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
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.

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.
This comes back to the point I raised a bit upthread about malleable round length. Not every round has to be exactly six seconds long if the fiction wants it otherwise.
When you don't impose arbitrary constraints of length of actions and turns (which, again, the game NEVER does),
Though IMO it very much should impose a length-of-action onto any spellcasting. Removal of casting times from a lot of spells in 3e is a big part of why casters came to dominate the game; 4e and 5e IMO went about fixing this the wrong way, by nerfing the spells instead of just making them take time (and thus be more difficult) to cast.
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."
I agree with the quote, but it doesn't clarify whether we're supposed to use that imagination before or after the mechanics have their say. Personally I'd rather use it beforehand and force the mechanics to try to keep up if they can; and if they can't, the mechanics need fixing before my imagination does. :)
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
If those were melee attacks, that's not good at all. Missile attacks? Well, I could see getting one quick shot in before you can react but nothing more than that (barring unusual effects e.g. you are Slowed or the attacker is Hasted).

This is a misconception some seem to have with my position: the combat-triggering "action" that should happen before anything else against a surprised foe isn't a whole round's worth of stuff. It's one shot or one swing or one other quick move done before the target sees it coming, after which regular initiative is rolled.
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?
Ideally the DM should let it work in reverse: if that's how he runs it for someone attacking you by surprise then that's how he should run it for you doing likewise to an NPC. If he doesn't, that's a bad DM.
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.
'Alert' assumes the table uses feats; for those that do, this is a valid idea. Taking dip levels like that isn't something I'd ever allow, for many reasons beyond just this. And Dex bonus to initiative is something I've never been a fan of, in that it makes an already-very-useful stat even more powerful.
 

If those were melee attacks, that's not good at all. Missile attacks? Well, I could see getting one quick shot in

Draw a bow and then an arrow, nock it, take aim, and shoot, while I just stand there?

Literally the instant that dude went for his Bow, MY PC WANTS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. Youre unilaterally taking that agency away.

And if he has a bow in hand, with arrow nocked, and pointed at me, how the hell can it be said that I am 'unaware he poses me a threat' sufficient for surprise?
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
This comes back to the point I raised a bit upthread about malleable round length. Not every round has to be exactly six seconds long if the fiction wants it otherwise.

And again, this is exactly what 5e says: "A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. " (It was only 3e which was strict "Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world", even 4e used the word "about")

The flexibility is built in the system, it's only people wanting to introduce heavy constraints that make it fixed and end up in a totally inconsistent position.

Though IMO it very much should impose a length-of-action onto any spellcasting. Removal of casting times from a lot of spells in 3e is a big part of why casters came to dominate the game; 4e and 5e IMO went about fixing this the wrong way, by nerfing the spells instead of just making them take time (and thus be more difficult) to cast.

It's certainly a way to nerf casters, but it makes the game unfun for players, because that means that they basically skip turns. It's by the way completely contrary to the philosophy of 5e where everything has been designed so that people can play every turn (whack-a-mole healing, combat cantrips, etc.).

It might not be "realistic", it's less balanced than 4e, but honestly, when I can run my combats in 15 minutes because it's streamlined and simply fun, everyone is happy around the table. That way we can have many more things in one evening than just a fight, we can have the two other pillars taking preponderance and multiple fun and varied combat....

I agree with the quote, but it doesn't clarify whether we're supposed to use that imagination before or after the mechanics have their say.

Why does it have to be specific ? It's both, all the time, I'd say. :D

Personally I'd rather use it beforehand and force the mechanics to try to keep up if they can; and if they can't, the mechanics need fixing before my imagination does. :)

As mentioned before, I've played inductive games where, in all actions, it's roll first and interpret later (and with very simple mechanics, high level resolution), and I think it has influenced the way we play at our tables.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Draw a bow and then an arrow, nock it, take aim, and shoot, while I just stand there?

Legolas does this to orcs all the time, you know, it's just that you're not aware that you are the orc. :D

Literally the instant that dude went for his Bow, MY PC WANTS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. Youre unilaterally taking that agency away.

And then, in the fiction, characters are not aware of the guy, facing the wrong direction, or too slow, or focussing on something else, etc. and this is realistic too. People usually don't understand that the 360 vision of characters represents the fact that, over a round, they will probably have the time to look in all directions, but it does not mean that, at the time an adversary does something, you are facing him and are ready to react, especially if you already haver 3 orcs in your face.

And honestly, that is realistic (not necessarily a quality in itself, but it reinforces the genre fiction), I've been in LARP melees with hundreds of people, and I can guarantee that the one thing that you strain first is your neck, and you STILL are incapable of taking into account threats from all around. The only tactic that works well is coordinating with one or two friends to fight back to back, and that gives you a huge superiority, but it does not guarantee that you will be able to do something about someone with a bow 30 feet away.

And if you are specifically watching someone and expecting him to do something and want to be ready to interrupt him, ready an action.

And if he has a bow in hand, with arrow nocked, and pointed at me, how the hell can it be said that I am 'unaware he poses me a threat' sufficient for surprise?

That I completely agree with, on the other hand.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

Mod Note:
Well, no, that is not "the problem."

Because, whatever else is going on, you making this personal is a problem. It makes the argument into an emotional ego conflict, rather than about the subject matter. Please consider removing arguments of the form, "The reason you don't agree with me is a personal fault of yours," from your lexicon.

And, for here and now, stop making it insulting and personal.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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. :)

My biggest peeve with separated consecutive turns is there's no possibility of a mutual kill.
There is in my game. We've made a house rule that if initiative is tied, which is rare since it requires a tied initiative roll AND the same dex number as higher dex goes first, both get turns even if one dies. So a mutual death is possible, but I don't think has ever happened.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This comes back to the point I raised a bit upthread about malleable round length. Not every round has to be exactly six seconds long if the fiction wants it otherwise.
The problem with malleable rounds is spell length. Suppose your rounds are 30 seconds, but are malleable and you occasionally alter how long the round is. One day the party is on a ship and you decide that a round is going to be 5 minutes. Does a 5 round spell end in half a round or does it get an in credibly extended duration, lasting for 25 minutes instead of the normal 2.5?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And again, this is exactly what 5e says: "A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. " (It was only 3e which was strict "Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world", even 4e used the word "about")
That still leaves you in the 5-7 range. Any further than that and it's no longer "about" 6 seconds.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
That still leaves you in the 5-7 range. Any further than that and it's no longer "about" 6 seconds.

5-7 is already a really good range for flexibility, when combined with the fact that no rule says how long turns, actions and moves actually take and how they mesh together.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And again, this is exactly what 5e says: "A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. " (It was only 3e which was strict "Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world", even 4e used the word "about")

The flexibility is built in the system, it's only people wanting to introduce heavy constraints that make it fixed and end up in a totally inconsistent position.
Got it.
It's certainly a way to nerf casters, but it makes the game unfun for players, because that means that they basically skip turns. It's by the way completely contrary to the philosophy of 5e where everything has been designed so that people can play every turn (whack-a-mole healing, combat cantrips, etc.).
You can still have casting times without anyone skipping a turn. Caster's init is 17, spell takes 10 pips to cast, so you're in mid-casting (and thus largely defenseless) until your spell resolves on init 7, and any damage or significant disruption during that time will kill the spell, possibly producing a wild magic surge instead. Next round, if doing fully-cyclic initiative, caster's original 17 still holds.
As mentioned before, I've played inductive games where, in all actions, it's roll first and interpret later (and with very simple mechanics, high level resolution), and I think it has influenced the way we play at our tables.
This requires very clear narration on the part of the DM, so as to prevent the player expecting/imagining one possible set of outcomes and the DM expecting another. Believe me, having been in some I know just how nasty those arguments can get. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There is in my game. We've made a house rule that if initiative is tied, which is rare since it requires a tied initiative roll AND the same dex number as higher dex goes first, both get turns even if one dies. So a mutual death is possible, but I don't think has ever happened.
We use a d6 for initiative (no bonuses) so ties are far more common. As in, they happen every round! :)
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The problem with malleable rounds is spell length. Suppose your rounds are 30 seconds, but are malleable and you occasionally alter how long the round is. One day the party is on a ship and you decide that a round is going to be 5 minutes. Does a 5 round spell end in half a round or does it get an in credibly extended duration, lasting for 25 minutes instead of the normal 2.5?
Spellcasting in naval combat has, IMO, three problems; all of which I quite like:

1 - most of the time the other ship(s) is(are) going to be out of range of damage spells
2 - rolling heaving ship decks aren't a very stable platform from which to cast, affecting ability to cast and, when relevant, aim
3 - casting times and durations don't change in absolute time, thus something that would have had a duration of one round gets converted to six seconds (or 30 seconds in my game) and thus is likely almost pointless

Where it really falls apart is if-when the casters can just fly over to the enemy ships and blast away from the air, at which point those ships are pretty much hosed.

side note: all of this is relevant to me right now as our party in tonight's game just finished one naval combat and is probably standing into a few more before we're done. Wall of Force for the win! :)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
You can still have casting times without anyone skipping a turn. Caster's init is 17, spell takes 10 pips to cast, so you're in mid-casting (and thus largely defenseless) until your spell resolves on init 7, and any damage or significant disruption during that time will kill the spell, possibly producing a wild magic surge instead. Next round, if doing fully-cyclic initiative, caster's original 17 still holds.

Good point. Note that I'm absolutely fine with that, and that this is the kind of thing that you get in more simulationist systems like Runequest, which I absolutely love. It's just that they are built on extremely different paradigms, combat is (more "realistically") extremely fast and deadly, and usually avoided by all parties unless extremely one-sided or there is no alternative, which allows roleplaying sessions to be structure very differently with, inherently, much fewer combats. D&D is built with more combat in mind, but it was my frustration with 3e and 4e, combat was really slow, which meant that it was harder to balance the pillars, with our groups preferring "exploration" and even more "social" than pure combat.

5e streamlined the combat system for us and is the perfect solution for extremely fast combat, in particular because of no declarations (which then need to be revised when the turn actully occurs), the immovable sequence (no delays) and very few interrupts (few applicable reactions), so that each player has no excuse to dither about what he is going to do. When it's his turn, he just explains what he intends his character to do, it's resolved, end of turn, next please... :)

This requires very clear narration on the part of the DM, so as to prevent the player expecting/imagining one possible set of outcomes and the DM expecting another. Believe me, having been in some I know just how nasty those arguments can get. :)

I agree that it's a question of mind set and trust, what you are saying is somewhat true, but it's limited by the fact that the roll has determined success or failure, and the player cannot change that. After that, the fun in that system is really about each player having the imagination and vocabulary to make fun descriptions of what happens, and this is where that kind of system fails more than the problem you outline, it does not support more passive gamers who are there mostly to play the game and let the DM describe things for them.
 

That still leaves you in the 5-7 range. Any further than that and it's no longer "about" 6 seconds.
I don't really do the 'about' bit myself, but I don't think 'about' is limited to 1 as a range... since time can be 1 second through a million years, about has almost no range... I mean I hear people say that on the scale of the universe we (human history as a whole) are about a few seconds... so 30 seconds isn't a crazy amount.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't really do the 'about' bit myself, but I don't think 'about' is limited to 1 as a range... since time can be 1 second through a million years, about has almost no range... I mean I hear people say that on the scale of the universe we (human history as a whole) are about a few seconds... so 30 seconds isn't a crazy amount.
No. When talking about "about 6 seconds" time cannot be 1 second to a million years. That's a fallacy of some kind, but I don't feel like looking up which one. And it's absolutely insane to think that 30 seconds is "about 6 seconds" in length. It's literally 5x times longer.

"about" means "close to." When you are talking about the very short time frame of 6 seconds, going 33% farther away is not "about" that time frame. You have 1 second of variance to be "about" 6 seconds. If you go 2 or 3 seconds from that 6 second mark, you are too far away to be about 6 seconds.
 


No. When talking about "about 6 seconds" time cannot be 1 second to a million years. That's a fallacy of some kind, but I don't feel like looking up which one. And it's absolutely insane to think that 30 seconds is "about 6 seconds" in length. It's literally 5x times longer.
and 5 hours is 5x 1 hour and 40 days is 5x 8days, and 50 years is 5x 10years...
"about" means "close to." When you are talking about the very short time frame of 6 seconds, going 33% farther away is not "about" that time frame. You have 1 second of variance to be "about" 6 seconds. If you go 2 or 3 seconds from that 6 second mark, you are too far away to be about 6 seconds.
again, the idea of scale is weird with time... 'about 30 seconds' can be anywhere from 5 seconds to 2 minutes if you ask 'how long is the training test going to take? and no one will bat an eye at that 'rounding'

edit: even in the wild of real life I have seen people label teenagers as 'about 6 years old' but I have also seen early 20 somethings be said to be 'what like 5?' by older retired people...

the older you get the more the age 'kid' runs. When I was 14, 40 was 'old' and no one with 2 digits in there age was a 'kid' now in my 40's I don't think 60 is old, and if you are 25 you are 'just a kid'.

time is strange like that.
 

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