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[FFG Star Wars] Initiative using playing cards

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I posted this in the FFG forums to solicit feedback from those who are obviously experienced with this system, but I'm gonna put it up here as well for those who are familiar with the system but might not frequent the forums over there. Please note, you'll need to know how initiative normally works in this system or its not going to make much sense.

I want to do something different with Initiative to make combat a little more fun and a little less predictable. My original thought was to introduce a mini-game for a variant of sabaac, but quickly discarded that idea in favor of a standard deck of playing cards. Not only are they are easier (and cheaper) to obtain, they're also simple, familiar, and perfectly balanced (as the Force wills it) with the division of colors, suits, and values. I just need to figure out a way to incorporate it into this system that adds to the fun without ignoring existing mechanics or options. I also want to ensure that it doesn't distract or otherwise take away from the game itself. I think I have a solution, but I want to bring it here to where the most experienced players and GMs can poke holes in it and find any potential blindspots.

When determining initiative, each player is dealt two cards from a standard deck of playing cards. Each player then gets an additional card depending on which skill they would normally use during their check for initiative (i.e. usually Vigilance or Cool). For every Ability or Proficiency die they would normally add to their dice pool for initiative, they receive one additional card. For example, a character with 2 Presence and 3 ranks of Cool would receive 3 more cards (2 Proficiency dice and 1 Ability dice), plus their original 2 cards for 5 cards total.

Next, each character chooses to keep a number of cards in his hand and discards the rest. Each character can hold 1 card, plus an additional card for every Proficiency die he would normally use for the skill chosen earlier. Using the same example before, the player would choose 2 cards to discard and keep the other three in his hand.

Once the players are ready, the GM shuffles all of the discarded cards into the deck and then draws the top card and displays it for the group. This represents the first initiative spot of the combat round. Players must now compare their cards to the one showing in order to see if they can act during that initiative spot. In order to do so, they must show a card that a)matches the suit, and b) matches or exceeds the value showing. If they do, then they can take their turn at that time.

As normal, only one character or adversary (or groups) can act at a time. Thus, if more than one character can go, the players can choose which one will act at that time while the others wait for another opportunity to act. Once the player completes his action for that round, the hand is discarded and the player must wait for the next round to be dealt a new hand.

If none of the characters are able to beat the card currently showing, then the GM chooses an adversary (or groups) take their turn. This process continues until all of the characters and adversaries have taken a turn, which signifies the end of a combat round. Once completed, the GM shuffles all of the cards into the deck and repeats the process for every round of combat as necessary.

Anything that would normally add a Success to a character's initiative result (such as a talent or piece of equipment), increases the value of a card played by 1 for each Success the character would normally receive.

Anything that would normally add an Advantage to a character's initiative result (such as a talent or piece of equipment), allows the character to add the value of any cards in his hand that have the same suit. Example: A player holding a 2 and 7 of clubs with Advantage can play both cards for a total of 9.

If the character would normally receive a Boost for their initiative check, they may draw another card before the round begins and decide to keep it and discard another card or discard it.

A Setback forces a player to discard one of his cards randomly before selecting which cards to keep. If the player is left with no cards in his hand, he must draw one and keep it.

My goal is to keep players more involved during the slower pace of a turn-based combat system so they don't distract themselves while waiting for their turn. Since no one knows who might go next, it should add a little more tension and excitement. And while the card game is only a minor distraction, it distracts enough to keep players focused and engaged. At least, that is the hope.

I will be testing this idea in my own game soon, but I wanted to get some feedback first. Maybe there is something I'm not seeing that could be a problem, or somebody might have other ideas that might work better. And if you try it out, let me know how it goes!

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