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All combatants make an initiative roll at the start of combat. This roll determines the order in which characters act. A higher initiative may be important to certain classes that benefit from acting early in a fight. This includes rogues with first strike, defenders, and so on; however, nearly all characters will prefer to act early rather than late.

The primary attribute for initiative is Dexterity, though other stats may be used through the use of feats (for example, Wisdom with Wary Fighter or Battlewise). Other effects can add modifiers, such as bonuses from feats and class features or penalties from circumstance or monster powers.

Initiative = d20 + Dexterity Modifier + Initiative Modifiers

The character with a higher initiative roll acts first in combat, followed by the next-highest and so on. Typically player characters roll their own initiative (though the DM may handle this as well), and the DM handles rolling the initiatives of NPCs (both friendly allies and monsters), traps, and other entities that will take turns in combat.

Feats that affect initiative[]

Feat Prerequisites Benefits
Battle Hardened - +2 feat bonus to initiative checks, +5 feat bonus to saving throws against fear effects
Battle Intuition Deva Can use Wisdom instead of Dexterity for initiative checks, +2 feat bonus to initiative checks
Battlewise - Can use Wisdom instead of Dexterity for initiative checks
Bred for Battle Mul +2 racial bonus to initiative checks, gain +1 to attack rolls and speed during the first round of an encounter
Combat Commander Warlord, Combat Leader class feature, Level 11+ Power bonus to initiative from Combat Leader increases from 2 to the higher of your Charisma modifier or Intelligence modifier
Courageous Mind Human, any Psionic class +2 bonus to initiative, gain +1 bonus to saving throws when bloodied
Danger Sense Level 11+ When making an initiative check, roll twice and take the higher result
Divination Mastery Ritual Caster feat, mastered Read Omens + 1 other Divination ritual +2 feat bonus to initiative checks, can master and perform divination rituals as if 4 levels higher, 1/day can ignore the component cost of a mastered divination ritual your level or lower
Duty's Virtue - +2 feat bonus to initiative checks, 1/round can use Aid defense as a minor action on a bloodied ally
Expert Combat Leader Warlord, Combat Leader class feature Power bonus from Combat Leader increases from +2 to +3
Group Insight Half-elf +1 racial bonus to Insight checks and initiative checks for allies within 10 squares
Imperious Majesty Tiefling Can use Charisma instead of Dexterity for initiative checks, if you hit a creature that hasn't yet acted in the encounter, it takes a penalty to attack rolls against you equal to your Charisma modifier until the end of your next turn
Improved Initiative - +4 feat bonus to initiative checks
Martial Alacrity Charisma 15, any Martial class +2 feat bonus to initiative checks, can take the shift action as a minor action during the first turn of an encounter
Mythic Senses Minotaur, Level 21+ Can make a Perception check in place of an initiative check
Quick Draw Dexterity 13 +2 feat bonus to initiative checks, can draw a weapon or an object as part of the same action used to attack with the weapon or use the object
Superior Initiative Level 21+ +8 feat bonus to initiative checks
Wary Fighter Fighter Can use Wisdom instead of Dexterity for initiative checks, +2 to Insight checks and Perception checks
Wasteland Wanderer - +2 feat bonus to initiative, Nature, and Perception checks

Initiative in gaming culture[]

Tycho stares forward grimly, holding a twenty-sided die. Background text reads "Roll for initiative".

This Penny Arcade design illustrates the meaning of rolling initiative in gaming culture.

The use of initiative to determine combat order dates back to the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1977. A Dungeon Master's instruction to the players to roll initiative has become an iconic signal that a combat encounter has begun. By extension, in broader gaming culture, a threat or a demand to roll initiative humorously signifies an ambush, imminent combat, or a challenge to combat.