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Use Static Initiative for Monsters

by Mike on 20 March 2023

There are lots of little lazy tricks we can use to streamline our 5e RPGs. I'm a big fan of using static monster damage for example. I find anything to help speed up and streamline the game worthwhile.

Forge of Foes (currently on Kickstarter!) is packed with tips and tricks for running awesome 5e monsters. Some tips offer fast and dirty tricks for streamlining your game. The book also has lots of tools and advice for adding detail, changing up tactics, and building big and engaging encounters. If you're a tactically-focused GM, you'll find as much to love in Forge of Foes as those who prefer the simple tricks to speed things up. Take a look at the free preview and back it on the Forge of Foes Kickstarter page!

One trick I've been using, which shows up in the "Lazy Tricks for Running Monsters" chapter of Forge of Foes, is static initiative for monsters. I started doing this a year or so ago and I really like it.

For a video on this topic, check out my Use Static Initiative for D&D 5e Monsters YouTube video.

With static initiative, you skip rolling initiative for monsters and instead give monsters an initiative of 10 + their dexterity modifier. If you want to group different types of monsters together, use the best dex mod of the group, or split them up with their own static initiative scores if you want.

Want an even easier way? Just make it 12.

There are some big advantages to static initiative. First, it saves you the time of rolling initiative. If someone else at the table is managing initiative for you (another lazy trick I really love), tell them the monsters have an initiative of 12. Like static monster damage, it's fast and it's easy.

Static initiative also puts monsters in the middle of the initiative order. This ensures the characters don't destroy half the monsters before they ever get a chance to act. Acting in the middle of initiative gives monsters a small but valuable edge, especially at higher levels.

Also, in my experience, players don't tend to care. In years of doing this for multiple groups, I've not had a player even mention it. I'm sure they know it's going on, but it just doesn't matter to them. Beating the monsters' initiative matters to them but when they know it's a static number of 12, they now have a reasonable number to beat.

You'll still have circumstances where all of the characters go before the monsters. That's fine. But it won't be because the monsters rolled low. It'll be because all of the players rolled high and that's cool and fun.

If you're more of a tactical DM who likes all the nuances of 5 foot squares, prefers rolling for monster damage, runs lots of different types of monsters in a battle, or likes rolling individual initiative for every monster in a battle — you can still do so. You might keep this idea on hand and use it for some of your battles where speed is more important than detail and tactical accuracy. Battles with less consequential outcomes or battles against easier opponents might benefit from static initiative. If you're like me, though, you might end up using it all the time.

So, to speed up your game and balance things out a little bit, try using a static initiative score of "12" for your monsters. It'll surprise you how much it streamlines your game.

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