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

Rune

Once A Fool
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?

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
What about having Sharpshooter require a ready an action to shoot when there's a clear shot (thus eliminating the possibility of using its benefits on extra attacks)?
 

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Rune

Once A Fool
It occurs to me that, if you're looking for a more granular approach to concurrent initiative (if your into that), you could factor weapon, movement, and casting speeds into the opposed initiative checks.

It would look like this:

Variant 1

1:
All creatures declare actions and movement in whatever order.

2: Points of conflict requiring opposed Dexterity (Initiative) checks to resolve are determined.

3: Each participant modifies their check by a number based on their opponent's movement and action thus far in the round.

3a: Each 5 ft. of a participant's movement thus far adds 1 to their opponent's roll. Standing from prone adds 3.

3b: Each standard action a participant has attempted thus far adds 3 to their opponent's roll.

3c: Each bonus action a participant has attempted thus far adds 1 to their opponent's roll.

4: The combat round is resolved with the outcomes of initiative-contested events determining the order of relevant events and all other events occurring concurrently.

Example: Orc Killington declares he will move 60 ft. over to Wizard Squishypants and attack him, using his bonus action Aggressive ability to help close the distance. Fighter McHackenslash readies an action to intercept Orc Killington before he reaches Wizard Squishypants and shove him to the ground. Wizard Squishypants is unconcerned; even if Fighter McHackenslash fails, he still can cast Shield immediately. He decides sending a few Magic Missiles to Orc Killington's face would be an appropriate course of action.

Only the readied action forces an opposed Dexterity (Initiative) check, so Fighter McHackenslash plots a route that intercepts Orc Killington 40 ft. in, while only costing himself 15 ft. This means Fighter McHackenslash will get +9 (40 ft. of movement, plus a bonus action) to his check, while Orc Killington will get +6 (15 ft. of movement, plus a standard action to ready). If Fighter McHackenslash had chosen to intercept 10 ft. earlier, he would only get +6 (30 ft. of movement with no bonus action).

Variant 2

As above, except the action being currently attempted is included in all modifiers. Also, replace 3a with:

3a: Each 5 ft. of movement adds 1+(30-participant's movement speed)/25 to their opponent's roll, rounded down after totaling the distance moved. The minimum modified per 5 ft. moved is 0. Standing from prone counts as moving 15 ft. (So, a 25 ft. speed adds 1.2 per 5 ft. moved and, thus, +1 for 5 ft., +6 for 25. A 35 ft. speed adds 0.8 per 5 ft. move and, thus, +0 for 5 ft., +1 for 10 ft., +4 for 30 ft. A 60 ft. speed adds 0 for any distance moved.)

Additionally, 3b and 3c only apply to non-attack, non-movement, and non-casting actions. In addition, 3c also applies to non-attack and non-casting reactions.

Finally, add:

3d: Each attack attempted thus far (including the current one) by a participant adds 1 to their opponent's roll if the attack was made with a light weapon (or no weapon), 3 with a heavy weapon, and 2 with all others. If a weapon has the load property, each attack that had to be loaded instead adds double the modifier.

3e: Each spell a participant has thus far cast as a standard action (including the current one) adds 1+1 per spell level to their opponent's roll. Bonus action and reaction spells add (1+1 per spell level)/3, rounded up.

Example: Orc Killington declares he will move 60 ft. over to Wizard Squishypants and attack him, using his bonus action Aggressive ability to help close the distance. Fighter McHackenslash (a dwarf, since it's about to become relevant) readies an action to run over to Orc Killington and shove him prone before he can attack. Wizard Squishypants was hung over and forgot to prepare Shield today and also doesn't feel like moving around much, so he decides to ready an action to unload a few Magic Missiles into Orc Killington's face before he can get close enough to attack, hoping to drop him. Because, screw you, Fighter McHackenslash, for not having a hangover, also.

The relevant checkpoints are determined to be Wizard Squishypants's spell at a point somewhere along Orc Killington's route (Wizard Squishypants decides on 5 ft. away) and, if he fails that check, or fails to kill Orc Killington, Fighter McHackenslash's attempt to shove Orc Killington prone before he can attack.

For the first check, Wizard Squishypants gets +11 to his check (55 ft. of movement), while Orc Killington only gets +4 (a standard action to ready, plus a 1st level spell cast as a readied reaction).

If that fails to keep Orc Killington out of his face, Fighter McHackenslash moves to Orc Killington (let's say, 25 ft.) and they make their opposed check. Fighter McHackenslash gets +15 (60 ft. of movement, plus a single heavy weapon attack), while Orc Killington gets +10 (25 ft. of movement from a character with 25 ft. speed, plus a standard action to ready, plus a reaction to trigger the readied action).

Now, both of the above are way too granular for my tastes, but, what can I say? I just wanted an excuse to wright "Orc Killington," "Fighter McHackenslash," and "Wizard Squishypants" a bunch of times.
 
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GX.Sigma

First Post
Briefly, yes, assuming he declares something more complicated ("charge") than your initial proposal, and the guard doesn't also declare something more complicated than your proposal (like "I'll run away, shooting back if I don't need to Dash"--I generally wouldn't have a guard declare something this complex unless he was a veteran of lots of mobile skirmishes). If the Barbarian wins initiative, he gets an attack and an opportunity attack but winds up not in melee; if he loses initiative, the guard gets a free shot at him this round but next round they're in melee.

That outcome seems pretty reasonable to me on two counts, based on my fencing experience--you can almost always charge someone successfully (although you might get stabbed on your way in); and those who are thinking ahead about their options react faster and better than those who are just responding to what's right there in front of them in the instant. The Barbarian's player is being rewarded for player skill, which sounds reasonable to me. (And the Barbarian's player probably won't develop that skill right off--the first three or ten combats will probably play out as per your original post, which again is why I wouldn't have the guard automatically use sophisticated tactics either.)

If it doesn't sound reasonable to you, don't allow it.
^I didn't notice this post at the time, but this is an interesting conversation. Perhaps it would help to explain what I'm looking for in an initiative system and why:

I've played D&D with hardcore gamers who like to optimize, master a system, and play to win. I've played D&D with complete newbies who are just excited about roleplaying, and wouldn't so much as skim a rulebook even if I asked them to. In both of these groups I've played with, the cyclic initiative system has always been a problem.

For the roleplayers, rolling initiative broke the flow of the story. It broke the cohesiveness of the group, isolating each player to a one-on-one microconversation with the DM, rather than the group dynamic that makes the whole rest of the game so fun. It forced them to learn rules they didn't care about, to avoid the embarrassment of getting something wrong while the whole table is waiting for them to finish their turn. They weren't "listening," they were "waiting for their turn to talk." They didn't want to play a wargame (certainly not a Chess game), they just wanted to go on an imaginary adventure with their friends. D&D combat is not fun for them.

For the powergamers, it slowed down the game. It made it a Chess game. They would wait for their turn to come around, assess the game state, figure out the most efficient use of their resources, and make the most optimal move. And that made combat take forever, it was really boring for everyone when it wasn't their turn, and everyone ended up complaining that "combat takes too long," and bought new editions on a promise of "faster combat." The thing is, I don't think these people really wanted to play Chess any more than the roleplayers did--but the most optimal way to play the game is to play it like Chess.

If the game is asking the player to choose between "winning" and "having fun," the game is poorly designed. The powergamer's goal is not to play the game in the most fun way, their goal is to win. If the path to winning isn't fun, it's not a fun game for them. Plot twist: I'm one of these powergamers. D&D combat is not fun for me.

The reason I really like the concept of declare/resolve is that it improves the experience for both of these groups. For the roleplayers, they can interact with combat the same way they interact with everything else, they can work together more easily, and the mechanics feel more like a story. For the powergamers, it changes the strategy (without removing strategic depth) from a Chess-like game that rewards forethought and mechanical precision, to a Poker-like game based on chance, probability, and bluffing. I don't know if it'll be any "faster" than combat with cyclical initiative, but I don't think that's even the real problem.

In other words, I think more hidden information and higher variance can lead to a game that feels more exciting and engaging for everyone, is easier for new or casual players to get into, and is just as strategic and interesting for more invested players.

those who are thinking ahead about their options react faster and better than those who are just responding to what's right there in front of them in the instant. The Barbarian's player is being rewarded for player skill, which sounds reasonable to me. (And the Barbarian's player probably won't develop that skill right off--the first three or ten combats will probably play out as per your original post, which again is why I wouldn't have the guard automatically use sophisticated tactics either.)
All I'm trying to say is, yes, it's good to reward player skill, but this is not a skill I want to reward. The more you reward forethought and mechanical precision, the closer it gets to Chess. The whole point of separating declaration and action (to me) is to reduce information and add variance. If you give a powergamer an opportunity to reduce variance and base their decision on more information, they'll take it, and try to "break" it. The process of learning that skill and being rewarded for developing it is great, but once you've mastered it, it makes the game more tedious (so it's actually kind of a punishment for everyone). And if some players have mastered it and some players haven't, the game becomes unbalanced. I want my game to be robust at all levels of play.

But I admit, I am using hyperbole to make a philosophical point, as a game design purist.

In a general sense, overkill is a positive feature, especially with ranged attacks. It's not like you know when you fire your arrow that somebody else is going to have fired another arrow at the target in the meantime and killed it. Nor will you necessarily even realize immediately when something has​ been fatally wounded, not until it topples over. Speaking as a DM, I'd be more resistant to someone trying to declare contingency ranged attacks than contingency melee attacks vs. dash, although I don't have any codified methodology to draw a bright line between what I would and wouldn't allow there.
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.
This is a very good point. How's this for a rule:

Ranged attacks are considered to be "fired" at the very beginning of the Resolution phase. The attacker has no control over the attack after declaring it. So, for example, if the target has moved behind total cover before the archer's initiative comes up, the attack misses. If another creature moves into the line of fire before the archer's initiative comes up, there is a chance for the attack to target that creature instead (let's just say equal chance for each possible target--if you're shooting into or across a scrum, there's a very low chance you'll hit who you're aiming at--and equal chance of hitting allies than enemies).

On the other hand, melee attacks are not executed until the initiative result at which they are resolved. An action declaration such as "I'll run in and attack that guy with my axe" can be given more flexibility during resolution (e.g., if the target is no longer there, the attacker can change his movement and attack a different target, or even take a Dash instead of an Attack action to get to the intended target).
 

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, I see this as a potential weakness. For me the biggest drawback is that the declaration order, at least amongst the PCs is very static. One solution, is to make a declaration roll, analogous to an initiative roll: roll a die and add your Intelligence modifier. Small numbers declare first. Choose size of die to get your preferred weighting between the modifier and blind chance.

Love the whole idea behind this thread - makes me want to dust off my roundless combat system. It has similar opportunities for overkill and tactical fun.
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Ranged attacks are considered to be "fired" at the very beginning of the Resolution phase. The attacker has no control over the attack after declaring it. So, for example, if the target has moved behind total cover before the archer's initiative comes up, the attack misses. If another creature moves into the line of fire before the archer's initiative comes up, there is a chance for the attack to target that creature instead (let's just say equal chance for each possible target--if you're shooting into or across a scrum, there's a very low chance you'll hit who you're aiming at--and equal chance of hitting allies than enemies).
This seems like an initiative contest between the ranged attacker and the target. The target is trying to take cover before the attack hits. Roll initiative to see if the arrow reaches its target first?
 

*snip*
In other words, I think more hidden information and higher variance can lead to a game that feels more exciting and engaging for everyone, is easier for new or casual players to get into, and is just as strategic and interesting for more invested players.

All I'm trying to say is, yes, it's good to reward player skill, but this is not a skill I want to reward. The more you reward forethought and mechanical precision, the closer it gets to Chess. The whole point of separating declaration and action (to me) is to reduce information and add variance. If you give a powergamer an opportunity to reduce variance and base their decision on more information, they'll take it, and try to "break" it. The process of learning that skill and being rewarded for developing it is great, but once you've mastered it, it makes the game more tedious (so it's actually kind of a punishment for everyone). And if some players have mastered it and some players haven't, the game becomes unbalanced. I want my game to be robust at all levels of play.
Our goals are very similar. I don't suppose it would help to point out that I haven't seen anyone attempting complicated conditions in practice, and that combat is NOT chess-like?

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. There are others on the thread who have mentioned that they'd handle this by having the DM offer to change the rule declaration on the fly, "He's out of reach, do you want to keep running?" I wouldn't do that, again because of my fencing experience, any more than I would suggest to players that they choose a more effective spell. But I view this as a minor detail that hasn't come up often in practice, and which DMs can easily tweak to their own taste.

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.

This is a very good point. How's this for a rule:

Ranged attacks are considered to be "fired" at the very beginning of the Resolution phase. The attacker has no control over the attack after declaring it. So, for example, if the target has moved behind total cover before the archer's initiative comes up, the attack misses. If another creature moves into the line of fire before the archer's initiative comes up, there is a chance for the attack to target that creature instead (let's just say equal chance for each possible target--if you're shooting into or across a scrum, there's a very low chance you'll hit who you're aiming at--and equal chance of hitting allies than enemies).

On the other hand, melee attacks are not executed until the initiative result at which they are resolved. An action declaration such as "I'll run in and attack that guy with my axe" can be given more flexibility during resolution (e.g., if the target is no longer there, the attacker can change his movement and attack a different target, or even take a Dash instead of an Attack action to get to the intended target).
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.
 

Yes, I see this as a potential weakness. For me the biggest drawback is that the declaration order, at least amongst the PCs is very static. One solution, is to make a declaration roll, analogous to and initiative roll: roll a die an add your Intelligence modifier. Small numbers declare first. Choose size of die to get your preferred weighting between the modifier and blind chance.

Love the whole idea behind this thread - makes me want to dust of my roundless combat system. It has similar opportunities for overkill and tactical fun.
In practice the declaration order isn't that static. You just have to be flexible as a DM in how you handle declarations. If A has Int 11 and B has Int 17, don't literally force A to declare before B every time. If B wants to blurt out up front that "I'm running away!", then accept that. If B changes his mind because of what A declares I'd let him, as long as monster M with Int 18 isn't in the fight and/or hasn't declared an action.

But yes, you could make declaration order more dynamic if you cared to. If you do try a "declaration roll" system, do write back and let us know what the pros and cons were!
 

MostlyDm

Explorer
In practice the declaration order isn't that static. You just have to be flexible as a DM in how you handle declarations. If A has Int 11 and B has Int 17, don't literally force A to declare before B every time. If B wants to blurt out up front that "I'm running away!", then accept that. If B changes his mind because of what A declares I'd let him, as long as monster M with Int 18 isn't in the fight and/or hasn't declared an action.

But yes, you could make declaration order more dynamic if you cared to. If you do try a "declaration roll" system, do write back and let us know what the pros and cons were!
So far I've run about... 8 or 9 combats with this initiative system, and this has been my experience too. Probably contributed to it due to most of the players being new kids or returning parents, but most declarations have been excited declarations with little heed given to who else is doing what. A few more precise tactical moments, where having the Int rule was useful. A few times where timing was essential and we rolled initiative checks (I don't save them, just roll a contest in a given round, has come up maybe 4 times total.)

So far everyone has been fully engaged and having a lot of fun. Great work, Hemlock. Thanks again!
 

Rune

Once A Fool
In practice the declaration order isn't that static. You just have to be flexible as a DM in how you handle declarations. If A has Int 11 and B has Int 17, don't literally force A to declare before B every time. If B wants to blurt out up front that "I'm running away!", then accept that. If B changes his mind because of what A declares I'd let him, as long as monster M with Int 18 isn't in the fight and/or hasn't declared an action.

But yes, you could make declaration order more dynamic if you cared to. If you do try a "declaration roll" system, do write back and let us know what the pros and cons were!
I've been thinking of doing this part completely informally in my game (since, as I said earlier, my players never wait to declare, anyway).

Basically, they could declare in whatever order they like and if they declared something that they probably wouldn't with the knowledge of what a less intelligent enemy was going to do, I'd tell them. Additionally, they'd always be free to ask, "Can I tell what they're about to do?"
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
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.
 

cmad1977

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


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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.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
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

First Post
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

First Post
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

First Post
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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