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My Mystic Monk was meditating when he was hit with an melee Assassination attempt by an Assassin. My Mystic Monk has the Alert feat which supposed "You can't be surprised while you are conscious. Other creatures don't gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being hidden from you."

GM insists that his assassin automatically crits on my Mystic Monk without an attack roll. I get he does not get advantaged on any attacks from being hidden (which he was) from me, but doesn't he still have to attack me (roll to hit) to trigger the auto crit?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the Alert feat has been corrected in an errata (media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/PH-Errata.pdf). The last sentence now says, 'Other creatures don’t gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being unseen by you'. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2017 at 5:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Suggest you either edit your question to replace the rule citation, or at least add the errata citation that was provided in the above comment. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2017 at 11:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that this reads like "DM made rocks fall and my character died"; this may be a "between player" problem not a "rules" problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    May 2, 2017 at 11:53

3 Answers 3

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For reference, here is the Assassinate ability:

Assassinate. During its first turn, the assassin has advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn. Any hit the assassin scores against a surprised creature is a critical hit.

So, the Assassin does, in fact, get advantage, since Alert only prevents advantage from being hidden, not advantage from not having acted yet.

But, since you can't be surprised, the Assassin doesn't automatically get critical hits on you. Even if they did, they'd still need to land a hit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, he has to crit normally, unless you rule that someone meditating is unconscious, which is not stated anywhere. Otherwise the feat prevents the surprise which the assassinate feature needs for the extended critical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    May 1, 2017 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Like Szega said. It's a 2 part sentence. First one is you get advantage in the first round against creatures that havent acted. So the GM should've called for a initiative roll before the assassin even tried to hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Morthy
    May 1, 2017 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Derp. I knew that when I started the answer, but managed to forget it by the time I got to the point. Thanks for pointing it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    May 1, 2017 at 10:18
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If we assume you are conscious while meditating, here are the rules in question with errata:

You can't be surprised while you are conscious. Other creatures don't gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being unseen by you.

Then Assassinate:

During its first turn, the assassin has advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn. Any hit the assassin scores against a surprised creature is a critical hit.

Reading this, the Assassin wants to engage in combat with you. Combat begins; you are not surprised. Everyone rolls initiative.

One might say "but why are you rolling initiative?"; it is simple. You aren't surprised and are in combat. You roll initiative. Normally a pure ambush would be an implied surprise, and they would start combat by making an attack then you roll initiative. But you are immune to surprise, so you get to roll initiative even when you have no warning that you are entering combat.

If you win initiative, you get to act first. You probably do not see the Assassin, so you do not act. The Assassin then attacks you.

The Assassin does not have advantage. The attack is not a critical hit unless it rolls it normally, because you are not surprised.

If you lose initiative, they get to act first. You probably do not see the Assassin. The Assassin attacks you.

The Assassin has advantage, as they are acting prior to you in the combat. The attack is not a critical hit unless it rolls it normally, because you are not surprised.

In no case does the Assassin auto-hit nor does the Assassin auto-crit.

Game fiction wise, you are so alert that even though you had no idea the Assassin was attacking you, as the attack was under way you actually started to dodge it. Your alertness is, basically, superhuman. It is opposed by the superhuman accuracy of the Assassin. Between the two, the Assassin gets a boost, but not nearly as large as against some other random target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like it. A "hyper alert" character using dodge(when winning initiative)! Or a ready action to hit someone. Lost initiative may not be so bad since you get to fight back and avoided the larger opening salvo. \$\endgroup\$ May 2, 2017 at 6:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GeneralAnders The cinematic effect is also nice; a meditating monk, eyes closed. The assassin shoots an arrow. The arrow is parried by the monk, who unfolds and opens his eyes, assuming a fighting stance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    May 2, 2017 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ " Normally a pure ambush would be an implied surprise, and they would start combat by making an attack then you roll initiative. But you are immune to surprise, so you get to roll initiative even when you have no warning that you are entering combat." - This is not how surprise works in 5e. Any combat action must be done after initiative is rolled. Surprise occurs within initiative itself; surprised creatures simply can't take actions or reactions until after their first turn of combat. See this part of the basic rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 18, 2018 at 3:38
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Your GM is wrong.

Assassinate. During its first turn, the assassin has advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn. Any hit the assassin scores against a surprised creature is a critical hit.

Regardless of any other factor, there is no way the assassin can avoid an attack roll. The critical explicitly requires him to score a hit first.

The assassin does get advantage, because the first half of the ability is keyed to whether or not the target has taken a turn. If the assassin is first, nobody else has taken a turn. It's a question of initiative order.

The second half of the ability is keyed on scoring a hit and the target being surprised. If both aren't true, no easy crit occurs. It's a question of surprise, which is about Stealth and Perception checks. The Alert feat says the character cannot be surprised.

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