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D&D 5E Cinematic Initiative Variant (CIV)

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
So, after some discussion in my thread about what the combat round feels like/represents to you, I've done a lot of thinking about initiative and what might be a good alternative.

A couple things I want to address first:
1. This is not a roll = time system. So, going on 20 or higher doesn't mean "You are acting in the first second of the round" or anything.
2. For me, being able to take all your possible actions at the same time is a problem. I prefer possible breaks in the action that don't rely solely on the narrative.
3. I am well aware this is a more complex system. It is a natural result and if you want to keep it simple (perfectly understandable) this likely won't be much interest to you.

Okay, so here we go... (first draft, so be gentle LOL! :) )

Your Initiative Modifier equals your proficiency bonus + your choice of DEX, INT, or WIS modifier. (Alternatively, you can choose one just for your table instead of making it player's choice). Alert adds +5 as normal. Class features also add as normal (e.g. Tactical Wit). I prefer to add proficiency bonus with the idea with greater experience, your ability to exploit the opportunity to act is better, and thus more likely to come sooner.

(Side note: not required, but something I would do is reduce proficiency bonus to +0 for CR 0, and only +1 for CR 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2. CR 1 and higher would use normal proficiency bonuses.)

Everyone rolls d20 + their Initiative Modifier. Highest roll goes first.
UPDATE: Everyone rolls d10 + 10 + their Initiative Modifier. Highest roll goes first.


Now, here is where things change:

When your turn comes, you take one action (or a single attack), bonus action, OR move. You resolve your action (or attack) and afterwards immediately roll a d20 (update: removed bonus after first roll) and add your Initiative Modifier. If the result equals or exceeds your current initiative, you can take another action that you have remaining. If your new total is lower, you have to wait to take your next action. After that, you roll again and continue until you are out of actions.

NOTE: reactions can be taken at any time when a trigger happens as usual. They don't require a roll.

Ok, let's look at an example:

Let's say you are a 5th-level Fighter. You have Extra Attack and are fighting with two weapons, so can use your Bonus action for an attack with your second weapon. Your proficiency modifier is +3 and your DEX modifier (your highest of DEX, INT, WIS) is +2, so a total of +5 to Initiative. You encounter a lone Ogre, which has only a +1 Initiative modifier (+2 prof, -1 DEX).

You roll and get a 16, for a total of 21. The ogre gets a total of 14, so you act first.

You are 15 feet apart and your first action is to move to engage the Ogre on Initiative 21.
You draw your weapon as a free object interaction (as part of your movement) and have 15 feet of movement left.
You are going to attack as your next action, so roll a d20, and get an 18 for a total of 23.
Since this is higher than the current 21, you get to attack now.
You make an attack and hit for 10 damage.
With Extra Attack, you are going to attack again, so roll another d20, but this time get a total of 12. You will have to wait for your second attack.

Since you are already engaged with the Ogre it doesn't need to move and it attacks you on Initiative 14.
It missed!
Fearing you are more of a threat than it anticipated, the Ogre decides to flee. It rolls another d20 and gets a total of 9. It can move away on 9.

On 12, you get your second attack, but you miss (bad roll!).
You will next use your bonus action to Attack with your second weapon. You roll a d20 and get a total of 15.
Since this is higher than the current 12, you get to take your bonus action attack now.
You hit and score 7 damage!

The ogre is really worried since it missed you and you hit it twice, so on 9 it flees.
You immediately use your reaction to make an opportunity attack and score another hit for 8 damage!
The ogre then moves 40 feet away, running for its life!

Since you still have 15 feet of movement left, you give chase and close the distance to only 25 feet.

End of round 1.

Summary:
  • You move on 21.
  • You attack on 21 (roll 23) for 10 damage.
  • Ogre attacks on 14 for a miss.
  • You attack on 12 for a miss.
  • You bonus action TWF attack on 12 (roll 15) for 7 damage.
  • Ogre moves on 9.
  • You react OA on 9 for 8 damage.
  • You use remaining move
IMO this gives a more dynamic feel for the round instead of just you move, make your three attacks, the ogre attacks, and then you get an OA as it runs away.

I am hoping a side-effect of this system is that since players don't take all their actions at once, they are more engaged in the round waiting for their next action.

There are still a lot of things I have to consider:

How do things like Haste work?
What happens if your planned action is no longer appropriate (ex. you were attacking an enemy but your target is dead and now it is your turn)?
What about readying your action or delaying an action?
And more to come I am certain...!

That's it for now. I have to run this by my groups and get feedback from them as well, playtest it some, etc. It might be too much, or it might track quickly enough that the complexity is worth it. We'll see, but the floor is open for comments, questions, concerns, and general discussion. :)

EDIT 12/23/20: Updated OP to reflect changes after play testing.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Wouldn't it just be quicker to roll a separate initiative for each action a character has, rather than stopping and re-rolling mid-round all the time? By this I mean if a Fighter gets three attacks in a round it rolls three independent initiatives before the round begins, one for each attack. (and to slow down those characters who have crazy init modifiers, maybe make it that only the highest such roll gets any modifiers at all; any other rolls just use the number on the die)
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Wouldn't it just be quicker to roll a separate initiative for each action a character has, rather than stopping and re-rolling mid-round all the time? By this I mean if a Fighter gets three attacks in a round it rolls three independent initiatives before the round begins, one for each attack. (and to slow down those characters who have crazy init modifiers, maybe make it that only the highest such roll gets any modifiers at all; any other rolls just use the number on the die)
It might be quicker but the process doesn't work quite the same. For one thing, what about if you action surge? I am trying to avoid declarations, and I really don't want someone rolling 6 d20's all at once. Secondly, do you record the rolls in order or use descending order (basically giving you advantage)? Lastly, it also creates more predictable action choices when you know when all your actions are coming--by waiting until the end of your current action, no one knows when your next action is coming.

For example, if you rolled a 14, 6, and 20, does it become 14, 6, and 6 (using the idea of later actions must follow the lowest roll) or do you do 20, 14, and 6--arranging them in descending order?

Off-hand, I think rolling multiple dice and tracking the results would be slower than rolling once and re-rolling at the end of your current action. But, it's an idea playtesting (if we decide to try it, anyway) will help determine--maybe you'll be right?

Anyway, what do you think about the flow of action that is possible? It makes situations like the Nathan/Samurai fighting scene (from the other thread) actually possible as actions are more "simultaneous" or interspersed with each other.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It might be quicker but the process doesn't work quite the same. For one thing, what about if you action surge? I am trying to avoid declarations, and I really don't want someone rolling 6 d20's all at once.
Ah - I kinda got the impressions this would be a somewhat-declaration-based system; except that if your declared action no longer made sense when it came time for it to happen you could change it.

As for rolling lots of dice at once, that's the point. Roll 'em all at once instead of doing a bunch of separate rolls.
Secondly, do you record the rolls in order or use descending order (basically giving you advantage)? Lastly, it also creates more predictable action choices when you know when all your actions are coming--by waiting until the end of your current action, no one knows when your next action is coming.

For example, if you rolled a 14, 6, and 20, does it become 14, 6, and 6 (using the idea of later actions must follow the lowest roll) or do you do 20, 14, and 6--arranging them in descending order?
Descending order, of course.

The idea being that if someone with 3 actions is going up against someone with one, in theory the 3-action person would act before the foe, about the same time as the foe, and after the foe. The foe's one roll would be the randomizer to some extent.
Off-hand, I think rolling multiple dice and tracking the results would be slower than rolling once and re-rolling at the end of your current action. But, it's an idea playtesting (if we decide to try it, anyway) will help determine--maybe you'll be right?
If your players each own lots of d20s (a common situation IME! :) ) the answer is for each player to roll their dice and then line them up such that each player has a little line of d20s (so I've got 3d20 on 16, 14, and 5 in front of me; Bob might have 2d20 on 20 and 4 in front of him, etc.), with each one pulled off the table as its action occurs. This idea falls apart when modified initiatives go over 20 (or below 1), but were it me I'd do away with nearly all initiative modifiers in any case.
Anyway, what do you think about the flow of action that is possible? It makes situations like the Nathan/Samurai fighting scene (from the other thread) actually possible as actions are more "simultaneous" or interspersed with each other.
Haven't seen that other thread, but I'm generally in favour of anything that breaks up cyclic initiative and better replicates a fog-of-war situation where things are less predictable.

In fact, we already use a similar system (though not for 5e) only it's based on d6s; where if you've got more than one action in a round you roll a separate die for each one. We don't have movement hard-coded as its own separate thing - usually if you're moving in to attack you might get knocked down a point or two on your init die depending how far you have to go, and you'll only get one attack when you get there no matter how many you would have had normally - nor do we have bonus actions. We've used this system more or less in its current form for 35+ years now, and it works well enough.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I kinda like it. I agree that haste is a potential problem; I'd have to look at the spell before guessing at solutions (if it defines what it gives you, I think you could just include them as things you could do, that you'd roll initiative for). I don't think "plan is no longer relevant" is much less likely to happen with this system than cyclic initiative, except that moving is a separate thing, so someone might move to a target and then have that target drop (to an AoE effect or something) before getting in an attack. Also, I think the rules need to be written to state you can only move once per round (also you can only take one bonus action per round). Unless you want to do something like split movement into two sections or something--which kinda reflects the RAW take on splitting movement around attack/s.

Obviously (at least to me) all of the above is from reading it, not playtesting it.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Ah - I kinda got the impressions this would be a somewhat-declaration-based system; except that if your declared action no longer made sense when it came time for it to happen you could change it.
You could make it a declared system, but I was sticking more to regular 5E where you choose your action when your turn comes. It works either way, though.

Descending order, of course.

The idea being that if someone with 3 actions is going up against someone with one, in theory the 3-action person would act before the foe, about the same time as the foe, and after the foe. The foe's one roll would be the randomizer to some extent.
IMO this gives too much advantage to multiple action creatures, which is why I decided on a single roll, with all additional rolls coming later in the round. So, if a PC with four "action" options (say move, attack twice, and bonus action) could roll badly and not get to act until much later (and would get to finish all their actions then).

Also, if you do the one die per action in the beginning, you need to decide every possible action you might take. What if you don't take them all? You are rolling more dice than you should, in essence.

Now, if you want the chance of going sooner, rolling all the dice and going in descending order is fine, too; but it just isn't what I am looking to do.

If your players each own lots of d20s (a common situation IME! :) ) the answer is for each player to roll their dice and then line them up such that each player has a little line of d20s (so I've got 3d20 on 16, 14, and 5 in front of me; Bob might have 2d20 on 20 and 4 in front of him, etc.), with each one pulled off the table as its action occurs. This idea falls apart when modified initiatives go over 20 (or below 1), but were it me I'd do away with nearly all initiative modifiers in any case.
Sure, that could work. But I think just rerolling after your action (and going again if your new roll is equal or better than your current one) or leaving the die to note when you act again works just as well. As I said, it also avoids situations like action surge and the need to declare your actions.

If my groups want to playtest it, we'll probably try out both methods and see which we prefer for ease of use.

Haven't seen that other thread, but I'm generally in favour of anything that breaks up cyclic initiative and better replicates a fog-of-war situation where things are less predictable.
Here it is then:


This is the post by @toucanbuzz showing the fight scene.

The summary for Round 1 by @toucanbuzz is:
Round 1: Nathan grapples with the sword of enemy #1, dodges a sword blow, blocks an attack by enemy #2, karate kicks enemy #3, and flips his grappled target to the ground in a somersault. Enemy #4 comes charging into the fray but isn't close enough to attack.

With this idea, Nathan would act first and move to engage enemy #1. Rolling his next action, he rolls high enough to act immediately and grapples (or maybe he is close enough, it could be all one action? shrug).

Enemies #2 and #3 both act next and attack (Nathan dodges, etc.) and both miss.

Nathan's next action comes up, and he kicks #3.

Enemy #4 (in the background) has his action and moves into the fight after drawing his weapon.

Enemy #2 attacks again and misses as Nathan dodges.

Nathan's final turn comes and he drops prone, pulling (flipping) #1 into #2.

Enemy #4 finally gets his attack in, which (even though prone), misses as Nathan blocks it.

In fact, we already use a similar system (though not for 5e) only it's based on d6s; where if you've got more than one action in a round you roll a separate die for each one. We don't have movement hard-coded as its own separate thing - usually if you're moving in to attack you might get knocked down a point or two on your init die depending how far you have to go, and you'll only get one attack when you get there no matter how many you would have had normally - nor do we have bonus actions. We've used this system more or less in its current form for 35+ years now, and it works well enough.
I've looked into variants and made others where actions are cumulative during the round, but I am hoping this might work better. Glad your system works well for your table. :)
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
I kinda like it. I agree that haste is a potential problem; I'd have to look at the spell before guessing at solutions (if it defines what it gives you, I think you could just include them as things you could do, that you'd roll initiative for). I don't think "plan is no longer relevant" is much less likely to happen with this system than cyclic initiative, except that moving is a separate thing, so someone might move to a target and then have that target drop (to an AoE effect or something) before getting in an attack. Also, I think the rules need to be written to state you can only move once per round (also you can only take one bonus action per round). Unless you want to do something like split movement into two sections or something--which kinda reflects the RAW take on splitting movement around attack/s.

Obviously (at least to me) all of the above is from reading it, not playtesting it.
Thanks. I like the concept (it came to me while driving to work) but it needs a lot of scrutiny before I write up anything "more official".

My initial thought on haste and similar effects would grant you more actions to take. Alternatively, it might grant advantage on your initial d20 roll for your first action as well?

I like the idea of breaking up movement, so if you have speed left over after your first move, you can continue to spend your movement on subsequent actions (such as the fighter chasing the ogre in the OP spoiler).

Yep, lots of playtesting if my groups show interest--if not, it is pleasant to discuss the theory of it. :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Interesting idea, I'd have to playtest to know for sure but ... I think most of my players would find it too complex. I'd also be wary of slowing combat down too much even though I appreciate what you're trying to do.

One alternative: start exactly as you stated, but then every subsequent sub-turn is -5. Limits number of roles, if you know what number you started with you can always double check where you were. If you're hasted, it becomes a -2 instead of a -5.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Interesting idea, I'd have to playtest to know for sure but ... I think most of my players would find it too complex. I'd also be wary of slowing combat down too much even though I appreciate what you're trying to do.

One alternative: start exactly as you stated, but then every subsequent sub-turn is -5. Limits number of roles, if you know what number you started with you can always double check where you were. If you're hasted, it becomes a -2 instead of a -5.
Yeah, I know this is really early in the discussion and playtesting (maybe tomorrow) is a must. :)

Funny, I thought of subtracting from the initial roll as well, but I wanted a system where it is possible to get all your actions in. Like @Lanefan's ideas I'll discuss all the options with my groups and see what they want to try out.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah, I know this is really early in the discussion and playtesting (maybe tomorrow) is a must. :)

Funny, I thought of subtracting from the initial roll as well, but I wanted a system where it is possible to get all your actions in. Like @Lanefan's ideas I'll discuss all the options with my groups and see what they want to try out.
Depending on initiative rolls, you could still get all your actions, especially if hasted.

But let us know how it works!
 

Rockyroad

Explorer
Interesting variant. It's a bit similar to a variant system I came up with a while back where the turn was broken up into each individual action. In my system each action had a point value which was subtracted from your initiative. After subtracting the value the initiative was reevaluated and if your initiative was still the highest you could continue performing another action, continuing to subtract and reevaluating as you go. This is a bit more deterministic compared to your system but I think I like the more randomness of yours with the die rolls. I never got to test it out because it was too complex for people's taste.

Here's a link to the variant initiative if you want to check it out.

For something like Haste, I would think of it not as allowing you to act more quickly necessarily but rather giving you more actions to take in your round, unless I'm missing your point.
 
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DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Interesting variant. It's a bit similar to a variant system I came up with a while back where the turn was broken up into each individual action. In my system each action had a point value which was subtracted from your initiative. After subtracting the value the initiative was reevaluated and if your initiative was still the highest you could continue performing another action, continuing to subtract and reevaluating as you go. This is a bit more deterministic compared to your system but I think I like the more randomness of yours with the die rolls. I never got to test it out because it was too complex for people's taste.

Here's a link to the variant initiative if you want to check it out.
Interesting variant. Too bad you didn't get to try it out. I am running my system by one group in about an hour and we'll try a test combat or two probably.

One thing I do question about using is the concept of weapon speed and casting times. I have never liked the idea that casting a spell as an "action" is basically instantaneous. :( So, I debate about adding such things.

I like the rolling for each subsequent action as well, but I thought of a way to do it more cyclical for players who don't want to roll each time. The cyclical idea would be everyone gets one action in the order of descending. You then repeat the order with everyone getting a second action, and so on. Once a creature has taken all of its actions, it is removed from the flow.

Using the Fighter/Ogre example above, it would flow like this: (Fighter goes on 21 and Ogre is on 14, repeating back and forth)

Fighter moves (draws weapon)
Ogre attacks
Fighter attacks (one attack)
Ogre flees (closes door as it flees)
Fighter gets OA as Ogre flees
Fighter pursuits but is blocked by door.

But this way, the Fighter doesn't get his second (Extra) attack nor his bonus action attack, so I am sure I really like it. shrug
 

Rockyroad

Explorer
Interesting variant. Too bad you didn't get to try it out. I am running my system by one group in about an hour and we'll try a test combat or two probably.

One thing I do question about using is the concept of weapon speed and casting times. I have never liked the idea that casting a spell as an "action" is basically instantaneous. :( So, I debate about adding such things.

I like the rolling for each subsequent action as well, but I thought of a way to do it more cyclical for players who don't want to roll each time. The cyclical idea would be everyone gets one action in the order of descending. You then repeat the order with everyone getting a second action, and so on. Once a creature has taken all of its actions, it is removed from the flow.

Using the Fighter/Ogre example above, it would flow like this: (Fighter goes on 21 and Ogre is on 14, repeating back and forth)

Fighter moves (draws weapon)
Ogre attacks
Fighter attacks (one attack)
Ogre flees (closes door as it flees)
Fighter gets OA as Ogre flees
Fighter pursuits but is blocked by door.

But this way, the Fighter doesn't get his second (Extra) attack nor his bonus action attack, so I am sure I really like it. shrug
That interestingly was the system we ended up testing out, where each character performed one action in initiative order and then cycling back around until everyone was done with their turn, no rolls or initiative costs to take into consideration. This still ended up being too complex. It was a bear trying to remember what actions people had remaining, especially for the DM to track all the monsters lol. Hopefully your experience will be better. Let us know how it goes.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
PLAY TEST SESSION #1 Results:

Overall, very positive, but definitely with some concerns were noted and addressed.
  • First is an added option to delay your action if you roll high but don't need to act yet. This came up mostly with using movement.
  • Second is that later rolls will NOT get to add any initiative modifier, that will apply only to the first roll.
  • Third is how will spells which allow multiple attacks (such as Eldritch Blast) work? We decided they work the same as weapon attacks, but once the first attack happens, later spell attacks can't be countered once the spell is "in effect".
  • Fourth is spells which last until the start of your next turn, etc. function until your first action on the next round. Spells which last until your current turn function the current round ends.
  • Fifth is the DM rolls for first actions, and once those have occurred for second actions, etc. and has a slightly higher cognitive load tracking it all. I found that once I was used to the process, it really wasn't too hard to do.
The positive feedback was:
  • There is a much better "flow to the action in combat". Players could better visualize what was happening as it happened.
  • The players were more engaged it what was going on and anxious for their next actions to come up.
  • They all want to continue the play test and try the concept with other characters and scenarios.
  • Once the players got into the habit of rolling at the end of their current action to see when they would act next, the process went quickly.
More neutral observations were:
  • It isn't really good to roll several d20's for all your actions at the beginning as it allows you to know ahead of time when you will get to act and that knowledge can influence your choices.
  • Adding the initiative modifier only to the first die roll helps speed up the rolling process later on.

Here is how one of the combats played out:

Scenario: Two monks (level 7, named M1, M2) were waylaid by a hobgoblin captain (HC) leading three hobgoblins (H1, H2, H3; two with longbows). The HC and H1 (longsword) stepped out onto the roadway, asking the monks for alms in a comical twist. After the PCs refused, the hobgoblins decided to beat them up and take what little possessions they had.

The hobgoblin captain moved quickly forward, holding is greatsword aggressively, as the two hobgoblins with longbows took aim at the monks. The last hobgoblin stayed back from his leader, but tense to rush to his aid or the others if the monks put up a fight.

Just as their leader reached the tortle and tabaxi monks, the tabaxi sprang out like a shot towards one of the archers. The archer's shot goes wide of its mark as the swift monk closes in on his prey like a cat pouncing on a mouse.

The tortle monk lunged forward in a vicious strike against the hobgoblin leader, penetrating the captain's plate armor, who staggered backwards a step, stunned. The tortle stepped after his strike, landing a crushing kick into the captains stomach. A blaze of arcing fire erupted from the monk's outstretched fingertips, burning into the captain's face. He grabbed his face in his hands as he fell over backwards and laid still.

The tortle deftly dodged the arrow shot from the second archer, just as the captain dropped.

Meanwhile, the tabaxi lands a power flying sidekick into his target's head. The archer collapses as the monk lands next to him. Pulling a dart from his belt he throws it at the closest hobgoblin and steps towards his next foe. The sword-wielding hobgoblin blocks the dart with his shield and rushes towards the tabaxi, eager to meet him in lethal combat.

Watching his comrade fall, the lone archer backs away from the fight, dropping his bow and drawing his longsword. But the swift tortle monk speeds towards the hobgoblin, knowing his ally has his own fight easily in hand, and closes the distance with surprising quickness.

Round 1: (Bold numbers represent initiative roll totals.)
(Note: if the new rolls are equal to or higher than the current initiative, the creature acts immediately.)


The hobgoblins win initiative (20 for HC, 19 for H1-3) over M1 (17) and M2 (14).)

20: The HC moves forward with his greatsword towards M1, threatening him and about to attack. (His move action, his attack rolled for later, 12. Since H1-H3 are 1 behind HC, they will get their next actions on 11.)

19: H1 readies his action to move in case he needs to support one of the others. (His action, he has movement still on 11 or later.)

19: H2 and H3 both ready their longbow attacks to shot the monks if they resist. (Their actions, both can still move on 11 or later.)

17: M2 moves 40 ft (of 45) to engage H2. He rolls for his attack (10) so will attack later. (His move action, will attack later.)

17: H3 uses his reaction to trigger his readied attack and fires his longbow, missing M2. (His reaction, he can move on 11 or later.)

14: M1 (already engaged with HC) attacks with an unarmed strike and succeeds in the stun. He rolls for his Extra Attack (17) and gets to act again immediately, he attacks with advantage and hits again. He rolls for his bonus action (15) and gets it immediately, using his Searing Arc Strike. Because HC is stunned, HC automatically failed his Dexterity saving throw and is reduced to 0 HP. M1 rolls for his move (9) so will move later.

14: H2 uses his reaction to trigger his readied attack and fires his longbow, missing M1. (His reaction, he can move on 11 or later.)

10: M2 attacks H3, hitting him and taking him out. M2 rolls for his Extra Attack (19) and throws a dart at H1, missing. He rolls for his remaining move (12), and moves 5 feet closer towards H1 (15 feet away now). [He still has his bonus action, so rolls for his next action (19) but must wait as no target is within range and he has no movement left.]

10: H1 wants to move towards M2, so can now move (remember, he can act on 11 or later) and moves 15 feet to engage M2. (H2 has 15 feet of movement left, so the DM rolls for his next action (15) so he can move again any point after 15.)

10: M2 can now use his bonus action (19) to attack H1 with an unarmed strike, but misses. [M2's actions are over, he has attacked, used all his movement, and his bonus action, so does not roll for another action. He can still take reactions as normal.]

10: Seeing H3 go down, H2 uses his move (11) and moves back from M1 (now 70 feet away), dropping his bow (no action), and drawing his sword (free object interaction). [H2 is done with actions, having fired his longbow and moved 30 feet.]

9: M1 moves 55 feet towards H2, they are now only 15 feet away. [His full movement, all of his actions are done, no need to roll.]

End of Round 1.

Note at this point, only H1 has 15 feet of movement left, but wants to remain engaged with M2, so isn't moving any so the round is over.

FWIW, the monks made quick work of the surviving two hobgoblins in the second round.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
That sounds interesting but a bit too complex for my taste.

I've used "action budget" system, where at the start of each round everyone secretly chooses a number from 0 to 6 and then reveal at the same time, then take turns from lowest to highest. Ties are resolved by mutual agreement of the sides.

Then, on the player's turn they can "spend" their budget on:
1 - movement, free object interaction
2 - bonus action
3 - action

That added a bit of a game into determining initiative, and actually sped up the things greatly -- since everyone've already decided what they are gonna do on their turns.
 

Rockyroad

Explorer
PLAY TEST SESSION #1 Results:

Overall, very positive, but definitely with some concerns were noted and addressed.
  • First is an added option to delay your action if you roll high but don't need to act yet. This came up mostly with using movement.
  • Second is that later rolls will NOT get to add any initiative modifier, that will apply only to the first roll.
  • Third is how will spells which allow multiple attacks (such as Eldritch Blast) work? We decided they work the same as weapon attacks, but once the first attack happens, later spell attacks can't be countered once the spell is "in effect".
  • Fourth is spells which last until the start of your next turn, etc. function until your first action on the next round. Spells which last until your current turn function the current round ends.
  • Fifth is the DM rolls for first actions, and once those have occurred for second actions, etc. and has a slightly higher cognitive load tracking it all. I found that once I was used to the process, it really wasn't too hard to do.
The positive feedback was:
  • There is a much better "flow to the action in combat". Players could better visualize what was happening as it happened.
  • The players were more engaged it what was going on and anxious for their next actions to come up.
  • They all want to continue the play test and try the concept with other characters and scenarios.
  • Once the players got into the habit of rolling at the end of their current action to see when they would act next, the process went quickly.
More neutral observations were:
  • It isn't really good to roll several d20's for all your actions at the beginning as it allows you to know ahead of time when you will get to act and that knowledge can influence your choices.
  • Adding the initiative modifier only to the first die roll helps speed up the rolling process later on.

Here is how one of the combats played out:

Scenario: Two monks (level 7, named M1, M2) were waylaid by a hobgoblin captain (HC) leading three hobgoblins (H1, H2, H3; two with longbows). The HC and H1 (longsword) stepped out onto the roadway, asking the monks for alms in a comical twist. After the PCs refused, the hobgoblins decided to beat them up and take what little possessions they had.

The hobgoblin captain moved quickly forward, holding is greatsword aggressively, as the two hobgoblins with longbows took aim at the monks. The last hobgoblin stayed back from his leader, but tense to rush to his aid or the others if the monks put up a fight.

Just as their leader reached the tortle and tabaxi monks, the tabaxi sprang out like a shot towards one of the archers. The archer's shot goes wide of its mark as the swift monk closes in on his prey like a cat pouncing on a mouse.

The tortle monk lunged forward in a vicious strike against the hobgoblin leader, penetrating the captain's plate armor, who staggered backwards a step, stunned. The tortle stepped after his strike, landing a crushing kick into the captains stomach. A blaze of arcing fire erupted from the monk's outstretched fingertips, burning into the captain's face. He grabbed his face in his hands as he fell over backwards and laid still.

The tortle deftly dodged the arrow shot from the second archer, just as the captain dropped.

Meanwhile, the tabaxi lands a power flying sidekick into his target's head. The archer collapses as the monk lands next to him. Pulling a dart from his belt he throws it at the closest hobgoblin and steps towards his next foe. The sword-wielding hobgoblin blocks the dart with his shield and rushes towards the tabaxi, eager to meet him in lethal combat.

Watching his comrade fall, the lone archer backs away from the fight, dropping his bow and drawing his longsword. But the swift tortle monk speeds towards the hobgoblin, knowing his ally has his own fight easily in hand, and closes the distance with surprising quickness.

Round 1: (Bold numbers represent initiative roll totals.)
(Note: if the new rolls are equal to or higher than the current initiative, the creature acts immediately.)


The hobgoblins win initiative (20 for HC, 19 for H1-3) over M1 (17) and M2 (14).)

20: The HC moves forward with his greatsword towards M1, threatening him and about to attack. (His move action, his attack rolled for later, 12. Since H1-H3 are 1 behind HC, they will get their next actions on 11.)

19: H1 readies his action to move in case he needs to support one of the others. (His action, he has movement still on 11 or later.)

19: H2 and H3 both ready their longbow attacks to shot the monks if they resist. (Their actions, both can still move on 11 or later.)

17: M2 moves 40 ft (of 45) to engage H2. He rolls for his attack (10) so will attack later. (His move action, will attack later.)

17: H3 uses his reaction to trigger his readied attack and fires his longbow, missing M2. (His reaction, he can move on 11 or later.)

14: M1 (already engaged with HC) attacks with an unarmed strike and succeeds in the stun. He rolls for his Extra Attack (17) and gets to act again immediately, he attacks with advantage and hits again. He rolls for his bonus action (15) and gets it immediately, using his Searing Arc Strike. Because HC is stunned, HC automatically failed his Dexterity saving throw and is reduced to 0 HP. M1 rolls for his move (9) so will move later.

14: H2 uses his reaction to trigger his readied attack and fires his longbow, missing M1. (His reaction, he can move on 11 or later.)

10: M2 attacks H3, hitting him and taking him out. M2 rolls for his Extra Attack (19) and throws a dart at H1, missing. He rolls for his remaining move (12), and moves 5 feet closer towards H1 (15 feet away now). [He still has his bonus action, so rolls for his next action (19) but must wait as no target is within range and he has no movement left.]

10: H1 wants to move towards M2, so can now move (remember, he can act on 11 or later) and moves 15 feet to engage M2. (H2 has 15 feet of movement left, so the DM rolls for his next action (15) so he can move again any point after 15.)

10: M2 can now use his bonus action (19) to attack H1 with an unarmed strike, but misses. [M2's actions are over, he has attacked, used all his movement, and his bonus action, so does not roll for another action. He can still take reactions as normal.]

10: Seeing H3 go down, H2 uses his move (11) and moves back from M1 (now 70 feet away), dropping his bow (no action), and drawing his sword (free object interaction). [H2 is done with actions, having fired his longbow and moved 30 feet.]

9: M1 moves 55 feet towards H2, they are now only 15 feet away. [His full movement, all of his actions are done, no need to roll.]

End of Round 1.

Note at this point, only H1 has 15 feet of movement left, but wants to remain engaged with M2, so isn't moving any so the round is over.

FWIW, the monks made quick work of the surviving two hobgoblins in the second round.
I'm glad you had a better experience with your experiment than I did. One thing I want to note while looking at the play by play is the bonus action for M2. It seemed like it was a held bonus action which I probably wouldn't allow, but I would have to think about this further and how it interacts with your initiative system.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
I'm glad you had a better experience with your experiment than I did. One thing I want to note while looking at the play by play is the bonus action for M2. It seemed like it was a held bonus action which I probably wouldn't allow, but I would have to think about this further and how it interacts with your initiative system.
We're going to do a bit more Saturday morning before our Frostmaiden game.

I am treating bonus actions simply as additional actions. Without any movement for M2, you could just say if he can't use without moving then he loses it. Personally, I don't have any issue with delaying them due to how this system works.

Anyway, I'll report more after the weekend. :)
 

ScuroNotte

Explorer
So, after some discussion in my thread about what the combat round feels like/represents to you, I've done a lot of thinking about initiative and what might be a good alternative.

A couple things I want to address first:
1. This is not a roll = time system. So, going on 20 or higher doesn't mean "You are acting in the first second of the round" or anything.
2. For me, being able to take all your possible actions at the same time is a problem. I prefer possible breaks in the action that don't rely solely on the narrative.
3. I am well aware this is a more complex system. It is a natural result and if you want to keep it simple (perfectly understandable) this likely won't be much interest to you.

Okay, so here we go... (first draft, so be gentle LOL! :) )

Your Initiative Modifier equals your proficiency bonus + your choice of DEX, INT, or WIS modifier. (Alternatively, you can choose one just for your table instead of making it player's choice). Alert adds +5 as normal. Class features also add as normal (e.g. Tactical Wit). I prefer to add proficiency bonus with the idea with greater experience, your ability to exploit the opportunity to act is better, and thus more likely to come sooner.

(Side note: not required, but something I would do is reduce proficiency bonus to +0 for CR 0, and only +1 for CR 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2. CR 1 and higher would use normal proficiency bonuses.)

Everyone rolls d20 + their Initiative Modifier. Highest roll goes first.

Now, here is where things change:

When your turn comes, you take one action (or a single attack), bonus action, OR move. You resolve your action (or attack) and afterwards immediately roll another d20 and add your Initiative Modifier. If the result equals or exceeds your current initiative, you can take another action that you have remaining. If your new total is lower, you have to wait to take your next action. After that, you roll again and continue until you are out of actions.

NOTE: reactions can be taken at any time when a trigger happens as usual. They don't require a roll.

Ok, let's look at an example:

Let's say you are a 5th-level Fighter. You have Extra Attack and are fighting with two weapons, so can use your Bonus action for an attack with your second weapon. Your proficiency modifier is +3 and your DEX modifier (your highest of DEX, INT, WIS) is +2, so a total of +5 to Initiative. You encounter a lone Ogre, which has only a +1 Initiative modifier (+2 prof, -1 DEX).

You roll and get a 16, for a total of 21. The ogre gets a total of 14, so you act first.

You are 15 feet apart and your first action is to move to engage the Ogre on Initiative 21.
You draw your weapon as a free object interaction (as part of your movement) and have 15 feet of movement left.
You are going to attack as your next action, so roll a d20, and get an 18 for a total of 23.
Since this is higher than the current 21, you get to attack now.
You make an attack and hit for 10 damage.
With Extra Attack, you are going to attack again, so roll another d20, but this time get a total of 12. You will have to wait for your second attack.

Since you are already engaged with the Ogre it doesn't need to move and it attacks you on Initiative 14.
It missed!
Fearing you are more of a threat than it anticipated, the Ogre decides to flee. It rolls another d20 and gets a total of 9. It can move away on 9.

On 12, you get your second attack, but you miss (bad roll!).
You will next use your bonus action to Attack with your second weapon. You roll a d20 and get a total of 15.
Since this is higher than the current 12, you get to take your bonus action attack now.
You hit and score 7 damage!

The ogre is really worried since it missed you and you hit it twice, so on 9 it flees.
You immediately use your reaction to make an opportunity attack and score another hit for 8 damage!
The ogre then moves 40 feet away, running for its life!

Since you still have 15 feet of movement left, you give chase and close the distance to only 25 feet.

End of round 1.

Summary:
  • You move on 21.
  • You attack on 21 (roll 23) for 10 damage.
  • Ogre attacks on 14 for a miss.
  • You attack on 12 for a miss.
  • You bonus action TWF attack on 12 (roll 15) for 7 damage.
  • Ogre moves on 9.
  • You react OA on 9 for 8 damage.
  • You use remaining move
IMO this gives a more dynamic feel for the round instead of just you move, make your three attacks, the ogre attacks, and then you get an OA as it runs away.

I am hoping a side-effect of this system is that since players don't take all their actions at once, they are more engaged in the round waiting for their next action.

There are still a lot of things I have to consider:

How do things like Haste work?
What happens if your planned action is no longer appropriate (ex. you were attacking an enemy but your target is dead and now it is your turn)?
What about readying your action or delaying an action?
And more to come I am certain...!

That's it for now. I have to run this by my groups and get feedback from them as well, playtest it some, etc. It might be too much, or it might track quickly enough that the complexity is worth it. We'll see, but the floor is open for comments, questions, concerns, and general discussion. :)
To get away from dexterity, we roll a die to determine which attribute the initiative is based on. The next encounter is rolled again minus the previous attribute(s) until each is represented.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
To get away from dexterity, we roll a die to determine which attribute the initiative is based on. The next encounter is rolled again minus the previous attribute(s) until each is represented.
Interesting. What rationale do you use for STR, CON, or CHA. CHA I guess I could see, your "confidence" or "boldness" leads the way, etc. But STR and CON???
 


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