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This question already has an answer here:

Players enter a room, they see a bunch of sleeping guards and some dogs. They try to sneak in to get the jump on them, but the dogs have advantage on perception checks and detect them, initiating combat.

Everyone rolls initiative and the fighting commences. The battle makes some noise, and NPCs from side rooms hear this, and decide to jump into the fray.

Do I as the DM just roll initiative for these NPCs and stick them in the initiative order whenever the NPCs detect a threat?

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marked as duplicate by SevenSidedDie dnd-5e Feb 11 '17 at 23:49

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Yes.

Don't forget their passive perception should definitely pick up that more guards are incoming. Especially if they're coming at a run, with weapons and in armour.

Alternately, you can put them anywhere you want in the order. Or roll as they enter the room. I personally do what you described in your question, and just roll their initiative and then bring them in to the fight that way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It'd be nice to have some sort of rules reference for this; Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough with 5e to suggest one. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 11 '17 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no rule reference for waves of attackers, just initiative rules for when something enters combat. At this point, it's the DM's discretion. Are the guards investigating until they enter the room and realize it's a problem? Or are they considered in combat immediately? As much as I hate answers like this, it's basically entirely on the DM to decide when and where he/she puts them in the initiative order. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Feb 11 '17 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, OK. There was an explicit rule for it in 3.5rd edition, so I figured there might be something similar in 5th - but if there isn't, fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 11 '17 at 23:10

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