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Author Topic: Is Initiative Dumb?  (Read 6597 times)

Eric Diaz

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #105 on: June 13, 2020, 12:36:23 PM »
The usual method of initiative is a bit outdated and useless, yes.

I tried many options, my two favorite alternatives are "old school initiative" and "no initiative":

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2018/06/old-school-initiative-is-best-initiative.html

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2020/05/minimalist-d-ii-ditch-initiative.html

Another option is just going with whatever makes sense at the moment. PCs sneaking around? They attack first. Monsters sneaking around? PCs get attacked. Etc. Two sides looking at each other? Whoever has the best range has the first attack. Etc.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 12:38:35 PM by Eric Diaz »
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Eric Diaz

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #106 on: June 13, 2020, 12:41:04 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit;1133380
Lion & Dragon (and my other OSR games) expands on the basic d6 initiative system. Each character rolls initiative. PCs win in case of ties; if two PCs tie, the one with the higher dexterity goes first. Certain types of armor can cause penalties to Initiative. Certain weapons grant bonuses or penalties. Characters who are declaring that they'll only do movement in the round get a +2 in that round to initiative. Characters who do nothing at all on an initiative round get a +2 to their initiative next round.

This method has a lot of good things going for it... Dexterity is important, but only occasionally. Armor is important. weapons are important. The action being performed is important. I like it.
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Lunamancer

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #107 on: June 13, 2020, 11:13:09 PM »
I would call it somewhat dumb. About 80% of it is just arbitrarily determining order of action so everyone isn't speaking at once. One arbitrary way of doing that is as good as any other, though I suppose it's nice if it's fair. Certainly convoluted initiative systems and/or those intricately woven into the game's core system are hardly justifiable for those cases.

However, there is the other 20% of the time. How could dagger man possibly go first when he's got to cover 30' of ground and I've got a 9 foot spear? The player may have even intentionally approached the encounter with that advantage in mind. Common sense exceptions, I call them.

My ideal initiative would be something like, each side rolls d6, highest goes first, common sense exceptions apply.

FelixGamingX1

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #108 on: June 14, 2020, 12:45:08 AM »
Dumb! Use speed to calculate order.
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VisionStorm

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #109 on: June 14, 2020, 03:54:49 AM »
Quote from: Lunamancer;1134040
However, there is the other 20% of the time. How could dagger man possibly go first when he's got to cover 30' of ground and I've got a 9 foot spear?


This sort of thing always eats away at me. AD&D 2e even added Weapon Speeds, which gave lighter weapons, like daggers, better initiative--except that's not how melee weapons work! Reach is generally a more important factor than weapon speed when determining who attacks first in melee combat.

The only way a dagger wielding combatant could strike a spearman first is if the spearman was surprised or unable to bring their weapon to bear (maybe it got stuck in somebody else's corpse or they're fighting in tight quarters and there are too many obstructions). Otherwise the combatant with the longer weapon always gets a chance to strike before the one with the shorter weapon.

Weapon speed IRL doesn't even help you attack "first", It helps you attack faster, improving your attack rate. Though, that's tricky to handle in TTRPGs, cuz giving light weapons an extra attack per round would be too much. Giving an attack bonus to the lighter weapon might be more appropriate, since faster attacks are more difficult to evade or parry before they reach an opening.

Order of actions by random initiative makes no sense and isn't even necessary. You could handle order of actions by GM fiat or by phases based on proximity and readiness--whoever is closest to their target and/or immediately ready to act goes first (ranged within range, melee already in melee, etc), whoever needs minor preparations goes second (move, draw/reload weapons, etc.), whoever needs lengthy preparations goes last (reload flintlocks or crossbows, etc.). PCs and enemies act at the same phase, and enemy actions get resolved at the same time as PCs attacking them, then any enemies who haven't acted yet after all PCs are done resolve their actions last in that phase.

The real reason some people want to roll initiative is cuz they've been conditioned to think in terms of wanting to "go first" so they can kill an enemy before they've had a chance to act. Which sounds reasonable, except that unless you shoot them in the head or decapitate them, a wounded (even mortally wounded) enemy should still be able to make one final attack before they succumb to their wounds, and people killing each other roughly at the same time is a plausible scenario that does happen in real life.

Even if you want to go "first" to interrupt a particular enemy or make a called shot to the head you could handle "initiative" individually as an opposed test between adversaries (which used to do when I started handling order of actions by fiat or phases) without basing the order of actions of the entire combat around random initiative. OR you could skip initiative and say that if your attack succeeds by X amount (such as 4+ on a d20) AND you rolled higher than their attack or action (if applicable) you managed to strike before they could act, otherwise they still get an action before you kill or disable them.

HappyDaze

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #110 on: June 14, 2020, 04:14:45 AM »
Quote from: VisionStorm;1134065
This sort of thing always eats away at me. AD&D 2e even added Weapon Speeds, which gave lighter weapons, like daggers, better initiative--except that's not how melee weapons work! Reach is generally a more important factor than weapon speed when determining who attacks first in melee combat.

The only way a dagger wielding combatant could strike a spearman first is if the spearman was surprised or unable to bring their weapon to bear (maybe it got stuck in somebody else's corpse or they're fighting in tight quarters and there are too many obstructions). Otherwise the combatant with the longer weapon always gets a chance to strike before the one with the shorter weapon.

Weapon speed IRL doesn't even help you attack "first", It helps you attack faster, improving your attack rate. Though, that's tricky to handle in TTRPGs, cuz giving light weapons an extra attack per round would be too much. Giving an attack bonus to the lighter weapon might be more appropriate, since faster attacks are more difficult to evade or parry before they reach an opening.

Order of actions by random initiative makes no sense and isn't even necessary. You could handle order of actions by GM fiat or by phases based on proximity and readiness--whoever is closest to their target and/or immediately ready to act goes first (ranged within range, melee already in melee, etc), whoever needs minor preparations goes second (move, draw/reload weapons, etc.), whoever needs lengthy preparations goes last (reload flintlocks or crossbows, etc.). PCs and enemies act at the same phase, and enemy actions get resolved at the same time as PCs attacking them, then any enemies who haven't acted yet after all PCs are done resolve their actions last in that phase.

The real reason some people want to roll initiative is cuz they've been conditioned to think in terms of wanting to "go first" so they can kill an enemy before they've had a chance to act. Which sounds reasonable, except that unless you shoot them in the head or decapitate them, a wounded (even mortally wounded) enemy should still be able to make one final attack before they succumb to their wounds, and people killing each other roughly at the same time is a plausible scenario that does happen in real life.

Even if you want to go "first" to interrupt a particular enemy or make a called shot to the head you could handle "initiative" individually as an opposed test between adversaries (which used to do when I started handling order of actions by fiat or phases) without basing the order of actions of the entire combat around random initiative. OR you could skip initiative and say that if your attack succeeds by X amount (such as 4+ on a d20) AND you rolled higher than their attack or action (if applicable) you managed to strike before they could act, otherwise they still get an action before you kill or disable them.

This weapon speed idea was implemented in Exalted (1e through a mid-line upgrade called Power Combat and then in 2e, not sure about 3e) and it was a royal pain in the ass to use for anything beyond a 1v1 duel.

Zalman

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #111 on: June 14, 2020, 09:54:18 AM »
Quote from: VisionStorm;1134065
Order of actions by random initiative makes no sense and isn't even necessary. You could handle order of actions by GM fiat or by phases based on proximity and readiness--whoever is closest to their target and/or immediately ready to act goes first (ranged within range, melee already in melee, etc), whoever needs minor preparations goes second (move, draw/reload weapons, etc.), whoever needs lengthy preparations goes last (reload flintlocks or crossbows, etc.). PCs and enemies act at the same phase, and enemy actions get resolved at the same time as PCs attacking them, then any enemies who haven't acted yet after all PCs are done resolve their actions last in that phase.


Situation is a great way to determine who goes first, but sometimes the situation is a "tie" in that regard. It is those times for which rolling randomly to determine who goes first is sensical and useful. Sure, you could use GM fiat to break ties, but I prefer randomness in that case, for the sake of fairness. I agree that most people overuse initiative rolls according this theory -- at my table we roll at most 10% of the time after allowing for situational determination of attack order.
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RPGPundit

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #112 on: June 20, 2020, 06:04:06 AM »
Quote from: Eric Diaz;1133991
This method has a lot of good things going for it... Dexterity is important, but only occasionally. Armor is important. weapons are important. The action being performed is important. I like it.


Yes, those are all good elements and things I like about it. But the most important detail is that it's still very simple to use.
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Opaopajr

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #113 on: June 20, 2020, 04:32:29 PM »
Quote from: Trinculoisdead;1131865
I like this method for Basic + Expert D&D, at least. No mods required even, just a flat 1d6 vs. 1d6 roll every round.
On a tie there can be a problem of action declaration. I haven't run into it much yet but if it comes up I can usually figure out how to handle it. Worst case scenario: on a tie you just jot down what the monsters are going to be doing before you listen to the players.

There was never any problem with action declaration because the old order worked: 1) First GM decides NPC action in secret and locks it in (so as to not metagame players' declaration), 2) Next players declare action publically and locks it in (or secret to GM if interesting dynamics are in play), 3) Then Initiative is rolled, 4) Finally resolve in initiative order (meaning ties are simultaneous -- Double KOs!).

Simple, easy, no metagaming or confusion in practice. :) The GM playing the NPCs does not give up metaknowledge, players don't have metaknowledge for the round and declaration locks in action, and the dice provide the thrilling risk that it can fall in either's, OR neither's!, favor. :D Strongly recommended wise method of the past -- and easily portable discrete sub-system to other games.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2020, 10:34:24 PM by Opaopajr »
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Zalman

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #114 on: June 20, 2020, 04:36:00 PM »
Quote from: Trinculoisdead;1131865
I like this method for Basic + Expert D&D, at least. No mods required even, just a flat 1d6 vs. 1d6 roll every round.
On a tie there can be a problem of action declaration. I haven't run into it much yet but if it comes up I can usually figure out how to handle it. Worst case scenario: on a tie you just jot down what the monsters are going to be doing before you listen to the players.


I suppose if you're not using any modifiers, and you don't want a lot of ties, you could always roll a d12 or even a d20 for initiative as well.
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Tom Kalbfus

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #115 on: June 20, 2020, 10:02:55 PM »
What I do is have the PCs state their actions, and then role for individual initiative to see when those actions occur, and then we resolve the actions from highest Initiative to lowest. Some actions that were stated don't occur because their characters were killed or incapacitated before they could take those actions. Initiative simulates the chaos of battle. Any way if the PCs go first all the time, how do they know their opponents are hostile?

What do you do if you enter a room and you see ten orcs standing there? Do you attack?

Slipshot762

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #116 on: June 21, 2020, 11:18:31 PM »
Well I use D6 Fantasy, which has many options for how to do initiative and you can change which is used from encounter to encounter or even round to round, but all options are subject to the reaction cycle built into the core game mechanics anyway so is likely not relevant to D&D. Absent surprise (which is deadly in D6 as it can mean no defensive rolls and just straight up murder) I typically have resolution go in order of highest perception or agility (use which ever of the two is best for that character) to lowest, allowing all participants to spend character points (D6 equivalent of xp) to win ties (avoiding dual simultaneous decapitations).

If your character and a goblin both have agility or perception of 3D, then whichever blows the most character points to break the tie will have their action resolved first. If neither wants to spend points or cannot for some reason then I simply have each roll a single die and higher goes first. In D6, generally, I have a combat round force all participants declare how many actions they will take at rounds start (not counting reaction rolls for dodging or parrying or counter-spelling or what have you) and then the 1st action of both sides is resolved before the second action is resolved for both sides before the third, in order of descending perception/agility.

So for example perception/agility creatures of 5D+2 resolve their first action, then 5D+1 resolves their first action, then 5D, then 4D+2 and so on. This then repeats with the second action, then the third and so on. A round in D6 is roughly 5 seconds so i place a limit of 5 actions in a round barring special circumstance or expenditure of character points or fate points. This core mechanical staggering of actions means no one will move up with one action and do a flurry of attacks before an opponent gets to react, possibly making initiative less important than in D&D. I have allowed characters to "charge", combining the move and attack into one single first action (usually at a cost of 1 fate point) but then if they fail to hit or force the opponent back with than action (dueling blades chart) their reaction rolls (parry-dodge) get penalized as if they had in fact taken two actions.

The way this all generally tends to shake out is that most first actions for "initiative winners" are movement to engage in melee or ranged attacks; and resolving first can often be a detriment. For example both you and the goblin wanted to move toward each other and melee attack but you, having higher perception or agility, resolve first, so you move...that is your first action, now he doesn't have to move and actually gets to roll attack before you since your first action was to sprint up to him, and his is to try and spear you. As you can imagine the net result of all this is that ranged attacks are the preferred method, which isn't surprising since this whole system was derived from the star wars rpg where most attacks would have been ranged attacks.

deadDMwalking

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #117 on: June 24, 2020, 10:08:56 AM »
Going first offers some advantages; making it semi-random is helpful to ensure the PCs can't always rely on those advantages.

There are 'optimal strategies' if you know the PC turn order in advance.  For example, it might always make sense for the wizard to go first, casting a mass buff, then all the warriors to attack WITH that buff active.  Randomizing initiative creates costs - if the wizard is going to go last the party might have to give the enemies a free attack.  

If 'holding' is free and PCs can act at any point (even interrupting enemies) then that's what PCs will do.  

The group I play with have found that combats feel more dynamic when we roll initiative every round.  That means in round 1 the BBEG might go last, but he might go 1st in round 2, effectively getting two actions in a row (of course, he won't KNOW that he's going first in Round 2 until Round 1 is over).  The table time is minimal, and it helps keep players engaged; if you go last in round 1 and you KNOW you're going last in every other round, you have time to space out.  With rolling initiative, you're always 'checked in' at the start of the round.  We find that in addition to adding some dramatic tension because of an uncertain turn order, it also helps keep players on track, so it is well worth whatever extra time it might take in the abstract.
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LiferGamer

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #118 on: July 01, 2020, 12:57:27 PM »
Is it dumb?  No, but is it accurate?  Hard to say.  

I like the doubt, the ebb-and-flow and believe that sometimes, who goes first is more important than who's the most skilled, especially if the game is lethal, ranged-focused, and 'low hit point'.


The one thing I truly liked in the FFG Star Wars games was the initiative; you basically had a 'pool' for both sides, which I easily cycled through with poker chips - a stack of red and white, alternating by rolls, so the players could decide amongst themselves who went when and I could use whichever adversary was most dramatically appropriate.

I've considered using it in all my games going forward, but haven't gotten player buy-in.
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S'mon

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #119 on: July 02, 2020, 05:33:11 AM »
Quote from: LiferGamer;1137408
Is it dumb?  No, but is it accurate?  Hard to say.  

I guess an accurate system would likely focus on the OODA loop and trying to operate inside the opponent's OODA loop, so eg high init would observe -orientate - decide - act while low init was still orienting, making low init constantly feel they were acting in the past.