The rule for initiative in PHB read (emphasis mine)

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

I usually thought that identical creature stands for with the same stats block: for example, in a situation where a party is fighting 3 trolls and 2 ogres I read the above rule as rolling one d20 for the trolls' group and one d20 for the ogres'.

Other DMs would extend identical to a wider meaning (see enkryptor's answer to "Is this house-rule that has each monster/NPC roll initiative separately (even when there are multiple creatures of the same kind) game-breaking?"): for example, a dragon and their kobolds army fighting the party may be considered identical creatures in the sense that they are allies, as belonging to the same group of enemies.

Is there any RAW interpretation of the word identical in this context of initiative roll?


1 Answer 1


Frame challenge: this isn't actually important.

As I noted in my answer to your other question about initiative, this is not a game balance issue. The initiative "rules" about rolling once for groups of identical monsters are there to make your life easier - use them if you want, don't if you don't. So it doesn't matter what identical means here. Just use the method that works for you and your table.

"Identical" means "uses the same statblock".

The basic English definition of identical is:

Adjective. similar in every detail; exactly alike.

A dragon and a kobold are in no sense identical. Being allies does not make two creatures identical. Being exactly alike in every detail makes two creatures identical, and the details of a creature, at least for the purposes of running combat, are found in the statblock.

It is important to note, this is how I understand and interpret the word. There is no canonical rules-as-written definition.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I got your point in the your answer to my other question, and I agree with you. Here I am not considering an alternative/house rule and wondering if it is unbalanced or not, I would like to know if there is or not a unique way to interpret "identical". I always used the common English meaning and I applied it to the stat block, but I was surprised that someone is using a different meaning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'd have to ask that answerer what they think identical means. As far as I can see, identical means "uses the same stat block", as Thomas says. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym That's what I've done in the comments below that answer. Indeed, the example about dragon and kobolds in my question comes from that comment, and the answerer confirmed that their reading of the rules (could) support considering dragon and kobolds "identical". \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 20:36

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