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The 5th ed Players handbook states that

The GM makes one roll for an entire group of identical creatures, so each member of the group acts at the same time.

Historically in other systems I have rolled initiative for all NPC’s individually, allowing for the fact some may react quicker then there counterparts.

Has the reason for this bulk rolling of NPCs ever been explained, or is it simply a mechanic to make things run smoother?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just an FYI: questions seeking designer reasoning are off-topic. If you're strictly asking about the mechanics then that should be fine, though you may need to modify the question, but if you are looking for explanations/quotes from the designers then that isn't something suited to this site anymore. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7 '20 at 8:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no such thing as a "mechanical reason". Are you looking for an in-game rationalization of this? (That would be an opinion-based Q, though.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Sep 7 '20 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, another way to ask the question would be something like "what is the mechanical benefit of rolling one initiative for a group creatures over rolling individually". \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7 '20 at 10:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega even though the improved phrasing suggested by Purple Monkey might be better, the topic of this question seems (IMHO) perfectly understandable and fitting, unless you wade into nit-picking too much. Of course there is such a thing – do you not consider it a good enough name for a purpose some rule/mechanism migh fullfill in the larger scheme of things? \$\endgroup\$
    – J.E
    Sep 7 '20 at 12:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ This could also be asked as a game history question, since the OP's frame-setting experience is in other "systems" (editions?). For example, it could be that the change to group initiative has to do with the advent of features like the expectation of three-round combats, or monsters with abilities that can affect one another like 'pack tactics'. Such a formulation would still need to be careful to avoid designer intent and focus on consequences of mechanics, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 7 '20 at 13:58
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It speeds up combat

If you are facing 20 Goblins, it's a lot quicker to have them all act at the same time, rather than having them act one by one, which involves tracking an extra 19 initiative slots.

The flip side to this is that once your group gets too large, there's a very real possibility that they are going to be able to take down a player from full HP while not a single player got to act inbetween.

That's why it's often smarter to divide the monsters up in smaller groups, such as having 3 groups of 5 goblins each, instead of having one initiative block of 15 goblins. That way, you still keep the game going quickly, but you don't run the risk of 2 players dying before they even got to act because the goblins happened to roll a 20.

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