D&D 5E Declarations that start combat vs. initiative

Combat starting mid-RP without sneakiness, when does the declaring PC/NPC go?

  • In normal initiative order. The one who's action started this may not actually be the first action.

    Votes: 53 52.0%
  • At the top of initiative, since there is no combat until they make their move.

    Votes: 11 10.8%
  • During normal initiative but with chance of people on both sides could be surprised.

    Votes: 20 19.6%
  • At the top of initiative, with the chance people on both sides could be surprised it's starting now.

    Votes: 3 2.9%
  • Other (explained below).

    Votes: 15 14.7%

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I haven't chimed in yet, but I fundamentally disagree with you here. While I'm in no way suggesting that the mechanics are perfect (they are what they are), they don't need to be fixed if one understands that the mechanics and the fiction only loosely line up. Or to look at it anther way, they line up fine if you don't try to force them to a rigid connection.
At what point or degree of such disconnection does the whole thing become farcical, though.
Charlie and the Orc fight their way across the room. At some point there's a gap big enough for Alpha to shoot an arrow (without penalty) and Beta to blow up a fireball (as Charlie heroically rushes into the backdraft, perhaps getting a little singed, but not enough for any damage).

I would argue that we know these things happen this way because that's what the mechanics tell us happens. I would never want to accuse anyone who plays D&D of lacking imagination, but I swear, when I hear the argument that some scenario or another doesn't seem "realistic" (or whatever), I always feel like someone is lacking imagination. (I am not accusing you of this here).
Where I'm arguing, I suppose, almost the opposite: that those who rely on mechanics first are the ones perhaps lacking in imagination, in that they're not visualizing the scene completely and seeing how the mechanics and the fiction disagree.

Yes, these has to be some abstraction. But when that abstraction goes too far, there's no point left in trying to imagine anything because the abstraction won't agree.
We can make up any story we like! Why would we chose to make one that doesn't make sense?
Exactly my point! Why would we allow the mechanics to force us into nonsensical narration?
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The mechanics can't be fixed to match the fiction, which is why I just ignore that part of it the best that I can. In order to have simultaneous combat, everyone in the combat would have to make micro actions. 30 orcs and 6 PCs all move 5 feet and then can react to what everyone else is doing. Then they move 5 more feet or start to attack somehow, and everyone can react to what everyone else is doing. Then they do some other very small part of their actions and more reactions. And so on. Combats would take 10 hours or more.
Not necessarily.

In-combat movement is the one thing that kind of needs to be tracked segment by segment - easy if using minis or a VTT - such that it's clear exactly who is where when in case of AoE effects or questions of reach or range.

In the case of Charlie and the Orc all it takes is to move both minis or tokens together, maybe a square per initiative pip, until the movement is complete and regardless of Charlie's lower initiative. And if Charlie knows Beta is dropping a fireball into the situation he should be forced to choose whether to continue pursuit and get fried or bail out and hope the fireball finishes off the Orc.

It comes under "give the monsters an even break", I think.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Not necessarily.

In-combat movement is the one thing that kind of needs to be tracked segment by segment - easy if using minis or a VTT - such that it's clear exactly who is where when in case of AoE effects or questions of reach or range.

In the case of Charlie and the Orc all it takes is to move both minis or tokens together, maybe a square per initiative pip, until the movement is complete and regardless of Charlie's lower initiative. And if Charlie knows Beta is dropping a fireball into the situation he should be forced to choose whether to continue pursuit and get fried or bail out and hope the fireball finishes off the Orc.

It comes under "give the monsters an even break", I think.
It's more than that. Suppose halfway through the orc moving, Jerry the Elven Archer starts taking aim at the Orc. The Orc sees this and adjusts and stops moving after Charlie, ducking behind a boulder he as about to pass. If combat is simultaneous, you have to be able to react and adjust for everything you notice, as does everyone else in the combat.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, one of the problems with using Surprise in Maxperson's scenario would be that there is a good chance that knife-thrower would go twice before charge-guy, which would be at least as bad. (I would argue worse).
I don't see that as a bad thing in any situation, which is why I prefer re-doing initiative each round.

Here, the dagger-chucker could use that surprise action to throw and then - if lucky - his high initiative to attempt to flee the scene before anyone gets to him; which suits a whole lot of strike-and-run tropes to a T. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's more than that. Suppose halfway through the orc moving, Jerry the Elven Archer starts taking aim at the Orc. The Orc sees this and adjusts and stops moving after Charlie, ducking behind a boulder he as about to pass. If combat is simultaneous, you have to be able to react and adjust for everything you notice, as does everyone else in the combat.
First off, the Orc is the one retreating here; Charlie is following.

Second, in my example scenario there's already a character - PC Alpha - across the room with a loaded bow; that and the spellcaster are why the Orc is trying to get out the door but with only 30' movement available he can only get to it, not through it, thus Alpha gets her shot(s) in.

Were it me, and let's say for just a moment the Orc is a PC so I can describe how the interaction would go, on his initiative the exchange might go like this:

Me-as-DM: "Orcley, you're up. What are you doing?"
Player: "Attacking Charlie then moving to the door."
Me: "You know there's an archer ready to shoot you, right?"
Player (answer A): "Yep, but the table and chairs don't give me enough cover and I'd still be stuck in the room - door it is."
Player (answer B): "Oh, yeah; I'll move to take cover behind the table and chairs instead."

What I'm doing here is getting the player to commit to a destination before resolving the move. As in the example the Orc is an NPC I-as-DM have to make the same commitment in my own mind and not change my move-action halfway through.
 

Irlo

Adventurer
At what point or degree of such disconnection does the whole thing become farcical, though.
it’s not a disconnection, though. It’s a flexible connection.

And I realize that statement requires a lot of explanation to make any sense at all, but I’ll leave that here to come back to when I gave time and energy.

I’m seeing two ways to navigate the mechanics-fiction interface — differences in approach which are perhaps at the heart of some of these disagreements.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
First off, the Orc is the one retreating here; Charlie is following.

Second, in my example scenario there's already a character - PC Alpha - across the room with a loaded bow; that and the spellcaster are why the Orc is trying to get out the door but with only 30' movement available he can only get to it, not through it, thus Alpha gets her shot(s) in.

Were it me, and let's say for just a moment the Orc is a PC so I can describe how the interaction would go, on his initiative the exchange might go like this:

Me-as-DM: "Orcley, you're up. What are you doing?"
Player: "Attacking Charlie then moving to the door."
Me: "You know there's an archer ready to shoot you, right?"
Player (answer A): "Yep, but the table and chairs don't give me enough cover and I'd still be stuck in the room - door it is."
Player (answer B): "Oh, yeah; I'll move to take cover behind the table and chairs instead."

What I'm doing here is getting the player to commit to a destination before resolving the move. As in the example the Orc is an NPC I-as-DM have to make the same commitment in my own mind and not change my move-action halfway through.
I get it. What I am saying is that such commitment doesn't work in a simultaneous combat. Take the above example. Now Orcley is moving with cover towards the door. The archer seeing that Orcley has cover and now doesn't have a good shot can react to what Orcley is doing by drawing his sword and moving towards the door to intercept. Orcley seeing former archer and now sword guy moving to intercept might now alter what he is doing. That's how simultaneous combat works, and when you add in 20 more Orcleys and 4 or 5 more PCs, combat of that nature would take 10+ hours to complete.

D&D just fails to be able to do simultaneous combat either in actuality or in the abstract. That's why I just suck up the absurdity as a necessity to play just ignore that combat is both sequential and everyone's turns still only happen in 6 seconds.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I get it. What I am saying is that such commitment doesn't work in a simultaneous combat. Take the above example. Now Orcley is moving with cover towards the door. The archer seeing that Orcley has cover and now doesn't have a good shot can react to what Orcley is doing by drawing his sword and moving towards the door to intercept. Orcley seeing former archer and now sword guy moving to intercept might now alter what he is doing. That's how simultaneous combat works, and when you add in 20 more Orcleys and 4 or 5 more PCs, combat of that nature would take 10+ hours to complete.
If everything is to be simultaneous then the only way to make it work is for everyone to commit to their actions before anything gets resolved and then resolve 'em all at once. No mid-round reactions, kind of like RAW 1e in that way. Not always satisfactory, I'll be the first to admit, but perhaps a step up from the current 5e model.

I hit this all the time to a lesser degree, in that the initiative system I use (which only has six 'pips', or segments, per round) produces ties between a few combatants almost every segment. It's rarely if ever a problem, and in cases where finer-tuned timing matters (e.g. does someone get frozen by a Hold Person spell before or after their melee swing in the same segment) we just quickly roll sub-initiatives between those two things.
D&D just fails to be able to do simultaneous combat either in actuality or in the abstract. That's why I just suck up the absurdity as a necessity to play just ignore that combat is both sequential and everyone's turns still only happen in 6 seconds.
Thing is, D&D - any edition - very much can handle simultaneous actions with only minimal kitbashing and a willingness among players to accept that even though things are sorted out one character/player at a time at the table these things are happening simultaneously in the fiction meaning there is no chance to react until at least the next initiative pip.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If everything is to be simultaneous then the only way to make it work is for everyone to commit to their actions before anything gets resolved and then resolve 'em all at once. No mid-round reactions, kind of like RAW 1e in that way. Not always satisfactory, I'll be the first to admit, but perhaps a step up from the current 5e model.
Sure, but then it's not really like simultaneous combat would be. In combat, soldiers can react to what happens around them. They aren't forced to keep going for 6 seconds with what they last thought they would do. It would really suck if 2 seconds in they saw a landmine in front of them and couldn't stop.

If we aren't going to really model simultaneous combat, we might as well just go with what we have. It's more functional and saves time on combats.
I hit this all the time to a lesser degree, in that the initiative system I use (which only has six 'pips', or segments, per round) produces ties between a few combatants almost every segment. It's rarely if ever a problem, and in cases where finer-tuned timing matters (e.g. does someone get frozen by a Hold Person spell before or after their melee swing in the same segment) we just quickly roll sub-initiatives between those two things.

Thing is, D&D - any edition - very much can handle simultaneous actions with only minimal kitbashing and a willingness among players to accept that even though things are sorted out one character/player at a time at the table these things are happening simultaneously in the fiction meaning there is no chance to react until at least the next initiative pip.
If that works for you, great. I'm not going to really change much on this front. My group is fine with combats as they are written. Consecutive turns.
 




Arilyn

Hero
Exactly. Like I said, the problem lies with your inability to accept abstraction, and need to try and have the plastic men on a grid on the table in front of you be an absolute objective representation of an imaginary elf reality.
This seems like an unfair representation. In a game that has always touted "make it your own" and 5e constantly boasting rulings over rules, it's perfectly fine for GMs to interpret and tweak rules to suit their image. We're not even talking major house rules here.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
This seems like an unfair representation. In a game that has always touted "make it your own" and 5e constantly boasting rulings over rules, it's perfectly fine for GMs to interpret and tweak rules to suit their image. We're not even talking major house rules here.

Actually we are, some people must have combat be only an abstract minigame because they want it so much to model reality that it breaks down the model, to the point where they need to have combattants whose turn it's not freeze into place, which means that they are completely confused about the length of a round: is it 6 seconds or is it six seconds per turn, meaning that in a fight with 10 combattants, a round is one minute long with people being "frozen" 90% of the time.

This is not at all the way the system has been designed, from the very first editions to 5e. No explanations where provided before AD&D, but these were very clear, although the round was much longer at the time (which is really unrealistic as well, by the way, anyone having done some fighting knows that it's impossible for bouts to last that long): "During the course of one minute of such competition there are numerous attacks which are unsuccessful, feints, maneuvering, and so forth. During a one-minute melee round many attacks are made, but some are mere feints, while some are blocked or parried. [...] So while a round of combat is not a continuous series of attacks, it is neither just a single blow and counter-blow affair. The opponents spar and move, seeking the opportunity to engage when an opening in the enemy’s guard presents itself."

This is echoed in 5e: "In combat, characters and monsters are in constant motion, often using movement and position to gain the upper hand." So basically, thinking that characters freeze stupidly in mid-air to support an abstract completely sequential activity is totally opposed to the design of the game, and causes havok and many further inconsistencies with things like durations (spells now have durations that depend on the number of participants in the fight, how silly is that ?).

While there are some sequences in the resolution, most of the fights across the field are independent, for once, and second the system never says how long it takes to perform any action for a given character. In one round, making an attack might take all 6 seconds because of circumstances whereas it might be done in a wink in another round, again just because of circumstances.

Wisely, the game system, who thinks that narration of epic fights is more important than having a combat minigame, leaves a huge amount of flexibility on all these elements, leaving the DM and the players free to weave their narrative over the technical resolution of the actions. It's only people who insist on "realism" and codifying the actions on their own beyond what the system does who end up with contradictions that they cannot resolve. But it does not reflect badly on the system, all these additional constraints are not inherent to the system anyway.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
If everything is to be simultaneous then the only way to make it work is for everyone to commit to their actions before anything gets resolved and then resolve 'em all at once.

Again, the problem only comes from people who think that things need to be either all simultaneous or all sequential. There is nothing of the kind in the system. Most things are simultaneous, but some are sequential, and how many, and for how long is totally circumstantial depending on the fight. The system is infinitely flexible and will adapt to any narrative that you want to have.

Thing is, D&D - any edition - very much can handle simultaneous actions with only minimal kitbashing and a willingness among players to accept that even though things are sorted out one character/player at a time at the table these things are happening simultaneously in the fiction meaning there is no chance to react until at least the next initiative pip.

And this has always been fine, especially in editions where rounds got much shorter. I admit that no reactions for one minute was a long time, but with 6 seconds, it's much less of a problem. Moreover, you have to remember that the system never says how long a turn is. So let's say that a monster opens a door and is revealed. Actually, everyone might react almost instantaneously to the event, because although the actual actions they are taking might occur in parallel even though their resolution is sequenced - so some people react faster than others due to initiative order, it's a bit arbitrary but it works fine in a huge majority of cases. Even if the monster makes an attack after opening the door, it's not a problem, that attack can be described in the fiction as happening in a flash, it's just that no-one in the room has time to react because it's so sudden, again something that you see very often in the genre.

When you don't impose arbitrary constraints of length of actions and turns (which, again, the game NEVER does), it works out fine, the narration is almost always spot on and does not violate what the system does to support it. You just need to be a bit creative, but this is what the game is about: "The second thing you need is a lively imagination or, more importantly, the willingness to use whatever imagination you have. You don’t need to be a master storyteller or a brilliant artist. You just need to aspire to create, to have the courage of someone who is willing to build something and share it with others."
 

This seems like an unfair representation. In a game that has always touted "make it your own" and 5e constantly boasting rulings over rules, it's perfectly fine for GMs to interpret and tweak rules to suit their image. We're not even talking major house rules here.

Imagine you were playing a game where you were at 20 paces from an NPC you had just met, and the DM stated 'suddenly he attacks you' and proceeded to roll a few attacks against you.

You can't use any reactions because you're surprised.

Then he asks for initiative. And tells you thanks to the rules for surprise you can't do anything on your first turn or take reactions till afterwards.

The NPC wins initiative.

He attacks you again rolling a few attacks.

Your turn and you do nothing.

His turn 2 and he attacks you again. Twice.

That happened to me. Do you honestly think that DM would have let it work in reverse?

The clear and unambiguous rules there are as soon as hostilities are ABOUT to break out, the DM gives a narration 'why' and what is triggering initiative, and you roll and actions happen in initiative order.

If you want to be quicker on the draw take the Alert feat. Get yourself a plus 5 to initiative. Take levels in Swashbuckler, War Wizard, Gloomstalker or a clas that grants a bonus to initiative. Have a high Dex.

Your table is your own of course, but I'd get up and walk away from a table that did 'attacks outside of initiative'. I know because I have.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure, but then it's not really like simultaneous combat would be. In combat, soldiers can react to what happens around them. They aren't forced to keep going for 6 seconds with what they last thought they would do. It would really suck if 2 seconds in they saw a landmine in front of them and couldn't stop.
Different perspectives, I guess. I'm used to 30-second rounds (houseruled down from 1e's 1-minute rounds) so to me six-second rounds are lightning fast. :)
If that works for you, great. I'm not going to really change much on this front. My group is fine with combats as they are written. Consecutive turns.
My biggest peeve with separated consecutive turns is there's no possibility of a mutual kill.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Exactly. Like I said, the problem lies with your inability to accept abstraction,
I accept some abstraction. I have to.

I don't accept it to the degree 5e wants to push it, however.
and need to try and have the plastic men on a grid on the table in front of you be an absolute objective representation of an imaginary elf reality.
Absolute? No. As close as practical? Why not.
 

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