D&D 5E Continuous Initiative in 5E

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I off handedly suggested this idea in another thread but wanted to dedicate a discussion specifically to spitballing how it might work.

I know more games have used continuous initiative, but I first encountered it with Hackmaster 5E (the non joke edition). If you haven't encountered it, the long and short is that rather the rolling initiative every round or cycling through the turn order, every action has a cost in speed or initiative count and you declare an action and once the count passes, you perform that action then declare your next action. At any time you can change your declared action but you don't get those spent "counts" back.

For example, say your starting initiative roll was a 6. On 6, you declare that you are moving 4 squares. On 5, 6, 7 and 8 you move 1 square each. On 8, upon arrival, you declare you are stabbing the bandit. Your weapon has a speed of 5. That means you make your attack on 13. All while this is happening, the other PCs plus the enemies are doing similar. Initiative never "resets" you just keep counting until the encounter ends.

I hope that gives a decent picture of how such a system works.

Every action, from movement to attacking to casting spells, has a speed.

So, do you think it is possible to implement this effectively with 5E? Is it desirable? Would you play in such a 5E variant? What sorts of speeds would you give actions? How long should it take to attack with a greataxe versus a dagger versus magic missile? How long to drink a potion? What about reactions?
 

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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
We tried something similar in a D&D game a while back. It slowed combat down to an absolute grind.
Did you test it long enough to get good at it and it was still slow, or was it slow because you were testing it?

It is an important distinction. When I first started running PF2ER, the 3 action economy felt that way since none of us were familiar with the system. It did not take long for us to all kind of figure it out and now Pathfinder combat is as fast or faster than 5E combat (mostly because people are trying to figure out if they are allowed to use a bonus action).
 





Quickleaf

Legend
I off handedly suggested this idea in another thread but wanted to dedicate a discussion specifically to spitballing how it might work.

I know more games have used continuous initiative, but I first encountered it with Hackmaster 5E (the non joke edition). If you haven't encountered it, the long and short is that rather the rolling initiative every round or cycling through the turn order, every action has a cost in speed or initiative count and you declare an action and once the count passes, you perform that action then declare your next action. At any time you can change your declared action but you don't get those spent "counts" back.

For example, say your starting initiative roll was a 6. On 6, you declare that you are moving 4 squares. On 5, 6, 7 and 8 you move 1 square each. On 8, upon arrival, you declare you are stabbing the bandit. Your weapon has a speed of 5. That means you make your attack on 13. All while this is happening, the other PCs plus the enemies are doing similar. Initiative never "resets" you just keep counting until the encounter ends.

I hope that gives a decent picture of how such a system works.

Every action, from movement to attacking to casting spells, has a speed.

So, do you think it is possible to implement this effectively with 5E? Is it desirable? Would you play in such a 5E variant? What sorts of speeds would you give actions? How long should it take to attack with a greataxe versus a dagger versus magic missile? How long to drink a potion? What about reactions?
There are a couple variations I've played with on "continuous initiative" – I prefer the term "weapon speed" or "action speed" as you'll see. I 100% agree with @Rabbitbait that it's slow not just in the learning phase, but in the "we're experienced and know what we're doing phase" too.

Unfortunately, when "action speed" works best – when players consistently take the same or very similar actions each turn so it's easy to lock in "ok, d6 is my initiative die, or my speed is 6 seconds, or whatever", that's when it works best. But that leads to rather dull monotonous play, which... it can work in some OSR games where you're spending just a few minutes in a battle... but in any situations with more involved combat (Hackmaster qualifies, 5e qualifies, PF2e qualifies) we really want to avoid tedious monotonous play due to increased handling time of combat.

My personal view is that there is one big advantage to this system and that's the idea of smoothing the transition between exploring and combat so there's less of that speed bump of "ok roll initiative."

However, I have found other ways to reach that effect – which for me is the big goal behind "continuous initiative." But I don't want to open up a pandora's box that is tangential to the conversation you want to have.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Fair enough, but I'd rather keep the discussion aimed at solutions.

What about it bothered you? Can you think of any fixes?
It felt overly complicated for what it was trying to accomplish. It didnt take long for certain actions and chains to prove themselves worth doing over others. The juice wasnt worth the squeeze.

In fairness, what does it offer you that think it would be a good addition to D&D?
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The most important thing tome in any mode of play is meaningful choice. If you designed the system where taking different amounts of time for the "same" actions produces potentially different results, I feel like that builds meaningful choice. What if Power Attack is just a few extra ticks, or updating heal? Like that.
 

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