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A wizard rounds a corner to find two kobolds brandishing their weapons. Roll initiative!

The DM determines that neither side is surprised. The DM then makes a single initiative roll (10) for the two kobolds, since they are identical creatures (PHB, p. 189). The wizard has a great roll (15) and goes first.

The wizard decides that it's better to be safe than sorry and upcasts hold person to 3rd-level, targeting both kobolds. One kobold fails the save and becomes paralyzed, but the other (miraculously) succeeds. The wizard now feels confident in their success and closes to within 5 feet of both kobolds.

It's time for the kobolds to act. Kobolds have the Pack Tactics trait, which grants them advantage on attack rolls against a creature if a non-incapacitated ally is within 5 feet of that creature. One of the kobolds is paralyzed, which means it is also incapacitated. Hold person grants an additional save at the end of the affected kobold's turns.

Each kobold should have their own turn, but does one turn complete before the other, possibly allowing the paralyzed kobold to save vs hold person? In short, is there any way that the non-paralyzed kobold gains advantage from Pack Tactics on this initiative count this round?

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The monsters act in an order of the DM's choosing.

This is implied in the rules for Initiative in the Basic Rules (emphasis mine):

...When combat starts, every participant makes a Dexterity check to determine their place in the initiative order. The DM makes one roll for an entire group of identical creatures, so each member of the group acts at the same tim.... the DM decides the order among tied DM-controlled creatures...

In the full context of that rules passage, the DM decides ties among creatures who roll the same initiative count. When rolling initiative once for a group of monsters, the entire group shares the same initiative count. Therefore, the DM can decide the order that those monsters act, since they are effectively tied.

Thus, the DM will probably decide either the most favorable order for their monsters or the most satisfying order for the agency of the players. In your example, it would be in the monsters' favor to let the kobold save out of paralysis first to possibly allow its ally to leverage Pack Tactics; it would be in the wizard's favor to reverse that order. Either is within the DM's purview, and the DM should decide based on the pace of the encounter and what works best for the table and the group.

Note that the DM might decide that order dynamically each round or might decide it statically once at the start of combat. The rules can be read to support either style. However, in my experience as a DM, it's very hard to remember a static order among a bunch of identical creatures and is in general not worth the effort as long as you don't disproportionately favor the monsters over the players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth noting that, according to Jeremy Crawford, the intent is: "The initiative rules assume that ties are sorted out when a tie first occurs. But a DM might allow the choice to occur each round." (The tweet was originally made in the context of controlled mounts having their own turn on the rider's initiative, either before or after the rider's turn.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 16 at 2:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've sworn off quoting Jeremy Crawford going forward. You might consider spinning that into your own answer. I will add a paragraph about whether the DM should choose a static or dynamic order, however. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Mar 16 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ So when the quoted part says "each member of the group acts at the same time", it's just referring to initiative count? \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Starnes Mar 16 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, since the game rules don't support simultaneous turns. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Mar 16 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does 5th edition allow delaying your action in a round? For example you wait for your ally to cast faerie fire before making your attack even though your initiative is higher? In earlier editions you could although I think you usually ended up with your initiative being lower from then on. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Mar 16 at 23:48

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