[RPG] How do the Assassinate feature and the Revised Ranger’s first turn advantage operate differently, if they do


Although the Rogue/Assassin's Assassinate feature and the UA Revised Ranger's Natural Explorer both grant advantage on certain attack rolls early in combat, the wording of the condition that grants advantage is slightly different:

Assassinate (PH p. 97)

… You have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn't taken a turn in the combat yet.

Natural Explorer (UA Revised Ranger p. 3)

On your first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted.

A creature that is surprised cannot move or take an action during their first turn. If they win initiative against an Assassin, it seems the Assassinate class feature does not apply, because the creature has "taken a turn" doing nothing. OTH, against a Ranger, it seems that they "have not yet acted", so the Natural Explorer feature does apply.

How (else) do these features operate differently, if they do?

Best Answer

What it means

hasn't taken a turn

means that the creature has not had a turn in the combat. That is, the assassin has beaten the creature in initiative order. Surprise is immaterial: if the creature is surprised and beats the assassin in initiative it has still "taken a turn" even though it couldn't do anything with it. It also applies outside the assassin's turn if they can somehow get a reaction before the creature's turn: if the creature moved in a way that caused an opportunity attack using a reaction before its turn the assassin would get advantage on that attack.

On your first turn ... not yet acted

In contrast the ranger cannot get the advantage out of their turn.

"Not yet acted" means not having taken an action, bonus action, movement or reaction: the reaction can occur before the creature's turn. For example in a fight between a ranger and a wizard where the ranger wins initiative and attacks first. the wizard uses a reaction to cast Shield - in addition to giving +5 to AC, it negates the ranger's advantage because the wizard has acted before the ranger's attack (Shield specifically involving some sort of mysterious time travel as it does).

Surprise does matter here because a surprised creature does not get movement, action or bonus action on its first turn - if the ranger surprises the creature they will get the benefit irrespective of if they win initiative or not (subject to the preceding paragraph).

What it really means

The nuances are so ridiculously subtle and unlikely to occur that if you want to treat them the same it will do absolutely no harm to your game.