At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check, using their Movement skill as the basis for the check. Each character rolls a d20 and applies their Movement skill's total bonus to the roll. This number includes all modifiers from feats, spells, and other effects, but can sometimes be different for Initiative checks (i.e. a character may have a better bonus for initiative checks than the bonus available for a normal Movement check). Each player character and each creature (or group of similar creatures) acts in order, one at a time, counting down from the highest result to the lowest. After all creatures in the encounter have taken their turn, the round is considered over, and a new round begins, granting each creature a new turn resolved in the same order.
Typically, once an initiative order is set, it remains static throughout the duration of the encounter. In some rare cases, however, a character or creature may have some means of altering their initiative after the encounter has already begun, in which case, the initiative order can be rearranged. Furthermore, characters or creatures that hold their actions are moved down in the initiative order until the point at which they act; once set, they act from that spot in the initiative order for the remainder of the encounter (unless they hold their action again). Characters or creatures that ready an action do NOT alter their position in the initiative order, even though the readied action may trigger at some point outside of their normal turn.
Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are Flat-Footed. Barbarians and rogues of high enough level who have the Uncanny Dodge extraordinary ability are immune to flat-footed, and can make attacks of opportunity before they have acted in the first round of combat. A flat-footed character can’t make attacks of opportunity, unless they have the Combat Reflexes feat.
Inaction: Even if you can’t take actions, you retain your initiative score for the duration of the encounter. This can be important, in the event you need to make saving throws, keep track of death checks, etc.
Monster Initiatives: It is possible for the GM to roll a separate initiative number for every monster, or, for groups of monsters. Either way works within these rules, BUT, we strongly recommend that the GM roll a single initiative and have all their monsters take their actions all at once at that initiative. That's the way our play testing has shown works better with the Epic Path rules.
Long experience behind the GM screen has shown that individual monster initiatives, while perhaps more 'realistic', can also have the effect of bogging down play during combat. We would encourage all GM's to use good practices to try and keep combats moving at a good pace. One of the biggest things the GM can do to speed up combat, is to resolve all their monsters all at once. Trust us, it works much better.
Now, even if you are using group initiatives for your monsters, it is possible to see various monsters move their initiative number, either voluntarily by holding an action, or involuntarily by suffering a status condition. In such cases, move that monster or monsters to their new number, and resolve their actions as a separate group.
If two or more combatants have the same initiative check result, ties are resolved as follows:
- The creature with the highest total Movement skill bonus acts first
- if still tied, the creature with the highest Dexterity modifier acts first
- if still tied, both creatures roll a tie-breaking d20. This die roll only determines which of these tied creatures goes first; it does not alter their initiative in relation to all of the other creatures in the encounter.