D&D 5th Edition - Story Mode

Variant: Left/Right Initiative

This variant of Initiative eliminates the bookkeeping of the official rules.

Initiative Roll

  • At the beginning of combat, everyone must roll for Initiative (Dex).
  • The DM makes one roll for the enemy with the highest Dex to represent the enemy side.
  • The DM may roll at Advantage in special circumstances (a boss fight, or they greatly outnumber the PCs).
  • The side with the highest individual roll goes first.
  • The players automatically win if there is a tie with the DM, or if they roll a natural 20.
  • The player with the highest roll is designated the First Player.
  • If there was a tie between players for the highest score, they roll iniative again and the higher roll wins.

Turn Order

  • On the players' turn, play always starts with the First Player.
  • After the First Player takes their turn, they decide whether play proceeds Left or Right around the table.
  • When all players have taken their turn in order, it is the DM's turn.
  • On the DM's turn, all enemies take their actions in any order.
  • Play continues back and forth between sides until combat is over.


The element of surprise (and the resulting loss of turns) is often a point of debate within games.

To avoid this conflict and speed up the action, assume that in the dangerous world of D&D, no PC or NPC would be completely unprepared for danger. Therefore, no one should lose a turn due to surprise.

However, if the DM decides one side has the element of surprise, they automatically win initiative.

The PCs still roll initiative to determine the First Player.