Let's say Bob really wants Fred to act quickly for an eventual fight which they feel will come soon.

Can Bob repeatedly give Fred the Help Action for his eventual Initiative roll ("Stay focused! Stay focused! Stay focused!") in order to give Fred Initiative advantage when the encounter begins?

  • 1
    I know it's possible to Help outside of combat, I'm asking if it's possible to help for an eventual Initiative. I don't think this should be marked as a dupplicate. – Gael L Oct 19 at 15:25
  • 4
    Not sure this is a dupe, since this question is specifically about initiative, which I think is a unique enough case that it isn't covered by the more general answer of the dupe. [EDIT: What Gael L just said as I was writing my comment :P] – NathanS Oct 19 at 15:26
  • 1
    What makes Bob think that yelling "Stay focused! Stay focused! Stay focused!" actually helps his friend to stay focused? – enkryptor Oct 19 at 17:09
  • 5
    @enkryptor Every micromanaging boss? – NautArch Oct 19 at 17:18

It's unlikely

What you are asking for is to be able to perform an action before combat begins. That's effectively granting a free, or even a surprise, round to that creature.

Whether you are using an Action to Help, to cast a spell, or anything else is still effectively granting a free action when no other creature gets one.

Surprise

This is really the only in-combat method for getting an opportunity to act before it really begins. However, in most combat situations this mechanic is unlikely going to get a chance to be used (and it's also after initiative is rolled.)

Repeated Help

Saying you go around every 6 seconds providing "help" to something just isn't realistic. You don't exactly know what you're helping someone to do. How are you helping them get a faster initiative? What are you specifically doing in the specific case of that combat? It's just not a normal way of acting and there isn't a way to constantly "help" someone in this manner.

When trying to figure out a way to work, do note that requirements for using Helping, or Working Together, on ability checks:

A character can only provide help if the task is one that he or she could attempt alone.

Moreover, a character can help only when two or more individuals working together would actually be productive.

  • 5
    The last point is key, and probably can be generalized: If there's no conceivable way that you can help someone, then you can't take the Help action. – Mark Wells Oct 19 at 16:33

The requirement for using the Help action are twofold:

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

  1. The thing you're helping with must be an ability check, and
  2. You must actually be helping with it.

As @XAQT78 pointed out, Initiative is an ability check, so condition 1 is satisfied:

DEXTERITY (PHB pg. 177)

Initiative - At the beginning of every combat, you roll initiative by making a Dexterity check. Initiative determines the order of creatures' turns in combat, as described in chapter 9.

Condition 2 is harder to meet. You'd need to come up with a realistic way in which you could help someone react faster than they would naturally. I would say this would be a very rare circumstance. Certainly the example in the question would not work, since repeatedly saying "Stay focused!" would be counterproductive to detecting and responding to threats.

I can think of one circumstance where I might allow this, which might highlight the limited opportunities to do this trick. If the party was setting up an ambush, I might allow a character acting as a lookout to use Perception to Help the party's initiative rolls by coordinating the timing of the ambush. In this case:

  1. There is a clear action: a perception check to judge the best time to attack
  2. It occurs immediately (< 6 sec) before the Initiative check needs to be made
  3. It is logical (though DM logic may vary) that this help could make it more likely that a character would act before their enemy.

Yes.

Dexterity (relative PHB pg. 177)

Initiative - At the beginning of every combat, you roll initiative by making a Dexterity check. Initiative determines the order of creatures' turns in combat, as described in chapter 9.

Surprising Foes (supportive PHB pg. 183)

If the adventurers encounter a hostile creature or group, the DM determines whether the adventurers or their foes might be surprised when combat erupts. See chapter 9 for more about surprise.

The Order of Combat (supportive PHB sidebar pg. 189)

  1. Determine surprise (DM controls if / when this happens)
  2. Establish positions (DM controls setup of PC and mobs)
  3. Roll initiative (PCs roll individually, DM rolls for groups)
  4. Take turns (surprised do not act on first turn)
  5. Begin the next round. (restart initiative, surprised now can act)

Surprise (supportive PHB pg. 189)

If you're surprised, you can't move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can't take a reaction until that turn ends.

Initiative (relative PHB pg. 189)

Initiative determines the order of turns during combat. When combat starts, every participant makes a Dexterity check to determine their place in the initiative order.

Help (relative PHB pg. 192)

You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn.

RAW

  • Surprise is established before combat ✔️
  • Dexterity check for Initiative ✔️
  • Dexterity is an ability check ✔️
  • Advantage on ability check ✔️
  • Give another party member advantage on Initiative roll ✔️

The OP is talking about Help and Initiative so those are relative, anything else is either supportive or moot.

There is no more surprise round. Surprise happens before combat is even started. If a character or more is surprised, then don't act during there first turn.

Initiative means combat has already started, so a PC would not gain surprise, only benefit off the top of my head is Assassin class feature Assassinate gain advantage on creature who haven't taken a turn in combat yet.

In actuality, with you "Helping" the other player, you as a character are distracted from Perception (passive/roll) to notice surprise.

There would need to be some RP or another ability check i.e. Perception like mentioned previously and not metagame talk of "I use Help action to give the Rogue advantage on Dexterity check for Initiative"

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – NautArch Oct 19 at 18:43
  • By RAW I actually agree that you can. I believe it comes down to if you can actually help someone prepare or not and that is a DM call. However your answer doesn't do a great job of explaining it. You quote a bunch of rules and then explain why any other answer is wrong without actually explaining your reasoning. Plus the paragraphs seem disjointed and hard to follow. I agree with your reasoning but not with the way it is presented. – linksassin Oct 20 at 6:51

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.