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Certain powers are triggered when initiative is rolled, such as the power for the Casque of Tactics.

Power (Daily): Free Action. Use this power when initiative is rolled. Swap initiative check results with a willing ally who you can see.

However, during a surprise round...

Surprised: If a creature is surprised, it can't take any actions, not even free actions, during the surprise round.

Rules Compendium, pg 191

So, in the case of a combat with a Surprised character with such a power, are they even able to use it? For example, is it considered to be "before combat" when you trigger the power? It doesn't seem like you can use it after the surprise round, since initiative should already be rolled by then.

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Initiative being rolled happens before the surprise round starts (PHB, p. 267), and your actions are only limited during the surprise round (same page), so the fact that you can't act in the surprise round does not affect your ability to use, for example, Casque of Tactics.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for learning about how an unfamiliar game works; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 14 '16 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Our group decided to go with my interpretation, so I'm giving that the checkmark, but I'm giving you a +1 anyway for being the more popular one. \$\endgroup\$ – Michaellogg Aug 21 '16 at 15:45
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Having looked more closely at the initiative rules, I came to a different conclusion...

No, you wouldn't be able to use it

The Rules Compendium contains a list of steps which occur at the start of a combat (which are the same as those in the Player's Handbook):

1. Determine surprise. The DM determines whether any combatants are surprised. If any combatants notice enemy combatants without being noticed in return, the aware combatants gain a surprise round.
...
3. Roll initiative. Everyone involved in a combat encounter rolls initiative, determining the order of combatants' turns. You roll initiative only at the beginning of a combat encounter.
4. Take surprise round actions. If any combatants gained a surprise round, they act in initiative order, each one taking a single action. (Surprised combatants take no actions during the surprise round.) The surprise round then ends, and the first regular round of combat begins.

Rules Compendium pg. 189-190, Player's Handbook pg. 266

An initial reading makes it sound as though the action limitation only takes place during the surprise round, which happens after initiative is rolled. However, "Surprised" is a defined condition.

Surprised

  • The creature can't take actions.
  • The creature grants combat advantage.
  • The creature can't flank.

Rules Compendium pg. 234, Player's Handbook pg. 277

Considering Surprised is an actual condition, this means the line in step 4 about not being able to act during a surprise round is a reminder of the rule from the condition, rather than the rule itself. Since determining whether or not a creature is Surprised is the first thing that occurs at the start of a combat, this seems to imply that you can't use any powers that are triggered by initiative being rolled if they require an action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would have tought that "Determine if a creature is surprised" doesn't really mean "determine if a creature is surprised and it happens now". I would have taken it as "Determine if a creature is surprised when the surprise round starts". \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 20 '16 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I got this information from the online compendium: "Surprised creatures can’t act at all during the surprise round." And also: "If a creature is surprised, it can’t take any actions, not even free actions, during the surprise round. The creature also grants combat advantage. As soon as the surprise round ends, the creature is no longer surprised." Also the online compendium gives these pages as reference: Player's Handbook, page 267, Rules Compendium, page 191 \$\endgroup\$ – Tijnkwan Aug 20 '16 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Why? Surprised is a defined condition, and it's possible to have and gain conditions outside of combat. And since the surprise round doesn't happen if no one's surprised, it couldn't be applied during the surprise round, which means it has to be applied at some point before it. Step 1 is the only logical place for that, especially since step 1 wouldn't actually involve anything happening otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – Michaellogg Aug 20 '16 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tijnkwan Those quotes are excerpts from the section on the Surprise Round, which is why they all reference actions during the surprise round. Surprised is a defined condition, as I pointed out in my answer, which applies its effects no matter when it occurs. \$\endgroup\$ – Michaellogg Aug 20 '16 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeKellog You tell me 1... would be placed after 3... if the condition caused by not being aware was to be used just once the surprise round starts. Despite not 100% believing that the autors intended it to work that way, it looks like you really got RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 20 '16 at 22:37

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