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


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Rune

Once A Fool
Reading this make me think it's a lot of solutions looking for problems. Whatever works.

I'll just quote myself from earlier in the thread, since my viewpoint hasn't changed:

Rune said:
Of course it doesn't need it. It's a stylistic choice. It sets an entirely different tone for combat than turn-by-turn (and, especially, cyclical) initiative does. Don't get me wrong. I loved cyclical initiative in 1999. It was a vast improvement. But I don't want the same things out of an RPG that I did back then.
 

Torgaard

Explorer
Tried to propose this tonight and got a horrified look from the rules lawyer. The players in general were not too receptive I guess I'm the only one feeling the gears grinding as we switch into combat mode. We won't be trying it any time soon it seems.

Proposed this non-sequential initiative style to my (Fantasy Grounds) table last week, and after a media blitz where I outlined how I see it working (I plan on keeping the spirit of Hemlock's outline, but will be modifying it there and there), wrote up an exhaustively detailed example of how an initial round of combat my go - with screenshots, the excitement level has ramped up considerably. I myself - as DM - am really excited about trying this system. It really shines a light on alotta years of occasional frustration with D&D's sequential initiative. Frankly, sequential initiative is a really cruddy way to play a game like this. So many combat sessions with so many instances where, because we're trapped in this linear order-of-play; the fights play out in the most improbable and dysfunctional ways.

"Hey guys, check this out! I'm a Monk, right? And my Speed is 40'. See those orcs over there, 40' away? Watch this - I'm at the top of the initiative order, so I'm literally gonna run 40' at these guys, and they're all just gonna stand there, watch me come runnin' at 'em, and they ain't gonna do a damn thing. Not only that, I'm gonna beat the crap outta that first guy, and they're still just gonna stand there. It'z-awezome. Not only that, but my buddy the Fighter, and my other buddy the Rogue, they come 2nd and 3rd in the initiative order, so they're gonna feather 'em from here. Probly kill one or two of 'em. And those orcs, yunno what? They're STILL just gonna stand there. See; they just gotta wait until it's their turn, and hope they don't die before they get to attack. Heck, before they get to do anything they just gotta stand there. It's hilarious! I mean, it's crazy as hell, but let's maybe just pretend that they don't really just stand there. I guess we could pretend there's other stuff happening. Maybe they like - draw their weapons, and maybe there's actually a few seconds of them swinging at me and me dodging, or maybe we could say 'We got the drop on 'em!', stuff like that, just so it all doesn't sound bat-:):):):) crazy; but it's all just fluff - it's really pretty much bat-:):):):) crazy, because at the end of the day... they just stood there until it was their turn. Make sense? Great, let's git 'em!"

What-the-WHAT?

Anyway, excited to try this out! :)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Proposed this non-sequential initiative style to my (Fantasy Grounds) table last week, and after a media blitz where I outlined how I see it working (I plan on keeping the spirit of Hemlock's outline, but will be modifying it there and there), wrote up an exhaustively detailed example of how an initial round of combat my go - with screenshots, the excitement level has ramped up considerably. I myself - as DM - am really excited about trying this system. It really shines a light on alotta years of occasional frustration with D&D's sequential initiative. Frankly, sequential initiative is a really cruddy way to play a game like this. So many combat sessions with so many instances where, because we're trapped in this linear order-of-play; the fights play out in the most improbable and dysfunctional ways.

"Hey guys, check this out! I'm a Monk, right? And my Speed is 40'. See those orcs over there, 40' away? Watch this - I'm at the top of the initiative order, so I'm literally gonna run 40' at these guys, and they're all just gonna stand there, watch me come runnin' at 'em, and they ain't gonna do a damn thing. Not only that, I'm gonna beat the crap outta that first guy, and they're still just gonna stand there. It'z-awezome. Not only that, but my buddy the Fighter, and my other buddy the Rogue, they come 2nd and 3rd in the initiative order, so they're gonna feather 'em from here. Probly kill one or two of 'em. And those orcs, yunno what? They're STILL just gonna stand there. See; they just gotta wait until it's their turn, and hope they don't die before they get to attack. Heck, before they get to do anything they just gotta stand there. It's hilarious! I mean, it's crazy as hell, but let's maybe just pretend that they don't really just stand there. I guess we could pretend there's other stuff happening. Maybe they like - draw their weapons, and maybe there's actually a few seconds of them swinging at me and me dodging, or maybe we could say 'We got the drop on 'em!', stuff like that, just so it all doesn't sound bat-:):):):) crazy; but it's all just fluff - it's really pretty much bat-:):):):) crazy, because at the end of the day... they just stood there until it was their turn. Make sense? Great, let's git 'em!"

What-the-WHAT?

Anyway, excited to try this out! :)

That's cool. I've actually caught myself having my NPCs react to actions that PCs are making even though it's not the NPCs turn because it seems so unnatural that they would just stand there politely waiting their turn. Especially as you say the PC might need to move first before engaging the enemy.
 

Markn

First Post
Tried out several iterations of concurrent initiative tonight. I was pumped to see how it worked and the experience fell flat for my group. In the end, it wasn't for us.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
That's cool. I've actually caught myself having my NPCs react to actions that PCs are making even though it's not the NPCs turn because it seems so unnatural that they would just stand there politely waiting their turn.

The Force is strong with this one. Make the game more fun for your players - earn more GM cool points.

Initiative serves a purpose: it can help resolve mutually exclusive actions. In the absence of those, just let everyone act when they want to.
 

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
The reason "charge" sounds reasonable to me is that it maps very intuitively to something someone would actually do. I would be quite surprised if newbie roleplayers weren't about as likely as rule-hungry optimizers to declare a "charge"-type action..."He's out of reach, do you want to keep running?" I wouldn't do that....any more than I would suggest to players that they choose a more effective spell...

I would also say that rewarding forethought and mechanical precision is bad only to the extent that it's being rewarded in an unrealistic way which doesn't map to the game world. If you reward forethought in a way which maps to in-game forethought (Shadow Monk scouting ahead so the party can turn the upcoming ambush by three trolls, by exposing the Dex-y Rogue and Shadow Monk who both have Evasion so that the hidden wizard can pop out and Fireball the trolls by surprise once they've clumped up and the hidden fighter can Action Surge with his longbow and put down one of the trolls on the first round) then the game is both challenging and fun. Cyclic initiative requires the wrong kind of forethought; but I don't think letting the Barbarian keep running if his target moves ("charge") requires the wrong kind of forethought. I think that forethought can happen in-character.
The difference between those two scenarios (emphasis mine) is that the former is strategy, and the latter is rules mastery.

For an optimizer, there's no reason to declare an attack rather than a charge in that situation. It's not even a decision; that player is never going to just say "attack" if "charge" is better.

A newer or more casual player, who doesn't know to do stuff like that, will be subtly less effective than the experienced player, and may not even know why. And it's not because the newbie isn't as smart as the optimizer, it's just because the optimizer understands the rules more deeply. I do not want a character's effectiveness to be determined by the player's knowledge of the rules. It's a barrier. I want to remove barriers.

My newbie roleplayers don't care about the difference between "charge" and "attack," and if I penalized them for not being specific about it, they'd be annoyed. They don't want to learn the rules to that level of detail. Therefore, I don't want to implement a system that rewards detailed knowledge of the rules.

For a whole group of optimizers under tournament-like conditions, I can see the strategic value in forcing each player to be very specific when declaring actions (maybe with a hard limit on conditions, e.g. your declaration can only have one "if"). But realistically, I'd rather just have everyone say generally what they want to do, and I'll figure out how to apply the rules. That's my GMing style in a nutshell.

It seems a bit complicated for my taste. I would just not allow complex conditions for ranged attacks like "if he's dead I'll shoot at someone else" the way I would for melee attacks. I wouldn't try to invent friendly fire rules like you are here. My intuition says you're going to pay more cost in complexity than the benefit you get in fun.
Well, let's ignore friendly fire for now (a pet houserule of mine, not for everyone). And let's agree to disagree on the subject of declaring conditions vs. altering actions during resolution (different means to the same end). And let's agree to agree that melee attacks should get more leeway than ranged attacks. I'll rewrite those rules to be less controversial.

But on the subject of overkill: You imply in this here quoted paragraph that a melee attacker can declare "if my target is dead, I'll attack someone else." Therefore, to anyone with the requisite rules mastery, melee overkill never happens. I don't know if I like that. Surely, if we're trying to make combat feel more chaotic, melee overkill should happen some of the time (?)

I can imagine the following situation:
(Two PCs are fighting against a mummy lord and a few zombies.)

DM: The zombies will attack you indiscriminately. What do you do?
Barbarian: Forget the zombies. I'll keep axing the mummy.
Fighter: You're right, we need to kill that bastard. I'll stab it with my sword.
DM: The mummy lord will attack the barbarian. Roll 'em.
(mummy lord has 8 hp remaining)
(Barbarian hits, rolls 12 damage)
(Fighter hits, rolls 10 damage)
(mummy lord loses initiative)
DM: You kill the mummy.
(zombies, unharmed, attack the PCs)​

That feels like good game design to me, but I can't really explain why.
 
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The difference between those two scenarios (emphasis mine) is that the former is strategy, and the latter is rules mastery.

For an optimizer, there's no reason to declare an attack rather than a charge in that situation. It's not even a decision; that player is never going to just say "attack" if "charge" is better.

A newer or more casual player, who doesn't know to do stuff like that, will be subtly less effective than the experienced player, and may not even know why. And it's not because the newbie isn't as smart as the optimizer, it's just because the optimizer understands the rules more deeply. I do not want a character's effectiveness to be determined by the player's knowledge of the rules. It's a barrier. I want to remove barriers.

I guess that's the difference between us--I don't see "charge" as rules-mastery at all. That kind of tactical hesitation (because you didn't think through enemy countermeasures and need to re-assess when something happens) happens in real life too until you learn to overcome it. That's part of where OODA loops come from. In fact, it's so well-known that it's a military axiom: "surprise is an event that occurs in the mind of the commander."

It's not an artifact of the game rules and it has nothing to do with "optimization". It's more closely tied to tactics and tactical skill, like learning to use recon, cover, stealth/camouflage, ranged weapons, and equipment. "Optimizers" probably won't do that effectively because they mostly optimize stupid things like DPR, but skilled players will do lots of things better, and acting more efficiently and effectively in combat is one of those things--depending of course on to what extent they are roleplaying combat veterans. (Some players deliberately do unwise things to stay in character, like casting spells they know won't work on the targets they're casting at, because the character couldn't know better. I wouldn't complain if a player did this, but I also don't expect them to do so. I leave the character/player knowledge gap in the hands of the players.)

And by the way, it is in fact still a decision. "Charge" is not a dominant choice. Sometimes you'll want to charge, sometimes you'll want to just move and attack without committing to a charge, for example if you're worried about the enemy leading you down a primrose path. (Especially if it's a kobold.)

Edit: BTW, I'm not opposed to giving new players a hand. If a new player says, "I want to move here [to a spot 20' away] so I can talk to the drow's prisoner", but she doesn't declare a Disengage so she's going to take several opportunity attacks from drow along the way--as a DM, that's one of the rare cases where I might either point out her mistake or else just treat it as an implicit Disengage without even asking her and say "You move there, carefully watching all the enemies all around you." Her intent is clear in that case: she wants to go there, she obviously doesn't want to get hit; that's what she's doing this round. If I consulted with her, it would probably be to ask whether she'd rather Dodge or Disengage--"are you paying more attention to not turning your back on anyone, or to dodging any blows from drow that you notice in front of you?"

So, new players need a lot of help in numerous ways, and you ought to cut them some slack.

But on the subject of overkill: You imply in this here quoted paragraph that a melee attacker can declare "if my target is dead, I'll attack someone else." Therefore, to anyone with the requisite rules mastery, melee overkill never happens. I don't know if I like that. Surely, if we're trying to make combat feel more chaotic, melee overkill should happen some of the time (?)


I can imagine the following situation:
(Two PCs are fighting against a mummy lord and a few zombies.)


DM: The zombies will attack you indiscriminately. What do you do?
Barbarian: Forget the zombies. I'll keep axing the mummy.
Fighter: You're right, we need to kill that bastard. I'll stab it with my sword.
DM: The mummy lord will attack the barbarian. Roll 'em.
(mummy lord has 8 hp remaining)
(Barbarian hits, rolls 12 damage)
(Fighter hits, rolls 10 damage)
(mummy lord loses initiative)
DM: You kill the mummy.
(zombies, unharmed, attack the PCs)​


That feels like good game design to me, but I can't really explain why.

Lanefan has advocated using smaller dice for initiative and not breaking ties. That's one route to the effect you're talking about here. Another route would be to just disallow conditionals completely and ask players to rely on Delay as a substitute (so if you want to allocate attacks most efficiently you are paying the price of always losing initiative). To a certain extent it depends on how you, as a DM, prefer to visualize the combat of combat and the effects of dropping an enemy to zero HP, and also on how devious your bad guys are.

So I don't agree that "Therefore, to anyone with the requisite rules mastery, melee overkill never happens." If the Barbarian hits the mummy lord, and the mummy lord falls over, and the fighter hits him again two or three times, smashing those old bones up pretty good... that could be the right choice to make tactically! If the mummy lord has limited regeneration (e.g. pre-cast Regenerate spell), or an ally that could heal it from offscreen, or if the mummy lord was faking it (most mummy lords probably aren't that sneaky but other monsters can be and are), then you may be glad you got in a couple of auto-crits against it. (Or maybe you just auto-critted someone who is trying to surrender.)

If on the other hand the fighter says, "I'm going to cleave my sword straight through the mummy lord's torso and on into the zombies," well, he's clearly attacking the mummy lord as a priority, but any remaining extra attacks after the mummy lord "goes down" go to the zombies, and everything is a straightforward melee attack with his sword. (Allowing for some poetic license here so the players get to declare fun actions--if there were any doubt I'd ask explicitly, but assume in this case that I know that this is how the player likes to declare his target priorities.) If the mummy lord isn't actually down for good he may live to regret not getting in some auto-crits.

So again, it's not purely a question of system-mastery; it's also a question of "what do you really want to do this round?"
 
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GX.Sigma

Adventurer
I guess that's the difference between us--I don't see "charge" as rules-mastery at all. That kind of tactical hesitation (because you didn't think through enemy countermeasures and need to re-assess when something happens) happens in real life too until you learn to overcome it. That's part of where OODA loops come from. In fact, it's so well-known that it's a military axiom: "surprise is an event that occurs in the mind of the commander."
I'll put it this way: declaring conditional actions is a specific skill. Once the player has learned that skill, they are able to more efficiently use their resources, with declarations such as "move, then attack if possible, else dash" or "attack target A if possible, else attack target B." A lot of possibilities open up, but a player can't access them until they learn that skill. It's a bottleneck.

My method ("target A isn't there anymore, want to attack target B?" etc.), which I'll call Conditional Resolution as opposed to your Conditional Declaration, gives the players access to those possibilities without making them go through the hoop of learning and continuously applying that specific skill.

Imagine a player who has learned how to use Conditional Declarations (CD). This round, their declaration is "I'll attack target A if possible, otherwise I'll attack target B." As it turns out, target A isn't there by the time the player's action is resolved. So, they attack target B instead.

Now imagine a player in a Conditional Resolution (CR) system. They want to attack target A, so they say "I'll attack target A." By the time the player's action is resolved, target A isn't there. So the GM says "want to attack target B instead?" And the player says yes.

What is the difference between these two examples? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that they are exactly the same, except the player in the second example didn't have to go to the effort of actually thinking through the situation in advance.

Conditional Declaration just frontloads the decision, which makes it less accessible, and makes players do unnecessary work. With CD, you make an extra decision when there's a possibility of it being relevant. With CR, you only have to make that extra decision when it actually is relevant. Either way, it's the exact same decision. See what I mean?

I don't doubt that OODA management is a necessary skill in real-time conflict. But in a turn-based game, you either take a minute to consider all the possibilities, or you don't. So why not save a step?


EDIT: After some more thought, it occurs to me that in other situations, it might not be the exact same decision, and maybe CD and CR are not mutually exclusive. One could allow CD to reward players for thinking ahead, and still have CR as a safety net for players who aren't that advanced.
 
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GX.Sigma

Adventurer
VERSION 0.2

Combat Sequence - Concurrent Initiative Variant
In this variant, you don't establish an initiative order at the beginning of combat. Each round consists of two phases: First each player declares an action, then all actions are resolved. The sequence is as follows:

BEGINNING OF THE ROUND

1: DECLARATION PHASE. Each player (and the GM for each monster) declares their character(s) movement and actions for the round, in ascending order of Intelligence score. In a round, each creature can move up to its speed, and take up to one action, one bonus action, and one reaction.

example 1:
Barbarian (Int 9) player: I'll move into melee and attack the goblins with my axe!
GM: The goblins (Int 10) will scatter back into the bushes, then shoot arrows at you.
Wizard (Int 18) player: Oh really? Then I'll duck behind the wagon and cast a fireball into the bushes to set them on fire!

1a. If a player doesn't declare an action, they are Delaying (see Rule 3). If everyone Delays, the round ends.

1b. The GM decides how vague or specific the declarations can be. In general, if an action requires a target, the player must choose the target as they declare the action. Variants include Conditional Declaration and Conditional Resolution (see "conditional action," below).

1c. In complex situations, it may be necessary to record these action declarations for future reference. A player (the "caller") can take this responsibility.​


2: RESOLUTION PHASE. The declared movement and actions are resolved. Attack rolls are made, miniatures are moved, and so forth.
2a. If necessary, roll initiative to establish the order of events for this round. Initiative is still a Dexterity check by default.

2b: Full-round actions. Some actions (e.g., Disengage, Dodge, Ready) are continuous activities that don't occur at a specific moment. These take effect at the start of Resolution, regardless of initiative.

2c: Interruptible actions. Some actions (e.g., Cast a Spell, Attack with a ranged weapon) require commitment. These are not subject to conditional action (see below); the declared target cannot be changed. Additionally, if the actor takes damage before the action is resolved, the actor must make a concentration saving throw (see core rules) or abort the action.

2d. While resolving actions, a player can decide to abort some or all of their movement or actions. Otherwise, they must use their turn to take the movement and actions they declared.
example 2:
The Wizard (initiative 18) ducks behind the wagon and casts a fireball into the bushes. The bushes are now on fire.
The Barbarian (initiative 15) engages the goblins in melee combat and hits one of them. It fails its concentration save, and cannot attack with its arrow.
The remaining Goblins (initiative 8) don't want to go into the burning bushes, and they don't want to take opportunity attacks. They abort their declared movement. They stay within melee and shoot their arrows at the barbarian (with disadvantage).​

3: Delayed action declaration and resolution. Any character who Delayed can now declare and resolve their actions. Use the same process as above if necessary. Players cannot Delay again at this stage, they must either choose an action or wait until the next round.

END OF THE ROUND

4. Repeat as many times as you need to.

---

ADDITIONAL RULES/RULINGS
Rounds and Turns:
In this ruleset, turns and rounds are synonymous. Every turn takes the whole round. E.g. if you can sneak attack once per turn, you can now also only sneak attack once per round, because the turn is a round. A target which takes damage from fire at the beginning of each turn takes it at the beginning of the round, before (1) Declaration Phase. If a monk does a Stunning Strike, the target is stunned until the end of the following round. Etc.

Note: this tends to make Stunning Strike and similar spells slightly more powerful in conjunction with a high initiative--the target can potentially miss two sets of attacks instead of one, if Stunning Strike happens before the target gets its initial attack off. This is by intentional, because it's better than the alternative (making Stunning Strike useless unless you roll high on initiative) and it's also simpler.

[This] cleans up a lot of nonsense in the rules. E.g. Evard's Black Tentacles no longer gives a Necromancer back more HP when cast on 8 goblins than Fireball IV does. They both give back 8 HP, instead of Fireball IV giving back 8 and Evard's Black Tentacles giving back 64 because the damage happens on each goblin's turn.

The phrase "at the end of each of [a creature's] turns" should be read as "at the end of the next round, and each round thereafter." (this avoids the awkward Hold Person situation where the target gets two saves to negate the effect before they even take their next action)

Incapacitation:
Any character who is incapacitated (paralyzed, dying, etc.) during the Declaration phase cannot declare an action, and cannot Delay. They simply do not take an action this round. (?)


Conditional Action:
It is not always desirable that each player should commit to a single precise action declaration. For example, if a Barbarian wants to attack a Guard in melee, and the Guard wants to run away, the Barbarian will either want to Dash or Attack, depending on the initiative result.

Conditional Declaration: Each player can specify a conditional action at the same time as declaring the main action. e.g., "I'll move and attack the Guard, but if he isn't there by the time I get there, I'll Dash up to him." (Players are encouraged to come up with shorthand for these complex declarations.) This rewards players for anticipating enemy actions.

VARIANT: Conditional Resolution: The player only declares one action. If the declared action is nonsensical at the time of resolution, they may change to a different action. e.g., "I'll move up and attack the Guard"..."The Guard has moved away, do you want to Dash up to him or attack someone else?" This avoids punishing players for not anticipating enemy actions.

In the Conditional Resolution system, the GM decides what conditional actions are allowable. The conditional action should be reasonably related to the original declared action. For example, the barbarian, charging in with his axe, cannot decide to pull out a separate weapon to throw. He can swing his axe at a different target. He can abort the axe attack and keep charging. He can throw his axe if he really wants.

As per Rule 2c, in either system, spells and ranged attacks cannot be changed for a conditional action ("I'll try to shoot an arrow at that guy, but if he ducks behind cover I'll just Dash away" NOPE) or be used conditionally ("I wanted to hit him with my sword, but since he's running away, I'll shoot a firebolt at him" NOPE). They can still be aborted as per Rule 2d.

//I think I need to work on the vocabulary here...

Movement:
Declarations of movement are not exactly precise. Fudge it.

---
New things are in bold. @Hemlock is that more like it?
 
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