As far as I'm concerned, you only roll initiative at the beginning of combat and keep those rolls for the rest of the encounter.

If that's the case (if it isn't, why?), what happens when the initiative value of a player changes during the combat? For example, a Druid polymorphing into a creature. Should he/she reroll? Simply add the new modifier to the roll? Or keep the first rolled value regardless of any change in Initiative?


Standard rules: after being established once at the start, initiative order does not change during combat.

It's not the rolls that you keep but the initiative order as a whole. Further the rules state that a dexterity check to establish the initiative order occurs at the start of combat and that this order remains the same throughout combat and is not updated.

Thus initiative values ( = results of the dexterity check) do not change even if dex modifiers change. To be more precise: they do not even formally exist any more during combat. They're used for establishing the initiative order and then discarded.

From the 5E Basic Rules, emphases 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.

The DM ranks the combatants in order from the one with the highest Dexterity check total to the one with the lowest. This is the order (called the initiative order) in which they act during each round. The initiative order remains the same from round to round.

However, there is a variant presented in the DMG that changes this.

"Speed Factor Initiative," presented on DMG pp.270-271 requires a new initiative roll each round, and so would be responsive to changes in modifiers. AngryGM writes about it a bit here (warning: profane and vulgar language punctuates excellent analysis and description), and you should be aware of some of the issues raised in these questions (1, 2, 3).

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are also certain things (features and/or spells I cant recall atm ) that may alter / bump the initiative of an ally. Other groups may also enter initiative mid combat. So the initiative roll may not ever change once made, but the order of combat can sometimes be effected. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Apr 21 '17 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome Other groups entering doesn't change anyone's initiative value or relative place on the list but just adds entries, so that's not really what is asked here, but a rather good argument to not discard initiative values in practice after setting up the initial order. Regarding spells: I'm no expert, but scrolling through the SRD and looking at likely candidates (selected by looking at their names) yielded nothing. If you or anyone can name such exceptions, I'll gladly add them. \$\endgroup\$ – TheNickOfTime Apr 21 '17 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xNGTMx any effect that boosts your ability checks, specifically dexterity checks, will boost your initiative roll. The Guidance cantrip for example adds 1d4 to any ability check: dexterity included. Also, Bardic Inspiration can be used on an ability check, so an initiative check counts. Finally, the Enhance Ability spell has the Cat’s Grace enhancement, which gives you advantage on all dexterity checks, which would include initiative rolls. I don't know of anything that can change the initiative order itself though; just the bonuses on the initiative roll. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Apr 21 '17 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adam Indeed. But these cannot be applied during combat to alter the already rolled initiative and manipulate the order after its initial setup - which, as I understood it, was what Airatome meant. \$\endgroup\$ – TheNickOfTime Apr 21 '17 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's one instance where initiative can change mid-combat: a controlled mount's initiative changes to match the rider's. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Apr 21 '17 at 15:57

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