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Although the Rogue/Assassin's Assassinate feature and the UA Revised Ranger's Natural Explorer both grant advantage on certain attack rolls early in combat, the wording of the condition that grants advantage is slightly different:

Assassinate (PH p. 97)

… You have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn't taken a turn in the combat yet.


Natural Explorer (UA Revised Ranger p. 3)

On your first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted.

A creature that is surprised cannot move or take an action during their first turn. If they win initiative against an Assassin, it seems the Assassinate class feature does not apply, because the creature has "taken a turn" doing nothing. OTH, against a Ranger, it seems that they "have not yet acted", so the Natural Explorer feature does apply.

How (else) do these features operate differently, if they do?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unearthed Arcana articles are known for having sloppier language than the finished products they evolve into. The writers may very well have intended that the feature works identical to the Assassin's feature. (not writing this as an answer since this is just speculation) \$\endgroup\$ – chif-ii Dec 22 '16 at 16:17
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What it means

hasn't taken a turn

means that the creature has not had a turn in the combat. That is, the assassin has beaten the creature in initiative order. Surprise is immaterial: if the creature is surprised and beats the assassin in initiative it has still "taken a turn" even though it couldn't do anything with it. It also applies outside the assassin's turn if they can somehow get a reaction before the creature's turn: if the creature moved in a way that caused an opportunity attack using a reaction before its turn the assassin would get advantage on that attack.

On your first turn ... not yet acted

In contrast the ranger cannot get the advantage out of their turn.

"Not yet acted" means not having taken an action, bonus action, movement or reaction: the reaction can occur before the creature's turn. For example in a fight between a ranger and a wizard where the ranger wins initiative and attacks first. the wizard uses a reaction to cast Shield - in addition to giving +5 to AC, it negates the ranger's advantage because the wizard has acted before the ranger's attack (Shield specifically involving some sort of mysterious time travel as it does).

Surprise does matter here because a surprised creature does not get movement, action or bonus action on its first turn - if the ranger surprises the creature they will get the benefit irrespective of if they win initiative or not (subject to the preceding paragraph).

What it really means

The nuances are so ridiculously subtle and unlikely to occur that if you want to treat them the same it will do absolutely no harm to your game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally forgot about the first turn part for the ranger. I am deleting my answer and throwing my support behind you! \$\endgroup\$ – tillmas Dec 22 '16 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Shield example actually makes me think the version in UA Revised Ranger is a hot mess. Shield triggers on a successful attack. But if the Wizard has "acted" when they cast the Shield, which of the two attack dice gets retained? I don't think there is any way to remove advantage after the fact without turning it into disadvantage. \$\endgroup\$ – RedGeomancer Dec 22 '16 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RedGeomancer I play mostly online, so you can tell which is the "extra" dice. If playing on a table, use different colored d20s and designate which is the "extra" \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Dec 22 '16 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM That's an option, and I'm not saying it's a bad one, but it is clearly adding a mechanic not present in the game in order to make incompatible rules actually work in play. If also think is undermines your final statement that "The nuances are so ridiculously subtle and unlikely to occur". If you care to edit the answer, I think it would be worth incorporating these effects and ramifications. \$\endgroup\$ – RedGeomancer Dec 23 '16 at 16:14
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The biggest difference is that the Ranger only has advantage during his first turn in combat, and the Rogue has advantage against any creature that hasn't taken a turn in combat.

My ruling and understanding of the distinction between "taken a turn" and "acted" is that they represent the same thing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess a question that emerges is whether the Assassin, who is not restricted to "first turn", has any possible reactions that could be used for additional harassment. If the opponent moves and the Assassin uses an opportunity attack, do they have advantage? Fine line between "is taking" and "has taken". \$\endgroup\$ – RedGeomancer Dec 22 '16 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that they are the same, it is possible to take a turn but choose not to act, or be forced not to act (which would give the Ranger continued advantage, but not the Assassin). \$\endgroup\$ – tillmas Dec 22 '16 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tillmas that seems like semantics. By delaying (choosing not to act) you have taken, in effect, a Delay Action, even if its effect is not felt until later. How would a Ranger have advantage over someone who is, for example, aiming his crossbow at said Ranger, ready to shoot, compared to someone who has already shot him? \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 25 '17 at 15:26

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