Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roll for Initiative! Wait, No, Don't Roll!

Over at The Art of the Near TPK, Gregor talks about his take on 4e initiative. The post reminded me of an initiative variant I've thought about using.

There's no more rolling for initiative. The characters all take their turns in whatever order, then the monsters. You can ready actions and what not, but that has no effect on when you take your next turn. There's no delaying, since both groups go in whatever order they want. There's a clean up phase for the party as a whole after the party's turn, and one for the monsters. Durations key off those end points.

The nifty thing is that it takes care of any weird complexity with delaying and durations. Let's say an NPC monk dazes the paladin, and the daze lasts until the monsters' next clean-up phase. It's clear that the paladin is going to lose his next turn. He can't delay to avoid it (not that you can in 4e, but we had to put in some semi-convoluted rules to make sure that worked out).

OTOH, if the cleric has a spell that can end the daze, you don't need to deal with the complexity of delaying to make that happen. On the party's turn, the cleric just goes before the paladin.

As Gregor points out in his post, that allows for a lot more teamwork and coordination on both sides of the screen.

Anyway, rolling for initiative was too popular for me to get this, or any of the other, changes I had in mind for 4e.

16 comments:

Leandro Pugliesi said...

I have tried this one time...no way.

Pepole ( my pepole at least..lol ) like some kind of order, and they have missed the "scream" when someone take a 20 in the d20.

Wayward Mind said...

Funny. There have been a few posts now that I've seen talking about full-group initiative. I'm going to try it on Sunday with my group of 6. With 4e emphasizing complementary abilities and teamwork, I don't see how regular initiative orders play to that game mechanic strength. Hopefully full-group initiative will.

Brent said...

I'm pretty sure my group would all start talking at once if I let them all go in whatever order.

Dave The Game said...

Usually, I'm in favor of any rules that let the PCs work together easier, and I agree that it's an easy fix to the delaying/ongoing effects fiddliness. It also fixes the "I'm going to take ongoing damage at the beginning of my turn, and there's nothing that can be done about it."

But I just find something appealing about the monsters being interspersed between PCs. Just makes everything feel a bit more dynamic.

Of course, the way my PCs roll for initiative, they all tend to get the drop on monsters anyway.

Wickedmurph said...

I really like the idea of group initiative - that way the party may actually discuss what they are all doing instead of interrupting other players with a "don't do that, I'm going to do this".

I'm not really sure how free-form initiative would work out though - maybe I'm just so damned used to checking my initiative order list that I can't imagine another way.

GrayPumpkin said...

Interesting notion, and I can see the benefits to it, but for me they don't outweigh the added drama rolling for initiative can bring.

Reverend Mike said...

Definitely going to try this one...

I really don't see much drama brought to initiative rolls, but this will certainly eliminate the groans that result from rolling nat 20s on initiative when they could be better used elsewhere...

GrayPumpkin said...

I guess it varies from game to game but initiative if often brings drama/excitement, from players wanting to go first to get off a spell or action to wanting to stop a creature from attacking an endangered NPC to the rogue just wanting to go first to get his combat advantage, rolling for initiative adds fun and tensions to our sessions.

distarn said...

I use a method similar to Savage Worlds. Savage Worlds uses a deck of cards, with ties resolved reverse alphabetically (i.e. if two people have a five, the the tie is resolved Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs). Jokers go whenever they want and get +2 to all rolls.

However, for D&D I use the Three Dragon Ante deck, with the Dragon Gods getting +2 to all rolls and ties resolved by Initiative Modifier, then Good Dragon over Evil Dragon, then Dragon over Mortal, then Reverse Alphabetically.

It makes for a more consistent intiative process with less variation. It also makes the initiative modifier much more important. I've never had so many people take Improved Initiative.

Ericc

Bartoneus said...

Dave: My immediate reaction was exactly what you pointed out, I love having the monsters acting interspersed with the players. My solution would be to just have a monster go after every x number of players did something.

Yes, I know, this just begins the quick and painful process of muddying up the clean and concise rules and gets right back to normal initiative rules. Maybe there's a middle ground / balance that can be struck?

JD said...

It'd run quicker, but you lose certain structure. Inattentive players will miss turns or take extra turns, and the advantages conferred by delaying turn encourage cautious inaction.

Mike Lee said...

The argument I've heard is that party initiative makes initiative modifier worthless.

Let PCs use their initiative bonus as a miscellaneous bonus in the first round of combat. All on one roll (like attack), or over several rolls (attack, damage, skill check).

The larger potential problem is focus fire. The enemy focuses on one PC, and takes him out. Though you could reproduce this effect by having the enemy delay until all the PCs have gone.

I save a little time now by giving all monsters a take-ten on initiative and skill rolls. But that's not really what we're talking about here.

I think you need a casual gaming group to make group initiative work. More serious players are almost competitive about attacking first, and getting the benefit of a high initiative.

Brent said...

I've also been thinking about just using each character's initiative score, without adding a 1d20 roll. Make things easier.

JD said...

Taking ten on initiative saves time but makes the game more predictable. A PC with a high Initiative will always go before his opponents, always take the first turn in combat. Boring!

I think everyone likes the feeling when they get lucky enough to take the first turn and lead the attack.

Eric said...

This doesn't have to necessarily make the initiative score obsolete.

Simply have everyone in the party roll initiative, and then divide by the players in the party, rounding down. Do the same process for all the enemies.

Side with the higher number goes first.

Precocious Apprentice said...

I have been thinking about this for my PbP games. In these games, each player would post once a day, and the player would post whenever in the day that they want. The enemies would all take their actions whenever the DM wanted to post. If he only wanted to post once a day, he would group all of them together. He could post multiple times to spread them out.

I think that this could solve a little bit of the slowdown of waiting for the other characters to post before you do. When a round takes a whole day to get through, waiting can suck even more than the usual face to face game. If I go to bed early, or I live in Europe, and my group is a late night or American group, it really sucks to have to time your posts around the other players.

This solution also removes some of the difference between intelligence and dexterity. With no initiative, there is really not much difference besides fluff.