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I rolled a 20 for initiative in a pickup game today and I realized that I didn't know if that was supposed to be treated specially, like some other rolls treat a natural 20.

Does rolling a natural 20 for initiative confer anything special to the roller in any version of D&D, Pathfinder, or other D&D variant?

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Okay. I've edited the background context into your question. That might prevent it from being closed. Idle curiosity/speculation questions tend to get closed, so knowing why this is a question that needs an answer is helpful! –  SevenSidedDie Mar 21 '13 at 0:30
    
I'm not sure whether this is a rule, or just how I've played (thus not an answer), but I treat it as an automatic first in the order UNLESS someone else gets a natural 20 AND has a higher initiative bonus. –  Garan Mar 21 '13 at 3:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, there is not.

Generally, “checks” (ability checks, skill checks, initiative checks) do not have critical effects, and there are some very good reasons for that (5% failure rate is inappropriate for most of them, plus in many cases what would happen on “auto-success” is very unclear: take Jump for example).

Natural-1s on saving throws, attack rolls, some of the opposed rolls (grappling, etc), is auto-failure. Natural-20s on the same rolls, and so on, is auto-success. In attacks’ case, there is also a chance of a critical hit on a natural-20 (or less for some weapons).

Generally speaking, expanding these rules to other sorts of checks is very ill-advised.

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I remember reading somewhere that auto-success stops odd things happening like taking 20 to jump over the moon. –  StuperUser Mar 21 '13 at 0:20
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@StuperUser Other way around: lack of auto-success on Jump checks prevents that. It also prevents that weird "5% chance to forget your mother's name" or whatever on the nat-1 side. –  KRyan Mar 21 '13 at 0:40

Not that I am aware of. Also, natural 20s on skill rolls don't generally give any special benefit, although house rules may change that. Natural 20s on saving throws do auto-succeed, but other than that, have no extra benefits.

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Actually, saving throws use natural 20s and natural 1s just as attack rolls do, in D&D 3.5 at least. –  Zachiel Mar 20 '13 at 23:14
    
3.0, likewise, has benefits from nat 20 on skill rolls and saves, as well as attacks. Initiative is a stat roll, and the stat/skill nat20 may open end as 1d20+10+mods is still an official option... not one that most employ, however. –  aramis Mar 20 '13 at 23:26
    
3.5 has no benefits from a 20 on a skill check. I did miss the auto-save, though. Also, not familliar with any open-ending in d20 aramis. –  YogoZuno Mar 21 '13 at 7:40
    
@YogoZuno check in the optional rules in the DMG. –  aramis Mar 23 '13 at 3:17

In 4e I don't think natural 20 on initiative is anything special. Your DM could have house rules on that beyond the core rules. One thing I might do is if someone rolled a natural 20 on initiative at the start of an encounter, they may get a surprise round against the enemies(if one is not already in motion).

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