Alternate Initiative Method

MechaPilot

Explorer
I'm restarting my D&D campaign after a somewhat long hiatus to finish school and look after my father. I'm going to be implementing an initiative variant when we restart, and I'd like to hear the community's thoughts on it.

Initiative Variant
Actions are declared at the beginning of the round.

If you don’t move, roll 1d10 + modifier.

If you move, roll 1d6 + modifier.

If you need to change the target of your action, you may do so with no problem. If you need to change your action to something else, you’ll be forfeiting your action for that turn. This applies to your enemies as well as you.

Weapon Modifiers:
Light Weapons: +1d12
Finesse Weapons: +1d10
Normal Weapons: +1d8
Two-Handed Weapons: +1d6
Heavy Weapons: +1d4

Special Actions:
Grapple, Shove, etc.: +1d8
Improvised Action: +1d6

Spell Modifiers:
Cantrip: +1d8
Non-Cantrip: +1d4-spell level



Notes:
  • Creatures that attack without manufactured weapons (such as dragons biting or clawing at an enemy, or a mind-flayer using its psychic blast) use the “Normal Weapons” weapon modifier unless the description of the attack.
  • “Light Weapons” includes light finesse weapons, and “Heavy Weapons” includes heavy two-handed weapons. “Versatile” weapons are considered “Normal Weapons” regardless of whether you’re using them one- or two-handed.
  • Weapon modifiers only apply if you’re using that weapon. If you’re holding a heavy weapon but using an innate racial ability (for example) you would use the +1d8 for your ability, not the +1d4 for your weapon.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'd be very worried about the forfeiting you action part. It's a lot easier to not have a target still standing in melee range then it is if you do ranged attacks. So this rule penalizes melee characters a lot more than ranged. It also penalizes them because they more often need to include a move.

Plus, lastly, it's extremely non-fun. With 4 other players plus DM-controlled foes, if a turn takes 2-3 minutes it's probably 15 minutes between actions. Missing a single action means you don't get to do anything for half an hour. As a player, I would argue strongly against such a rule because it seems it would be net un-fun.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Unless I'm mistaken, losing your action is part of the weapon speed variant in the DMG. This is just an alteration of that variant, so I kept that rule.

Also, if your chosen target is gone, you can switch to a new target with no problem. As long as you're doing the same thing (e.g. moving up to an enemy and attacking it, or making a ranged attack against it) just to a different target, you don't forfeit your turn.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
I've been using the DMG speed factor variant and looked over the Greyhawk variant, so some of this is familiar. And, in actual gameplay as I've documented in another thread, "losing" an action is a very rare event.

Movement: The +1d6 modifier should be clarified for the option to move in case it'd be counterproductive when your turn comes up. You're still penalized for not setting your feet, Greyhawk style.

Weapons: Hey, the d12 gets some love. In your monster section, what about a Giant with a giant-sized knife? Do you have a size modifier built in to account for this?

Do ranged weapons act differently? What about loading weapons?

Are you accounting (or caring) for the argument that Reach matters? A criticism of weapon speed is that fantasy armies of creatures with daggers and short swords should overwhelm armies with long swords, pikes, etc., due to superior initiative.

Special Actions: Does this include all class abilities such as clerical Channel? What about class abilities that mimic spells? What about if a class ability is a "bonus" action?

Spells: Casters seem to get hosed under this system. In the DMG variant, it's -1 per spell level so that a 2nd level spell is akin to a heavy weapon, and a 5th level spell is like loading a crossbow. I get the impression they'll generally always go last if they do anything but cast a Cantrip.

Other: Do Bonus actions and normal Actions stack modifiers? (Under DMG variant they do). If not, how do you account for them?

Improvised actions, are these like opening a door, using a lever, etc.? What if one is vastly different, such as tying a knot versus simply pushing a door open? Or does the +1d6 already account for what can happen in 6 seconds? In the variant, the DM decides arbitrarily whether to assign a penalty modifier.

Size. As above, does it make sense to penalize larger weapons but not larger creatures?

That's a lot of dice rolling. Assuming bonus actions stack, if I want to move, attack with my longsword, and cast Healing Word as a bonus action, I'm rolling 1d6+my modifier + 1d8 + 1d4 minus 1. That's, relative to the original system, a lot of rolls and math each round. Plus, if you have diverse enemies, you the DM are having to track the same thing. What if the party is facing another adventuring party? You, the DM, might be rolling and tracking 3 different dice each round for each enemy. Are you concerned about slowing combat down?
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
I've been using the DMG speed factor variant and looked over the Greyhawk variant, so some of this is familiar. And, in actual gameplay as I've documented in another thread, "losing" an action is a very rare event.
I do hope so. I don't intend the rule to be penalizing, just to encourage better cooperation.


Movement: The +1d6 modifier should be clarified for the option to move in case it'd be counterproductive when your turn comes up. You're still penalized for not setting your feet, Greyhawk style.
The 1d6 applies if you declare that you're going to move. You aren't required to move if you declare it, but you can't move if you don't declare it. So the 1d6 really does apply to the option to move.


Weapons: Hey, the d12 gets some love. In your monster section, what about a Giant with a giant-sized knife? Do you have a size modifier built in to account for this?
. . .
Size. As above, does it make sense to penalize larger weapons but not larger creatures?
I don't have any modifiers for creature size. I do see the value of having one, but I also want to keep the modifiers to a minimum (especially since I've been using dice as modifiers). I'll see how things play out. If I decide I need a modifier, my go-to fix will be a static modifier for size: -2 per size category above medium, and +2 per size category below medium.


Do ranged weapons act differently? What about loading weapons?
My variant treats ranged weapons the same as melee weapons (except that you're less likely to have to move when using a ranged weapon, so you're more likely to use 1d10 + modifier instead of 1d6 + modifier), and it ignores the loading property. Loading already comes with a steep enough penalty in the form of being able to make only a single attack.


Are you accounting (or caring) for the argument that Reach matters? A criticism of weapon speed is that fantasy armies of creatures with daggers and short swords should overwhelm armies with long swords, pikes, etc., due to superior initiative.
It makes sense to me to make reach weapons faster than non-reach weapons. However, I decided to ignore that for simplicity. If I decide through play that I need to account for it, I'll treat the reach quality as granting a +2 initiative bonus.


Special Actions: Does this include all class abilities such as clerical Channel? What about class abilities that mimic spells? What about if a class ability is a "bonus" action?
It includes all abilities used in your action that aren't covered by other entries. If an ability mimics a spell, I don't treat it as a spell unless you cast it like a spell.


Spells: Casters seem to get hosed under this system. In the DMG variant, it's -1 per spell level so that a 2nd level spell is akin to a heavy weapon, and a 5th level spell is like loading a crossbow. I get the impression they'll generally always go last if they do anything but cast a Cantrip.
Casters don't really get "hosed," but they are more likely to act later. The +1d4 does help offset some of the spell level penalty for low-level spells (which was my intent). If we assume an average d4 die result of 2.5, the caster is left with a +1 modifier for a first level spell and a 0 modifier for a second level spell. It's only for spells above second level that the caster starts to (on average) have a negative modifier.


Other: Do Bonus actions and normal Actions stack modifiers? (Under DMG variant they do). If not, how do you account for them?
For the sake of simplicity, I'm opting not to account for bonus actions and to base the modifier entirely on what a player declares she'll do with her action. I don't really see the need to account for the bonus action, because I don't see the potential for brokenness; that is to say I don't see how a character will get a meaningful benefit from declaring a dagger attack with her action and doing something slower with her bonus action. Please note that I may be overlooking something, that's certainly possible.


Improvised actions, are these like opening a door, using a lever, etc.? What if one is vastly different, such as tying a knot versus simply pushing a door open? Or does the +1d6 already account for what can happen in 6 seconds? In the variant, the DM decides arbitrarily whether to assign a penalty modifier.
By Improvised Action I mean an action that requires me to decide how to mechanically resolve it. Opening a door or operating a lever are just object interactions. Maybe I should include a modifier for that, but I truly do want to keep this simple without just simplifying it down to a single and very swingy die roll.

By way of contrast, an improvised action is something more like attempting to drop a chandelier on a creature, using the circular part of the chandelier to hold the creature's limbs to its sides until it can wriggle or break free.


That's a lot of dice rolling. Assuming bonus actions stack, if I want to move, attack with my longsword, and cast Healing Word as a bonus action, I'm rolling 1d6+my modifier + 1d8 + 1d4 minus 1. That's, relative to the original system, a lot of rolls and math each round. Plus, if you have diverse enemies, you the DM are having to track the same thing. What if the party is facing another adventuring party? You, the DM, might be rolling and tracking 3 different dice each round for each enemy. Are you concerned about slowing combat down?
It's two dice: one base die (determined by whether you declare movement or not) + one modifier die.

I originally wanted to change the initiative roll to just 2d10 to reduce the swinginess. When coming up with the variant, I specifically wanted to keep the dice rolled down to just two.

So, in your example of moving, attacking with a longsword, and casting Healing Word, your initiative would be 1d6 + 1d8. With average results (3.5 & 4.5), that would be an 8.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Since you are asking for thoughts, my general thought is that I'd rather do just about anything than have a declaration phase in initiative. That was the norm for most games before 3e, so I was leery about the conceptual "lack of realism" in the new system. Then I played it and never went back. The awkwardness of having to declare actions you may not get to attempt, inconsistencies with modifiers affecting some things but not others (weapon speed, etc), patches to try to get around those issues, plus the extra overhead of the two phase deal itself...just no.
 
Rolling a bunch of different dice and adding them up for every round of combat is kind of cumbersome. Even if every player knows the system inside and out, as the DM running a large battle with perhaps multiple enemy casters, doing this every round seems like more of a headache than its worth.

Old school initiative rolled each round worked because it was a simple d6 roll per side.
 

Tom B1

Explorer
Really, its almost like combat should track melee distance - close, short, long.

Close - right in your face - elbows and knees, shield bash, uppercut, maybe a dagger
Short - inside the distance of a spear or two handed sword
Long - not likely to be threatened by a person with a knife or short weapon

You would start out at long. If he has a spear and you have a short sword, your objective is to close to short range. The initiative that round is weighted in his favour. Some sort of test would be made (STR, DEX, Level based test) to determine if you got to close with your spear armed foe. If not, same thing next round. If you did close, on the next round, you have the advantage with the shorter weapon and HIS goal is to back off (again, a test). If you can keep the fight at short sword range, he'll have trouble hitting you with a spear. If he keeps it at spear range, you won't get many hits in and are likely to have a bad ending.

The other option for the spear guy once you get to short range is to drop his spear and go for his dagger (or attempt to grapple or batter you with his fists). At that point, you start the round at short with advantage to the shorts sword, but he tries to close with you to close. If he fails, you have advantage the next round. If he succeeds, he has the advantage and you likely have to grapple, punch or pull a dagger because you are so close.

That model makes more sense than arbitrarily assuming a dagger will strike before a spear --- that conclusion entirely depends on melee distance and strategy.

If I had a dagger, I would NOT want to try to close with a swordsman. If I had to do so, I'd hope for a fast pass to get me in close then I'd try very hard never to let the swordsman get a decent swing with his sword again by trying to be right up close to him. The same applies if I had a sword and he had a spear.

This is why weapon speed usually isn't represented. It's situational and if you want to abstract the combat, then you are really abstracting who is closer when and whose strategy is working to get close - you just both get to take shots at one another when portions of the round place you at ranges advantageous for your striking. (Exception: If you are grappled is actually modeled).

The same logic applies to larger creatures (slow, but longer reach) or smaller ones (very limited reach, but fast). If you aren't going to model the melee distance bands, then just abstracting weapons to remove modelling speed also makes sense (you can't just do half the job and have it make sense - do the full job or none at all).
 

Tom B1

Explorer
Of course, attacks of opportunity or a concept of a readied strike can give an automatic (or test driven) chance to strike a foe closing on you, but they usually fail to let you gain back that distance (so your long weapon ceases to be useful in short order unless you have a wall of them). Your 5-step type of move is usually a followable one, so here again not a perfect solution.

It's almost like there are three ranges: 2 squares away (long weapons like 2 handed swords and spears can strike here), 1 square away, most weapons can work (swords, axes, maces that aren't 5'+ long but are at least 18" long), in the same space (grappling, daggers, brass knuckles, uppercut, etc).

It gets ugly when you have multi-combatant melee... because people can then step in and out of range bands with respect to multiple opponents. Tracking that is possible but not simple.
 

Coroc

Hero
This initiative System which you are considering to add more "reality" to your game is B(ad)S(olution). Sorry for my strong language, no offense but i get a bit tired to point out again and again that long/two handed weapons have far more velocity (because of weapon edge sitting on a longer Lever) and are attacking first in a RL Scenario because they have REACH.

So if you are adding modifiers to initiative it goes from this fastest to slowest:
Cocked crossbow
Bow
sling
Pike / Lance
Spear polearm quarterstaff
Two handed sword /axe greatclub / rapier (Rapier because of its insane reach, not because it is light in reality, in fact it weighs as much as a longsword)
Longsword
Mace battleaxe etc
Hand axe dagger etc Yes your dagger fighter will get attacked and hit before he get's into the reach which allows him to apply his own weapon!

Especially in your System consider this two points:

you give dexterity stat even more overpower than it already has, because it already determines base initiative

The forfeiting the Action is an as heavy toll as can be since in 5e most fighsts are only Lasting 1-4 rounds, to sit out one of these rounds without an enemy spending a resource, because of some houserule is far to much and might break game Balance.
 

Tom B1

Explorer
This initiative System which you are considering to add more "reality" to your game is B(ad)S(olution). Sorry for my strong language, no offense but i get a bit tired to point out again and again that long/two handed weapons have far more velocity (because of weapon edge sitting on a longer Lever) and are attacking first in a RL Scenario because they have REACH.

So if you are adding modifiers to initiative it goes from this fastest to slowest:
Cocked crossbow
Bow
sling
Pike / Lance
Spear polearm quarterstaff
Two handed sword /axe greatclub / rapier (Rapier because of its insane reach, not because it is light in reality, in fact it weighs as much as a longsword)
Longsword
Mace battleaxe etc
Hand axe dagger etc Yes your dagger fighter will get attacked and hit before he get's into the reach which allows him to apply his own weapon!

Especially in your System consider this two points:

you give dexterity stat even more overpower than it already has, because it already determines base initiative

The forfeiting the Action is an as heavy toll as can be since in 5e most fighsts are only Lasting 1-4 rounds, to sit out one of these rounds without an enemy spending a resource, because of some houserule is far to much and might break game Balance.
Somewhat agree but would note:

Weapon length does give leverage, but the longer weapon also has more mass. A claymore wielded one handed is not faster than a rapier or longsword wielded one handed. The second hand is what gives you the greater leverage (more impetus to the swing).

Most D&D weapons (at least back in the AD&D days, haven't checked the 5E tables) were far overweight for the sorts of swords people fought with. The Italians did a *lot* of sword fighting through some periods of their history and the most common sword was the smallsword (and it is quite light). Their longer blades were still very light compared to what D&D claimed (I think an original longsword was 4 pounds and a 2 hander 15 pounds). Those game weights were not terribly accurate - Anything over about 3 pounds is not going to be something you can swing for very long even with strong arms in a fight. Yes, I imagine the hand-and-a-half and two handers passed that weight, but they just weren't wielded with the speed you'd want for a sword clash - two handers were either for big chops at unarmoured targets or were for chopping the heads of of pikes or the like, not for the to-and-fro of an actual sword duel.

So it's even more opaque than we usually think.

Also, many of the swords people have used as historical examples were display pieces (which is why some of the weights and notions of use were fairly incorrect, much like peoples' ideas of how hard it was to move in heavy armour like plate and mail or how short or slight knights were (based on finding a few sets of armour that suggested occupants were 5'6" with a very small waist)).

It's a pretty simple test if you are in good shape and have strong arm muscles. Put a 1 pound or 3 pound weight in your hand and swing it back and forth fairly rapidly and see how many minutes you can keep that up before you get a lot slower. I'm fairly sure for most people in good shape, that's still on the order of a minute or less if you swing vigorously and vary your swings.

Your point about adding additional potence to dexterity is also well called-out.

Plus one thing not modeled explicitly is the combat style used: Some weapons and some unarmed moves are *not initiated* but are planned reactions to enemy attacks. Aikido and most other soft arts and a few of the schools of classial sword fighting had moves that were 'he stabs, you turn away or step off, grapple his arm (or cut it with your knife)'. So in this case, you are accepting the fact you may have a shorter weapon, but he has to stick a limb out to get at you and at that point, you can counter (if you are not impaled on his sword). In fact, arnis/escrima is based on the notions of 'first in' (strike first) and 'if he gives you a limb, break it... once he has no limbs, the fight is over'. They basically can wait for an attack and then attack the limb with sticks, butterfly knives, or unarmed.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
This initiative System which you are considering to add more "reality" to your game . . .
Where did I ever say that was my reasoning?


. . . is B(ad)S(olution).
Not a great way to open a post you expect someone to take the time to read. Maybe you had some kind of insight in your response (I don't know, I stopped reading after that opener), but god you buried the lead. I assume, for reasons. Whatever they are. And I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your reason was something other than a desire to be intentionally off-putting.
 

Coroc

Hero
[MENTION=82779]MechaPilot[/MENTION] #12 Well then let me apologize twice more, (once i did already in the second sentence of my original posting for using potential offensive language which you said you did not read), but i did obviously misinterpret your motivation for the your initiative System and that deserves another apology.
So please, just replace the first sentence of my posting with "If adding more realism to the game then..." or so.

With that out of the way, my original posting contained some hints about how to do it, if realism would have been the Motive.
But i also went into specifics on your system and on which parts of it i had concerns. You can still read that up if it interests you.

Another take on this, if your Motivation to alter initiative is to balance out different weapons, you might consider normalised damage e.g. all one handed weapons do 1d8 all two handed 1d12. In a way that is not so wrong, since a dagger can kill you (sometimes with one hit) as easily as a sword.
 

Tom B1

Explorer
My method in the OP doesn't include a character's DEX at all.
Not directly. But a high dexterity is often associated with the sorts of characters wielding light or finesse weapons and those are advantaged, so a high dex not only modifiers your initiative (assuming you don't plan to ignore that bonus to initiative) and goes often hand in hand with finesse and light weapon use. So it kind of is a double potence, in that respect at least.

I've experimented with every initiative system I can think of:
Original little books, BEX, AD&D 1st, AD&D 2nd, 3.5E, some forms of dynamic initiative borrowed from other D20 games.

I've tried: D6s, D10s, D20s, declare-and-roll-modified-by-action-type, roll and pick your action when it comes up, keep the same turn to turn (one roll at the start of a fight, invariant), roll per turn, roll once for a party (per turn or per fight), roll for each party member (once at the start or each turn), etc.

Flavour can be fairly different. Throwing in weapon speed (or speeds for other actions) invariably maps well to certain parts of a fight and horribly to the other (closing with a small weapon vs. someone with a medium to large weapon with more reach should be perilous, but using weapon speed makes the dagger way more dangerous than the sword because it strikes first and then how does your spear wielder or sword wielder back off?

It's like the weapons vs. armour type (original 1st ed PHB or later simplified versions) - some groups loved this and others hated it. And there was always the question of what armour type various monsters most closely approached.... people just find the thing that they like and have to accept that any system they pick will model well some things and totally produce bogus seeming outcomes at other times. It's *really hard* to model complex situations without a complex model which is only fun if a computer handles all the details...

Your method can work. If you and your players like it, go ahead.

Myself, my most use system was that which was present in the 2nd edition Player's Option: Combat & Tactics book. We used minis and it integrated pretty well. We allowed aborts (like to 'dive for cover' or the like) but we liked players stating a plan at the start of each round (both for coordination and because the time is supposed to be short so you ought to not waffle too much) and then roll.

Rolling 1D10 or 1D20 with no mods but dex is simple. It also works well enough.

Good luck in any event. :)
 
Have you considered the "Ready an Action" action? It seems like you're readying your action at the start of every round of combat, before initiative is rolled. So will you allow conditions such as "when the monster walks through the door I cast my cantrip" and what will you do if the trigger has already passed by the time the player's initiative comes up?

When do death savings throws occur? 1d10+1d8? What if they get healed (or expect to be healed) before their initiative begins? Should they declare their move as if they will be healed? What if the healer rolls a lower initiative?

Casters don't really get "hosed," but they are more likely to act later. The +1d4 does help offset some of the spell level penalty for low-level spells (which was my intent). If we assume an average d4 die result of 2.5, the caster is left with a +1 modifier for a first level spell and a 0 modifier for a second level spell. It's only for spells above second level that the caster starts to (on average) have a negative modifier.
Heavy weapon users get a 2.5 modifier so casters will typically be much slower (with non-cantrips). If that is your intent fine, but note that it is worse than the DMG variant by ~2.5 on average. It also seems that light weapons get a pretty hefty bonus (average 6.5). Running up to and stabbing a spell caster with your short sword will be the winning move 75% of the time against a level 1 spell (whose caster doesn't move), or 86% of the time against a level 3 spell. Monks will be rewarded greatly here. Some casters can potentially "cheat the system" by throwing a dagger before casting their bonus action spell. Maybe that is the intent... but a cleric who really wants to make sure his healing goes off before the monster kills his buddy would rather stand still, throw a dagger and cast healing word than run up to the wounded and use cure wounds. The initiative difference is pretty significant (1d10+1d12 ~ 11 versus 1d6+1d4-1 ~ 5). Administering a potion would be much faster than cure wounds.

Spells above cantrip will always be slower than a heavy weapon attack. The worst possible non-spell action you can take is move and attack with heavy weapon. (1d6+1d4 ~ 6). This would be on par with casting a level 2 spell while standing still (1d10+1d4-2 ~ 6). The casters will typically go last which I think will hose the casters (especially the healers if they are hoping to save someone).


If you are trying to get the players to think more tactically and spend more time considering things like "what happens if the monster moves..." or "should I prepare that heal spell in case the barbarian gets killed" then this will get them to do that. If you are trying to get the players to work together, perhaps the lightweight "side initiative" variant is what you are looking for (where the players go in any order they choose).

I personally don't like this variant because, as a player, anything that slows combat is frustrating because it just means I'm waiting that much longer for my turn. I think the encouragement of higher order tactics will slow things down more than the die rolls ever could.

Overall, if you're trying to turn the game into D&D Tactics then it's a good variant. If not then I would ask what are you trying to accomplish with this variant?
 
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