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Initiative 5e DnD: How to Calculate

When danger appears, who will be first on the scene? In turn-based tabletop gaming, you have to know who goes first. By calculating your player’s initiative, who goes first is often determined in Dungeons & Dragons. How does one calculate their initiative in DnD 5e? 

How to calculate initiative is usually the first of many confusing steps. It doesn’t appear linked to any other skill on the character sheet. It’s a mystery how they decide when the monster gets to attack. Some newbies may be inclined to ignore that portion of the character sheet. But that would be ill-advised!

Calculate Initiative with Dexterity

The initiative is essentially a dexterity check. It allows the Dungeon Master (DM) to incorporate your players’ reaction time to the initiation of combat. How fast can your player dodge out of the way of a charging Owlbear? Knowing how quickly your player reacts to a particular threat, your DM can better plan combat.

To calculate your initiative, you first must find your dexterity score. The ability score starts with the letter “D,” generally the second one listed in your ability scores. You then need to locate your ability score modifier, usually the smaller number. 

Most Common Way to Determine Initiative 5e

The most common way to determine initiative is to roll a d20 and add your initiative bonus, your dexterity modifier, plus any extra bonuses from feats or other conditional elements your player may have. You let your DM know, and you can count on the order staying the same for the rest of combat. 

Less Common Way to Determine Initiative 5e

Your DM may also use one of the less common ways of calculating initiative. For example, some DMs use the initiative “score,” 10 + your initiative with no modifiers. Your surroundings may affect your initiative. Depending on where your player is on the board or who is around them, you may gain bonuses or take penalties. You have to keep track of those bystanders. 

When in Doubt…

One of the most important things to remember is that whatever your DM says is the rule. Dungeons & Dragons contains worlds and worlds of possibility. I’ve given you the most basic ways to calculate initiative. Still, if your DM has their homebrew way of calculating initiative, it would be in your player’s best interest not to challenge them. 

We hope you enjoyed this Initiative 5e guide, why not check out our Warlock 5e Guide or our full DnD Races List.

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