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Author Topic: Is Initiative Dumb?  (Read 5282 times)

S'mon

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #30 on: May 18, 2020, 03:11:51 am »
Quote from: VisionStorm;1130330
Being frozen in place, waiting for your "turn" to come for you to finally act, was moronic decades ago when the idea was first conceived.

I agree, but running 1e AD&D again currently in a PBP with Segments I've been really struck by how that was not Gygax's (poorly-explained) intent. The intent of the Initiative roll as first conceived seems to be much more about resolving which (eg) sword strike is first in a melee, not which side acts while the other freezes in place. Declarations are made, actions begin more or less simultaneously, initiative roll is used more as a tie breaker. Often it's not used - Fighters with multiple attacks always go first & last; when closing to melee the longer weapon always strikes first. Init roll determines stuff like whether you get a spell off before the other guy stabs you, or whether you are casting when you got stabbed - a low init roll might be preferable then, since it may mean you are hit before you even began to cast.

Edit: It may help that I'm using OSRIC, where it's explained a lot more clearly than in the 1e DMG!
« Last Edit: May 18, 2020, 03:18:11 am by S'mon »
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mAcular Chaotic

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #31 on: May 18, 2020, 03:47:05 am »
Quote from: S'mon;1130425
I agree, but running 1e AD&D again currently in a PBP with Segments I've been really struck by how that was not Gygax's (poorly-explained) intent. The intent of the Initiative roll as first conceived seems to be much more about resolving which (eg) sword strike is first in a melee, not which side acts while the other freezes in place. Declarations are made, actions begin more or less simultaneously, initiative roll is used more as a tie breaker. Often it's not used - Fighters with multiple attacks always go first & last; when closing to melee the longer weapon always strikes first. Init roll determines stuff like whether you get a spell off before the other guy stabs you, or whether you are casting when you got stabbed - a low init roll might be preferable then, since it may mean you are hit before you even began to cast.

Edit: It may help that I'm using OSRIC, where it's explained a lot more clearly than in the 1e DMG!

Wouldn't the phase determine if you get the spell off first? Or whether you're being attacked in melee by a fighter or something?
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Kyle Aaron

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #32 on: May 18, 2020, 04:51:03 am »
Quote from: rocksfalleverybodydies;1130353
I'll assume we're not taking into consideration of surprise which is a another whole kettle of fish.
I'll never forget what a Recon GM told us years ago:

  • there are only 3 kinds of fights
  • they ambush you: they're fine, all of you die
  • you ambush them: you're fine, all of them die
  • a standup fight: everyone dies
  • your job is to avoid being ambushed and standup fights, and try to ambush them
For certain interpretations of the notoriously-muddled AD&D1e surprise/initiative rules, this is an accurate description. Properly-done, surprise can thus make initiative irrelevant. However, it requires a sensible group of players with a DM who rewards smarts. I mean basic stuff like sending your thief or ranger ahead of the party so their tracking, find traps, dex bonus and so on can help surprise any foes.

If you think players hate waiting their turn, see what happens when they're muddling around unable to act while the enemy pounds on them for a few combat rounds. They seem less uncomfortable when it's the enemy not acting. But that's what tactics are for.

Most games have some mixture of choice and chance. RPGs typically add some abilities of the character, so that initiative is Player Tactics + Character Skill + Dice Roll. I generally find that players who aren't good at tactics would rather it were more character skill, and those good at tactics are annoyed that character skill or chance are involved.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2020, 04:56:38 am by Kyle Aaron »
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Spinachcat

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #33 on: May 18, 2020, 04:58:12 am »
Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130424
What do you do if PCs want to fight against each other or fight over getting some item, etc. (Like say, one of them is trying to steal the MacGuffin for their employer and another PC wants to stop them, when this happens in the middle of combat.) If they're all going at the same time...? They're not really on the same "side" anymore... but then there's the monsters too.


If there's a question of individual speed within the team initiative, I usually default to DEX. Thus, during the Players Turn, two PCs might be fighting each other or fighting over something, so I default to DEX score to determine who goes when among the PCs. If that's equal, then each rolls D6. As those incidents happen rarely, its not been a problem.

Monsters act as normally on their Initiative phase.


Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130424
There's also people not coordinating and just stepping over each other, like someone wanting to fireball and everyone else just running into the melee every time and ruining it...


Team Initiative usually handles those problems. I tell my players that I "assume competency" of the PCs and also assume the characters chatter among each other, just like the players so much information is shared.

Steven Mitchell

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #34 on: May 18, 2020, 07:56:26 am »
Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130424
A flaw or a blindspot came up when I did team initiative.

What do you do if PCs want to fight against each other or fight over getting some item, etc. (Like say, one of them is trying to steal the MacGuffin for their employer and another PC wants to stop them, when this happens in the middle of combat.) If they're all going at the same time...? They're not really on the same "side" anymore... but then there's the monsters too.

There's also people not coordinating and just stepping over each other, like someone wanting to fireball and everyone else just running into the melee every time and ruining it...


As with all such issues in that arise using "sides" or any other initiative--adjudicate it according to the situation.  Nothing is stopping you from dropping into a more precise initiative system for a round or two--for the whole encounter or for just that "side" or for just those two or three contending players.  Or for that matter, nothing is stopping you from requiring a one-off Dex or Initiative or whatever roll that fits that situation. Maybe at the moment, Int or Wis makes a better proxy for who gets to go first. Maybe the person standing right next to the thing gets a bonus.  

Really, the problem with cyclic initiative is that it got built because:

A. There are some "order" situations that come up that beginning GMs don't know how to handle, including the give and take of the players intent.
B. Cyclic initiative provides "an answer" for a lot of them.
C. So  to get those advantages that we only need part of the time, cyclic initiative layers on additional handling that often isn't needed.

Worse, as with any overly complicated system in RPGs, it can be counter-productive.  It's relatively slow.  Using it vastly slows GM development of their own skills handling those issues because they don't handle them.

Whereas, if you think of cyclic initiative as a very precise tool to handle a particular set of issues--and only use it when those arise--then it is just another tool in your toolbox.  Or better, think about what it does, and use that analysis to inform your rulings.

Most people, with informed reason, don't see any need to use a precise initiative system out of combat, at least most of the time.  Going around the table or just letting the players pick what they say works fine--and that's about as efficient as you can get. If your combats are clear enough, that may work fine for those too.  The more players and monsters, the more that is going on in the game, the more complication for the GM and players to process--the more likely you are to need a "system" to manage that.  If only to tell Joe to wait a second while you finish up with what Mary is saying.  Play around with that for awhile, and you'll probably develop some modest "initiative" system that works well for your group, because it is the way you keep adjudicating anyway.

nDervish

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #35 on: May 18, 2020, 07:59:01 am »
Quote from: Shasarak;1130356
Has anyone tried Hackmaster?  It uses a count up system where every action takes a certain number of seconds so you are never really "frozen" in place.  You declare your action, act on your count, declare your next action, if something happens you can change actions, move a certain speed per second.  It really forces you to concentrate on what is going on because there is always something happening.


I've read Hackmaster, but not actually played it.  I have, however, used similar count-up initiative systems in the past, and really liked how they worked.  They also seem to run faster in my experience, despite being more complex than "conventional" initiative systems on the surface.

The main reason I don't use that style in everything I run is that most systems aren't geared for that level of flexibility in actions and I haven't felt like putting in the effort to find ways to, e.g., take a system which assumes that all actions take the same time ("one round") to complete and make some actions take less time than other actions without completely unbalancing things.

Steven Mitchell

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #36 on: May 18, 2020, 08:04:45 am »
Quote from: nDervish;1130443
I've read Hackmaster, but not actually played it.  I have, however, used similar count-up initiative systems in the past, and really liked how they worked.  They also seem to run faster in my experience, despite being more complex than "conventional" initiative systems on the surface.

The main reason I don't use that style in everything I run is that most systems aren't geared for that level of flexibility in actions and I haven't felt like putting in the effort to find ways to, e.g., take a system which assumes that all actions take the same time ("one round") to complete and make some actions take less time than other actions without completely unbalancing things.

I've also used similar systems, not in Hackmaster.  IIRC, one of the Runequest editions had such a system as an option.  In general, I avoid such system because they become a pain to manage with large numbers of combatants.  It's no big deal for the players to track a spiraling count (and some can even enjoy it), but I don't want to track it for several monsters at once, and surely not for 20 of them.  Of course, the usual tricks of putting the monsters in groups can work for that too, though it is a little more limiting when the monsters aren't all doing the same thing every round.

We've also frequently played where there are a lot of young children running around being supervised by the players.  A system that requires constant engagement to keep moving isn't always an option for us. :D

VisionStorm

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #37 on: May 18, 2020, 11:18:51 am »
Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130424
A flaw or a blindspot came up when I did team initiative.

What do you do if PCs want to fight against each other or fight over getting some item, etc. (Like say, one of them is trying to steal the MacGuffin for their employer and another PC wants to stop them, when this happens in the middle of combat.) If they're all going at the same time...? They're not really on the same "side" anymore... but then there's the monsters too.


To add one more consideration I don't think I saw mentioned in replies to this, one thing to keep in mind is that while group initiative is often framed in terms of two "sides" competing against each other there's no real limit to the number of sides that can take part of an engagement. Let's say, for example, that the PCs are chasing a group of bandits who stole something from the lord the PCs serve, then fled to a cave hideout located within the lands of an enemy kingdom. The PCs chase the bandits down, but when they finally confront them the enemy king's guards show up to settle their own score with the bandits as well, only to find allies of their sworn enemy in their lands. Now the PCs have deal not only with the bandits, but with the enemy king's guards as well.

In confrontations where more than two sides exist each side has their own separate initiative competing for order of actions against the rest. In the above example the PCs would roll initiative, and so would the bandits and the king's guards, with each of the three groups taking turns separately. Similarly, if one or more of the PCs were to turn against the rest of the party in the middle of combat against another enemy force, then the traitor PCs would be treated as a separate "side" in the confrontation, with their own initiative separate from their original party.

Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130424
There's also people not coordinating and just stepping over each other, like someone wanting to fireball and everyone else just running into the melee every time and ruining it...


A good fireball blast killing off half the party is always a good tutor in teaching players how to cooperate. You can take the horse to the water but you can't force it to drink. Players insisting on not cooperating with each other is not so much an issue of group initiative or any other type of initiative system. Even when using individual initiative you'll still run into this type of problem if players refuse to cooperate with each other. Best you can do is try to reason with them, but if they insist on going down a path that would get them killed, let them have it.

VisionStorm

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #38 on: May 18, 2020, 11:24:04 am »
Quote from: Shrieking Banshee;1130396
You don't know my games. Maybe I don't even fucking use initiative but I can't stand when other people demand others not use systems just because they don't like them.

Get over yourself.


I hereby decree that initiative should no longer be rolled in any RPG. Ever!

Don't let me see you rolling them dice at the start of combat if I ever pass by your house in the middle of a game session or there will be consequences to pay! :mad:

S'mon

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #39 on: May 18, 2020, 11:28:36 am »
Quote from: mAcular Chaotic;1130432
Wouldn't the phase determine if you get the spell off first? Or whether you're being attacked in melee by a fighter or something?


1e/OSRIC doesn't use phases - are you thinking of BX & BECMI?

Determine Initiative: After any surprise segments are
resolved and spell casting is declared, the first combat
round begins. At the beginning of a combat round, each
side rolls initiative on a d6. The roll represents the six second
segment of the round in which the OTHER group will
be able to act; hence, the higher roll is the better roll (as the
other party will act later). If the party rolls a 6 for initiative,
and the monsters roll a 1, this means that the party will be
acting in segment 1, and the monsters will not act until the
sixth segment of the 10-segment round. Since a combat
round is 10 segments long, and the initiative roll only covers
the first six segments of the round, there are four remaining
segments in the round after the two sides have already
taken their actions: these remaining four segments are still
important because spells may take effect during this time,
and some combatants might "hold" (choose to delay) their
actions, waiting to act until these later segments.
The dexterity bonus for surprise is not added to an individual's
initiative for melee attacks, but if a character has a
missile weapon in hand, he or she applies his or her missile
attack bonus as a bonus to his or her initiative (as well as
to the attack roll).
Initiative rolls may result in a tie. When this happens, both
sides are considered to be acting simultaneously. The GM
may handle this situation in any way he or she chooses--
with one caveat. The damage inflicted by combatants during
simultaneous initiative is inflicted even if one of the
combatants dies during the round. It is possible for two
combatants to kill each other during a simultaneous initiative
round! Under any other circumstance, of course, the
effects of damage inflicted during that segment will take
effect immediately--a goblin killed in the first segment of
the round will be dead (and thus unable to attack) by the
time the fifth segment of the round arrives.
Some characters (and creatures) may have more than one
attack routine. This does not refer to a monster that normally
makes multiple attacks in a round--all of these attacks
are considered to be part of one attack routine. However,
a fighter whose level grants him an additional attack is
considered to be making a second entire attack routine.
This is perhaps most clearly seen if the reader envisions a
fighter who uses a sword in one hand and a dagger in the
other. These two attacks are part of an attack routine--and
if the fighter is of high enough level or under the influence
of a haste spell, he or she may also gain an entire additional
attack routine. A creature or character with multiple attack
routines cannot use the second attack routine until after
the other side's initiative segment has been resolved.
Once the party with initiative has acted, the party that lost
initiative may then take action.
Note about spells: Spells have a casting time, the number
of segments (or rounds, turns, etc.) required to cast the
spell. The spell caster does not actually begin casting the
spell until his or her initiative segment. That segment is the
first segment of the casting time. The spell does not "go
off" until the casting has been completed
.
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WillInNewHaven

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #40 on: May 18, 2020, 11:48:58 am »
Quote from: Kael;1130349
if people actually want realistic combat, just roll for random casualties across the battlefield like a wargame. Or, in other words, just play a wargame.

If you'd rather emulate heroic fiction, then yeah, PCs go first unless surprised.


If you prefer heroic fiction where the plot armor and deus ex machine is so prevalent and visible that the heroes have accomplished nothing, sure.

WillInNewHaven

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #41 on: May 18, 2020, 11:51:08 am »
Quote from: Shasarak;1130393
For a certain definition of "works"


It doesn't slow things down.
It's fun.
The players feel that their characters have accomplished something difficult, even though the fatality level is low.

VisionStorm

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Is Initiative Dumb?
« Reply #42 on: May 18, 2020, 11:56:30 am »
Quote from: S'mon;1130425
I agree, but running 1e AD&D again currently in a PBP with Segments I've been really struck by how that was not Gygax's (poorly-explained) intent. The intent of the Initiative roll as first conceived seems to be much more about resolving which (eg) sword strike is first in a melee, not which side acts while the other freezes in place. Declarations are made, actions begin more or less simultaneously, initiative roll is used more as a tie breaker. Often it's not used - Fighters with multiple attacks always go first & last; when closing to melee the longer weapon always strikes first. Init roll determines stuff like whether you get a spell off before the other guy stabs you, or whether you are casting when you got stabbed - a low init roll might be preferable then, since it may mean you are hit before you even began to cast.

Edit: It may help that I'm using OSRIC, where it's explained a lot more clearly than in the 1e DMG!


The issue is that intent aside initiative (particularly individual initiative) does tend to play out like characters frozen in time in practice, despite the books saying otherwise and claiming that actions are assumed to take place simultaneously. I have seen characters evade a fireball blast because they hadn't taken their action yet so they weren't within the blast radius when the fireball went off, yet an ally standing right beside them at the beginning of the round did take the fireball blast cuz they "won" initiative so they already had time to move into melee before the fireball happened.

If actions where truly simultaneous and initiative was simply a tool to facilitate the GM managing actions in combat both characters would have been fried. But they didn't because individual initiative does tend to work like characters frozen in time in practice. And not simply as a matter of perception, but as a matter of demonstrable fact.

I often get the impression that initiative came up as an experimental means to manage combat, with multiple versions (group vs individual) available since early on, but it eventually took on a life of its own till it became its own game convention at odds with the reality it was attempting to emulate. With people more focused on demanding their "turn" or trying to attack their enemies before they had the chance to attack them, than analyzing whether any of it made sense or was even necessary to handle combat effectively.

Altheus

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« Reply #43 on: May 18, 2020, 12:24:30 pm »
I like the idea ao sitting everyone down in initiative order and going around asking what people are going to do from low to high and then resolving things from high to low. I'm not sure how effective or fun this would be.

I would probably have to telegraph npc actions in this system so faster characters have the chance to act and interrupt or adapt to them.

Next time I have an actual table of players I'll give this a go.

Steven Mitchell

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« Reply #44 on: May 18, 2020, 12:53:36 pm »
Quote from: Altheus;1130472
I like the idea ao sitting everyone down in initiative order and going around asking what people are going to do from low to high and then resolving things from high to low. I'm not sure how effective or fun this would be.

I would probably have to telegraph npc actions in this system so faster characters have the chance to act and interrupt or adapt to them.

Next time I have an actual table of players I'll give this a go.

Make sure they can't throw anything at you during the experiment. I went through a long series of experiments with initiative to determine empirically what works and what doesn't with my typical group.  Early on, I tried the seating thing.  There's only been two times in several decades where the group refused to give an experiment a fair shake.  I explained, they looked at me, then each other, then in unison:  'NO!".  Some people like their chairs! :D