OSR How do you run your combat? (B/X, BECMI, OSR)

Side-based or individual initiative? Player sequence or action (shoot, move, melee, spell) sequence?

Back in the day I ran B/X and 1E with side-based initiative, action-sequence combat ... more or less as written in the Moldvay Basic book. When 3E came out, I was taken with cyclic individual initiative. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe it's nostalgia but there was something to everyone shouting their actions to the caller then the DM resolving the actions by type that in hindsight seems simultaneously more chaotic yet faster.

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In my campaign I‘m using side initiative running OSE using the combat process: spell and retreat declarations - initiative - monster morale - movement - missiles - melee - spells.

We find that side initiative allows for coordination of actions by the party (and monsters), and the spell declarations, locked in combat decisions, and the ability to disrupt spells put combats where we want them. And folks know what they’re doing when their turn (side) comes up or if one person isn’t ready, someone else can just go ahead.

We’ve found this greatly speeds things up.


Depends generally d6 initiative go.

2E sometimes we will use weapon speed and casting times or at dramatically appropriate times eg boss fights.

Jack Daniel

Side-based group initiative; by-the-book combat sequence (Declarations, Morale, Movement, Missiles, Magic, Melee, Miscellaneous — first one side and then the other goes through the whole sequence when initiative is normal; both sides go phase-by-phase when it's simultaneous, breaking ties with individual initiative rolls as necessary).



1. Surprise: if any side is surprised and the other isn't, they get a free round
2. On the beginning of each round, roll 1d6. 1-3: the players start, 4-6: their opponents
3a. Missile actions
3b. Magic actions
3c. Melee actions
4. Then the other side
5. Morale
6. Back to 2

I'm not too rigid with action phases, it's mostly to keep things easy to run without forgetting anyone (and because arrows fly faster than swords it fits the general fantasy of releasing a volley then bracing for impact for example). Rolling every round for side initiative is something I didn't do at first, but it adds a layer of uncertainty (what if the monsters get two rounds in a row?) that has provent to lead to more interesting tactical decisions. Morale and side initiative allow me to run many combattants on any side (I generally have over 10 on the player side and that's easily matched on the monster one, yet I want fights not to last more than 20 minutes). I am also generous with fiction first: if there only 1 skeleton on 1 HP left and it's the players' turn I don't make everyone roll to attack, at that point it just dies I don't care who's ending it, no point wasting 5 minutes waiting for someone to roll a hit. Also it's theater of the mind so I'm generous with movement: unless it makes no sense people are where they need to be to do what they want to do. Finally I do morale at the end because this comes after reaction checks etc… if they didn't want to fight they would never have entered the fight in the first place. I never quite understood the point of doing it the other way arround.


Golden Procrastinator
It depends in some games I use individual initiative, in others use side initiative. In recent times, the latter has been far more common. I don't usually use phase very much, if at all. I've always been curious about using phases in which the two sides alternate. Hyperborea 2e does it, but I haven't tried it.


I like the Swords & Wizardry method, which is something like this:

1. Roll surprise.
2. Declare spells.
3. Roll initiative.
4. Movement and missiles (winner)
5. Movement and missiles (loser)
6. Magic and melee (winner)
7. Magic and melee (loser)
8. End of combat round. (Return to 2 if combat is still on)

Might want to allow some kind of concentration check to not lose a spell when hit, as it can be harder to avoid with this method.


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
In B/X I try to do as Cruentus and Jack Daniel described.

In my recent 5TD game I've been running I do it a little more fluid. Side-based, d6, with each person doing their full turn all at once but the PCs choosing their order, not restricted to missiles/movement/magic/melee order. With the exception that on tied initiative I make everyone go in descending Dex order, reflecting the chaos of battle and a round when they can't coordinate as well as normal.

Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
For my OSE game it's pretty much by the book order of operations - Side based initiative, Move, missile, spell, melee. The only real change I make is that I determine morale rolls pre-initiative since a failed morale will effect a creature's/NPC's declarations to withdraw or flee.

For my AD&D 1e game, likewise largely btb... side based initiative, weapon speeds apply, order of operations as per DMG. The only tweak I make is that the dice indicate the difference in the # of segments between all actions, not just spell casting. So if Side A rolls a 4 and side B rolls a 2 - Side A gets two segments of action ahead of Side B, assuming we need to factor in timing (which isn't always necessary). Usually it makes the most difference in spell casting or movement between parties. 2 segments of charging might not be enough to reach the opponent before they act, for instance.


Trust the Fungus
I'm accustomed to modern D&D style, but I want to adopt a hybrid individual-phase system where 1) individual initiative is rolled each round, 2) actions are declared in reverse initiative order, 3) actions are resolved within each phase (talking, moving, attacks, spells) in initiative order. I'm working on it.

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