© Wizards of the Coast by Randy Vargas

Alert Feat 5e: What Is It, How Useful, Better Than ASI ?

Whether you’re out in the wilderness or diving the depths of a ruined temple, adventurers have to stay on guard.

Dangerous foes lurk in the dark places of the world, waiting for their chance to strike at their prey.

Unfortunately, humanoids make up a part of the diets of many monstrosities, and adventurers are no exception to this. 

For those that want to make sure that enemies can’t get the drop on them, the Alert feat stands out as a way to keep you and your party safe. But, is this feat good enough, especially when compared with other options?

The answer to that question can change the odds of your survival in the worlds of D&D!

The Alert Feat – Mechanics and Narrative Implications

The Actor Feat in DnD 5e greatly increases the viability of playing a deceptive character.  It allows you to pass as someone else.  It is ideal for players who are looking to do reconnaissance, or avoid combat while infiltrating a location.

The Alert feat is one of the first feats introduced to the game. It’s found on pg. 165 of the Player’s Handbook, in the Customization Options chapter. The feat confers three benefits to the character that takes this feat: 

  • The character adds +5 to their initiative rolls
  • The character can’t be surprised while conscious (i.e. not asleep or knocked out from combat)
  • The character doesn’t grant advantage on attacks against itself against enemies it can’t see

The feat brings to mind those highly aware characters that are always taking stock of their surroundings.

Martial arts masters that can sense the world around them with ease, or combat veterans with elite training and experience that can take stock of threats when they walk into a room, both come to mind with this feat. 

The strongest part of this feat is the boost to initiative. While avoiding surprise and granting advantage to yourself is good to have, there’s more than the players can control when using the initiative boost.

The player doesn’t decide when enemies are trying to surprise them or use invisibility and cover, but they do control when they get into a scrap. 

Benefits of Initiative Boosts

Boosts to initiative aren’t the flashiest mechanical benefit in D&D 5e.

Going first for many characters gives them a chance to enact their game plan sooner. However, if all you’re going to do is take a few shots with a bow or a few swipes with your sword, you haven’t really done much to affect the battlefield. The type of character you play will affect how much an initiative boost matters to you. 

For example, spellcasters favoring area spells love to go earlier in combat. Many area-of-effect spells in 5e don’t care if the spell is targeting an ally or a foe.

That means that, when you hurl that fireball into a crowded melee fight, your melee allies are going to get caught up in the blast, too. Many crowd control spells don’t care if you target allies or foes, either. Spells like grease or web will force saving throws on allies in the area.

To prevent this, spellcasters that want to use these spells prefer going first before the melee attackers on both sides have a chance to close the distance between them. That way, there’s less friendly fire coming in on the adventurer’s side. 

Assassin rogues will also love this feat. These rogues have a feature called Assassinate that gives them advantage on enemies that haven’t acted in combat yet.

Since rogues only ever get one attack per turn with their action, being able to get advantage on that attack means they are more likely to deliver all their damage for the turn on the first turn. D&D 5e is a game of action economy, meaning that the side that takes the most number and most effective actions each turn will likely win the combat. 

Surprise in D&D

Since the Alert feat keeps you from being surprised, it’s important to know how surprise works in 5e. Unlike previous editions of the game, D&D 5e doesn’t have surprise rounds where characters that snuck on enemies would take a whole round for themselves before the actual combat started. 

Instead, characters and monsters that try to sneak up on the other side roll their Dexterity (Stealth) ability checks against the passive Perception scores of the opposing side. Any creature that overcomes this passive Perception with its Stealth check surprises the perceiving creature. 

Surprised creatures cannot move or take actions on their turn, nor can they take a reaction until the end of the first round of combat. Bonus actions are included in this since they are a type of action, just not the full “Action” you use to attack or cast spells normally. Overall, this is a nasty spot to be in!

However, the Alert feat prevents that from happening entirely, no matter what your passive Perception score is. You’ll be able to act in the first round of combat no matter what, meaning you can help your allies or hinder the assailing enemies. It’s hard to say how often this will come up in play, but it can make all the difference when it does!

Common Questions About The Alert Feat in 5e

If you’re looking for the highlights of this feat, here is our common questions about the Alert feat and their answers: 

Conclusion

The Alert feat makes for an interesting pickup for a handful of characters. While it provides three benefits to a character that takes it, only the initiative boost is something a player can enact their agency with.

This is because some characters out there want to go early in combat, such as spellcasters with area-of-effect spells and Assassin rogues.

If you are one of these characters, or just like going first in combat, then the Alert feat is a good choice for your character!