There are two class features, Perfect Self (PHB p. 79), and Relentless (PHB p.74), which contain the phrase 'when you roll for initiative.' Both allow the character to recover some expendable resources.

When using initiative variants (DMG p. 270-271), what's the best way to interpret this?

As written, these characters would gain their superiority dice much more frequently, or much less, depending on which variant you use. This doesn't feel right to me. Should I read the phrase 'when you roll for initiative' to mean 'when a combat encounter begins'?
What would be the negative consequences of making that substitution?


2 Answers 2


The feature is based the non-variant rules. In the non-variant rules, initiative is rolled "When combat starts." (basic rules, chapter 9, order of combat, initiative)

If we substitute this timing directly into the features, they clearly mean at the beginning of any combat.

The purpose of the variant initiative rule is to add variety to the combat order. The purpose is not to change the timing of class features. Therefore, the only reasonable way to treat this discrepancy is to leave the features as "at the beginning of each combat."

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that "when combat starts" makes sense. The fact is, it doesn't say that. Two encounters, back to back (with no time for a short rest), would it be one fight or to for these purposes. The intent isn't clear, aside from 'They get some back without taking a rest' \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielClery I don't see how that's any different from the rules without the variant. Did the fight stop and they had 10 minutes, but then got interrupted during their rest, or did a new group of enemies rush in right away? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kyle W
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right away. Does everyone keep their initiative order, or is it a reroll? I'm thinking the characters have a couple of seconds to a minute to catch their breath. Not an interrupted 'rest', but one that they didn't even have time to initiate. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that is a separate question that deserves its own post. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's as simple as this, if the new group arrived and engaged during a fight in progress then there is no new initiative for the characters. If however there is even a moment between when the first fight was over and the new group engages, then it's a new initiative roll because there is that moment between where you can brace yourself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:53

RAW is a bit out of the window once you introduce DMG variants

Those class features are written based on the normal, default (No DMG rules variants) application of the system. So before I get on to what I think you should do I just want to caution you that resolving this in any balanced manner is going to involve assumed intent for those class features in the normal rules.

I'm assuming the 2 features you are worried about are Initiative Score and Speed Factor and their interaction with the wording you quoted. For the first those features would never trigger and for the second they would trigger every single round if you ran it RAW.

Your substitution should keep the original intent of the class features with either of those rules variants in play

However I don't see any problems with your substitution suggestion as in the normal state of the game the only time you would roll for initiative would be when a combat encounter begins.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree that RAW goes out the window with DMG variants. DMG Variants are presented as drop-in modules (to use the term during the playtest to get a different table experience), unlike UA articles and personal house rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielClery The thing is, RAW doesn't go out of the way with UA articles, because they add content rather than modifying the game. And having found an egregious example of how RAW does go out of the window with DMG variant rules, I'm not sure why you'd say it doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 23:11

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