A typical combat encounter is a struggle between two sides. The game organizes the chaos of combat into a cycle of rounds and turns. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. During a round, each participant in a battle takes a turn. The order of turns is determined at the beginning of a combat encounter, when everyone rolls initiative. Once everyone has taken a turn, the fight continues to the next round if neither side has defeated the other.
Below is a quick summary of the order that combat plays out in:
- Determine surprise. The GM determines whether anyone involved in the combat encounter is surprised.
- Establish positions. The GM decides where all the characters and monsters are located. Given the characters’ stated positions in the room or other location, the GM figures out where the adversaries are–how far away and in what direction.
- Roll initiative. Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative, determining the order of combatants’ turns.
- Take turns. Each participant in the battle takes a turn in initiative order.
- Begin the next round. When everyone involved in the combat has had a turn, the round ends. Repeat taking turns until the fight ends.
Starting Combat & Initiative
Combat begins as soon as you or any other creature declares an action that would create a fight. However, the act of declaring an action does not allow you to go first, all creatures aware that combat has initiated must roll initiative: 1d10 + the creature’s initiative bonus. Your initiative is determined by your Dexterity.
Any creature that can see or hear the initiating creature is considered to be aware that combat has begun. Any creature that is unaware of combat have an initiative equal to 1 + its initiative score and becomes aware of the combat on it’s first turn.
In the event that more than one creature has the same initiative, then all of the creatures actions occur simultaneously. The order that the turns resolve is not significant, and can be done in whatever order is convenient.
On each creatures turn, it is not influenced by the turns of others on the same initiative until after the turn ends (e.g. if you successfully kill a creature that has the same initiative as you, the creature can still act as normal, however it will die at the end of the turn). Some monsters, devices, or paths features may influence initiative ties in unique ways. Such effects will always be explained within the feature itself.
On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action. You decide whether to move first or take your action first. You have 3 movement options, with differing speeds.
- Your initial walking speed is 30 feet
- Your initial climbing and swimming speeds are 15 feet
You can acquire a flying speed, but require the assistance of a device to do so.
The most common actions you can take are described in the Actions in Combat section. Many devices and path features provide additional options for your action.
You can forgo moving, taking an action, or doing anything at all on your turn. If you can’t decide what to do on your turn, consider taking the Dodge action, as described in Actions in Combat.
Various devices and path features let you take an additional action on your turn called a bonus action. You can take a bonus action only when a special ability or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don’t have a bonus action to take.
You can take only one bonus action on your turn, so you must choose which bonus action to use when you have more than one available.
You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action’s timing is specified, and anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.
Other Activity on Your Turn
Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move.
You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn.
You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.
If you want to interact with a second object, you need to use your action. Some devices require an action to use, as stated in their descriptions.
The GM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle. For instance, the GM could reasonably expect you to use an action to start up a vehicle or enter a password to open a door.
Certain special abilities and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. The most common reactions you can take are described in Reactions in Combat.
A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else’s. When you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of the next round.
If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.