5E Alternate Initiative Rules

GlassJaw

Adventurer
I've seen a lot of Initiative systems from D&D and other games. All have their pros and cons of course but I've come to the realization that it's a fool's errand to come up with something that provides better gameplay than d20 + Dex. I certainly don't think it's the "best" by any means but it checks enough of the "good enough" boxes and gets the job done.

And speed factor systems are the work of the devil.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I've seen a lot of Initiative systems from D&D and other games. All have their pros and cons of course but I've come to the realization that it's a fool's errand to come up with something that provides better gameplay than d20 + Dex. I certainly don't think it's the "best" by any means but it checks enough of the "good enough" boxes and gets the job done.

And speed factor systems are the work of the devil.
It's functional but i'm so darn bored of it. If it could have a tiny bit of strategy in the initiative order i would like it more. The Fast/Slow tier system seems like it could do that without bogging anything down in extra rolls. I haven't tried enough alternate systems to be any kind of judge. I used a card based system the past three years I really liked though.
 

Anoth

Explorer
What drives me crazy is when I play with a group. The fighter says, “I am opening the door and going to rush in and attack”. So the fighter opens the door and rushes in. There is even a marching order of what order the group will rush in. The Dm says roll initiative and then like the last person who said he was going to enter the room moves and attacks first. So I stopped using individual initiative for that reason. I let the players choose their order of initiative between them with group initiative
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
What drives me crazy is when I play with a group. The fighter says, “I am opening the door and going to rush in and attack”. So the fighter opens the door and rushes in. There is even a marching order of what order the group will rush in. The Dm says roll initiative and then like the last person who said he was going to enter the room moves and attacks first. So I stopped using individual initiative for that reason. I let the players choose their order of initiative between them with group initiative
Yeah, situations like that can be annoying but a Ready action handles it well enough IMO.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
So, I've been thinking about the fast/slow ideas and can't get on board with it. I am certain people who use such systems have resolved my concerns, but here they are:

1. You roll every round. Not a huge deal, but I know a lot of groups don't like that. Also, since sometimes you will take only your action or move, and then other times you need to do both. This means one round you are on fast and the next slow.

2. The same problem with monsters. Some will need to move during their turn, others are already engaged so won't need to move. This means you basically need to roll two initiatives for monsters, a "slow" and a "fast" count, since most turns they will be mixed.

3. You can take the dice "out of the equation", but then it is basically up to the DM/players and theater of mind to decide who goes when. Sure, that can work but I can see it leading to issues.

4. For tables that do it by class, that is really off IMO. Having one class go before another all the time doesn't make much sense to me. For instance, I imagine many spells to be faster than bigger weapons. Still, if it works for you, that's all that matters.

I guess people who use such systems can comment and let me know your thoughts.
 

Nebulous

Hero
So, I've been thinking about the fast/slow ideas and can't get on board with it. I am certain people who use such systems have resolved my concerns, but here they are:

1. You roll every round. Not a huge deal, but I know a lot of groups don't like that. Also, since sometimes you will take only your action or move, and then other times you need to do both. This means one round you are on fast and the next slow.

2. The same problem with monsters. Some will need to move during their turn, others are already engaged so won't need to move. This means you basically need to roll two initiatives for monsters, a "slow" and a "fast" count, since most turns they will be mixed.

3. You can take the dice "out of the equation", but then it is basically up to the DM/players and theater of mind to decide who goes when. Sure, that can work but I can see it leading to issues.

4. For tables that do it by class, that is really off IMO. Having one class go before another all the time doesn't make much sense to me. For instance, I imagine many spells to be faster than bigger weapons. Still, if it works for you, that's all that matters.

I guess people who use such systems can comment and let me know your thoughts.
I haven't used the system yet so I can only theoretically comment.

1. Also, since sometimes you will take only your action or move, and then other times you need to do both. This means one round you are on fast and the next slow.

Right, if you just attack Round one you act Fast, or if you just move. If you need to move and attack or double move, you go last in the Slow phase. Disengage and move away would be in the Slow phase too.

2. The same problem with monsters. Some will need to move during their turn, others are already engaged so won't need to move. This means you basically need to roll two initiatives for monsters, a "slow" and a "fast" count, since most turns they will be mixed.

Not sure what you mean by rolling two initiatives.

Oh, wait, I think I see what you mean. The PCs and Monsters are moving at different times instead of "All PCs" then "All Monsters"

I think the group roll each round just has a chance to swap this, so Monsters have a chance to go first Fast and Slow phase and not always the PCs.

  1. Fast turn phase
    1. Player characters taking a fast turn act.
    2. Monsters taking a fast turn act.
  2. Slow turn phase
    1. Player characters taking a slow turn act.
    2. Monsters taking a slow turn act.

What might be problematic in a big fight is remembering which monsters took one action or two actions. Having miniatures would help with this. I would like to hear how people who use this actually do in larger battles with lots of moving parts.

3. You can take the dice "out of the equation", but then it is basically up to the DM/players and theater of mind to decide who goes when. Sure, that can work but I can see it leading to issues.

Yeah, I guess that's how it works? Maybe there's an orderly way to do, like clockwise? I don't know what will happen if everyone blurts out an action at once. Maybe within the context of each SCENE it makes sense who would have say in the first action. I don't know.

4. For tables that do it by class, that is really off IMO. Having one class go before another all the time doesn't make much sense to me. For instance, I imagine many spells to be faster than bigger weapons. Still, if it works for you, that's all that matters.

That seems off to me as well and I don't think I would implement something like that.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
a few people have mentioned speed tiers & fast slow in the dmg but I'm not finding them there. can anyone point me towards it?
edit found it on dmg270
 
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tetrasodium

Adventurer
I've seen a lot of Initiative systems from D&D and other games. All have their pros and cons of course but I've come to the realization that it's a fool's errand to come up with something that provides better gameplay than d20 + Dex. I certainly don't think it's the "best" by any means but it checks enough of the "good enough" boxes and gets the job done.

And speed factor systems are the work of the devil.
Speed factor systems indeed put too much work on the gm & get even worse if the gm needs to preplan what every npc will be doing... but d20+dex has some problems despite being functional.
  • Dex is already punching pretty high above everything but charisma. Switching it to a different stat helps elevate that stat somewhat.
  • In the past it was harder for rogues to get backstab/sneak attack if the weren't high on the initiative order, now they pretty much just need to work with anyone & are actually going to have a more difficult time if they are going before everyone else.
  • Yes a d20 rather than a d12 or unspent hit die will have a lower chance of people getting the same initiative count, but there are plenty of ways to trivially handle those & it's hardly a hiccup when it happens.
  • Using a hit die+int will favor martial classes by hit die size & reward those who don't dump int like EK/AT/artificer types. Wizard/artificer with smaller hit dies than barbarian/pally/fighter will find their large int bonus more relevant for purposes of immediate battlefield changing stuff but the hit die size will make sure that they are not always miles ahead of the party.
  • If the hit die+int is the largest unspent hit die, you add some extra risk to falling off a cliff, resting an hour, & being back to 100% as if nothing happened because then your going to be on the shit end of what might as well be surprise rounds & it adds up when none of the baddies can be taken out or hamstrung before they take their first turn (especially if those are difficult baddies)even if it's not crippling.
 

Iry

Adventurer
Maybe a combination of Demon Lord and Three Tier?

Fast - Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue.
Slow - Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard.
  • Fast turn phase
    1. Player characters taking a fast turn act.
    2. Monsters taking a fast turn act.
  • Slow turn phase
    1. Player characters taking a slow turn act.
    2. Monsters taking a slow turn act.
Rule 1: Players with the same speed determine for themselves who goes first.
Rule 2: Players always go first unless they are surprised.
Rule 3: The DM determines if a monster is Slow or Fast.

Thats it. Smooth as butter.
 

Nebulous

Hero
So I posted on Reddit about converting Shadow initiative to 5e. The general consensus was pretty uniform: Shadow monsters are tougher, fewer, and players going first is an advantage so they don't die. They don't think this conversion would be as easy as just switching systems.

In Shadow every fight is a fight for the PCs lives. For example I put a player down with a group of four rats one time. Let that sink in for a minute. FOUR RATS put a PC down. Combat is deadly in SotDL so the players going first is a way to give them an advantage. I feel like adapting that to D&D would just make your PCs too powerful. They already have a ton of advantages in D&D.

Honestly as others have mentioned why don’t you try running SotDL? It’s an easy system to convert to from 5e. Just make sure your players understand that combat is deadly and they either need to avoid it or be extremely careful.

****

The problem you will face doing group initiatives in DnD5e is that everyone hits like a truck and combats tend to involve many opponents. The systems are built around the assumption that usually players and monsters will be intermingled in the typical round. Just imagine those early encounters...10 kobolds going randomly between a group of players isn't so bad. 10 kobolds going all at once at the start of a fight, is very rough if not a half dead party.

SotDL mitigates this with other systems built around their initiative system. For example there are Triggered Actions that are like Magic the Gathering Interrupts if a condition is met, and many spells and abilities interact with the initiative system that can shake things up. And perhaps more importantly, SotDL tends to involve smaller scale battles than typical DnD5e adventures so its not so bad if all baddies go at once. And while hp is relatively low compared to DnD, so is most damage dealt
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
@Nebulous ,

So, I met with another player today to discuss our new characters for the next game (I am DMing this time) and a couple rule changes, one of which is initiative after our discussions on this thread.

Now, what I am presenting is, I am pretty sure, more complex than anything you want, but we agreed we liked it and will try it out. It is based on the fast/slow to start with:

Fast is taking an action or bonus action or movement. Slow is taking more than one of the three. Fast rolls 2d10 + (DEX, INT, or WIS modifier), Slow rolls 1d10 + (DEX, INT, or WIS modifier).

If you are on the "fast track" but need to move later on, you go at the end of the round. If you want to move early you go on the fast initiative, then the slows go, and you can then attack at the end of the round.

For example, a Circle of Moon Druid is surrounded, and wants to fast track his bonus action to wild shape. He rolls 2d10+WIS mod and get 18. He wild shapes on 18, this attackers go on 12 (for example), and then on "0" he can attack and move if he wishes to.

In the same example, the druid could risk going on the slow track, rolling 1d10+WIS mod, and use his bonus action, attack, and/or move all on his roll of 9 (for example). This means his attackers go on 12, but maybe others are going on 7 and he wants to be able to act before them.

The nice thing is, this brings tactics into the initiative phase (something I think you wan?). Deciding to risk taking one action on the fast track, but then delaying other actions to the end of the round might be more beneficial than taking all your actions at once on the slow track.

I am sure this could be confusing, but I'll try to write up something clearer and more officially homebrew in the next couple days.

EDIT: So, I thought about this before going to bed and I think there is a simply way to explain it:

If you want to "split" your turn, you can fast track one action (action, move, or bonus) and roll 2d10 for initiative to help ensure you will act first. BUT, the rest of your turn goes after everyone else has finished their "full turns", in which they only roll 1d10. That's it in a nutshell. It creates a tactical choice for initiative. And even with 2d10, there is no guarantee you will get to act first, so it is a calculated risk.
 
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Nebulous

Hero
@Nebulous ,

So, I met with another player today to discuss our new characters for the next game (I am DMing this time) and a couple rule changes, one of which is initiative after our discussions on this thread.

Now, what I am presenting is, I am pretty sure, more complex than anything you want, but we agreed we liked it and will try it out. It is based on the fast/slow to start with:

Fast is taking an action or bonus action or movement. Slow is taking more than one of the three. Fast rolls 2d10 + (DEX, INT, or WIS modifier), Slow rolls 1d10 + (DEX, INT, or WIS modifier).

If you are on the "fast track" but need to move later on, you go at the end of the round. If you want to move early you go on the fast initiative, then the slows go, and you can then attack at the end of the round.

For example, a Circle of Moon Druid is surrounded, and wants to fast track his bonus action to wild shape. He rolls 2d10+WIS mod and get 18. He wild shapes on 18, this attackers go on 12 (for example), and then on "0" he can attack and move if he wishes to.

In the same example, the druid could risk going on the slow track, rolling 1d10+WIS mod, and use his bonus action, attack, and/or move all on his roll of 9 (for example). This means his attackers go on 12, but maybe others are going on 7 and he wants to be able to act before them.

The nice thing is, this brings tactics into the initiative phase (something I think you wan?). Deciding to risk taking one action on the fast track, but then delaying other actions to the end of the round might be more beneficial than taking all your actions at once on the slow track.

I am sure this could be confusing, but I'll try to write up something clearer and more officially homebrew in the next couple days.

EDIT: So, I thought about this before going to bed and I think there is a simply way to explain it:

If you want to "split" your turn, you can fast track one action (action, move, or bonus) and roll 2d10 for initiative to help ensure you will act first. BUT, the rest of your turn goes after everyone else has finished their "full turns", in which they only roll 1d10. That's it in a nutshell. It creates a tactical choice for initiative. And even with 2d10, there is no guarantee you will get to act first, so it is a calculated risk.
Yes, that has potential. I DO want to add tactics to initiative, it's something dreadfully missing. And as you know, I don't want to risk overcomplicating it.

So you roll every round? I read somewhere where monsters have a static Initiative "DC" and the heroes are just trying to beat that round by round. To simplify things.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I am sure this could be confusing, but I'll try to write up something clearer and more officially homebrew in the next couple days.
If you do write it up (with examples!) I would like to see it. It has to be simple enough that I can explain it to my players. They...well look, the cleric still doesn't know how spells work and the paladin can't calculate his to hit, so they're not going to grok anything new very easily. I have to handhold them through leveling up, one by one. And leveling in 5e is effing simple.
 

JeffB

Hero
*disclaimer- I hate D&D cyclic initiative with a passion, and prescribe to either NO initiative (ala DW) or d6 for each side, high roll wins, roll each round for Old School gaming.

The best cyclic initiative , IME, is the one from FFG star wars, where the characters roll, and lock in slots for the party, and the gm locks in slot/s for opponents. Then players/GM decide based on the fiction /gameplay/tactics who goes when on each slot available to them. Some characters can go twice in a row and some may not go at all if they are in a situation where letting others handle the issue at hand is best.

Others I like
Black Hack-any player who rolls under DEX goes before the opposition. No rolling for opposition.

Tried Mearls' variant- I like. Players did not (of course not- players hate systems that make things harder for them- especially spellcasters)
 

Nebulous

Hero
I also like the idea of the enemy having a set Initiative DC and the players roll against that each round with an Int modifier to the roll, not Dex. Although that doesn't do anything as far as strategy really. I've been looking at so many systems my head is swimming. I think we are going to try a version of the Fast/Slow next and just see what happens.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Yes, that has potential. I DO want to add tactics to initiative, it's something dreadfully missing. And as you know, I don't want to risk overcomplicating it.

So you roll every round? I read somewhere where monsters have a static Initiative "DC" and the heroes are just trying to beat that round by round. To simplify things.
Doing this you would roll every round. And you can use whatever die type works, I just like d10 for this.

For static DCs, I would use half the die type for normal, and the full die for fast. (I'll provide explanations in a bit). With the d10 I play to use, a normal DC is 5 (half of 10) for slow action, and DC 10 for fast action.

If you do write it up (with examples!) I would like to see it. It has to be simple enough that I can explain it to my players. They...well look, the cleric still doesn't know how spells work and the paladin can't calculate his to hit, so they're not going to grok anything new very easily. I have to handhold them through leveling up, one by one. And leveling in 5e is effing simple.
Ok, here is the simple thing. During a turn, a character can take an action, move, and maybe also take a bonus action. If you want to do one thing quickly, you go "fast" and roll two dice for initiative. After everyone else is done, you can take any remaining action if you want to.

Example: (Note, we use DEX, INT, or WIS for a bonus to initiative...)

Suppose a party, A, B, and C encounter an ogre, O, they've been hunting. The DM determines there is no surprise as the ogre saw them coming up to his hut.

A (an archer-type) wants to fire off a shot before the ogre can move in, so the player decides to fast act his attack. He will get to roll 2d10 + 3 (DEX). That means if he wants to move or use a bonus action, he will go at the end of the round for those.

B (a barbarian) decides to rage as a bonus action and wants to make sure he can begin before the ogre closes to attack (that half damage could be useful!). So he is also on the fast initiative, and rolls 2d10 +2 (DEX).

C (a cleric) hopes his Guiding Bolt spell will hit and give A advantage on his attack. So, he fast acts his spell and will roll 2d10 + 3 (WIS).

The DM has the Ogre roll normal initiative, so a 1d10 - 1 (DEX) since he knows the ogre will have to move before it can attack. This way when the ogre goes it can move and attack.

Everybody rolls:
A: 2d10+3 = 8 + 4 + 3 = 15
B: 2d10+2 = 6 + 2 + 2 = 10
C: 2d10+3 = 4 + 4 + 3 = 11
O: 1d10-1 = 7 - 1 = 6.

A attacks first on 15. He can take his move or bonus action on 0.
C casts Guiding Bolt on 11. He can take his move or bonus action on 0, after A.
B rages on 10. He can take his move or attack action on 0, after C.
O will move to B and attack on 6. After the ogre goes, A can take his action (see A above).

A attacks and rolls 16, hitting the ogre for 9 damage, despite it getting half-cover (it is inside the hut).
C casts Guiding Bolt and rolls for his ranged, getting a total of 11. Because of the half-cover, this misses, since the ogre's AC is 11 and increases to 13 with the half-cover bonus.
B rages! AARRRGG! on 10. (He is letting out some frustration that the cleric's spell missed. ;) )
O moves from inside the hut, throwing it's javelin at A. His total is 23 and hits! A takes 11 damage (ouch!).

A, C, and B can now take any remaining actions on 0, repeating the order from before:
A now takes his bonus action for Second Wind, regaining 9 HP, and moves behind a nearby tree.
C moves to engage the ogre, drawing his weapon (his one free interaction).
B moves to engage the ogre, and attacks it and hits, doing 8 damage.

The round is over.

Now, this system allows characters to choose to speed up one action at the expense of any remaining actions going at the end of the round. Since the characters all get bonuses anyway, and the ogre has a penalty, odds are they would have acted first. But, this allows them to improve the chances of getting in a first action before their enemies.

In this example, seeing 3 enemies, the ogre could have fast acted on its move, ducking into the hut and closing the door, giving it better cover, and waited for them to come closer, etc. It would have rolled 2d10 - 1 and with luck might have acted before A on 15.

I know it is a lot to take in, but hopefully that makes sense. :)

EDIT: another option instead of doubling the initiative dice for the fast action, grant advantage to the roll instead.
 

Nebulous

Hero
I know it is a lot to take in, but hopefully that makes sense. :)

EDIT: another option instead of doubling the initiative dice for the fast action, grant advantage to the roll instead.
lol, it is, and I have a headache from lack of sleep. I will definitely look closer though, it's intriguing.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
lol, it is, and I have a headache from lack of sleep. I will definitely look closer though, it's intriguing.
Trust me, it isn't that bad once you get it. ;)

At it's simplest, if you want one thing to be faster, everything else you do is at the end of the round.

Going "faster" for that one thing will give you twice the initiative dice, or advantage on one die, which ever choice works better for your table.

Now, another option since characters tend to have better initiative give the player a choice:

1. You can take one action, move, or bonus action "fast" before the monsters, but then everything else you do is after them.
2. You can roll as normal and risk going second, but maybe you'll go first. You take all your actions as usual on your turn (a.k.a. normal initiative).

This is a simple choice. A player can go "first" and then "last" with the monster in the middle if they want.
If more than one player chooses to go first, they go in order of INT and then DEX to take care of ties.

Same example with A, B, and C against O.

All three characters have something they want to do "fast". A wants to shoot, B rage, and C cast his spell. A and C have the same INT, so their DEX determines who wins the tie, making A go before C. B has a lower INT, so goes after them.

A shoots, C casts, B rages. Ogre goes. A finishes his turn, then C, and finally B.

In this case, no one even needs to roll. (Technically, you would roll for the ogre, but it doesn't matter what you get so there is no need really).

You would only roll if someone wants to take all their actions at once.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
it rewarded character that invested in both abilities. You would have more consistent results.

It is disappointing when you make a character that is good in ambushes and then constantly being among the last in the initiative round.
Your problem there isn't the initiative system, it's the surprise system (or lack thereof); as a decently-laid ambush should usually see the ambusher attacking with surprise ideally before initiative ever gets rolled.

As for other things:

Ties: let them happen! Things resolve simultaneously in play, though you have to go around the table one by one; but if an ogre and a caster and a fighter all have init 7 then they all do their thing on init 7: the ogre swings at the fighter (and hits, killing her), the fighter swings at the ogre (and hits, killing him), and the caster resolves a spell against the ogre that kills him deader.

Otherwise, it's impossible by RAW to mirror the common fantasy trope where two foes kill each other at the same time.

And once you stop caring about ties, you can use a smaller die size for initiative which - believe me - makes things much faster!

Modifiers: any stat- or skill-based modifier to the init roll is going to end up being stupid powerful no matter what you do. The answer: ditch all those modifiers except in special one-off circumstances.

Roll every round: absolutely. Battle is chaotic and unpredictable, no reason not to reflect this in the mechanics.
 

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