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

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.
Not a counterargument per se, but an observation: yes, initiative can get more complicated pretty quickly, especially if the players are declaring a lot of conditional actions. (That's actually pretty much the main case where I ask for initiative rolls, is to figure out whose conditional action is going to do what.)

On the other hand, separating action declaration from action resolution lets you offload work on the players. You can have one of the players keep track of the action declarations to make sure everyone declares (having that action declaration log in written form can also be useful for other purposes, such as establishing that "Thok, you can't cut the ropes tying these two ships together before you're busy attacking the Umber Hulk, remember?", especially if Thok's player is the one keeping the log) and you can also do action resolution concurrently: have players roll their attacks/damage as soon as they are ready, just as long as they don't announce them to people who haven't declared yet.

Ultimately I suspect that the total cognitive complexity of the combats you'll have under this system is somewhat higher than it would be under cyclic initiative, but it will be because the players are doing more complicated and IMO more fun things, like trying to tackle the Wolf before it can eat Peter.
 

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flametitan

Explorer
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.
I think if you're using delay to treat it like side initiative, it'd be better to just use side initiative than to use a different initiative system the same way. (Nor am I too huge on delay. I'm not sure how crucial it is for everything to work, and I may still be thinking in Cycles, but readying seems like it covers the bases delay does while not being as broad.)
 

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.
Uh-huh. So a stat getting short shrift is bad. And a stat being balanced is bad. ;P

The problem I had with the 4e approach to stats, which 5e has partially avoided (IMHO, mainly by resorting to a cap of 20), was that, while it did make each stat, individually, a viable thing to invest in, it made investing in both stats in a 'pair' sub-optimal, and really - /really/ - encouraged maxxing one or two stats. You could get away with keeping up three stats, but the 'well rounded' character was prettymuch out. Yeah, that fits some visions of 'hero' nicely, but it fails others. The inability of D&D to do justice to the well-rounded sort of hero has been a perennial problem with it, for me.

But they largely use whatever stats they have in identical fashions,
Because each stat can be a primary stat for some class, and primary stat means attack stat? Meh. Everything else the stat does is still different for each stat.

and the game makes it really easy to avoid using your dump stats for virtually anything that matters.
So painfully true. One dump stat? You could almost unavoidably had at least three!
GAK!

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.
The skill portfolio would've been pretty dramatically different, knowledge vs social. Also good REF vs good WILL. And, of course, they may each have viable attack rolls with their powers, but those powers will be from different classes, entirely, so unique in that way...

But, just looking at the first bit, knowledge vs social, that's held throughout D&D's history, even before there were skills. In the olden days it'd be languages & later non-weapon proficiencies and the odd 'INT roll to see if you remember something' vs a nice Reaction bonus/loyalty base; latter which skills your best stat adds to.

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.
Nod. Which is why I initially didn't even bother going there. ;) Having a preference is one thing, trying to justify it to someone with a very different preference tends to just spiral...
 
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I think if you're using delay to treat it like side initiative, it'd be better to just use side initiative than to use a different initiative system the same way. (Nor am I too huge on delay. I'm not sure how crucial it is for everything to work, and I may still be thinking in Cycles, but readying seems like it covers the bases delay does while not being as broad.)
Delay comes from my experience with fencing, and the fact that you sometimes want an opponent to commit to an action before choosing your response; so you wait a beat. Delay is about gaining an information advantage when declaring actions, whereas Readying is about gaining a speed advantage when resolving actions. Ready lets you win any relevant initiative contests except against someone else who's already got a Readied action on the same trigger.*

There's a big difference between doing Delay to emulate side initiative because it simplifies your workload in this particular large combat, and actually adopting side initiative. For one thing, if you adopt side initiative, you can't spontaneously switch back on Round 3 of the combat because you see an opportunity. Round 3, Peter has fallen prone because the wolf knocked him down, and instead of Delaying, all of the monsters this time try to hammer Peter before he can get up.

Delay is also important for helping combat and non-combat flows to mesh together smoothly. Since everyone is implicitly Delaying unless they say they're not (and if everyone Delays then the round ends), players can have a shouted conversation with the bandits on the other side of the barricade, negotiating a surrender, without feeling like not declaring an Attack at every opportunity is granting the bandits a needless advantage. If the players talk, and the bandits treacherously storm the barricade and attack, the PCs haven't lost a full round of combat--they've only lost initiative. I like the effect this has had on my game.


* As a side note, even under PHB rules, you're still going to need a resolution procedure like an initiative contest for resolving multiple Readied Actions on the same trigger. Does "I, Ron, stab Harry as soon as the handkerchief drops" happen before or after "I, Harry, shoot Ron as soon as the handkerchief drops"? No matter whether you're using PHB initiative or declare/act system like mine, you still need some resolution procedure, even if it's just "they both happen simultaneously."
 
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Saelorn

Hero
Ultimately I suspect that the total cognitive complexity of the combats you'll have under this system is somewhat higher than it would be under cyclic initiative, but it will be because the players are doing more complicated and IMO more fun things, like trying to tackle the Wolf before it can eat Peter.
So you admit that your system is more complex, harder to run, and sometimes results in the PCs taking pointless actions (like overkilling one target instead of choosing a new target). And you think that this is all a worthwhile trade-off, because it will encourage your players to sometimes declare more complicated actions?

That's a tough sell.
 

So you admit that your system is more complex, harder to run, and sometimes results in the PCs taking pointless actions (like overkilling one target instead of choosing a new target). And you think that this is all a worthwhile trade-off, because it will encourage your players to sometimes declare more complicated actions?

That's a tough sell.
That's not quite what I said. I said I believe your players will declare more fun and interesting actions, which will wind up being somewhat harder to run than the simple actions the PHB encourages, but not unmanageably so. If players stick to simple actions I don't think it's harder to run at all; but I like the fact that they take advantage of their opportunities to be interesting.

Obviously if you don't find fun and desriable things like negotiating with bandits or tackling wolves in the nick of time to save another character, you won't want to pay the cost involved in enabling them. Enjoy your game.
 

flametitan

Explorer
Delay comes from my experience with fencing, and the fact that you sometimes want an opponent to commit to an action before choosing your response; so you wait a beat. Delay is about gaining an information advantage when declaring actions, whereas Readying is about gaining a speed advantage when resolving actions. Ready lets you win any relevant initiative contests except against someone else who's already got a Readied action on the same trigger.*
Right, I get it. Like I said, I was probably getting some biases from how Delay works in Cyclic initiative, wherein it potentially becomes a game of getting everything right, rather than the frenzied mess initiative is supposed to represent.

There's a big difference between doing Delay to emulate side initiative because it simplifies your workload in this particular large combat, and actually adopting side initiative. For one thing, if you adopt side initiative, you can't spontaneously switch back on Round 3 of the combat because you see an opportunity. Round 3, Peter has fallen prone because the wolf knocked him down, and instead of Delaying, all of the monsters this time try to hammer Peter before he can get up.
I see what you're getting at, though personally I still wouldn't try meshing the two initiatives. Just a matter of preference, nothing against the implementation or the idea.

Delay is also important for helping combat and non-combat flows to mesh together smoothly. Since everyone is implicitly Delaying unless they say they're not (and if everyone Delays then the round ends), players can have a shouted conversation with the bandits on the other side of the barricade, negotiating a surrender, without feeling like not declaring an Attack at every opportunity is granting the bandits a needless advantage. If the players talk, and the bandits treacherously storm the barricade and attack, the PCs haven't lost a full round of combat--they've only lost initiative. I like the effect this has had on my game.
I see a difference in our viewpoints now. Unless surprise is relevant, I'd probably instead telegraph something to the effect of how the bandits have stopped caring and then use the round system, but I can see the flow in yours might work better for some situations.


* As a side note, even under PHB rules, you're still going to need a resolution procedure like an initiative contest for resolving multiple Readied Actions on the same trigger. Does "I, Ron, stab Harry as soon as the handkerchief drops" happen before or after "I, Harry, shoot Ron as soon as the handkerchief drops"? No matter whether you're using PHB initiative or declare/act system like mine, you still need some resolution procedure, even if it's just "they both happen simultaneously."
Fair. That'd be a case where I would roll initiative to resolve; otherwise I'd just go with the trigger.
 

I see what you're getting at, though personally I still wouldn't try meshing the two initiatives. Just a matter of preference, nothing against the implementation or the idea.
FWIW, I don't really mesh them either. Even if I tell myself, "Oh, this time I'm just going to Delay each round so I can focus on resolving the PCs' actions correctly first," it always winds up that I see an opportunity to declare at least one action that will be awesome if I manage to beat the PCs' initiative.

So using it to mechanically emulate side initiative is more of a theoretical exercise than something I really ever do.
 

MostlyDm

Explorer
The problem I had with the 4e approach to stats, which 5e has partially avoided (IMHO, mainly by resorting to a cap of 20), was that, while it did make each stat, individually, a viable thing to invest in, it made investing in both stats in a 'pair' sub-optimal, and really - /really/ - encouraged maxxing one or two stats. You could get away with keeping up three stats, but the 'well rounded' character was prettymuch out. Yeah, that fits some visions of 'hero' nicely, but it fails others. The inability of D&D to do justice to the well-rounded sort of hero has been a perennial problem with it, for me.

...

So painfully true. One dump stat? You could almost unavoidably had at least three!
GAK!

The skill portfolio would've been pretty dramatically different, knowledge vs social. Also good REF vs good WILL. And, of course, they may each have viable attack rolls with their powers, but those powers will be from different classes, entirely, so unique in that way...

But, just looking at the first bit, knowledge vs social, that's held throughout D&D's history, even before there were skills. In the olden days it'd be languages & later non-weapon proficiencies and the odd 'INT roll to see if you remember something' vs a nice Reaction bonus/loyalty base; latter which skills your best stat adds to.
Winding this tangent down, I promise. But...

In theory you're right, but in my experience what often happened during important skill challenges was that every PC tried as hard as possible to finagle some way to use the skills that keyed to their good stats, even if it strained credulity.

My memory is that the rules guidelines sort of encouraged this, but it's been like 5 years so I could be totally wrong. Also, obviously, if it bothered me that much I could have tried to discourage it. It wasn't a deal breaker, just a reason I think contributed to the "samey" quality.

And yeah, both 3.x and 4e shared the same stat bloat issues, I would never lay that on 4e alone. 5e instituting stat limits was an excellent choice.

I don't think I can ever go back to 4e, but if someone was running it I'd totally play a 4e-inspired game that cadged stuff like bounded accuracy. I'm not a purist.

Minor actions were a great idea.
 

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."
But if that's a bad thing to say, why is the DM likely to say it? Why can't the DM just say...

"Okay, that will take you two turns,"
the same as in your system? You don't need a to be using one initiative system over the other for that sentence to parse. Don't you think your DM here might be made of straw just a bit?
 

But if that's a bad thing to say, why is the DM likely to say it? Why can't the DM just say...

the same as in your system? You don't need a to be using one initiative system over the other for that sentence to parse. Don't you think your DM here might be made of straw just a bit?
Is that something you see actually happen in practice with vanilla PHB initiative? The new player declares an action that can't be completed in one turn, and the DM doesn't try in any way to "correct" him to fit into a turn structure, he just says "Okay" and resolves the action over the course of the next two turns? When was the last time you saw that happen?

It's not a straw man in the sense that I genuinely believe that it doesn't happen, based on overheard Internet discussions and my limited observation of 5E DMs, but if I'm wrong and you see this all the time, now would be a perfect time to speak up about it.

Edit: oh, and to answer your question explicitly, the reason I think it's natural in a WEGO system is because in that system you're used to actions not being instantanteous. You're using to the player declaring an action, and then at some point in the future resolving that action. That's not true in PHB vanilla initiative, what I referred to in the initial post as "cyclic initiative," because that system is oriented around resolving actions instantaneously at the time they are declared, except in the corner case when you're willing to spend both your action and reaction Readying an action for a specific trigger. Even though you could re-invent non-instantaneous action resolution within the context of cyclic initiative, I conjecture that most people don't, and that that is why the DM wouldn't say, "Okay, but it will take two rounds" and resolve the action two rounds later. Again, if you've seen DMs do this, let me know because it would be important evidence.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One little notion I'll lob in here is the idea of malleable-length rounds to allow for different things to happen usung the round structure. For example, if all everyone is doing in a round is swinging/shooting weapons or casting spells then that round might go by in a few seconds, tops; while in the goblin ambush example above the rounds might each be 30 seconds or even a minute to allow for the time spent (by each side) trying to locate their foes while also trying to remain hidden themselves.

Lanefan
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Interesting. Very interesting. I might try running something like this in the future. It would definitely make the combat portion of the game feel less boardgamey, even when played on a grid. It unifies combat and non-combat in ways I had never considered before.

Thanks!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Is that something you see actually happen in practice with vanilla PHB initiative? The new player declares an action that can't be completed in one turn, and the DM doesn't try in any way to "correct" him to fit into a turn structure, he just says "Okay" and resolves the action over the course of the next two turns? When was the last time you saw that happen?

It's not a straw man in the sense that I genuinely believe that it doesn't happen, based on overheard Internet discussions and my limited observation of 5E DMs, but if I'm wrong and you see this all the time, now would be a perfect time to speak up about it.
Yes, I see it. I do it. It's just a corollary of "say yes" DMing. And even were that not the case, your argument would still be a straw man because you would be assigning this cyclic-initiative DM the bad approach while assigning yourself the good approach. If someone put a gun to your head and made you run cyclic initiative, would you say it the way you have this DM say it? I don't think so. There's no systemic reason for you to. And conversely there's no reason for this other DM, if handed your WEGO system, to perform any differently than he was. So essentially you're comparing yourself to a hypothetical DM who is simply worse at DMing than you. Demonstrating nothing at all about the relative virtues of the two systems.

oh, and to answer your question explicitly, the reason I think it's natural in a WEGO system is because in that system you're used to actions not being instantanteous.
I could just as easily argue that it's less natural in a WEGO system because it places a greater emphasis on action declaration, making it more important for people to get exactly right what it is they're doing in any given round. If you don't do this, it's because of your particular DMing style, not the system. Remember, you've got a sample size of one here, and that one is yourself. This ain't exactly what you'd call science.
 

I could just as easily argue that it's less natural in a WEGO system because it places a greater emphasis on action declaration, making it more important for people to get exactly right what it is they're doing in any given round. If you don't do this, it's because of your particular DMing style, not the system. Remember, you've got a sample size of one here, and that one is yourself. This ain't exactly what you'd call science.
This is BTW exactly what we call science. Form a hypothesis, look for evidence contradicting the hypothesis.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
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.

This is pretty similar to what I do, although I don't see any point in the delay or the order you establish based on Intelligence. Often in combat you react by reflex or instinct, but regardless, with a no initiative system it's irrelevant.

Here's the same scene with my non-initiative approach:

So in this case, four heroes are on a cart, and the goblins have all rolled a high enough stealth that none of the character's passive Perception overcomes it. Since they are moving at a normal pace and not expecting an attack, and haven't picked up any signs, nobody is making an "active" Perception check.

DM: as you're riding along past a hill past a narrow spot in the road, six arrows suddenly arc in towards you.

The party is surprised. Here's how my system works:
Surprise is usually a Perception check, in this case it was an active Stealth check against passive Perception. But, it could be the case of a Deception check vs Insight (think Kylo Ren and Han Solo).
As a result of the surprise,
-the goblins have advantage on any initiative checks this round (I don't like automatic success rules)
-the goblins have advantage on their first attack roll (which they would have received anyway since they are hidden)
-they benefit from any feature that keys off surprise (such as an assassin).
-the surprised creature cannot use a reaction against the surprising creature's first turn

Note that it's possible for some creatures, on either side of the encounter, to be surprised while others are not.

[Rolls dice with advantage] 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: No, because he was surprised by the arrows, he cannot use his reaction against them in this turn.
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. The goblins can then use their Nimble escape to Hide, which will be against the PCs passive Perception with disadvantage due to the light obscurement.

Eladriel (Shadow Monk): guys, let me check this out. I'm hopping out of the cart and making a sweep through the bushes. Rolls a Wisdom (Perception) check with disadvantage. A 9.

Jack: I'm granting her Bardic Inspiration, and then I'm going to duck down too behind cover and Hide. a 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, Eladriel jumps out of the cart to start searching through the bushes, meanwhile, Vlad stops the wagon, keeping low for cover, Jack sings a song of inspiration and Cranduin jumps from the wagon with his shield at the ready and sword drawn, Jack then attempts to conceal himself in the wagon, while Vlad begins to utter an arcane incantation.

(End of Round)

Vlad: Still holding my Chill Touch.

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

Jack: I'm still hidden for now.

El:Still searching the bushes.

DM:Neither of you have found the goblins yet, what do you want to do?

El:We'll widen our search.

DMWhere? The brush continues in both directions along the ridge, and then woods continue for some distance away from the road.

Cranduin: They probably moved ahead of the caravan to set up another ambush, we'll move that direction.

The goblins actually moved away from the wagon, towards the way they came from and are attempting to go across the road to the other ridge. The goblins make a Dexterity (Stealth) check this round for that action, with disadvantage as they race across the road. Cranduin and Vlad are searching the bushes in the other direction, so their passive Perception is with disadvantage, but the rest of the party uses their passive Perception with advantage against this maneuver. The goblins are successful, however.

(End of round)

You still haven't found the goblins, when suddenly 6 arrows shoot over the ridge on the other side of the cart!
The goblins didn't make an active Stealth check, choosing to fire immediately when in position, so it's their passive Stealth against the passive Perception of the party, but they still have disadvantage due to the goblins being lightly obscured. Regardless, Cranduin was not fooled this time and is not surprised, nor is El or Vlad this time.

DM: [rolls a handful of dice] Vlad! Three arrows coming toward you.

Vlad: Yes, but I'll Shield--oh, stink. I can't if I've already spent my reaction, can I? I'll release my Chill Touch. Rolls dice (10).

Cranduin I run across the road screaming a battle cry at the goblins with my sword high!

El: I race across the road too, to attack!

DM: Vlad, does a 17 hit?

Vlad Yes

DM OK two arrows strike the cart, and then a third one, that 17, hits you right in the ribs for 6 points of damage. The ghostly hand of your Chill Touch lashes out but misses!

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: Cranduin and El are racing across the road, and 3 of them loose arrows at Eladriel. One flies wide, but the other two look on target.

El: I'll try to catch one.

DM: Which one? The first or second.

El:The first. For 11 points of damage.

DM:OK, so as they race across the road, three arrows fly toward El, one is wide, and he catches the next one (lucky, too - that was a critical hit El), and the third hits for 8 points. The goblins are already ducking back into the brush, Cranduin and El, make an initiative check. We need to see if the goblins slipped away before you reached them.

(The slowest of Vlad's three goblins had a 19 initiative)

Cranduin: [rolls] Uh, 3.

DM: Cranduin moves to intercept the goblins but he's too slow to hit it before it can try to hide again. However! (DM rolls Stealth checks for the goblins vs the PCs passive Perception with disadvantage again), El can still see one of them, though, and points it out to Cran, adding advantage to his check, he sees it.

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

DM: all right, that still leaves El's attack, and Jack still hasn't done anything either..

B]Jack:[/B] 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]. But it reveals your hiding place since he must be able to hear you to benefit from it.

Jack: Okay, I do that.

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!

(End of round)

DM: Okay, round four...[etc.] At this point it is likely that the PCs don't realize that the 6 goblins on the other side of the road were the same goblins that fired on them the first time.

--

Really, what it really comes down to is there isn't really any need for you to add a delay element to the game at all. The actions can either all be declared before the resolution (as in the first round), and the second round.

In the third round, the arrows were a triggering factor and happened first, which determined what the PCs would do in that round. Likewise, running across the road (which we new Cranduin would do since he said he was going to charge the first goblin he saw), El followed right behind, and naturally the other three archers let loose their arrows before they made it across the road. They were arriving just as the goblins would be attempting to hide and get away again, thus the opposed initiative only between the goblins and El and Cranduin.

I also disagree with the assessment of surprise at the start of the combat, alert or not, I think there is always the potential for surprise with an ambush like this. Also, I thought it was a good opportunity to illustrate how I use Stealth, and the fact that I think surprise doesn't have to be only at the start of a combat.

Since they were actively searching a specific area, and looking away from where the goblins were, Cranduin and El were at a particular disadvantage when the goblins snuck across the road. The rest of the group would have been focused on where they expected the goblins to be, but they weren't beating the brush, so to speak, so I didn't give them disadvantage. But they also weren't actively searching so they were passive checks.
 

MostlyDm

Explorer
I'm trying out simultaneous initiative in a couple games I'm starting up this week. I think in practice it is going to end up looking closer to Ilbranteloth's version, but I still have a list of PC Int scores in my notes in case I need to follow a specific order of declaration. The players are mostly kids new to D&D, though, so currently I expect to be forgiving about action declarations.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I must say I'm intrigued. Trying to wrap my brain around...Why can't Vlad use his reaction to cast Shield? Is it because he was readying an action? The round before he just readied an action to cast Chill Touch, I didn't see him using a reaction.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I must say I'm intrigued. Trying to wrap my brain around...Why can't Vlad use his reaction to cast Shield? Is it because he was readying an action? The round before he just readied an action to cast Chill Touch, I didn't see him using a reaction.
In general yes, and I maintained it from the original example. I'm a bit on the fence for that one though. The more I think about it, here's how I would handle it:

What really matters here is how you handle spellcasting in a non-initiative system.

First let me point out that there is the potential for abuse of the "until the start/end of your next turn" system in play in 5e. The way we handle that is a mix of common sense - that is it lasts until "the same point" next round, but since we aren't strictly measuring time, it's a bit nebulous. But the wording is designed to determine when the target gets another save, or is released from the magic, etc. So most of the time we just end it at the start or end of the round itself. If there's a problem that arises because of that, then an Initiative check is usually fair. I can't remember any actual problem we've had with the system yet, though.

The second potential question, and more relevant to this one with the held chill touch is what to do for a Readied spell. Again, we usually handle this with an Initiative check. In that case, Vlad would not have had to Ready the spell at all, he would just need to have his Action available.

You have some control over when your actions occur through the round, but if you are attempting to react to something with your Action, rather than your Reaction, then you might need to make an Initiative check.

In this case you have two options when casting a spell:
Cast it with your Action, with a potential Initiative check if necessary.
Ready the spell, meaning you can cast it as a Reaction, but then you can't cast another spell without losing this Readied spell.

Since you won't lose the spell slot, it probably wouldn't matter in many cases, but let's look a the specific example:

Readied Spell
Vlad wanted to cast chill touch when a goblin appeared, and before they could hide again. Casting it as a Reaction more or less guarantees that possibility, and might even allow him to hit the goblin before it shoots an arrow:

"I'll cast chill touch at the first goblin I see." Assuming Vlad's looking in the right general direction, when the goblin pops up, he casts the spell. At the same time, the goblin is aiming to shoot its arrow. In the bushes, the goblin probably didn't need to actually "pop up" but we'll assume its movement was enough to spot it.

In this case, I wouldn't have a problem with an Initiative check to see if the chill touch strikes first, because if it does and is enough to kill the goblin, it won't fire the arrow.

Not-Readied Spell
"I'll cast chill touch on the first goblin I see, but I will use shield against the first arrow shot at me."

So here, the arrows were unexpected, he would cast shield against the arrow, then would need to make an Initiative check to see if the goblin could hide before he cast chill touch. If the goblin hid first, then he wouldn't cast the chill touch yet.

Note that the second round in my example shows what might happen - time continues. So if Vlad defended himself against the arrow with shield and lost site of the goblins, then he just wouldn't cast another spell, and "lose" his turn.

I don't like this characterization, mostly because when you think about it, I don't think he's losing a turn at all, because real combat, or activities are turn based. It will just happen a few seconds later "in the next round."

I like this example in part because in the original example, several of the characters took cover and hid from the ranged fire, instead of the usual D&D approach of everybody runs into battle. I think that's a rather realistic approach.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I will point out that as well as this is working for us, and I've used it with several public groups, plus my home campaign, I haven't fleshed it out to a fully tested, complete system. So any input or questions are a huge help because it helps work out some of the potential problems.
 
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