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

GX.Sigma

First Post
My fundamental issue with the various simultaneous/concurrent/word-of-choice resolution systems is that they still end up with weird corner cases that defy their intended goals....the winner of the contest is allowed to complete their whole declaration, even in events where it makes no sense. To refer to the barbarian vs guard example, if the barbarian wins, he can close 30' and make his attack before the guard can move a step. This harkens straight back to the cyclical initiative problems that this method is meant to address.
It's a little unrealistic, but it's better than cyclic initiative. In cyclic initiative, if the guard wins initiative, the barbarian can never catch up. That's a problem that this method addresses. It accomplishes my intended goals. Sure there are still corner cases, but simultaneous-ish resolution leaves a lot more room for the DM to adjudicate those.

So, suggestion for a correction -- phased initiatives. You would still declare your entire action at the beginning of the round/cycle/word of choice, but it's execution then proceeds in phases. A phase would be a move or action. So, in the barbarian vs guard example, the barbarian declares he will close and attack, the guard declares he will retreat and shoot. The first phase will be the first part of the declaration, in this case, both move. As there's no conflict yet, play continues without a resolution.
But there is a conflict. If the barbarian moves before the guard, the guard's movement will provoke an opportunity attack. The only way to avoid that is to make movement simultaneous. Maybe with an Athletics contest to see who can get there first, but then that's basically the same as rolling initiative.

Then the second phase occurs, the guard shoots, and the barbarian looks confused. That's not fun, though...
I'm not a fan of 'guess correctly at the start or you've wasted your actions."
This is where we disagree. The fun comes from not knowing what's going to happen when you declare your action. If the barbarian really wanted to decrease his risk of wasting an action, he should've declared Dash in the first place, or used a ranged attack. "Move and swing" was a strategy with high risk and high reward (win initiative and swing, or lose initiative and whiff). It makes the initiative roll exciting when you don't know what's going to happen. That whole risk/reward thing is lost if players can change their mind after they know what's going on (as in cyclic initiative, as I show in my example). That's the goal of separating declaration and resolution.

(It's fun for the players when they can make the monsters waste actions. PCs will generally have higher INT than monsters, so this will be to the players' benefit more often than not.)
 
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So...

My fundamental issue with the various simultaneous/concurrent/word-of-choice resolution systems is that they still end up with weird corner cases that defy their intended goals. For example, the barbarian vs guard example above or the orc vs tackling fighter example. In both cases, when a situation arise that requires a determination of 'who goes first' because actions are mutually exclusive, the winner of the contest is allowed to complete their whole declaration, even in events where it makes no sense. To refer to the barbarian vs guard example, if the barbarian wins, he can close 30' and make his attack before the guard can move a step. This harkens straight back to the cyclical initiative problems that this method is meant to address.
Eliminating discretization artifacts is a non-goal.

Reducing discretization artifacts is a pleasing side-effect, but also not a primary goal.

The primary goals are to eliminate arbitrary distinctions between combat and non-combat, especially at the metagame level ("starting combat" should not be a signal that players now have to spend 75-80% of their time at the table sitting around doing nothing, waiting for their turn to talk to the DM), and to set up a more natural framework for declaring joint/cooperative actions/team tactics, of which D&D has many. (Thus also increasing the scope for skilled play.)

Increasing the chaos factor of combat (e.g. make it harder to exploit melee kiting and pop-up healing) is a secondary goal.

I don't think it's feasible to eliminate discretization artifacts in TTRPG play. That would require computerized tooling and maybe a completely different ruleset. You'd have to e.g. decrease the number of attacks that you get if you spend half of your turn moving towards your target.
 
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GX.Sigma

First Post
IN WHICH GX.SIGMA TRIES TO WRITE IT OUT IN THE FORM OF ACTUAL RULES

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 isn't ready to declare an action, they can Delay (see step 3).

1b. The GM decides how vague or specific the declarations can be. (see 2c.) Variants include:
  • Players can declare contingencies (e.g., "I'll try to Attack the goblin in melee, but if he's running, I'll Dash after him!")
  • For attacks, players must either declare a specific target or a vague one (e.g., "I attack the goblin leader" vs. "I attack the goblins"). A specific target cannot be changed later on, a vague one is decided randomly from among valid targets at the time of resolution.
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 a turn order for this round. Initiative is still a Dexterity check by default.

2b. 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 kills one of them.
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).​


2c. At the GM's discretion, players may be able to change their declared action in other ways (e.g., changing the target of an attack, aborting an attack for a Dash, moving to a slightly different position than originally intended, etc.). (see 1b.)

3: Delayed actions. Any character who Delayed can now declare and resolve their actions. Use the same process as above if necessary.

END OF THE ROUND

4. Repeat as many times as you need to.

---

Is that about right?
 
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Is that about right?
The only thing I see missing is a discussion of readied actions and Dodge, a mention of implicit Delay, and a brief mention of how spell durations and other per-turn effects work.

1.) Some actions, such as Dodging or continuing to hold a Readied Action from the previous round, are activities and not events. There is no initiative roll high enough to "beat" someone engaged in these activities.

2.) If you don't declare an action, you are Delaying.

3.) "Mexican Standoff": If everyone in the current Declaration phase Delays, the round ends without any more actions occurring.

4.) 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.

(4) 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.
 

Markn

First Post
This is a fascinating thread. How are spells such as Hold Person adjudicated? When does the effect take place? When does it end? Let's assume a caster wants to target an enemy fighter with Hold Person. His ally wants to attack after the spell takes effect and another ally wants to attack at the same time as the spell is cast (not caring if the spell is in place). How would this need to be described? Assuming the target is affected, when can the effect be removed by the target?

I intend to test this out with my group. Just trying to understand the ins and outs.

One other question. Over the course of a campaign, don't low Int PCs begin to resent having to declare first (or close to it most times)?
 

GX.Sigma

First Post
1.) Some actions, such as Dodging or continuing to hold a Readied Action from the previous round, are activities and not events. There is no initiative roll high enough to "beat" someone engaged in these activities.
Interesting. What's the rationale for Dodge? I can imagine someone deciding to dodge an attack, but not being physically able to get out of the way in time.
 

GX.Sigma

First Post
This is a fascinating thread. How are spells such as Hold Person adjudicated? When does the effect take place? When does it end? Let's assume a caster wants to target an enemy fighter with Hold Person. His ally wants to attack after the spell takes effect and another ally wants to attack at the same time as the spell is cast (not caring if the spell is in place). How would this need to be described?
The caster would declare they're casting Hold Person, the ally who doesn't care would declare an attack, and the ally who wants to wait would Delay. These actions are resolved in initiative order, then the delaying player can decide what to do.

Assuming the target is affected, when can the effect be removed by the target?
Well, it says "at the end of each of its turns," so I guess that would mean at the end of the round, the target gets another saving throw to break out. Wait, that doesn't make much sense. I don't know if these concurrent turns can be systemically reconciled with all the content that assumes cyclic turns.

For Hold Person, the intent is one saving throw per skipped turn. So in this case, I'd say the target can make another saving throw after their next action. That is, if the caster beats the target's initiative and the spell sticks, the target is paralyzed and can't take an action that round. So I'd allow another save at the end of the round. But if the target beats the caster's initiative (and gets to take an action before being paralyzed), they don't get an immediate second save.

One other question. Over the course of a campaign, don't low Int PCs begin to resent having to declare first (or close to it most times)?
I think that's the idea ;)
 

Interesting. What's the rationale for Dodge? I can imagine someone deciding to dodge an attack, but not being physically able to get out of the way in time.
Partly, that it's not a discrete event. It's not a discrete event, even by PHB rules. It's not like Uncanny Dodge, something that applies to a specific blow. It's just something you're doing the whole round.

Also, it's partly an aesthetic judgment. By PHB rules, Dodging against 8 opponents protects you against 8 attacks (one full round). If Dodging required you to win initiative, it would only protect you against 4 attacks on average, because half of them would beat your initiative. I don't think that's cool, so I make sure that doesn't happen.
 

Markn

First Post
GX.Sigma

Thanks for the replies. Truth be told, I kinda like Ovinomancer's phase suggestion although I would take it a step further and allow players to declare a phase at a time. I'm still mulling this over.

For me, part of the appeal of concurrent initiative is to avoid initiative checks. I kind of feel that if initiative get rolled why bother with this system (that's rhetorical...not looking for an answer here). Much like Ovinomancer, I don't feel it's fun to completely fail at guessing so my design goals seem to differ from Hemlock and others. For me the fun comes from SOME uncertainty, not from complete failure, It comes from fighters simultaneously dropping each other, and it comes from NOT knowing the best tactic but still being effective.

At any rate, it is very helpful that you are quantifying the discussion into a base set of rules - thanks!
 

One other question. Over the course of a campaign, don't low Int PCs begin to resent having to declare first (or close to it most times)?
Yes! It's fascinating to see a Shadow Monk 8/Druid 6 spend one and a half ASIs raising his Int from 9 to 12 because he's tired of "feeling like a dummy" (I think those were his words when I asked him), even though Int has no mechanical effect on his character's abilities. (Int is a so-called "dump stat" for both Shadow Monks and Druids.) That PC was one of the first ones in my 5E campaign, so I think when he first created him he didn't fully understand the implications of Int for the game--it's possible that I hadn't event invented this initiative variant at that point. Subsequent PCs have tended to be more intelligent.

This is a fascinating thread. How are spells such as Hold Person adjudicated? When does the effect take place? When does it end? Let's assume a caster wants to target an enemy fighter with Hold Person. His ally wants to attack after the spell takes effect and another ally wants to attack at the same time as the spell is cast (not caring if the spell is in place). How would this need to be described? Assuming the target is affected, when can the effect be removed by the target?

I intend to test this out with my group. Just trying to understand the ins and outs.
Here's how I'd rule it. I'll assume the secondary ally is capable of disabling the target in one blow because otherwise there would be no reason for him not to coordinate with Hold Person:

Round 1:
DM: "The hobgoblin warlord is attacking Alice."
Alice: "I'll cast Hold Person on the hobgoblin warlord."
Bob: "When her Hold Person goes off, I'm going to hit the warlord."
Charlie: "I'm going to attack the warlord too. Stunning Strike."
DM: "Are you coordinating with Alice too?"
Charlie: "No, I'm just going to try to hit him first and stun him so he can't hit Alice. I don't care so much about the damage."

[rolls happen. Warlord hits Alice for 22 HP of damage, Warlord fails his save, Bob hits him and auto-crits for 30 damage, Charlie hits the warlord for 9 points of damage, and the warlord fails his save against Stunning Strike.]

DM: "Okay, I think we need to know the sequence of events here. All three of you roll initiative against the warlord's [roll] 15 init."
Bob: "23!"
Alice: "11. Too slow."
Bob: "Aw, shucks."
Charlie: "7."
DM: "The hobgoblin warlord grins a nasty grin and drives his shiny bronze spear right into Alice's lower torso. Alice, you feel metal twist inside you, and when the spear comes out it's covered in black blood. Take 22 HP of damage! Then you gasp out the right Words and the warlord freezes, and Bob hits him right in the throat. Now it's his turn to spurt blood from his jugular! 30 points of damage to the hobgoblin. Then Charlie takes the opening to also hit him--Charlie, he's paralyzed now, so add crit damage."
Charlie: "[rolls another 4] 11 points total."
DM: "Okay, he takes 11 points of damage, and he's now paralyzed AND stunned. You'd probably see his eyes widen a little bit and roll upwards except that he can't move his eyelids right now. In fact I'm kind of surprised he hasn't fallen over."

[table talk occurs for a few seconds]

DM: "You're still fighting a paralyzed, stunned hobgobliin warlord with a shiny bronze spear and plate armor. What do you do?"

In practice most fights are not this complicated, but that's how I'd rule it for this one. Bob's action occurs at the lower of his own or Alice's initiative; Charlie's action occurs on his own initiative; and their actions were complex enough (because we wanted a complicated example) that it was easier to just have everybody roll initiatives up front.


Note: that I'm not completely happy with the interaction between concentration and initiative here. It's weird to me that Alice's Hold Person is immune to interruption despite her being stabbed while casting it. I am considering a more AD&D-like rule where being damaged as you're still casting a spell can also interrupt the spell, including if it's not a concentration spell.
 

Well, it says "at the end of each of its turns," so I guess that would mean at the end of the round, the target gets another saving throw to break out. Wait, that doesn't make much sense. I don't know if these concurrent turns can be systemically reconciled with all the content that assumes cyclic turns.
That oddity is orthogonal to the choice of initiative system. You can get the same effect under PHB initiative, if the Hold Person spell goes off on the target's own turn. E.g. he attacks, then moves towards another target so he can threaten them with opportunity attacks, which triggers someone's readied action to Hold Person anyone who approaches; bad guy fails his save but then gets another save at the end of his turn, so he didn't actually lose anything by his first failed save.

No matter what the initiative system, I'd just treat that as "at the end of each of its turns except the one where the spell is cast." I.e. you never get multiple saves on the same turn.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
[MENTION=6787650]Hemlock[/MENTION]- I'm really liking what you and Ilbranteloth are proposing as I'm starting to hate the "combat swoosh" (as the AngryGM calls it) of rolling initiative. But a question occurs to me that I don't think has been discussed yet? How do you resolve multiattacks, lair effects and legendary actions?
 

GX.Sigma

First Post
Note: that I'm not completely happy with the interaction between concentration and initiative here. It's weird to me that Alice's Hold Person is immune to interruption despite her being stabbed while casting it. I am considering a more AD&D-like rule where being damaged as you're still casting a spell can also interrupt the spell, including if it's not a concentration spell.
I was thinking the exact same thing. Some random ideas on that, in no particular order:
  • If you take damage before you finish casting a spell, you must make a concentration save or lose the spell.
  • You lose the action, but not the spell slot.
  • Or, you do lose the spell slot.
  • Or, the spell misfires and something wild happens.
  • Bonus action spells and reaction spells probably can't be interrupted.
  • Maybe cantrips can't be interrupted?
  • Maybe melee attack spells can't be interrupted?
No matter what the initiative system, I'd just treat that as "at the end of each of its turns except the one where the spell is cast." I.e. you never get multiple saves on the same turn.
That makes sense. I'll add that to my rules.

But a question occurs to me that I don't think has been discussed yet? How do you resolve multiattacks, lair effects and legendary actions?
IMO:

Lair effects: They still happen on Initiative 20 (or just at the start of the round, to make it simpler).
Multiattacks: The player says how they want to use them; same fudge factor as anything else.
Legendary Actions: They can happen whenever the DM wants them to. :devil:
 

[MENTION=6787650]Hemlock[/MENTION]- I'm really liking what you and Ilbranteloth are proposing as I'm starting to hate the "combat swoosh" (as the AngryGM calls it) of rolling initiative. But a question occurs to me that I don't think has been discussed yet? How do you resolve multiattacks, lair effects and legendary actions?
Oh, I forgot to mention that.

Multiattacks get resolved just like Extra Attacks--on your regular initiative.

Legendary Actions like a beholder's eye rays get declared up front and resolved on initiative counts successively -5, -10, and -15 ticks behind the main initiative count. So a dragon doing breath/tail/tail/tail might roll an 18 on initiative, which means that its tail slaps go off on 13, 8, and 3. (Again, you only roll these initiative when it matters--I wouldn't even compute the tail slap initiative unless the tail slap was important for deciding e.g. at what point the wizard lost concentration on his Otto's Irresistible Dance spell.)

Also, the creature can Delay any number of its Legendary actions. So the dragon could instead breath/Delay x3, if it wanted to wait to decide whether it would do a wing beat or a bunch of tail slaps.

Lair effects happen as normal, on initiative count 20, though I confess that I have never as yet even used a lair action onscreen. All the legendary creatures that have been encountered so far (liches, beholders, dragons) have been outside their lairs and playing offense, not defense. Liches use their lair actions to regain spell slots in between scry-and-die runs, but that's not something for which initiative is even relevant nor which has ever even happened outside of backstory.
 

Markn

First Post
Thanks Hemlock, that helps. I'm a little surprised that in practice fights aren't this complicated. This seems like a pretty routine example (at least with Hold Person). My campaigns tend to run up to 20th level and right now involve 6 players.

We make use of miniatures and grid and it also because of this reason I am looking for something that works in that environment.

I hope the conversation keeps going!
 

Thanks Hemlock, that helps. I'm a little surprised that in practice fights aren't this complicated. This seems like a pretty routine example (at least with Hold Person). My campaigns tend to run up to 20th level and right now involve 6 players.
That's probably it. I run with 3-4 players, and they tend to resolve conditional actions by Delaying instead of declaring complicated contingencies. 6 is significantly more complicated, especially if one of those players is in love with complicated conditional actions.

With six players you might want to throttle back on the complexity of what you allow. Could go with GX.Sigma's suggestion of saying "that's too complicated" and just telling the player to Delay in this case.
 

mellored

Explorer
"Move and swing" was a strategy with high risk and high reward (win initiative and swing, or lose initiative and whiff).
I disagree. High risk, but not high reward. Declaration/Resolution makes melee weaker since the enemy may not even be there.
With range, it much less likely to matter if the guy moves first or not. And 5e already slightly favors ranged.


Of course, you could fix it by making it high reward, with say... +half your proficiency to melee attacks or something.
But when you change an underlying rule, it's bound to affect balance.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Oh, I forgot to mention that.

Multiattacks get resolved just like Extra Attacks--on your regular initiative.

Legendary Actions like a beholder's eye rays get declared up front and resolved on initiative counts successively -5, -10, and -15 ticks behind the main initiative count. So a dragon doing breath/tail/tail/tail might roll an 18 on initiative, which means that its tail slaps go off on 13, 8, and 3. (Again, you only roll these initiative when it matters--I wouldn't even compute the tail slap initiative unless the tail slap was important for deciding e.g. at what point the wizard lost concentration on his Otto's Irresistible Dance spell.)

Also, the creature can Delay any number of its Legendary actions. So the dragon could instead breath/Delay x3, if it wanted to wait to decide whether it would do a wing beat or a bunch of tail slaps.

Lair effects happen as normal, on initiative count 20, though I confess that I have never as yet even used a lair action onscreen. All the legendary creatures that have been encountered so far (liches, beholders, dragons) have been outside their lairs and playing offense, not defense. Liches use their lair actions to regain spell slots in between scry-and-die runs, but that's not something for which initiative is even relevant nor which has ever even happened outside of backstory.
Ok - that doesn't sound too bad. Hard to imagine how it'll play out. I'll run it past my group and see if they're game to try it out for a session.
 

GX.Sigma

First Post
I disagree. High risk, but not high reward.
To be clear, are you disagreeing with my point that declaration/resolution creates a risk/reward transaction that's not present in the core rules? Or are you just talking about the balance issues of melee vs ranged?

Declaration/Resolution makes melee weaker since the enemy may not even be there.
With range, it much less likely to matter if the guy moves first or not. And 5e already slightly favors ranged.
Good point. As I showed in my examples, this system actually does penalize ranged attacks a bit (if you declare a ranged attack, and then someone gets in front of you, you have to shoot with disadvantage), but not as much as melee attacks.

Since 5e does already favor ranged attacks, I've already been thinking of ways to nerf ranged weapons. I think this system might make it easier to bring in some nerfs:
  • Much higher chance to hit things you weren't trying to hit
  • You can't move and shoot in the same round
  • Ranged attacks can be interrupted like spells
 

mellored

Explorer
To be clear, are you disagreeing with my point that declaration/resolution creates a risk/reward transaction that's not present in the core rules? Or are you just talking about the balance issues of melee vs ranged?
Melee, and a warning about the many other balance changes that could come up.
Like booming blade trigger, start/end of turn things, concentration checks, or other such things.

Overall, I like the core idea of declaration/resolution better than cyclical initiative, but it's not without flaws. Especially when you're trying to just swap it into a system that was built on a different initiative style.
 

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