Initiative

Initiative.

I'm going to mirror one of Zac Sabbath's first posts and say essentially the same thing. Of course, I think that's a large part of the OSR blogosphere.

The party runs into a monster, eh? Time to roll initiative.

What's the goal here? Is it to accurately simulate tactical combat, so you can identify who moves when? This is a great idea! Let's see, the fighter can roll, then for his two crossbow henchmen, his wizard support, and his cleric, and the cleric's two wardogs. Then the Wizard and his six men-at arms can roll, then the gladiator beastmaster needs to roll, then for his dragon, and his henchmen. Then the thief - oh, you know while that's going on I should roll for the frost wolves, wargs, hill giants, orcs and orc mages.

In the words of Gygax: DMG, Page 62, "Again, a d6 is rolled, and the scores for the two parties are compared. . . The higher of the two rolls is said to possess the initiative for that melee round. (While it is not accurate to roll one die for all individuals comprising each party, it is a convenient and necessary expedient. Separate rolls could be made for each member of two small groups, for instance, but what happens to this simple, brief determination if one party consists of 9 characters and 6 henchmen and the other of 7 giants and 19 dire wolves, let us say?)"

We roll a d6 for the party and a d6 for the DM. It's an exciting time at the table for all involved. You might even say fun.

What is so confusing to me is how through and precise this 30+ year old ruleset is at keeping things fun contrasted with the consistent and insane desire by hundreds of people in the industry over the last 30 years who thought it was a good idea to change it for the worst of reasons (realism, I'm looking in your direction).

6 comments:

  1. The group of guys I play with have never played anything previous 3.5 (looking to change that soon), so I'm still trying grasp this concept. I looked at your more recent post "On Abstracted Initiative Confusion", but thought I'd better post my comment here because posting among those comments is like combat itself and I'm afraid I'm not a high enough level to keep up.

    So just to be clear, in this system everyone declares actions before the roll? And how often does a situation arise where one side wins the fight in the first round (if ever)? Do you roll the initiative before each round of combat? And do you account for initiative bonuses or just scrap those?

    Forgive my noobness to the old school way, sensei, but I have questions and you have answers.

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    Replies
    1. @Zymas

      Yes. Everyone declares their actions before they roll. Here is the important thing.

      The die roll does not represent a real physical moment when movement occurs. It is an abstraction used to resolve order of actions.

      After actions are declared,

      Missile fire occurs.
      Anyone who declared movement ONLY moves at this time.
      Initiative (per side) is rolled, a d6. High roll 'wins' initiative.
      We resolve ties that DM wins odd ties, and Players win even ties, but simultaneous works fine too.
      The winning side resolves actions.

      There are some caveats*

      Initiative bonuses aren't used really, but they come up during surprise duration and certain other sections.

      If a heavy weapon is facing a light weapon in melee, the light weapon gets an additional attack.
      When you close to combat, large weapons (Polearms/two-handed swords) strike first.
      If a mage is in melee with a weapon user, the weapon user goes first, unless the mage wins initiative AND the casting time of the spell is less than the difference between the mage's initiative and the weapon users.

      Many things are done in 1e to model combat more methodically, such as having fighters with multiple attacks take their second attacks at the end of the round, but in play at the actual table, the combat isn't the focus of the game, you know? It's what happens when you haven't been able to avoid it.

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  2. Also Zymas, Hackmaster 4e uses second edition style initiative, which is more like 3.x rather than 1e. We ditched it and switched to 1e style.

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  3. Oh, and I cannot recall any battle that was won in 1 round. They rarely start that close. Also surprise is a big factor in my games also.

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  4. Gotcha, I think. I can find all this info in a 1e d&d players handbook or dm guide? Or is there another resource that is perhaps free that I could find a good 1e rule set in?

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  5. It's pretty spread out, your best bet is to read ADDICT and realize that no one uses all the initiative rules.

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