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The Animate Objects spell description says:

You decide what action the creature will take and where it will move during its next turn, or you can issue a general command, such as to guard a particular chamber or corridor.

This makes it clear that the animated objects have their own turn, but it doesn't explicitly state what their initiative is.

Are they supposed to roll initiative using their Dex modifiers (either individually or with their size class)? This would be as in the Find Familiar spell:

In combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn.

Or do they act immediately after the caster? This would be as in the Summon Beast spell:

In combat, the creature shares your initiative count, but it takes its turn immediately after yours.

Or does this simply require a decision by the DM?


I have realized that one key difference between the spells I cited explains their different treatments of initiative: their casting times.

Find Familiar has a casting time of 1 hour, so it will never be cast during combat. Combat will have begun substantially after the spell was cast, which is why the familiar must roll initiative to determine how quickly it's able to react to the start of hostilities relative to everyone else.

Summon Beast and Animate Objects, however, both have casting times of 1 action, so their summoned creatures will typically appear mid-encounter. As such, those creatures should begin to act as soon as they arrive, as would be true for anyone who shows up to the battle mid-combat.

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There isn't any explicit rule as written on this subject.

Under the animate objects spell description, it explicitly states that they act on their turn. But there is no reference to when that turn happens. The vast majority of people I have seen talk about the answer to this question have supported that the objects roll a collective initiative and act on that initiative. Some people have argued that they go right after the mage, which was my initial impression, but it seems this is a less popular opinion. I have seen the argument made that they should go right after the mage who casts the spell to speed up combat, but from my experience it makes little difference to the speed of combat when compared to them rolling their own initiative.


With that said, the basis of this majority opinion (that the animated objects roll initiative when the spell is cast) is that the objects get a turn, but it doesn't say when their turn is, so what is done according to rules as written for determining the order of turns in a round? Roll initiative. However, with a close reading of the rules for initiative, one would find that there isn't a rule to determine initiative after the start of combat, here is what is written, 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.

With that being the case, there isn't actually a written rule for determining the objects' initiative, only that the objects' initiative is what determines their order in combat, this weakens the stance of the majority opinion which usually uses RaW as their axiom for determining that you roll initiative for the objects when the spell is cast.

Arguments can be made to what is RaI, but both sides can be just as well supported by doing so.

I would conclude that it is up to the DM to determine when the objects get a turn. I would suggest you talk with your DM about how the spell is ruled.


Possible ways you can determine when the animated objects get their turn, and my experience with them:

  1. They can be given their turn right after the caster

    • from my experience, I consider the spell too powerful when treated in this way. This spell is the biggest sustained damage per round spell in the entire game with the stipulation that AoE counter's it. Against many encounters that don't have AoE this spell becomes perhaps the single strongest ability in the game if it can be maintained. Even against something with AoE, this spell can get crazy value when treated in this manner. Cast it when able to get on the other side of full cover, it obtains good damage, and when you are isolated far enough from the objects you can make sure you aren't caught in the AoE, so on top of good damage it burns an AoE ability and action of the enemy. In my experience, even against enemies that have AoE to deal with it, the spell has been capable of dealing high damage in a single turn, then requiring the enemy to burn an action to deal with it, which doesn't catch any PC in its AoE if they play it right.
  2. They can roll initiative when the spell is cast

    • This gets a little awkward, because a high initiative isn't exactly good, the best initiative for the objects is right after the mage, so initiative doesn't properly measure the objects' ability to act fast, it just determines their turn order. I have seen this fixed by using a reverse mod 20 system where 20 is at the mage's initiative. So on a 20 the object's share the mage's initiative and go immediately after the mage, the objects initiative is equal to the mage's initiative minus (20 - d20), if it goes below 0 it starts counting back from 20.
  3. You can rule that the objects get their turn immediately before the mage. If you do treat the spell this way, write it into your homebrew and house rules you give the players at session 0 so nobody is disappointed when they get to using the spell.

    • I've seen a DM who treats it this way, animate objects is a really strong spell, this makes it a little more situational and not a go to spell against enemies in such a broad set of situations. This is actually my preferred way of treating this spell, I find that this is an unpopular opinion though.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used any of these systems and talk more about the practical pros and cons of them? At the end of the day, turns are fluid, so if the daggers are 'before', then they just act on orders when it's their turn. Same with after- I'm not seeing a difference in tableplay. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 12 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have seen each of these used in practice. Seems like the majority of DM's I've played with aren't aware that they don't explicitly have a rule that says they go after the caster's turn until after it is brought up. So in most cases I've seen DM's let the objects go right after the mage. I've had DM's that say they roll initiative, and I have had one DM that said for balance's sake they go before the mage, though this was in his list of rulings we were given before character creation, he had a list of spells he treated differently from RaW too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 12 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't buy your argument that "there isn't a rule to determine initiative after the start of combat," so "this weakens the stance of the majority opinion." It's fairly common for new enemies or allies to show up mid-battle. What is RAW (or, absent that, common practice) for adding them to the combat order? That would seem to also be applicable here. \$\endgroup\$
    – gto
    Mar 20 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point, I didn't specify it in that sentence, but I was tackling the question by picking apart the written rules. While there isn't a written rule for determining initiative mid-combat, that doesn't mean there isn't a 'rule' for it that people use. I feel like I protected my argument by the overall context though, The beginning sentence and in general, aside from the sentence you quoted I explicitly said written rule. I tackled the question with a heavy focus on RaW, it wouldn't hurt to have another answer that focuses on what 'common practice' entails. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 21 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that common practice may vary. From my experience, creatures added to the combat roll initiative when they enter. Problem is I've seen common practice be that creatures are added to the combat only between rounds to respect their initiative and the players' initiative. Summoning mid combat breaks the axioms of why that is a common practice unless the summon doesn't roll initiative until the start of the next round; this itself is problematic because it could mean a creature gets 2 turns before the summoned objects do. It doesn't properly reflect something coming in mid-combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 21 at 17:27
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The spell neither specifies, nor is there a general rule that dictates what happens when a creature enters a battle after initiative has been rolled. Its completely up to the gm

I personally recommend the animated object to have an initiative of 1. That's the initiative I use for any creature entering combat late

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    \$\begingroup\$ We do ask that answers be fully supported by either rules or subjective experience done or seen. You can read more about our citation expectations here. You're doing a great job in becoming active here, but please review your answers with the guidelines and expectations we review in the Meta linked above. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 26 at 13:39

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