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66 votes
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How to resolve surprise and "instant actioning" initiating combat

You're in luck, because there are only 2 basic things said about when someone is surprised, and both are in your favor. The first one is: The GM determines who might be surprised. So yeah, you ...
Erik's user avatar
  • 81.4k
62 votes

What to do when surprise and a high initiative roll conflict with the narrative?

The narration of the event seems strange to you because you are confusing the planned order of events with the actual order of events. The plan was that the encounter begins when A throws their ...
krb's user avatar
  • 4,051
56 votes
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How does combat start when one PC is not seen as a threat?

In this scenario, your bandits were no doubt taken by surprise when one of them got shot. Unless there's some sort of telepathy or pre-planning involved, I would've ruled that the other PCs were also ...
Kyyshak's user avatar
  • 2,921
55 votes

Ambushed while Sleeping (with a Watch)

The DM controls the narrative, not the mechanics Random encounter during a long rest, with a watch, is a very common situation. What is the correct way to resolve it? The "correct" way ...
enkryptor's user avatar
  • 69.6k
53 votes

What happens if a caster is surprised while casting a spell with a long casting time?

The caster continues casting the spell. Taking the same quotes from @Xirema's answer, we have the following for casting spells with a long casting time: Certain spells (including spells cast as ...
Willem Renzema's user avatar
50 votes
Accepted

What’s the point of Surprise preventing reactions?

There are abilities/actions that use "reactions" that don't need to be prepared. Opportunity attacks are attacks that use your reaction, but don't have to be prepared before it is taken. You just ...
RonV's user avatar
  • 2,406
50 votes
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Can you get a surprise attack by distracting an enemy who is aware of you?

If a creature doesn't notice a threat, it is surprised by it As per the basic rules: The DM determines who might be surprised. ... Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is ...
Carcer's user avatar
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49 votes
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What happens when your group is victim of a surprise attack but you can't be surprised?

You take your turn and can act as normal The Weapon of Warning (DMG, p. 213) states: [...] you and any of your companions within 30 feet of you can't be surprised, except when incapacitated by ...
linksassin's user avatar
  • 30.9k
47 votes

Can a PC be surprised if he expects combat before the encounter?

If he sees the Rogue coming, he's not surprised. If he doesn't see the Rogue coming, he's surprised. From the PHB, page 189: Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at ...
Miniman's user avatar
  • 145k
47 votes
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What happens if a caster is surprised while casting a spell with a long casting time?

Rules as Written, the Spellcaster would lose the spell This is relatively straightforward. The rules for spellcasting state unambiguously that a caster casting a spell with a long casting time must ...
Xirema's user avatar
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46 votes
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What to do when surprise and a high initiative roll conflict with the narrative?

Yes, That Description is RAW That is the way mechanics happens in RAW. How you narrate that to make sense is up to you. Remember the rules have to be turn based to make it run and everything that ...
J. A. Streich's user avatar
43 votes

Interaction between Subtle Spell, Initiative and Alert Feat

Rule 0: You can. But you can't - and you probably shouldn't. Combat starts when the intent to attack starts (attack or do something else harmful). You should roll initiative, and, if the player ...
HellSaint's user avatar
  • 37.1k
34 votes
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Does the Alert feature allow a character to automatically detect pickpockets?

Surprised is a combat condition here, not the plain English word meaning, Alert has zero effect outside of combat The Alert feat is specifically a highly acute danger sense, and being able to respond ...
ShadowRanger's user avatar
  • 11.5k
32 votes
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Can a surprised creature fall prone voluntarily on their turn?

No, a surprised character can't drop prone As you posted, Surprise says: If you're surprised, you can't move or take an action... This "can't move" terminology is actually used a lot in the rules....
AgentPaper's user avatar
  • 8,533
31 votes
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How to run an encounter against a sleeping party, utilising a homebrew system

Remedy this by actually following the rules for initiative and surprise. You’ve got so many free attacks against the party because you’ve added an entire free round for the goblins that the rules don’...
Thomas Markov's user avatar
30 votes
Accepted

Can a surprised monster use lair actions if they roll an initiative above 20?

A surprised monster who rolls a 20+ on initiative can use lair actions because they are able to take actions, and their turn has passed As you've quoted, the rules on lair actions state: On ...
Exempt-Medic's user avatar
  • 76.3k
30 votes

Is a turn considered "taken" at its start or the end? (re: Assassinate and new bugbear PC features)

It seems to be against the spirit of the ability, but ask your DM Linguistically, you only have “taken a turn” when it's over. However, both abilities are related to surprise and ambushes. In this ...
Nobody the Hobgoblin's user avatar
29 votes
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If an attack alerts someone to your presence, can their initiative save them from being surprised in time?

The initiative rolls can be interpreted as a metaphor for other circumstances. So if the orc rolls high, imagine that as him turning his head ina lucky timeframe, just to see the attacker in the ...
J.E's user avatar
  • 5,840
28 votes
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Does a surprised creature obey the 1st-level spell Command?

They follow the command if they are able to The surprised condition prevents a creature from taking an action, moving or using a reaction until the end of their turn. Any command that requires a ...
linksassin's user avatar
  • 30.9k
27 votes
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Does a Troll benefit from its Regeneration trait if it is surprised?

Your interpretation is accurate. Though in many groups this is not exactly how it is played out (some tend to allow a surprise round to take place sort of out-of-order before rolling initiative for ...
Carcer's user avatar
  • 66.1k
27 votes

Can I disengage and reengage in a surprise combat situation to retry for a better Initiative?

By definition, Initiative is when the combat really starts If surprised, a character or monster cannot act initially. But by definition, rolling Initiative is when the combat really starts, because ...
Anagkai's user avatar
  • 16.6k
25 votes
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How much can a surprised character do?

No. You cannot move, attack, draw a weapon, or interact with an object while you are surprised. First (for those more familiar with other editions), in 5e there is no surprise round. Instead, it is ...
Nick Brown's user avatar
  • 8,251
24 votes

Should there always be a check (stealth vs perception) before someone can be surprised?

No. See the DMG's section "Using Ability Scores" (p.237) which says, in part: Only call for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure. When deciding whether to use a roll, ask ...
nitsua60's user avatar
  • 102k
23 votes

Is a turn considered "taken" at its start or the end? (re: Assassinate and new bugbear PC features)

Taken is the past participle of the verb take The present participle is taking. So, your reading is correct, a creature has not “taken” their turn while they are still “taking” it.
Dale M's user avatar
  • 212k
22 votes
Accepted

Can surprise be granted by another skill than Dexterity (Stealth)?

Short answer: yes, your citation from the PHB supports character initiative or action as the trigger from non-combat to combat. It's not necessarily "another skill" that can set up surprise, but ...
KorvinStarmast's user avatar
22 votes

Is there any way to remove Surprise?

There is no mechanic to remove surprise. They're surprised til the end of their turn, and then can take reactions for the rest of the round. There's no way for a non-surprised person to get them out ...
Seth R. Feldman's user avatar
22 votes

When exactly does combat start and surprise take effect?

Your first interpretation is correct. Initiative is rolled as always. If the orc rolls higher than you he is still surprised and does nothing. If the orc rolls lower than you and you stab him he is ...
Scrawnoisis's user avatar
  • 3,239
22 votes

How do I handle the Alert feat and surprise?

All participants act simultaneously Despite the fact we use sequential turns to structure tactical combat in D&D, all the combatants act in parallel in the game world. Player characters are not ...
enkryptor's user avatar
  • 69.6k
21 votes
Accepted

Can a character be surprised mid-combat?

No, a character can't be surprised in the middle of combat. Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter. This is the only method given in the ...
Miniman's user avatar
  • 145k
21 votes
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What does it mean to "remain alert to danger"?

Normally if involved in an activity during travel a character cannot participate in perception checks to, for example, notice when they are being followed. As adventurers travel through a dungeon ...
Conduit's user avatar
  • 5,455

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