Inspired by debate on this question's answer, are the rolls made for Initiative considered checks (for purposes such as Conditions affecting them)?


2 Answers 2


Initiative is a concept; however, any roll made for it is a check

Initiative references using checks when determining its value

Typically, you’ll roll a Perception check to determine your initiative [...] some other type of check. [...] Stealth check. A social encounter could call for a Deception or Diplomacy check.

Additionally, the following line shows that Initiative rolls are checks, just with modified rules.

Unlike a typical check, where the result is compared to a DC, the results of initiative rolls are ranked.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the title is a bit confusing, as it does not answer the question directly. You seem to conclude that checks are made to resolve initiative, but there is no such thing as an actual "Initiative check" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the Additionally phrase: It is not the rolling of dice which is compared, it is the resolution of the result which is compared, in this case not a DC, rather ranked. This does neither support nor oppose whether initiative is a check. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I misunderstood this answer as saying "initiative is a check", but upon a thourough rereading actually says "One does not "roll initiative directly, so that is not a check, but the check for determining initiative value is a check." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 16:36

Initiative is not a check

The rules on checks describe exactly what a check is (emphasis mine):

  1. Roll a d20 and identify the modifiers, bonuses, and penalties that apply.
  2. Calculate the result.
  3. Compare the result to the difficulty class (DC).
  4. Determine the degree of success and the effect.

Anything which does not follow this is not a check. Initiative does not have a difficulty class (requirement #3) and does not have degrees of success (requirement #4). Under the definition of a check, initiative is not one.

Additionally, the rules on initiative consistently refer to an "initiative roll", but never an "initiative check". This is contrary to the more general treatment of checks throughout the rules, which are explicitly described as checks.

Initiative is a step in an encounter.

So what is initiative? According to the rules on encounters, initiative is the first step in the structure of an encounter. Although a roll is necessary to complete this step, initiative is not that roll.

The same is true for the other steps. For example, the second step is to "play a round". Although a player on their turn may make several checks, none of those checks is a "play a round check". Even though rolls happen and may be necessary to play a round, playing a round is not a check.

Initiative may involve checks

Rolling for initiative says:

Typically, you’ll roll a Perception check to determine your initiative [...] Sometimes, though, the GM might call on you to roll some other type of check. [...] if you were Avoiding Notice during exploration (page 479), you’d roll a Stealth check. A social encounter could call for a Deception or Diplomacy check.

As a part of the roll initiative step of an encounter, participants may make a check. The rules of that step specify the most common checks (Perception, Stealth, Diplomacy). These are explicitly called out as being checks and as being exceptions to the normal process of a check.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would humbly suggest that "Unlike a typical check," especially when the thing has been referred to as a check already, implies "this is an atypical or special case of a check." If they meant it's not a check at all, it would have been correct to say, "Unlike a check...." \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Y-yes? Yes, they did say it was a check, in @ifusaso's first quote. That's why I say "when the thing has been referred to as a check already." I am confused by your comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 5:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then I think your position is a semantic distinction which makes no difference. Whether an initiative roll is a check and is affected by things affecting checks; or contains a check which is itself affected by things affecting checks makes no obvious difference to me. But as long as we are on the same page, I am content. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 6:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think that there have been any reasonable reasons for downvoting this answer: It clearly states the logic behind the conclusion, backed up by references to the actual rules (as presented by AON). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KasperThystrupKarstensen One of the valid reasons for downvoting is that, by your understanding, the answer is incorrect. I don't bring this up to advocate downvoting indigochild's well-reasoned answer, only to reaffirm the boundaries of the website. I generally agree it should be used sparingly, more for incorrectly framed answers, but users doing so are within their expectations from the site. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 14:50

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