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5E Ideas for Initiative house rules

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
What initiative house rules do you use?

I'm tempted to borrow from Pathfinder 2E and allow PCs to use skills to make initiative checks (Stealth if you're sneaking, Deception if you're trying to sucker punch, etc). Though monsters don't tend to have the skill arrays that PCs have.

I'm also tempted to make the default check Wisdom rather than Dex.

Triggering a combat -- if you're the one launching it, you get advantage on your check. You'll probably go first, but somebody fast might manage to anticipate or interrupt that action.
 

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Arvok

Explorer
I used to use 1e/2e initiative style rules (each round: DM decides what the monsters are going to do, go around table and players declare their actions, then roll; didn't try to use weapon speed factors, though) in my 3e & later games, but have since gone to pretty much RAW written. It tends to speed up combat and newer players seem to have an easier time.

One thing I will do is limit a player's time on his turn and if he can't make a decision quickly enough, he moves down in the initiative order.

Using different skill to launch initiative would be way too hard for some of the players in some of my groups but it's an interesting idea. That could lead to some very interesting strategizing with smart, experienced players who try to ensure they get to go first. It also seems like it would also bring more role play into social situations that might turn ugly. I like the idea of a highly deceptive character being rewarded for his smooth talking before he suddenly stabs somebody...only in a game though. That didn't sound very good after I typed it.
 


I am now using side initiative. It is a lot faster and all the players are more active and pay more attention. There is no waiting for my turn hassle. Something can always happen. So far, bith of my groups really like it.
 

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
We recently adopted a flat d20, no DEX (or INT or anything). You still add bonuses granted by class features, such as War Mage's Tactical Wit and the Alert feat.

We made this decision in the spirit that your opportunity to act comes randomly in the round is the biggest factor, more so than anything else. shrug
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For some games, I've been using "popcorn initiative" aka "elective action order". It means you can't really invest in getting a good initiative, but you also never again have to worry about pesky "hold actions", and it makes action order into a tactical choice the players get to make.
 

aco175

Legend
Triggering a combat -- if you're the one launching it, you get advantage on your check. You'll probably go first, but somebody fast might manage to anticipate or interrupt that action.
I would be careful where you can use this. A lot of combats start with some verbal back and forth where you could avoid combat. If there is an advantage on starting the murder-hobo action, the players will act on it. Also, there are encounters where the door is opened and both parties see each other knowing there is a fight. There would always be a player who shouts "I attack" first trying to get advantage, when the situation would likely be neutral.

I never thought about using Wisdom for initiative. It is used for Perception and passive Perception, so it makes sense to use it more like a 'spider sense' anticipating the others actions. This sounds like Insight, where now I have players thinking they can/should use Insight on top of just Wisdom.

Would this lead to things like in 4e where it was justified to have mages use Intelligence to attack and clerics use Wisdom. 5e only has Str and Dex, but I was more relating to Initiative more where the wizard would thing to use his logic to anticipate the start of combat and the bard would want Cha to use his relations with people to determine it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I like speed factor initiative from the DMG a lot, but I don’t use it with my regular group because most of them will freeze up if put on the spot, so it ends up slowing things down more than it would with a more confident group.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
  1. Initiative roll is 1d20 + DEX Modifier + INT Modifier
  2. PCs and NPCs of the same type share a initiative roll. If there are more than 5 of them, they split and half get advantage on the roll and the others get -10 initative of what the first half got.
  3. If everyone does no action except Dash, Use an item, or Delay, reroll initiative.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
My PDF with systems is in alpha.....pm me if anyone wants to test some wacky ideas.....

I really want to try no initiative. But my group is on hiatus.......
 


BookTenTiger

Adventurer
Each player gets a number of playing cards equal to their character's Dexterity or Intelligence bonus. At the beginning of each round, the players all place one card face down on the table. The cards are turned over, and initiative order is set from highest card value to lowest. Before the round starts, each player can swap out one card in their hand.

At the end of the round, each player draws a card to refill their hand.

The DM always has cards equal to double the number of enemies.
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
I use over under initiative.

Players all roll their normal initiative.

I roll for monsters.

Player who equal or beat monsters go first (any order), then monsters go, then players who lost go (any order)

Roll initiative every round.
 
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Vael

Hero
For some games, I've been using "popcorn initiative" aka "elective action order". It means you can't really invest in getting a good initiative, but you also never again have to worry about pesky "hold actions", and it makes action order into a tactical choice the players get to make.

I used Popcorn Initiative in FATE, but haven't tried it in DnD. I will say, I like it in FATE a lot, it lets players (and the DM) set up more interesting combos and in addition to not dealing with hold actions, it tends to keep the whole party more engaged, because figuring out who to pass initiative to becomes an interesting choice.
 


tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
I've tried side initiative (some hardcore metagaming went on where it was more used to screw over the baddies than help the pc's strategize anything other than soloing near each other) The results were sad even though the same group had used similar without issue in fate game. I've tried using int rather than dex & it really didn't make any notable difference. Darker dungeons is a 5e suppliment withan interesting "active initiative" where there are ways of interrupting a pseudo side initiative & seizing control of initiative. The one that really shook things up was when I used combat manager & rolled initiative for all of the players & baddies at the top of each round with the click of a button but that is unreasonable without an app and had trouble with spells & abilities with durations of "the start/end of your next turn" Using relevant skills might be interesting
 

Stalker0

Legend
We recently adopted a flat d20, no DEX (or INT or anything). You still add bonuses granted by class features, such as War Mage's Tactical Wit and the Alert feat.

We made this decision in the spirit that your opportunity to act comes randomly in the round is the biggest factor, more so than anything else. shrug
I've been interesting in trying this as well. After all, it can be argued that acting in combat is the biggest expersion of fun in combat, so why should classes get to more often have fun "act more often" than other characters?

I currently allow initiative as using either dex or int.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm tempted to borrow from Pathfinder 2E and allow PCs to use skills to make initiative checks (Stealth if you're sneaking, Deception if you're trying to sucker punch, etc). Though monsters don't tend to have the skill arrays that PCs have.

And, it does require declaring what you're going to do before rolling initiative.
 

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I've been interesting in trying this as well. After all, it can be argued that acting in combat is the biggest expersion of fun in combat, so why should classes get to more often have fun "act more often" than other characters?

I currently allow initiative as using either dex or int.
It is simple, works well, and we enjoy it.

FWIW, we used to do a d20 + DEX (or INT or WIS, player's choice), using a single roll and repeat for the combat. It worked fine, too, but to us if you think about all the stuff going on in combat, your moment or chance to get your strike in, or the time it takes to get your spell components in hand, etc. all varies so much that really anyone could act at any time.

Anyway, if you give it a try I am sure it will work fine for you, too. Whether you like the simplicity or not, only you can judge. In the two games were are playing currently (one in person, one online), only one PC has a modifier via the Alert feat--everyone else just rolls a d20 and that's it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Triggering a combat -- if you're the one launching it, you get advantage on your check. You'll probably go first, but somebody fast might manage to anticipate or interrupt that action.
I like this idea, and in many cases would even take it a step further to say - given that combat is all in reaction to the launching event - the launching action always happens before initiative is even rolled.

It's always bugged me that while a combat is in theory triggered by the occurrence of specific-action X, all too often that action gets bumped so far down in the initiative order that by the time it comes up it no longer makes sense...and yet the character's already kinda committed to that action as without it all the other stuff retroactively wouldn't have happened.
 

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