On the Top Ten Different Styles of Initiative

I know it's not Friday, but it's what we are talking about this week.

10) Phased initiative: This is a declare action first style, where you say what you're going to do, and then the actions run in the order of what you're doing. Old School Hack and Holmes use this style. E.g. ranged, then movement, then melee, then spells.

9) Individual initiative: This is where each individual rolls a single die and you either count up or down going in order. Rounds are usually a minute long and results are modified by the weapon, spell or item used. Each count is referred to as a segment. (1d6 is 10 second segments, 1d10 is 6 second segments and 1d12 is 5 second segments). Sometimes, like in shadow run, initiative is a total that gets counted down, meaning if you roll well enough, you may get additional actions.

8) Ordered by statistic: Usually in order of Dexterity or Intelligence. Sometimes this can be weapon length.

7) Winner's Choice: This allows the person who's action it is to pick who goes next when their action is complete.

6) The Speed Check: Players roll against a target to see if they go before or after the opposition.

Player: "My staff bites him"
DM: "What now?"
Player "Because f&*k you, I'm a cleric"
5) The Count System: Used by the new Hackmaster, this involves a single die for surprise, and then your actions take time, you can swing your sword every seven counts, for example.

4) Written orders: This is declare before by writing down what you are planning to do, and then having the Dungeon Master execute those orders simultaneously with the ones he wrote down for the monsters.

3) Individual Vegas Style: This method involves re-rolling initiative after every action. Exciting, but involves a lot of rolling.

2) No initiative at all: This is the original method. The characters are simply asked what they are going to do and the Dungeon Master resolves the actions in logical order.

1) Vegas style! This is a comparative roll, resulting in one entire side or the other going first. It is exciting and simple. The threat of having to suffer through two rounds of attacks means the rolls are pretty exciting.

15 comments:

  1. Vegas style, once. Roll for initiative (and surprise?) to see who goes very first, then alternate turns.

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    1. That's how I play it in my GURPS game - there is an embedded by-statistic method but the order, once set, never changes. We simply resolve which side goes first, if anyone is surprised, and then alternate.

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    2. Established orders make combat much quicker to resolve; however, I think they miss a great opportunity embracing the chaotic nature of martial struggles and introducing tension and further risks.

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  2. I usually just make the players and monsters roll individually at the start of combat. Then, I take average of the monsters' initiative and have them act on the same turn. Ultimately, it works like Vegas Style except players that beat the monsters' average will get a turn before initiative alternates between monsters and players.

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  3. Really Good breakdown, I had not encountered a few of those options before. Winner's choice seems like it could be interesting and tacticle.

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    1. The new Marvel game uses that one; it is indeed very tactical, especially because in Marvel there are certain actions that need to be followed by another specific one to be (more) effective.

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  4. Regarding #1, the Holmes the rules don't specify that you have to "declare" your actions before the phase, rather than during the phases as they occur. The DM could simply say "Spells?" and any player that want to cast a spell at that time could do so, followed by "Missiles?", "Melee?", etc. Within phases it is by Dexterity. Once you've gone, that's your turn for the round. You can certainly add in "declarations", but it's an extra thing to discuss/track rather than just deciding and doing it immediately.

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  5. Why anyone would use any system other than "no initiative" boggles my mind... I have yet to see a solid defense of including initiative in a combat system.

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    1. Various reasons. Inexperienced GMs often like having a system, since it frees them from having to decide it (and can prevent arguments with players). Then there's the factor that a firm set of rules increases predictability for the players - you can set out to design a character who will be likely to win initiative... or one who will lose it, if that's your bag.

      How much it matters also depends on the lethality of the system. If one-hit kills are fairly common, then "who goes first" matters a lot more than if they're not.

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    2. I like initiative because it adds tension. I call for an initiative roll at the beginning of every round, so players always have to be ready for their plans to go to shit.

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  6. I've seen some systems use declarations in reverse order from carrying out - thus, the faster characters don't just get to go first, they also get to know what the slower characters are doing before they go!

    There's also simultaneous action. Most initiative systems have some sort of tie-breaker rule, but some allow ties, and have both actions happen - which can result in two characters both killing each other! Personally, I'd call "no initiative" systems where everything happens at once, and call what's being called "no initiative" here "common-sense initiative".

    Several games use mixed systems - for example, Eden's Buffy RPG uses common-sense initiative, with the GM deciding who goes first, but also states that if the GM is uncertain, rolls should be made on whatever their Dexterity-equivalent stat is (I forget the attribute name in the system). Monsters & Magic uses stat+roll, but the stat in question depends on what sort of action you're taking (Dexterity for physical actions, Wisdom for mental).

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  7. I'm about a month behind in my RSS feed, but where would by the boot AD&D fit in? Some sort of Phased Hybrid?

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    1. It's like six different systems!

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  8. In the revised Dangerous Journeys each person rolls, modifies for various factors, then the lowest roll goes first. After his action he re rolls, but this time adds a minimum of +1 to his initial initiative to see when he can go again.

    The person who goes after him, and is being affected by him, has a choice; he can either ignore the first person, and hope the other fellow misses or fails to affect him, or defend. If he choices the latter option he too must roll again for initiative; in which case he may end up getting initiative on the fellow anyway.

    For further fun, the second person---depending on the situation---may have to see if he notices he's being attacked. A Perception, Notice roll.

    GM: No, Karen, he caught you by surprise. Teach you to fixate on the glowing swords the next time, won't it?

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  9. We use no initiative: everyone goes. Only at the end of the round do deaths or incapacitations take effect.

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