Here's Mike Mearls' New D&D 5E Initiative System
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  • [UPDATED] Here's Mike Mearls' New D&D 5E Initiative System


    In his AMA yesterday, WotC's Mike Mearls frequently referenced his dislike for D&D's initiative system, and mentioned that he was using a new initiative system in his own games. He later briefly explained what that was: "Roll each round. D4 = ranged, d8 = melee, d12 = spell, d6 = anything else, +d8 to swap gear, +d8 for bonus action, low goes 1st. Oh, and +d6 to move and do something ... adds tension, speeds up resolution. So far in play has been faster and makes fights more intense." That's the short version; there's likely more to it. Mearls mentioned briefly that he might trial it in Unearthed Arcana at some point to see what sort of reaction it gets.

    In his AMA, Mearls indicated it was cyclic initiative he didn't like ("Cyclical initiative - too predictable"), which the above doesn't address at all (it merely changes the die rolls). Presumably there's more to the system than that quick couple of sentences up there, and it sounds like initiative is rolled every round. So if your initiative is based on your action, presumably you declare your action before rolling initiative (as opposed to declaring your action when your initiative comes around).

    _____

    UPDATE: I asked Mearls a couple of quick questions. He commented that it "lets ranged guys shoot before melee closes, spellcasters need to be shielded". He also mentioned that he "tinkered with using your weapon's damage die as your roll, but too inflexible, not sure it's worth it".

    How is this implemented in-game? "Roll each round, count starts again at 1. Requires end of turn stuff to swap to end of round, since it's not static. In play I've called out numbers - Any 1s, 2s, etc, then just letting every PC go once monsters are done". You announce your action at the beginning of the round; you only need to "commit to the action type - you're not picking specific targets or a specific spell, for instance."

    Dexterity does NOT adjust INITITIATVE. Mearls comments that "Dex is already so good, i don't miss it".

    So what's the main benefit of the system? "Big benefit is that it encourages group to make a plan, then implement it. Group sees issue of the round and acts around it. I also think it adds a nice flow to combat - each round is a sequence. Plan, resolve, act, encourages group cohesion. Resolution is also faster - each player knows what to do; you don't need to pick spells ahead of acting, but groups so far have planned them."



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    Comments 333 Comments
    1. Lanefan -
      At first glance that has a lot of potential. Thumbs up!
    1. CapnZapp -
      So no connection to any ability score, then?

      Not only do you get to roll a very quick d4 instead of a d8, you also don't need to add the d6 needed to charge into melee...

      As if the rules needed to give ranged combat any more advantages over melee...

      Of course, why am I surprised Mmearls managed to find an eleventh(!) thing to tweak in favor of ranged combat...? By now it's apparent he is on a personal crusade to destroy classical fantasy tropes and how they rely on melee combat.

      Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
      So no connection to any ability score, then?

      Not only do you get to roll a very quick d4 instead of a d8, you also don't need to add the d6 needed to charge into melee...

      As if the rules needed to give ranged combat any more advantages over melee...

      Of course, why am I surprised Mmearls managed to find an eleventh(!) thing to tweak in favor of ranged combat...? By now it's apparent he is on a personal crusade to destroy classical fantasy tropes and how they rely on melee combat.
      Calm down. That was just the short elevator pitch version, not the actual rules. The rules might appear in an UA.
    1. Waterbizkit's Avatar
      Waterbizkit -
      Other than changing all weapon attacks to be a d8 versus the d4/d8 ranged/melee split... I think that's a system with some solid potential. And I don't say this for the same reasons as CapnZapp with regards to ranged dominance, the system removes dexterity from the equation entirely which I like. I suggest the change just for the sake of simplicity.

      Alternatively, maybe weapon attacks are all d6 and heavy weapons are d8...

      Anyway, interesting...
    1. Caliburn101's Avatar
      Caliburn101 -
      Sorry, but Mike Mearls needs to do some sword fighting or at least some LARP and redo this entirely.

      Before a LARPer can get off a single spell I can have draw a sword and hit them three times at least, and it's the same against ranged. It should be in THIS order and with dice which have a bonus due to a relevant stat, so high still goes first;

      1d6 + Spellcasting Stat = Cast Spell
      1d8 + Dex Bonus = Ranged Attack
      1d10 + Dex Bonus = Melee Attack
      1d12 + Wis Bonus = Delay Action
      1d12 + Dex Bonus = Sprint

      Or perhaps do it by weapon type - so light or unarmed gets 1d12, normal 1d10 and heavy 1d8 for instance...

      You could also choose to take Advantage on an attack action initiative roll in return for Disadvantage on the roll to hit (unless you already have disadvantage, in which base, not...)
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      Cyclical initiative may be boringly predictable, but it seems that there are other, simpler ways to solve the issue rather than introducing this level of multiplied complexity.
    1. Herobizkit's Avatar
      Herobizkit -
      Next thing you know, we're going to have Weapon Speed initiative modifiers and then a slippery slope to bonuses/penalties to hit Specific Armor Types...
    1. GarrettKP's Avatar
      GarrettKP -
      Quote Originally Posted by Caliburn101 View Post
      Sorry, but Mike Mearls needs to do some sword fighting or at least some LARP and redo this entirely.

      Before a LARPer can get off a single spell I can have draw a sword and hit them three times at least, and it's the same against ranged. It should be in THIS order and with dice which have a bonus due to a relevant stat, so high still goes first;

      1d6 + Spellcasting Stat = Cast Spell
      1d8 + Dex Bonus = Ranged Attack
      1d10 + Dex Bonus = Melee Attack
      1d12 + Wis Bonus = Delay Action
      1d12 + Dex Bonus = Sprint

      Or perhaps do it by weapon type - so light or unarmed gets 1d12, normal 1d10 and heavy 1d8 for instance...

      You could also choose to take Advantage on an attack action initiative roll in return for Disadvantage on the roll to hit (unless you already have disadvantage, in which base, not...)
      Obviously you didn't read the actual comment. In this system lowest initiative acts first, not highest.
    1. Dartavian's Avatar
      Dartavian -
      I agree with his take on the RAW Initiative system. I personally like it what he has come up with, it does seem promising. As far as including ability to initiative, you could easily apply any initiative bonuses as a sum deducted from the die roll total.
    1. Baumi -
      Interesting and I welcome any change to the standard Initiative System, but I cannot see this being faster. Also you already have to know at Initiative-Stage what you want to do (so what happens if the circumstances change)?

      On the other hand, the biggest timekiller in combat is the indecision. Such a system could theoretically make each turn much faster since you already know beforehand what you will do...
    1. MarkB's Avatar
      MarkB -
      So, what happens if one creature's action renders another's proposed action invalid? Do they get to re-specify, or do they lose their action?
    1. Greenmtn's Avatar
      Greenmtn -
      I like the idea of trying to improve the initiative system, and think this could be a good start. I am however having a hard time wrapping my head around how this is going to make resolution any quicker, which is what he says he wants to do with it.

      The current system you grab 1 dice and look up your bonus. Done.

      This, they way I am reading it, you need to commit to what you are doing, look up what dice or combination of dice you are using and then you are done.


      I can see how it adds unpredictability and tension, I think it would make combat take longer but I think I like the idea of doing initiative every round to add a feeling of chaos to the combat but I worry it would slow things down more.
    1. GlassJaw's Avatar
      GlassJaw -
      Little surprised that this is Mearls' prefers system. It adds complexity and die rolls based on variable factors rolls and is pseudo-simulationist in nature, neither of which seem to really be what 5E is about. I don't see the benefit over the base system honestly.

      I was hoping his system was more about declared actions and resolution choice or something. A system like that would be much more cooperative.
    1. Warmaster Horus's Avatar
      Warmaster Horus -
      Makes actions that last a round a little wonky.

      Example: A monk stuns an orc who is then stunned for its' turn at the end of the round. In the next round the orc goes before the monk and is still stunned, losing two actions to a single stun.
    1. JohnnyZemo's Avatar
      JohnnyZemo -
      I run a couple of larger groups (5-6 players), and rolling for initiative every round would slow combat down significantly. I'm okay with the current system.
    1. CydKnight's Avatar
      CydKnight -
      Am I reading this right? This sounds like you will have to know your action before each initiative roll. If this is the case, what happens if circumstances change before your turn in that round effecting what action you want to take? What else could you do but continue in the same order regardless?

      On the surface, that doesn't seem any better to me than one 20-sided die roll for initiative at the start of combat. It's more die rolls and more for a DM to track with negligible benefit in my humble opinion.

      I welcome any corrections if my interpretation is in error.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Interesting system, but one odd side effect (as presented) is that you need to know your actions before you roll initiative for that round. You need to know if you are gong to take a bonus action, or swap gear, etc. Quite often you do already know, but you would be less able to react to things that happen in the same round. Maybe that's a feature and not a bug for some, but it is an interesting side effect hidden in there. Once you roll initiative, you are committed to the kinds of actions you will take.

      (As an aside, my first thought was that it would help speed up indecisive players by making them decide ahead of time what they would do. But really it just moves that problem, so rather than waiting for them to decide when it's their turn, you instead wait on them to decide so that they can roll initiative. So no real benefit there.)
    1. jasper's Avatar
      jasper -
      ...Interesting system, but one odd side effect (as presented) is that you need to know your actions before you roll initiative for that round.....
      So instead of waiting on Kenmarble to declare if he going to swing a sword or cast a spell at Init 12, we now have to wait on Kenmarble (and the rest of people who take 5 minutes to decide an action) to decide on which die he throwing.
    1. jasper's Avatar
      jasper -
      ...Interesting system, but one odd side effect (as presented) is that you need to know your actions before you roll initiative for that round.....
      So instead of waiting on Kenmarble to declare if he going to swing a sword or cast a spell at Init 12, we now have to wait on Kenmarble (and the rest of people who take 5 minutes to decide an action) to decide on which die he throwing.
    1. stoopski's Avatar
      stoopski -
      How about that depending on the action(s) you took this round, you roll the dice according to M. Mearls rules, but only after you take your turn. Then you add this to your current initiative.


      Initiative order never resets to 0, it just increases.
      A round is then not when everybody acted, but whenever it's your turn again.


      So for example, When first initiative comes in, everyone rolls 1d20 - DEX mod, lowest goes first.
      Let's say I roll 18.
      If I attack with a Shortsword I roll a d8, and get a 4.
      I would add a standard "6" to any action to space it out and help average out between different types of actions.
      So I would then act again at initiative 28.


      What is neat is that you make this roll AFTER your action so you don't have to know in advance what to do, and it does not slow down the combat as the next player's turn may already start.

      On the other hand, it might unbalance faster actions that will now act more frequently than slower actions throwing out the whole math of the system... That's why adding the standard 6 to any action might help balance it out.
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