not the attack has advantage or not.  Advantage is a logical consequence of the fiction.

Situation 3:  A Goblin King/ chieftan attacks a target next to an ally.  The attack doesn't impose any visible condition, but if he hits all those who attack the same target gain advantage (primary condition) on their attacks until the goblin's next turn ends.  There is no 'ingame' justification for the effect - it just happens.  This is the sort of dissociated mechanic that gave 4E a bad name in some circles.  What does this represent?  Why does the presence of an ally matter?  Why does the kobold who just happened to wander into the room that round get an advantage to attack the character?    Also - although there is no other effect on the character, I have to keep track of that character and make sure that any creature that attacks him- regardless of any movement, other actions, etc - gets their advantage against him.  Advamtage is not a logical consequence of the fiction.

Advantage should be a consequence of something that happens within the fiction - it is not a 'condition' in and of itself.

To put it another way - the DM should always be able to say "You grant (or it grants) advantage because _____________" - and whatever goes in that blank should be something the PCs would understand/ recognize and not just because "that guy over there has a power that makes you grant advantage" (whether 'that guy' is a PC or NPC).

Carl
40 Kobolds? With a clear shot? well...its really an area of effect attack at that point.


I would just have it do 8d6 minus AC to everyone in the area, or something like that.


less if you are in a generous mood. 


     
40 Kobolds? With a clear shot? well...its really an area of effect attack at that point.


I would just have it do 8d6 minus AC to everyone in the area, or something like that.


less if you are in a generous mood. 


     



Or have them make dex saves to half damage. Either way I'm in your camp. A good DM should be able to make stuff up on the fly if necessary. That seems to be a strength of these rules, and older editions in general. You can make judgment calls as you like and they don't break the game or make the written rules completely irrelevant. 
I agree with most of what has been said here. I ran my first session today and found that, though great in theory, the Advantage/disadvantage system just bogs down the game. Hopefully they come up with a better system, like a flat bonus/negative to hit or AC or something along those lines.
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I wouldn't object to making advantage/ disadvantage into a PC-only mechanic with NPCs using static modifiers to their rolls.

That would solve the 'too many rolls' issue since the PCs (normally) only ever have to roll for one character.


Carl
I would go with the "only reroll misses, and only once" idea.  

Alternatively, you could assume 45% hit, and 5% crit, then come up with the damage based on those numbers.  40 attacks would be 18 hits, 2 crits.  1d6+2 per hit would be 5 points per hit, 8 points per crit.   That comes out to 126 damage.  Or enough to kill EVERY PREGEN COMBINED.  Tongue Out
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I'd just group together a bunch of the kobolds and treat them as a single monster (one attack, move as a single monster, one bag of hit points). Probably 10 kobolds or so in each group, each one of which can rain down spears in an AoE or just drag you into itself to do autodamage. We all know something like this won't make it into the final rules because it's simple, elegant, and was in 4e (Swarm monsters), but there's no reason to let that stop you at your table.
Suggestion from Mike Mearls on Tweeter 6 mintues ago:



Suggestion for handling lots of creatures that have advantage - roll all attacks at once, re-roll only the misses. #dndnext




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I wouldn't object to making advantage/ disadvantage into a PC-only mechanic with NPCs using static modifiers to their rolls.

That would solve the 'too many rolls' issue since the PCs (normally) only ever have to roll for one character.


Carl



This also means when the NPCs get "advantage" they get a +2 bonus, but when PCs get "advantage" they get an effective +5 bonus.

Sure, you can do that. Your players will probably love you while you try to figure out ways to scale encounters to adjust for this massive PC bias. But you can do it. 
2) Another idea, since the second die only matters when the first misses, roll the number of attacks then reroll missed attacks once. This will decrease crits, since the crit after hit never gets rolled, but that seems acceptable to decrease the dice rolled.




This is what I've been doing, but I do realize that crit reduction is going to be an issue. Clearly the roll two dice mechanic is breaking down with large numbers of combatants so there's going to have to be a system put in place to abstract these numbers or provide a damage boost.
You could just also roll percentile to see how many hit.  Then use average damage per hit.  Unless you get only a small number of hits, then, by all means, roll all the dice.

This could also be used for mass combat.  

Lets say you have two armies.  1 has 1,000 soldiers, with 15 hit points each, and deal 5 points of damage on average.

The other is a smaller group of seasoned veterans.  They have 200 soldiers, with 30 hit points each, and deal 7 points of damage on average. 

The larger force moves to swarm the veteran contingent.  Lets assume the larger force hits with 50% of it's attacks, while the vets hit with 55%.  The larger force deals  2500 points of damage.  This wipes out 83 of the vets.  The vets on the other hand dish out a combined 700 points of damage, which takes out 140 of the larger army.  
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In every version of D&D since the original version, whenever I have attacks in numbers of NPCs greater than a dozen, I throw out the basic rules and implement a percentage-based model so that I can roll hits and damage quickly. With 40 kobolds I'd quickly caclulate the percentage chance for a kobold to hit, multiply that by the number of kobolds and multiply that by the average damage. I MIGHT, if I'm feeling like the party needs some sense of urgency, also calculate in the chance of critical hits, but usually not.

I usually have a calculator with me so this is something I can do on the fly in seconds. I don't even bother with dice. 
Oops, I meant the vets hit 70% of the time. Lol
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I wouldn't object to making advantage/ disadvantage into a PC-only mechanic with NPCs using static modifiers to their rolls.

That would solve the 'too many rolls' issue since the PCs (normally) only ever have to roll for one character.


Carl



This also means when the NPCs get "advantage" they get a +2 bonus, but when PCs get "advantage" they get an effective +5 bonus.

Sure, you can do that. Your players will probably love you while you try to figure out ways to scale encounters to adjust for this massive PC bias. But you can do it. 



Or, just give the NPCs a +5 bonus instead. The system seems to be focused on having the PCs and monsters be in that middle ground of to-hit numbers anyway, so it would work out to around the same thing. [apart from not giving the NPCs an increased chance to crit].
I didn't experience this until the 18 rats.  Fortunately the wizard used burning hands after round one.

In my game, they chased the fighter into the pit trap. The fighter then climbed out and the rogue threw burning oil in the pit. I was so proud.



Why didn't the rats climb after him? They don't even need to make a check and they move at full speed unlike the fighter.
Not that it matters, but if I were running the Kobolds I would have had them all do something other than attack. Realistically, in a group of 40 to 1, not everyone is going to do the same thing. Some might try to get the Whelps out of the way, while the others form up into a defensive position, while some others rush forward to stop the intruder from advancing. Also, if they're all just sitting around in the common room, chances are good that they're not really going to be "battle-ready" out of the gate. But, I don't suppose there's one "right" or "wrong" way to run a group of monsters.

Just remember, also, that Advantage/Disadvantage cancel each other out. So, while the Kobolds have advantage against a foe that they outnumber, they also have Disadvantage if they fall within a torch's (or any other light giving effect's) "bright light" radius. In that case, they only roll 1d20 as normal.

I wonder, though, if the Advantage/Disadvantage rule is the problem or if it's that there were just too many enemies to keep track of. IMO, 40 attack rolls would be just too many to make at once with or without Advantage/Disadvantage.
Not that it matters, but if I were running the Kobolds I would have had them all do something other than attack. Realistically, in a group of 40 to 1, not everyone is going to do the same thing. Some might try to get the Whelps out of the way, while the others form up into a defensive position, while some others rush forward to stop the intruder from advancing. Also, if they're all just sitting around in the common room, chances are good that they're not really going to be "battle-ready" out of the gate. But, I don't suppose there's one "right" or "wrong" way to run a group of monsters.

Just remember, also, that Advantage/Disadvantage cancel each other out. So, while the Kobolds have advantage against a foe that they outnumber, they also have Disadvantage if they fall within a torch's (or any other light giving effect's) "bright light" radius. In that case, they only roll 1d20 as normal.

I wonder, though, if the Advantage/Disadvantage rule is the problem or if it's that there were just too many enemies to keep track of. IMO, 40 attack rolls would be just too many to make at once with or without Advantage/Disadvantage.



Well, according to the map included with the adventure this room has 25 squares and 40 kobolds.  I don't think they exactly have many tactical options when they are stacked in there like a wood pile.