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What is advantage?

This question was asked earlier and addressed something that while trivial, is a significant rules query. The term advantage, while having a specific meaning in 5e, is used as a noun without an article which is uncommon in typical English grammar.

The question was generated by genuine confusion (likely a failure to read the complete rules, but whatever). Seeing this as a likely frequent scenario, and a question that could come up on countless occasions, I did something about it. I edited the question into a canonical "what is advantage" question.

Apparently missing the point, a moderator closed the question. There is a good answer on this question already, it's going to be a question that a lot of people have. Yeah, it's low hanging fruit, but it's a question we can dupe other questions into.

What's the point of closing this question? It's a valid question, and it benefits the site.

The larger issue though is that this is a first question from a new user. We accommodate tons of these for other systems. By closing a valid first question from a new user we're driving them away, not helping them feel at home here.

Note: My first instinct was to close this, it's a simple rules question, surely there was something we could dupe it to...but no, we don't have a question that asks "what is advantage?" so I edited this to be it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Advantage" is never a verb? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '14 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie typically when it's used as a noun it's used with an article "an advantate" or "the advantage". It's rarely simply you gain "advantage" \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Aug 21 '14 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle "Now I have the advantage!" "Oh, no, he's gained the advantage!" "I'm going to roll Create an Advantage." It's not that "advantage" is rarely used as a noun--I think you meant to say that "advantage" is rarely used as a noun without an article. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 21 '14 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the question was slightly, marginally better (and very slightly less likely to get closed in the first place) in its original form. Since it was only changed to make it more generally useful as a duplicate target, but appears to be staying quite closed in its current form, we might as well restore it to what the asker asked. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '14 at 16:41
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We do not need trivial rules definitions littering this site. We might as well have "What is Armor Class," "What is a longsword," "What is a Dexterity saving throw," "What is an orc," etc. We are not here to reproduce rulebooks in their entirety, one snippet at a time. "Canonical" or not. These are not valid. Furthermore, for non-open licensed systems, I think we start to surpass the bounds of fair use as the only possible answer is 'reprint the rule here.'

This is different than "I don't understand how something works." This is something in the index, a "you didn't bother to look this up" question. It "shows no research effort," in the words of the downvote button. We do not add value to the site by fielding these. "It's in the index, man." is the proper response. I understand and sympathize with those that have trouble reading a RPG book, but that's not a problem we can or should fix here; same with basic math. I'd close "the book says to round down, how do I round down" too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The point though is that 1. It's a new mechanic so it may not be obvious (it certainly wasn't to the asker) that it's actually a mechanical term. And 2. it's a word being used in a specific way that differs from it's common usage. You don't address either of these two points in this answer. Lots of places in the rules say "you have advantage" that if you missed the section on the term, you'd be quite confused. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Aug 20 '14 at 23:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, it's not the mods place to police copyright. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Aug 20 '14 at 23:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because neither is relevant. A word used a bunch that then appears in the index might well be expected to be a game term - we're also not here to help with basic reading literacy. And all game terms are used in a different way from its common usage ("saving throw?" "longsword? that's incorrect historically..."). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 20 '14 at 23:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle It's a new mechanic, but it's a totally new game, so there's going to be new mechanics. If it's just explained by reading the book, that's the kind of question we tend to close. Inspiration is new too, and our question about it survived because it's about far more than what the rules will answer. I don't expect people to come here asking "this Fate game mentioned aspects. What's an aspect?" either - I expect them to read the book, and come here if there's something more they need to learn. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 20 '14 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle Building on Doppel's comment: if the question was "I read the rules for advantage and still don't get it, what does [line from explanation] mean and how do I use it with [advantage-related action option]?" that'd be much more supportable and answers would still probably contain all the information this question is asking for. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 20 '14 at 23:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. But please don't do that just to do it. Because it's Not A Real Question if that's not the real case. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 20 '14 at 23:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I absolutely support this closing. If there is confusion, ask about the confusion and the specifics of it. If there is a lack of reading, go read the bloody books. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 20 '14 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds about right. Just like asking "What's an aspect" in regards to Fate. If after reading it you don't understand and if it's not related to your understanding of English then try to identify what you don't understand. Not just "I don't get it". The question would be a valid one if it was about the wording of advantage (is it a trivial usage of the word or do I get the mechanical benefits?). No. It simply says "I don't get it". Please understand for me. At best it's unclear, at worse it's not a real question. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Aug 21 '14 at 3:54
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(Also left, concisely, as a comment on the question itself.)

I think a few things weigh in favor of leaving this open:

  1. Significant new mechanic. (Dis)advantage is a new mechanic for 5e, and it appears everywhere. If one were considering 5e and flipping through the book, thinking "I've always liked rogues, I wonder what the 5e rogue is like" you'd see lots of mention, but no definition.
  2. Clash with plain usage. (Dis)advantage is a commonplace-enough term in plain English that its use is not necessarily going to trigger alarm-bells in all readers' heads as to "oh, yeah, I do something different with the dice." It's just as likely to spur the thought "oh, I get an advantage. I wonder what advantage I get. Do I get to be invisible? I really like being invisible!"
  3. (Typically) poor content layout. The definition and description of (dis)advantage is separated enough from its usages in the book as to be likely-obscure to a first-time PHB reader. As I've stated elsewhere, my litmus test for when something's "too clear" is whether all of the rules necessary to interpret lie on a single page/in a single section. Once someone has to be flipping around to the "right" places in the book, I don't think it's unreasonable to be asking for help.

What to do with the question?

  1. I think it's on-topic, even if it's pretty low-hanging, just as WaxEagle said.
  2. I think it's worth having a pretty low score. It is one that doesn't show a lot of research effort.
  3. I think it's worth our empathy: I just think neither TSR nor WotC has ever done a good job of assembling a PHB to be accessible to someone who hasn't already mastered a previous PHB.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical context: at the time, we were receiving a whole lot of questions about D&D 5e that were very low quality, many of them just asking how things worked that were plainly explained in the rules, and everyone was just getting plain fed up with them. See Why Are Our 5e Questions Terrible?. I think the original version of the question might've been far more viable because it actually had a person genuinely not understanding, and it was revised & genericised to its detriment. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 25 '16 at 11:24

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