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5E Concurrent initiative variant; Everybody declares/Everybody resolves [WAS Simultaneous Initiative]

Thread RENAMED "Concurrent initiative" for clarity because "Simultaneous initiative" was confusing/misleading

From another thread:

I abandoned cyclic initiative almost as soon as I started running my own 5E games; you don't need to roll initiative every round at all. You only need to roll initiative when something happens that puts the order of actions front and center, e.g. when two people have a Readied Action on the same trigger (Nox: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll cast Hold Person on the githyanki!"; Githyanki: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll run over and kill Nox!") or when their actions are mutually exclusive (Neogi Wizard: "I cast Fireball on Nox"; Nox: "I duck behind total cover").

In all other situations, initiative for the round is irrelevant and can be ignored, although some players like to roll it anyway and resolve things in initiative order instead of going around and resolving in table order (e.g. counterclockwise around the table). For large combats (eight or more combatants) I often have players roll initiative to keep it simpler, but for combats with only a few key players like the aforementioned gladiatorial combat against an ogre, you can totally ignore initiative unless there happens to be a round where both the ogre and the PC barbarian get in killing blows (which didn't happen), in which case you need to roll initiative to see who goes first.

Cyclic initiative (each player declares and then acts on his own turn during a fixed initiative cycle) is the wrong solution to the "too much rolling initiative" problem. The right solution is to just roll initiative as-needed instead of constantly.

[Again, the key problem with cyclic initiative is the way it forces 50-80% of the players into inactivity when it's not "their turn," though there are other problems too like how it confuses people when they run scenarios involving surprise or hidden combatants. But the main problem is that cyclic initiative creates a notion of "turn" which is distinct from "round" and then forces players not to participate in other peoples' turns.]
Response:

Sorry, you've lost me.

Let's take a quick example. Four heroes on a cart are ambushed by half a dozen goblins hiding behind some bushes up the road. Let's not focus on the ambush rules for this. I just would like you to explain how you run the combat.

There are four PCs and six monsters. A very commonplace and ordinary combat, wouldn't you say?

I get that each player is asked to declare his action. But where does the time savings come in? Do you have each player resolve his action by himself, once you've determined that there are nothing stopping that action from happening?

And do you always assume a PC acts before the goblin (or goblins) that he's attacking and attacked by?

Or what?

(On second thought, perhaps it would be best if you replied in a new thread, but I leave that decision up to you)
Ambushes don't add much complexity, so let's leave the ambush part in there.

The basic rules I use are pretty simple: declare actions in order of Int (lowest to highest) to represent that quicker thinking gives you a shorter OODA loop; all turns occur simultaneously, but actions within a round/turn sometimes need to roll initiative to find out which one goes first; some actions (like Dodge, or maintaining a held action) are considered whole-round activities instead of events within a round, and so they automatically win initiative contests; you can delay your action until everyone else commits to an action, but that makes you automatically lose all initiative contests. (Essentially, you declare Delay as your action, and then you get to declare a new action after everyone else goes.)

So in this case, four heroes are on a cart, and the goblins have all rolled high stealth and won't be detected. The heroes are alert and won't be "surprised", but they do lose initiative automatically (as if they had all implicitly declared Delay, which is the default action).

DM: as you're riding along past a hill past a narrow spot in the road, six arrows suddenly arc in towards you. [Rolls dice] Vlad, you catch a glimpse of a goblin's grinning face in the bushes here right before his arrow hits you for 8 points of damage.

Vlad: can I Shield?

DM: it's only a 14, and I think you would have been alert for possible trouble and aren't surprised, so okay, you Shield. Lose 2 spell points instead of 8 HP. Cranduin, you're hit once too for 4 points of damage; two other arrows clang off your armor. Jack, you got lucky--two arrows were aimed at you but they both missed. There's a brief rustling noise and you lose track of the goblins' whereabouts--they're somewhere within the brush but you're not sure where.

Eladriel (Shadow Monk): guys, let me check this out. I'm hopping out of the cart and making a sweep through the bushes.

Vlad: okay, we'll Delay until she checks it. [Cranduin and Jack nod assent]

DM: El, roll your Wisdom (Perception) check to see if you spot the goblins.

El: 9. [wince]

DM: You don't see anything.

Jack: I'm granting her Bardic Inspiration, and then I'm going to duck down too behind cover and Hide. [starts to roll dice--DM sees it and doesn't stop him because it doesn't look like anyone else is going to declare, and besides the goblins have already gone] 25!

Vlad: I'm going to stop the wagon and crouch down for partial cover behind the edge of the wagon, and Ready a Chill Touch for the first goblin that I see.

Cranduin: I'm going to hop out of the wagon too, to give Vlad some extra cover, and put on my shield and draw my longsword.

DM: Okay, you all do that. Next round. The goblins have all made their action decisions, but since you can't see them I'm not going to tell you what they are, though I suspect you can guess.

Vlad: still holding my Eldritch Blast.

El: Delay.

Cranduin: I'm going to Ready myself to charge over and attack the first goblin who shows his face.

DM: Okay, you'll be ready to attack the first goblin who breaks cover, as long as he is within your 30' movement range.

Jack: I'm still hidden for now, so I'll Delay.

DM: [rolls a handful of dice] Vlad! Three arrows aimed at you--does a 17 hit?

Vlad: Yes, but I'll Shield--oh, stink. I can't if I've already spent my reaction, can I?

DM: Nope. [consults dice, including initiative rolls] One arrow arcs in and misses you, and you blast him right back with Chill Touch. Roll please.

Vlad: 10, miss.

DM: Another arrow misses you, and then a third one, that 17, hits you right in the ribs for 6 points of damage.

Vlad: wait, I forgot about partial cover! My AC this round is 18, not 16!

DM: awesome for you! It hits the wagon right below your ribs.

Vlad: whew!

DM: all three of those goblins fade back into the bushes and you can't spot them any more. Cranduin, what's your initiative this round? The slowest of Vlad's three goblins had a 19 initiative and I doubt you can beat them.

Cranduin: [rolls] Uh, 3.

DM: ...well, I guess you're last. Three goblins also shoot arrows at Eladriel. El, there's one crit, which I assume you're going to try to catch [waits for confirming nod from here] for 11 points of damage minus your missile snatch, and then another 20 which also hits you I think, and then a clear miss.

El: [rolls] I block exactly 11 points of damage.

DM: Okay, you're hit once for 8 points of damage by the second arrow. Cranduin moves to intercept that goblin but he's too slow to hit it before it can try to hide again. However! One of the three that shot at you, the one that got the crit, rolls only a 12 on his Stealth check and you're able to see where he still is and point him out to Cranduin. Go for it, Cran!

Cranduin: [rolls] I got... a 9. Total. I miss.

DM: all right, that still leaves El and Jack with actions for this turn.

El: I attack that goblin, three times including Martial Arts. [rolls] One hit with my staff for 10 points of damage.

DM: And he goes down! Jack?

Jack: Can I very quietly grant inspiration to Cranduin without leaving my hiding place?

DM: Sure. You're like, [whispers furtively] "Fight! Fight! Fight! for the right!" [everyone laughs]

Jack: Okay, I do that.

DM: Okay, round three and you're still facing five goblins, as far as you know. They've got their actions ready but you don't know what they are, and... [etc.]

And that's basically how it works. As you can see, initiative is rolled relatively infrequently*, and the players are as fully-engaged with the game and each other as they would be in a social scene or other noncombat activity. Instead of spending 50-80% of their time sitting around doing nothing, not "allowed" to do anything because it's not "their turn," the players have the freedom to interact with each other and declare actions when they're ready to commit to something, or to wait for a better opportunity later by Delaying. You'll notice that one of the players (Jack's player) is apparently even still thinking more in roleplaying terms ("hide from the monsters!") than in terms of "optimal" tactics like readying attacks or making active perception rolls by Searching.

This style of play should be familiar to anyone who ever read the 2nd edition PHB, since it's almost exactly what AD&D used to use. The main difference is that AD&D didn't explicitly spell out the fact that sometimes initiative rolls don't matter and can be skipped, and it also didn't have the concept of Delaying. (I got the idea of Delay from fencing.)

-Hemlock/Max

* You can see that nothing would change no matter what order the initiative rolls came out in. The only time in the whole scenario when initiative matters is seeing whether Crandruin Readies an action in time to intercept one of the goblins before it can try to Hide again.
 
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MostlyDm

Villager
Re-reading this again after seeing you criticize cyclic initiative in another post.

I think it’s a really fascinating idea. I’m going to try to give it a shot some time soon I think.

I also like that it gives a small nudge to Int, which is so massively undervalued.
 
[From another thread, a little bit more on the motivation behind this alternative to PHB initiative. -Max]

My deeper objection is to the way vanilla PHB "cyclic" initiative tries to simplify combats by unifying decision-making and action resolution into an instantaneous event, and then progresses time by simply ensuring that there's a full cycle in which everyone gets to do their instantaneous action. It's a highly artificial way of interacting with the game world, and if you ever try to do something which doesn't fit neatly into the predefined set of things that can be done in one instant by one person, you're back to dealing with the messiness of actions with durations anyway, which means that you now have to re-invent techniques on the fly for the dealing with the thing you invented cyclic initiative to get away from. So you'll naturally steer yourself away from certain kinds of actions that don't fit within the neatly predefined hierarchy of actions, even if they're perfectly plausible from a roleplaying perspective.

If I've got a new role-player, and he's playing a human fighter named Bob, and the party is fighting a T-Rex inside of a castle, and Bob sees a lever 100' away that he could pull to drop a portcullis between the T-Rex and the party, there is no physical reason why Bob shouldn't be able to shout, "Hang on guys! I'm going to drop the portcullis!" and then run 100' and pull that lever. And if combat and cyclic initiative weren't involved (e.g. the T-Rex is insulting the PCs instead of fighting with them), he could declare exactly that and the DM would be fine with it. He might say, "The T-Rex is going to get in a couple more insults before you pull the lever," but he's not going to say, "You can't declare that action." In the initiative system presented in the 5E PHB, however, the DM is likely to say, "No, you can't. Your move is only 30', and you can Dash for 30' more, but you can only run to here this turn. Next turn you can Dash again to the lever and pull it." And Bob will learn that there are only certain things you can do during combat, and Dash is one of them, and next time he'll declare his action in terms of Attack/Dash/Item Interaction, and the game will get a little less organic.

Contrast that with a WEGO system in which the DM is used to having multiple outstanding declarations at once which get resolved at a later point in time. In this case, Bob can say, "I'll yell, 'hang on guys!' and run over to pull the lever." And the DM will say, "Okay, that will take you two turns," and the other PCs might okay, "Okay, if he's going to drop the portcullis then I might as well just Dodge instead of trying to kill this thing with my tiny stick", and everything will play out more organically and interactively. There's no reason you couldn't get the exact same outcome even with PHB cyclic initiative--but I believe that you wouldn't. And if you did it would be much more hassle for the players:

"I Dodge."
"I Dash 60'."
"I Dodge."
"I Dodge."
"I Dodge."
"The T-Rex attacks."
"I Dodge."
"I Dash 40' and pull the lever."

If you make it hard for people to do stuff, they're less likely to do that kind of stuff.

Ceterum autem censeo cyclic initiative esse delendam.
 
Re-reading this again after seeing you criticize cyclic initiative in another post.

I think it’s a really fascinating idea. I’m going to try to give it a shot some time soon I think.

I also like that it gives a small nudge to Int, which is so massively undervalued.
Yes, I was quite surprised to see how much players valued Int. I saw a Shadow Monk/Druid boost his Int from its starting value of 9 all the way up to 12 by the time he was a Shadow Monk 8/Druid 6. I don't think you'd ever see that happen under PHB rules.
 

MostlyDm

Villager
I've given bonus/penalty languages/tool proficiencies from Int in the past, and seriously consider giving bonus/penalty skills entirely. It really annoys me that 5e carried over 4e's mistreatment of Int, and then exacerbated it by having even fewer classes that use it.

This is another interesting angle to it, though.
 
I think the players like it because it directly impacts them as players, every round of every combat.

"Oh, Nox, you get to declare last because you have the highest Int."
[Jandar's (the aforementioned Shadow Monk) player looks enviously at Nox's player.]

It's not just about player envy of course. They also really, really like being more intelligent than the monsters. "The T-Rex is attacking the nearest person, Jandar." "I'm Dodging." vs. "The githzerai is smarter than you. You declare your action first."

There is of course also the role-playing angle as well (I don't think my players are motivated purely by combat outcomes), and the Jandar's player said things that indicated that he didn't like being a "dummy" with Int 9--but Jandar was Int 9 when he was first created, when the players were new to 5E, so why didn't it bother him then enough to assign a higher stat to it? (Jandar actually had lower Int than his half-orc Barbarian Thok.) I can only assume that constantly having to declare before other players made him feel like a dummy, in a way that simply seeing a 9 on his character sheet did not.
 
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Tony Vargas

Villager
I recall coming across a system that included declaring actions in ascending INT order at some point in the distant gaming past (actions were then resolved in descending DEX order, IIRC). I don't know if it was for D&D, but it's interesting you're using something like it. Do you recall where you got the idea?

I've given bonus/penalty languages/tool proficiencies from Int in the past, and seriously consider giving bonus/penalty skills entirely. ... It really annoys me that 5e, exacerbated it by having even fewer classes that use it.
INT already adds to some significant skills, doubling-down by having it also add skill proficiencies like it did languages in 1e or ranks in 3e doesn't seem called for. Though I guess the loss of INT adding to AC/REF isn't exactly made up for with the rare INT save. I suppose a lot of cases could be made for using INT or DEX in some situations.
 
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MostlyDm

Villager
INT already adds to some significant skills, doubling-down by having it also add skill proficiencies like it did languages in 1e or ranks in 3e doesn't seem called for. Though I guess the loss of INT adding to AC/REF isn't exactly made up for with the rare INT save. I suppose a lot of cases could be made for using INT or DEX in some situations.

I'm very much on the fence as far as it granting skills, Tony... I think you may be right that it is too powerful. Tools/languages I'm more flexible about.

Also, in my 3.X homebrews, I do away with the predefined skill list entirely and have players make up their own skills, then when using a skill at the table we figure out what stat applies in the particular use case (much like 5e tool proficiencies). This system would likely work well in 5e, but I haven't ported it yet.

Also, Tony, could you do me a favor and fix your quote of me? You cut out text in the middle of the quote and didn't signify it with any sort of ellipsis or similar to indicate that you were doing it. I assume my mention of 4e in anything that could be construed as a negative way offended you, so I understand why you cut it. But as it stands right now, it's a misquote.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
The major issue with simultaneous initiative is that circumstances on the ground are likely to change between the time you declare your action and the time it comes to resolve your action. If you ever played Final Fantasy I, before the PlayStation era re-releases, you'd remember how little fun it is to have a fighter miss their attacks because the enemy they'd selected was already dead at the hands of the black belt, while the remaining enemies continue to return fire.

I'm not exactly sure how your system deals with that, if there's anything more to it than rolling initiative to see who gets that particular enemy first, or whether the slower actor gets a chance to change their mind based on the outcome of the faster one. (If there are three goblins and a goblin priest, then you really want to make sure the goblin priest goes down ASAP, but you don't know how many attacks it can withstand before dropping; so everyone in the party declares that they're going to attack the goblin priest, and it drops from the first hit because it's still just a goblin, and then the rest of the party... does what exactly? Stands there and gets shot by the other goblins?)
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
Also, Tony, could you do me a favor and fix your quote of me? You cut out text in the middle of the quote and didn't signify it with any sort of ellipsis or similar to indicate that you were doing it.
Elipsis added.

I assume my mention of 4e in anything that could be construed as a negative way offended you, so I understand why you cut it.
I felt like addressing it would be an unwelcome tangent, since the point was INT adding languages/ranks in 1e/3e, and not doing so in 5e.

But, here' goes...

I've given bonus/penalty languages/tool proficiencies from Int in the past, and seriously consider giving bonus/penalty skills entirely. It really annoys me that 5e carried over 4e's mistreatment of Int, and then exacerbated it by having even fewer classes that use it.
While 4e didn't have Add. Lang or bonus ranks for INT, it did make INT more useful by using it to calculate AC & REF when higher than DEX, and did allow an INT-based character to make effective INT-based attacks, even with a weapon, using feats like Intelligent Blademaster or, a bit later, Melee Training. Plenty of other feats and utilities allowed INT or INT-based skills to be swapped into other rolls. INT was not only a primary stat for the usual suspects like Wizard, but a secondary stat for others, like the Warlock & Warlord in the PH1, for instance. On balance, it didn't seem like mistreatment.

Indeed, to bring it back around to your issue with 5e under-serving INT, you could also lift some of those functions from 4e, if you wanted.
 

flametitan

Villager
One question though: Why couldn't Vlad cast Shield again before the goblins made their second flurry of attacks? It seemed like more than one "round" passed between when he used his reaction, his readied spell (which seems to alternate between EB and Chill touch), and when the goblins attacked again, unless I'm misreading. Was it because he cast his held spell?
 

MostlyDm

Villager
Elipsis added.
Thanks!
I felt like addressing it would be an unwelcome tangent, since the point was INT adding languages/ranks in 1e/3e, and not doing so in 5e.

But, here' goes...

While 4e didn't have Add. Lang or bonus ranks for INT, it did make INT more useful by using it to calculate AC & REF when higher than DEX, and did allow an INT-based character to make effective INT-based attacks, even with a weapon, using feats like Intelligent Blademaster or, a bit later, Melee Training. Plenty of other feats and utilities allowed INT or INT-based skills to be swapped into other rolls. INT was not only a primary stat for the usual suspects like Wizard, but a secondary stat for others, like the Warlock & Warlord in the PH1, for instance. On balance, it didn't seem like mistreatment.

Indeed, to bring it back around to your issue with 5e under-serving INT, you could also lift some of those functions from 4e, if you wanted.
Yeah, I know where you're coming from. I ran maybe three or four 4e campaigns and a few more one shots as well. There were some neat aspects to it, and some stuff that ultimately I realized I really didn't like. You've actually kind of hit upon both, simultaneously.

I'm not sure how far down this road we should go, but, briefly: My problem with the way 4e handles Int is the same as my problem with how 4e handles all stats. In trying to keep a good balance between the stats, which they achieve, what ultimately ends up happening is each stat loses a lot of uniqueness and verisimilitude. So, yeah, some people have good Int, and some have good Con, and some have good Dex, and if you have a big enough party you likely have people with every conceivable stat array...

But they largely use whatever stats they have in identical fashions, and the game makes it really easy to avoid using your dump stats for virtually anything that matters. The guy with good Con, at 20th level, doesn't necessarily have more HP than the guy with 10 Con. Their fort saves could easily be identical. One guy uses Con to attack, the other guy uses a different stat to attack, and ultimately... what's the point? It just ended up feeling very samey to me and my group.

There's very little about having a high Int or a high Cha or whatever that ever stood out to me as really defining. The high Int guy used Int for all of his attacks, even his attacks with a greataxe. The high Cha guy did the same. Etc.

I dunno. Ultimately this is a description of why the system didn't work for me so it will no doubt come off as overly hostile towards 4e. I don't want to start one of those threads, so I apologize for that in advance. For all the stuff that ultimately didn't work for me, there were plenty of good ideas, some of which I have stolen for subsequent games. No edition warrior here.
 
I recall coming across a system that included declaring actions in ascending INT order at some point in the distant gaming past (actions were then resolved in descending DEX order, IIRC). I don't know if it was for D&D, but it's interesting you're using something like it. Do you recall where you got the idea?
*thinks*

I might be influenced by GURPS in this. That is, I think I originally came up with this system for a GURPS game, and GURPS has only four stats (Strength, Dexterity, IQ, and Health; Speed is derived from Dexterity and Health) so when trying to make GURPS behave more like AD&D it was natural to reach for Int. And GURPS' regular initiative system is not random at all, so it makes sense for action declarations not to be random either.
 
The major issue with simultaneous initiative is that circumstances on the ground are likely to change between the time you declare your action and the time it comes to resolve your action. If you ever played Final Fantasy I, before the PlayStation era re-releases, you'd remember how little fun it is to have a fighter miss their attacks because the enemy they'd selected was already dead at the hands of the black belt, while the remaining enemies continue to return fire.

I'm not exactly sure how your system deals with that, if there's anything more to it than rolling initiative to see who gets that particular enemy first
I allow my players to declare more complicated actions if they want to--they just have to declare the action in enough detail that I, or anyone else, could resolve the action without additional information. If you declare, "I attack the orc with the red hat!" and he's dead, well, you attack his corpse or abort your action. Not a big deal, and something that can happen in real life too. (Encouraging this kind of realistic chaos, especially for archers, is one of my additional motivations for wanting a different initiative system.)

One of my players has taken to saying, "I attack the masses!" as a shorthand for "I attack that guy, or if he's already dead then I attack the next guy." I generally encourage my players to develop their own nicknames for maneuvers and combinations of maneuvers.

I can imagine a theoretical point at which I'd say, "No, that action declaration is too complicated." But it's never happened so I haven't had to come up with rules for delineating the boundary.

or whether the slower actor gets a chance to change their mind based on the outcome of the faster one. (If there are three goblins and a goblin priest, then you really want to make sure the goblin priest goes down ASAP, but you don't know how many attacks it can withstand before dropping; so everyone in the party declares that they're going to attack the goblin priest, and it drops from the first hit because it's still just a goblin, and then the rest of the party... does what exactly? Stands there and gets shot by the other goblins?)
In this situation you're either looking at everyone attacking the priest simultaneously because it's vital that he die ASAP (in which case everyone declare "I Attack the priest, or if he's dead then whatever goblin is closest" or something similar) or else you're looking at waiting a beat before committing to an attack, which means you're declaring a Delay.
 
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MostlyDm

Villager
In addition to allowing for overkill (which I agree can actually be desirable to emulate the chaos of battle), it seems like it can open up to all sorts of interesting tactics.

Like...

DM: The wolf is going to run up to Neville and bite him.

Neville: I dash away.

Party: We shoot at the wolf.

And then initiative is rolled between the wolf and Neville? And if Neville succeeds, then a round is spent with the wolf chasing Neville to no avail. Perhaps it now aborts its action, e.g. "The wolf attacks the closest one of you that doesn't flee."

In general, seems like this system encourages kinds of kiting you don't really see in regular initiative.
 
One question though: Why couldn't Vlad cast Shield again before the goblins made their second flurry of attacks? It seemed like more than one "round" passed between when he used his reaction, his readied spell (which seems to alternate between EB and Chill touch), and when the goblins attacked again, unless I'm misreading. Was it because he cast his held spell?
I.

Yes, it was because of the held spell.

In this system, 1 round = my turn = your turn = everyone's turn concurrently. There's no distinction between rounds and turns. You get one reaction per round.

On round 1, Vlad's reaction goes toward Shield.

On round 2, Vlad's reaction goes toward triggering his held action (on initiative count 21, although I didn't write that) when the first goblin shoots at Vlad and misses and Vlad tries to Chill Touch him and misses. A moment later (initiative count 19, as it happens), two more goblins shoot arrows at Vlad. One misses, and one hits the wagon right below Vlad's ribs. If it had hit, Vlad would be too busy casting Chill Touch to Shield.

II.

If Vlad ever casts EB in the example, whoops! Mistake on the writer's part. In real life Vlad is a Warlock 2/Necromancer 9 who was a pure Necromancer relying on Chill Touch up until level 8, but I wanted a simple example so in my head I meant to make this a fifth level Vlad with only Chill Touch. If I at some point wrote Eldritch Blast for Vlad then that was unintentional.
 

flametitan

Villager
I.

Yes, it was because of the held spell.

In this system, 1 round = my turn = your turn = everyone's turn concurrently. There's no distinction between rounds and turns. You get one reaction per round.

On round 1, Vlad's reaction goes toward Shield.

On round 2, Vlad's reaction goes toward triggering his held action (on initiative count 21, although I didn't write that) when the first goblin shoots at Vlad and misses and Vlad tries to Chill Touch him and misses. A moment later (initiative count 19, as it happens), two more goblins shoot arrows at Vlad. One misses, and one hits the wagon right below Vlad's ribs. If it had hit, Vlad would be too busy casting Chill Touch to Shield.
Right. I must've missed him casting it.

That said, it does bring up something I might do if I were to use this (Strictly to help me as a DM keep it organized; I doubt the players would see much difference in play) and possibly have explicit "phases" on my side of the screen: Things that happen at the beginning of the turn, declaration, resolution, things that happen at the end of the turn. I might also have a "damage" phase, if it seems likely for somebody to get a shot off right as they're killed, or some such.

Mostly just to keep things in my head clear, and follow it better.
 
In addition to allowing for overkill (which I agree can actually be desirable to emulate the chaos of battle), it seems like it can open up to all sorts of interesting tactics.

Like...

DM: The wolf is going to run up to Neville and bite him.

Neville: I dash away.

Party: We shoot at the wolf.

And then initiative is rolled between the wolf and Neville? And if Neville succeeds, then a round is spent with the wolf chasing Neville to no avail. Perhaps it now aborts its action, e.g. "The wolf attacks the closest one of you that doesn't flee."

In general, seems like this system encourages kinds of kiting you don't really see in regular initiative.
Yep, that kind of thing happens all the time. One of the most memorable moments was when the party's 9th(?) level Necromancer tried to take on a Death Slaad, solo and naked except for garments woven from tree bark because the Death Slaad (in disguise) had previously captured him and taken all of his gear including his spellbook and Robe of the Archmagi. The Death Slaad was in the form of an Enkidu (from Dominions; think of a cross between a Volo's Firbolg and a nature-oriented half-Ogre with horns) and had a couple of dozen of half-ogre-statted Enkidu guards with him when the Necromancer assaulted the city and captured the walls with his skeleton troops. I let one of the players run the Death Slaad during the battle and it ended up turning invisible and trying to get the Necromancer while Enkidu troops assaulted the boarded-up front doors of the tower the Necromancer was holding. To make a long story short, the battle came down to one crucial moment when the Death Slaad was at a handful of HP left and had declared that he was Plane Shifting away; the Necromancer's skeletons had rolled just barely enough damage to kill the Death Slaad this round; and the only thing that was needed in order for the Necromancer to kill the Slaad and get his Robe of the Archmagi back (the Slaad was wearing the robe BTW) was an initiative contest: all the skeletons had to get their shots off before the Death Slaad could complete his Plane Shift spell.

It was very tense!

There was a happy ending though. IIRC the Slaad rolled a 3 or something on its initiative, and all the skeletons beat it after all, and the Slaad died messily and the Enkidus stared in amazement at the toad-corpse of what they had thought was their Ensi and the Enkidus surrendered and everything turned out fine.

P.S. Also, my wolves aren't smart enough to declare that conditional action the first time. So Peter will be fine on the first round if he wins initiative; on the second and subsequent rounds the wolf will be more canny and Delay or declare a conditional attack. And the same learning process will occur BTW with the next wolf they meet--it's not the DM being simpleminded in his action declarations, it's the wolf. A dumber animal like a snake might not learn at all.

Edit: oh, it's Neville, not Peter. My bad, but I'm leaving it unchanged in my post because Prokofiev. :)
 
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MostlyDm

Villager
Right. I must've missed him casting it.


That said, it does bring up something I might do if I were to use this (Strictly to help me as a DM keep it organized; I doubt the players would see much difference in play) and possibly have explicit "phases" on my side of the screen: Things that happen at the beginning of the turn, declaration, resolution, things that happen at the end of the turn. I might also have a "damage" phase, if it seems likely for somebody to get a shot off right as they're killed, or some such.


Mostly just to keep things in my head clear, and follow it better.
Yeah, intuitively this type of system sounds to me like it will require a bit more "work" on the part of the DM to keep things flowing correctly. Initiative can be clunky, but it's also fairly divorced from any key DM adjudications and can even be handled by a player if needed. Not the case here, I think.

I have a feeling Hemlock may have a counterargument, though.

Even if it is the case, it doesn't phase me much. I tend to prefer it when the heavy-lifting is done behind the screen and the players can focus on roleplaying and having a good time. Some of my favorite systems these days are much more free-form, and rely much more heavily on constant GM adjudication. It's not typically a big deal.
 
Right. I must've missed him casting it.

That said, it does bring up something I might do if I were to use this (Strictly to help me as a DM keep it organized; I doubt the players would see much difference in play) and possibly have explicit "phases" on my side of the screen: Things that happen at the beginning of the turn, declaration, resolution, things that happen at the end of the turn. I might also have a "damage" phase, if it seems likely for somebody to get a shot off right as they're killed, or some such.

Mostly just to keep things in my head clear, and follow it better.
Another thing you can do to keep things simpler is to just utilize the Delay action a lot.

DM: "All the monsters Delay."

Now it's equivalent to DMG "Side Initiative": all the PCs go, then all the monsters go.
 

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