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D&D General D&D Combat is fictionless

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
*P1 has information - they know the basic distances of the goblins, the terrain, etc.

I would add that once P1 has declared that it's a noticeable part of the fiction. He's zeroed in on that 1 goblin, his allies and the goblins can both see it. That should turn the rest into fictional decisions rather than mechanical ones. In short, the declaration phase changes the fiction. Also, I think it's worth noting here that if another creature meets you in the middle - so to speak that you always have the option of attacking that creature instead.

For P2 their move is going to need a general direction. The idea isn't that they get to move wherever they want when their initiative comes up. The DM abjucates positioning based on your declaration. That detail is required. (For melee characters it's kind of built in if they are wanting to attack N1).
Ah, I failed to grasp that. The DM is going to contemplate the declared moves (and any fair updates as the round is resolved) and adjudicate where along their intended paths each participant actually is at moments of interaction. Does that describe it correctly?

I like how the dodge action functions under this system better. It feels more dynamic and response. You see multiple enemies about to gang up on you and so you attempt to defend. Other interesting actions N1 could have attempted would be to fall back and shoot with his bow. P1 might not be able to reach him then.

N2 moving and attacking P2 is going to create is going to create an interesting situation regarding if he gets there before he shoots.
Honestly, I would like to know where you land with your players on this after a few sessions. I ran declare-first combat for years and when RPG design finally figured out how to create streamlined turn-sequences, we switched and never looked back. It strikes me that perhaps we gave up something we could well have demanded of our fiction (i.e. what you demand), in exchange for something that played so much more smoothly (for us) that we happily accommodated it into our fiction.

So far this feels good to me.

I'd just add that N2 is eligible to dash toward his intended target if he can't reach them to attack. If he did so, he likely closes the distance but doesn't find a good opportunity to attack after doing so.


*Initiative is going to be rerolled. So P1 cannot assume he will go first again. I probably could have made this more clear
I urge you to run through some sample turn orderings. I did so, and assumed that you couldn't have intended re-rolling initiative each round. The problem you will have to think about is that there are many - until the start (or end) of your next turn - effects in 5th edition that re-rolling each round is going to break.

Additionally, actions and reactions are spaced out with care by the game designers, and rolling each round is going to sometimes give sequences that are very powerful (or vulnerable). Such as cast, win initiative, cast. Combats will become more volatile in consequence, and sometimes that is going to feel bad at your table. For me, it is also in conflict with your professed desires: because you will have to gloss-over how some participant gains such tempo upbeats. From experience, that will sometimes feel SoD-breaking.
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
@clearstream

It would probably help if I take your example, make some slight adjustments and try to show what I envision.

Round 1 declarations (P leads)
P1 (Barbarian) has no information: they declare in the dark that they will move and attack N1
P2 (Warlock) knows what P1 declared: often dropping one foe is better than dividing attacks, so they declare move and attack N1 attack and then fall back
N1 (Goblin) knowing what P1 and P2 declared: they are going to dodge
N2 (Goblin) knows everyone's declarations: they are safe to move and attack P2

Round 1 initiative rolled
P1 = 20
P2 = 10
N2 = 5
N1 = 1

DM Abjucation
Before P1's turn he has advanced up to N1. P2 is still looking for a good opening to shoot his EB. N2 has advanced almost to P2. N1 hasn't been able to set up a proper defense to the large barbarian that's just rushed up to him yet.

DM: P1 it's your.
P1: I recklessly attack N1.
DM: you hit!

DM Abjucation
Just a moment later the barbarian must have knocked N1 off balance. P2 you've found your opening and just in the nick of time. N2 is still close but not right on top of you yet. N1 is even less sure of what defensive posture he should take than ever.

DM: P2 it's your turn
P2: I cast EB at N1.
DM: you miss.

DM Abjucation
The very next moment P2 starts falling back as fast as he can from N2. N2 sees him running away. N1 is still in the same predicament

DM to N2 (himself): To puruse you'll have to give up your action this round to dash. Do you wish to do that?
N2: For this exercise the answer is no as the Goblin wants to be in position to fall back and help his friend. (Presumably the goblin could have pulled out a bow and still attacked P2, but for this exercise he doesn't do that either).
DM: Your turn is over

DM Abjucation
N1 finally finds the right defensive stance and no other openings are found this round.

That's more of how I envision this system going. You can see how the fiction gets established up to the moment right before the characters initiative.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
@clearstream

It would probably help if I take your example, make some slight adjustments and try to show what I envision.

Round 1 declarations (P leads)
P1 (Barbarian) has no information: they declare in the dark that they will move and attack N1
P2 (Warlock) knows what P1 declared: often dropping one foe is better than dividing attacks, so they declare move and attack N1 attack and then fall back
N1 (Goblin) knowing what P1 and P2 declared: they are going to dodge
N2 (Goblin) knows everyone's declarations: they are safe to move and attack P2

Round 1 initiative rolled
P1 = 20
P2 = 10
N2 = 5
N1 = 1

DM Abjucation
Before P1's turn he has advanced up to N1. P2 is still looking for a good opening to shoot his EB. N2 has advanced almost to P2. N1 hasn't been able to set up a proper defense to the large barbarian that's just rushed up to him yet.

DM: P1 it's your.
P1: I recklessly attack N1.
DM: you hit!

DM Abjucation
Just a moment later the barbarian must have knocked N1 off balance. P2 you've found your opening and just in the nick of time. N2 is still close but not right on top of you yet. N1 is even less sure of what defensive posture he should take than ever.

DM: P2 it's your turn
P2: I cast EB at N1.
DM: you miss.

DM Abjucation
The very next moment P2 starts falling back as fast as he can from N2. N2 sees him running away. N1 is still in the same predicament

DM to N2 (himself): To puruse you'll have to give up your action this round to dash. Do you wish to do that?
N2: For this exercise the answer is no as the Goblin wants to be in position to fall back and help his friend. (Presumably the goblin could have pulled out a bow and still attacked P2, but for this exercise he doesn't do that either).
DM: Your turn is over

DM Abjucation
N1 finally finds the right defensive stance and no other openings are found this round.

That's more of how I envision this system going. You can see how the fiction gets established up to the moment right before the characters initiative.
Why not also have DM adjudicate initiative. Something like

Round 1 declarations (P leads)
P1 (Barbarian) has no information: they declare in the dark that they will move and attack N1
P2 (Warlock) knows what P1 declared: often dropping one foe is better than dividing attacks, so they declare attack and then fall back
N1 (Goblin) knowing what P1 and P2 declared: they are going to dodge
N2 (Goblin) knows everyone's declarations: they are safe to move and attack P2

Round 1 initiative adjudicated
N1 = 20 - as DM, I felt getting into a defensive stance is faster than moving and then attacking
P1 = 10 - it feels right to me to have P1 right after N2, the player decides to go Reckless, counteracting N1's Dodge
P2 = 5 - the split with N1 could go either way, so I decide to favour the PC, who blasts then falls back to cover
N2 = 1 - it felt to me like they had to shape their turn to P2s, so I'm okay with giving them last turn this round, they rush toward P2

Round 2 declarations (N leads)
N1 (Goblin) sees P1 vulnerable and wants to attack them, calling N2 to pile in
N2 (Goblin) switches to piling in on P1
P1 (Barbarian) feels a bit concerned to be Reckless at this point, but has plenty of HP and will attack N1 normally
P2 (Warlock) wants to continue stepping out, blasting, stepping back

Round 2 initiative adjudicated
N1 = 20 - I see no reason not to let N1 have at least one attack while P1 is vulnerable
P1 = 10 - I see no reason not to have them act next
N2 = 5 - on balance, I feel they should have a chance to strike at P1 before P2 can try and drop them
P2 = 1 - they are acting with caution, so I'm saying they go after the others who are more all-in
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Why not also have DM adjudicate initiative. Something like

Round 1 declarations (P leads)
P1 (Barbarian) has no information: they declare in the dark that they will move and attack N1
P2 (Warlock) knows what P1 declared: often dropping one foe is better than dividing attacks, so they declare attack and then fall back
N1 (Goblin) knowing what P1 and P2 declared: they are going to dodge
N2 (Goblin) knows everyone's declarations: they are safe to move and attack P2

Round 1 initiative adjudicated
N1 = 20 - as DM, I felt getting into a defensive stance is faster than moving and then attacking
P1 = 10 - it feels right to me to have P1 right after N2, the player decides to go Reckless, counteracting N1's Dodge
P2 = 5 - the split with N1 could go either way, so I decide to favour the PC, who blasts then falls back to cover
N2 = 1 - it felt to me like they had to shape their turn to P2s, so I'm okay with giving them last turn this round, they rush toward P2

Round 2 declarations (N leads)
N1 (Goblin) sees P1 vulnerable and wants to attack them, calling N2 to pile in
N2 (Goblin) switches to piling in on P1
P1 (Barbarian) feels a bit concerned to be Reckless at this point, but has plenty of HP and will attack N1 normally
P2 (Warlock) wants to continue stepping out, blasting, stepping back

Round 2 initiative adjudicated
N1 = 20 - I see no reason not to let N1 have at least one attack while P1 is vulnerable
P1 = 10 - I see no reason not to have them act next
N2 = 5 - on balance, I feel they should have a chance to strike at P1 before P2 can try and drop them
P2 = 1 - they are acting with caution, so I'm saying they go after the others who are more all-in

I think the dodge action is a good candidate for an initiative boost mechanic. Declaring the dodge action grants +10 initiative. Seems like it would alleviate the concerns around dodging in this system.

But most of that I don't agree with. Combat is a place where PC's can die. Abjucating that N1 gets to attack the reckless attacking barbarian in round 2 just because you see no reason not to let that happen seems too much like DM fiat against the PC's. I think there can still be some room for abjucating different initiatives based on combat actions - i don't think it should be done often or lightly. I don't think it needs to be done much if any either.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I had forgotten the delay action I do not think I have seen it used much do your group delay to clump their actions together to create this side initiative? (what benefit are they getting)

Delaying started with 3e and was used a lot, usually to really bad effect like "I'm not sure I can act optimally now, so I'll just delay until it's optimal", with the result that combat took a lot more time because people were being asked what they wanted to do multiple times, and then, when an opportunity appeared, suddenly everyone wanted to act at the same time. For me, it really was bad design, and I'm really happy that in 5e, there is only the "ready" action, which is way more logical and also makes you, in most cases, at least slightly less efficient, which in turn incites you to act on your turn without disturbing the initiative order and maintaining the streamlining of the game.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
Ultimately, it's a game, not a narrative.

If you want to give freedom to act to your players you will have to accept them taking actions they benefit from (whether these benefits are like "I don't die" or "this makes my character's personality richer").

If you want characters to act more like "in the movies" you need a ruleset that rewards such behavior.

I mean, it's not strictly the only solution and therefore saying "you need this" isn't strictly true.

But trying to make players act in ways that aren't in their characters' best interest is imo never gonna work out in the end.

The only real way is to make the game allow and reward actions you want to see.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I think the dodge action is a good candidate for an initiative boost mechanic. Declaring the dodge action grants +10 initiative. Seems like it would alleviate the concerns around dodging in this system.
I had a similar thought (and you often see such modifiers suggested for declare-before-action systems). Were you to formalise a set of declarations (much like the formal actions) then you could associate an initiative modifier to each. Dodge declaration = +3 initiative. Attack = +0. Move to attack = -1. Depending how baroque one wanted to go, weapons and armors could have speeds i.e. modifiers to initiative. Additionally, you could balance until-start-of-next-turn features the same way. Reckless Attack = -3 on next initiative roll.
 


clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Well, for what it's worth I thought your point was clear from the get-go. And I think it's an interesting issue worth discussing. Which is why I'm intervening to try and keep it on-topic!
I didn't understand the initial point because I took fictionless literally. And (taken literally) that criticism makes zero sense.

Not the fiction one prefers, okay. Not the fiction that matches the world as you know it, and that disrupts your SoD, easily understood. But fictionless! That would be frankly baloney.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Ultimately, it's a game, not a narrative.

Nope, "The Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game is about storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery."

So when the aim of the game is storytelling, it can certainly be a narrative.

If you want to give freedom to act to your players you will have to accept them taking actions they benefit from (whether these benefits are like "I don't die" or "this makes my character's personality richer").

And first, not all actions need to be that outrageous ("I don't die", come on...) but second, the game explicitely tells the game master that he has the total freedom that he needs so that his player have fun, so there is nothing in the game preventing the above.

If you want characters to act more like "in the movies" you need a ruleset that rewards such behavior.

And it does. amongst the tools that the DM has (and in addition to being able to do exactly what he wants with any rule of ruling), he can grant advantage or disadvantage at any time, for example if the player is really creative: "Consider granting advantage when … A player shows exceptional creativity or cunning in attempting or describing a task."

So the ruleset is there, ignoring this is shows a very biased reading of the rules.

I mean, it's not strictly the only solution and therefore saying "you need this" isn't strictly true.

But trying to make players act in ways that aren't in their characters' best interest is imo never gonna work out in the end.

As long as we are talking about the character's interest, it is normal that it happens that way, but you are not talking about this, you are talking about the player's best interest in using the game system to his advantage.

The only real way is to make the game allow and reward actions you want to see.

And the problem, as usual on the internet, is that you want so much to make a point that you paint things in black and white.

That is actually my whole issue with this thread. @FrogReaver not only makes an outrageous statement in the title of the thread and sets up his games so that they are deliberately fictionless. It's perfectly his rights toy do so, but it is still totally incorrect, as proven above, that the game is designed exclusively with this in mind.

Rather the contrary, the game is designed with roleplaying and storytelling in mind. If you read the books cover to cover, you will see many words from the authors that sustain this, and not one word saying that you have to play fictionless, but of course people who are only interested in the rules (despite, once more, the fact that the authors have specifically written many times that the game is NOT about the rules themselves) do not read these words.

But this means that, if you don't take as a basic principle the fact that the game has to be fictionless and deliberately make it so, it is actually exactly the contrary that happens, it is very much about fiction and it works really well because the ruleset is deliberately fuzzy and at the hand of the DM and the players to create the fiction that they collectively want.

And then, there are all the intermediate cases of tables who fall in the middle, who make their game more or less fictionfull depending on the phase of play, the situation, what the players and the DM wants. There is not a single way of playing, there is no superior way of playing the game, but there is certainly NOTHING in the game itself that makes it deliberately fictionless, whether in combat or outside of it except for the deliberate choice of some players to make it so.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Delaying permits coordination - eg I'll clump them together [with CaGI, or some other forced movement effect] then you blast them!
I should have remembered that.This is a good reminder of how coordinating between players initiative can be a very tactical choice.

Various classes also have powers that modify initiative. (rangers/fighters/avengers and others but especially warlords).

A warlord is particularly nice at that. And could even be seen as battle coordinator LOL. For instance a Warlord Utility Decisive Timing lets you swap around initiative of allies in a burst.

The Warlord also has what after a certain point may become a "we go first ability" hence creating a team side initiative too.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I should have remembered that.This is a good reminder of how coordinating between players initiative can be a very tactical choice.

It is, but you do not need the "delay" action, which is extremely artificial as it only manipulates the initiative framework, the "ready" action makes much more sense when coordinating, as you are waiting for an actual in game event rather than a technical framework one.

This is why I'm happy that the 5e designers recognised this, dumped the delay action and reinforced the role of the ready one.

A warlord is particularly nice at that. And could even be seen as battle coordinator LOL. For instance a Warlord Utility Decisive Timing lets you swap around initiative of allies in a burst.

Believe it or not, the Warlord is one of my regrets from 4e (the other one being the swordmage), as a concept it's cool and I'd really like to play one again. But my main problem and I think the reason it did not make it into 5e is that most of its powers felt artificial, again manipulating the game framework rather than manipulating the fantasy world itself in a consistent manner.

But give me a warlord battle coordinator in 5e for whom the powers make sense in the fantasy universe and I will play that tomorrow. :D
 



Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Believe it or not, the Warlord is one of my regrets from 4e (the other one being the swordmage), as a concept it's cool and I'd really like to play one again. :D
I am surprised you didnt find Eldritch Knight and Battlemaster fit your fancy. I understand why I consider them innadequate.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I didn't understand the initial point because I took fictionless literally. And (taken literally) that criticism makes zero sense.

Not the fiction one prefers, okay. Not the fiction that matches the world as you know it, and that disrupts your SoD, easily understood. But fictionless! That would be frankly baloney.
My OP said
...So this wise tactical decision is solely a reflection of 'metagaming the combat turns'. That bugs me. And it's probably going to continue to bug me as I don't really see a possible solution. But it would be really nice if for my combat decisions to be wise and tactical they could be based on the fiction instead of the turn structure.
And while I admit that neither it nor my thought process was as codified as it could have been as it wasn't really till the back and forths on this thread that I was able to dig in and clarify things for myself, I think my OP was fairly clear that at least part of my issue was about D&D combat producing 'fictionless decisions'. I do understand the confusion though - as I really was talking about 2 different phenomenon in my OP.

The other issue my OP touched on was the aspect of D&D combat where it's not able to produce common fictional tropes in many situations like the fighter and orc charging each other at the same time and meeting in the middle (this is the concept of 'fiction that we want' that keeps getting thrown up). And while that's said as a criticism, really why the heck wouldn't we want that to be possible? Ultimately though, I think the conversation has really moved past this point and really has been focused around 'fictionless decisions' for quite some time.
 

A good trick that help fiction, is to ask regularly players to summarize or describe the round they just play In a fictional way.

The DM can also at the end of the round, take time to make a global description of the combat in a fictional way.

For silly and unusual situation Dm may ask a check or opposed check to simply resolve the situation in favor of one side. I read the case here of the PC standing in front of thirty orcs,
roll 31 initiative checks seem the rigid RAW application. But a more fictional way to resolve the interaction can begin by using a single opposed check base on charisma-intimidation to see which side take the lead of the encounter.

Making more system, rolls, declaration of intent may look more realistic but may not produce a more fiction wise feeling.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The other issue my OP touched on was the aspect of D&D combat where it's not able to produce common fictional tropes in many situations like the fighter and orc charging each other at the same time and meeting in the middle (this is the concept of 'fiction that we want' that keeps getting thrown up). .
And to me one of your important points. It shouldn't be so hard to achieve.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
But a more fictional way to resolve the interaction can begin by using a single opposed check base on charisma-intimidation to see which side take the lead of the encounter.
That could be one representation of a leadership benefit to initiative... flavorfully fitting of an Orcish Warlords techniques.
 

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