Mearls On D&D's Design Premises/Goals

First of all, thanks [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] for collecting this. I generally avoid Twitter because, frankly, it's full of a$$holes.

That aside: this is an interesting way of looking at it, and underscores the difference in design philosophies between the WotC team and the Paizo team. There is a lot of room for both philosophies of design, and I don't think there is any reason for fans of one to be hostile to fans of the other, but those differences do matter. There are ways in which I like the prescriptive elements of 3.x era games (I like set skill difficulty lists, for example) but I tend to run by the seat of my pants and the effects of my beer, so a fast and loose and forgiving version like 5E really enables me running a game the way I like to.
 

Comments

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
yup and a formal write up of the house rule beyond casual discussion and brainstorming would likely include that, especially if the field is so rife with zero and negative con PCs by the bucket fulls.

After all, heaven forbid a player chooses a penalty stat and that applies to his magic item tally.
No worries, more for Lanefan's edification than your own.

Personally, I like three. But considering the magic item system as a whole doesn't have any mechanical balance, only DM fiat, it's pretty trivial to houserule.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
I'm not sure what you mean by "always". In 4e all classes are on the same resource recovery schedule. It makes a huge difference to how 4e plays, because intraparty balance is not hostage to any notion of the "adventuring day".
Probably just another reason I never played 4E :) Honestly it's the only edition I bought, read, and gave away. It looked like an OK game btw, just not one I was interested in playing (or more likely DMing since that's pretty much my full time gaming role). I stuck with 3.5 / PF (and some 2E and Traveller) until 5E came out.
 

Hriston

Explorer
Because it's the rules. Initiative is a part of combat, but it happens before anyone can possibly attack anyone else. It simply isn't possible for it to happen after someone attacks, because the very instant someone so much as thinks about attacking, initiative is rolled and that person could be going last, having never attacked. Again, it's simply not possible to roll initiative AFTER someone attacks. Even in a surprise round, initiative is rolled before a single person attacks.
You're mixing up fictional events with actual events at the table. Players at the table in the real world roll initiative to resolve who goes in what order each round in a fictional combat that has already been established to be taking place in the fiction. The way this is established is usually that one of the players or the DM declares an action for a character that s/he controls that requires resolution in combat rounds. Part of the resolution of that and subsequent actions declared for the participants is to roll initiative to determine the order of resolution. So first it's established at the table that combat is happening in the fiction, and only then are the combat resolution mechanics engaged, including the rolling of initiative.

I don't think it's a good call for a DM to call for initiative because a player or a character is thinking about attacking (it's unclear which you mean, but I don't think it matters), because I can imagine plenty of situations in which someone is contemplating making an attack but decides not to, and rolling initiative in that case would have been a pointless exercise. That's because it hasn't been established yet that combat is taking place.

They are surprised by the appearance of the other side. I have walked around a corner and been surprised by a squirrel that I didn't know was there and run up a nearby tree. I have rounded a corner and been surprised by a TV sitting on the sidewalk that I wasn't expecting to be in my path. Are you really going to argue that the TV was attacking me?

And no, if both are sneaking, then both can be surprised by RAW as neither side noticed the threat before it was upon them. Initiative is rolled and they do nothing in surprise, then attacks begin in round 2.
Look at the examples under "Surprise". Adventurers surprise bandits by "springing from the trees to attack them." A gelatinous cube surprises adventurers by engulfing one of them before they notice it. In each case, the unnoticed party surprises the other by attacking before being noticed. The fact that the resolution of those attacks at the table awaits the engagement of the combat resolution mechanics in no way means that offensive action hasn't been committed to in the fiction. If not, then why engage the mechanics?

The word typical simply means how combats typically work. The atypical portion is not defined, so is as likely to include what I described as it is to include more than two sides.
No, "atypical" combat that isn't "a clash between two sides" is still defined by other statements about combat. It's a set of rules for "characters and monsters to engage in combat," not, as you have described, for them to have chance meetings in dimly lit hallways after which they decide how they feel about each other. The participants in combat are described as taking part "in a battle", not as deciding whether they want to be a part of a battle after initiative has been rolled. Combat, both typical and atypical, is just that.

Whether or not you think it's worth distinguishing as a separate category, it is in fact a separate category. You cannot determine what direct opposition is, without knowing what indirect opposition is. Opposition is always one or the other, and only one uses the contest rules.
My point is the distinction you're making has no meaningful difference in actual play. I'm speculating, but I don't think the designers intended for the word direct to hold as much weight as you're giving it. Compare this with the language used in the "Contests in Combat" sidebar where there's no mention of "direct opposition". All that's required for a contest under that description is that prowess is pitted against prowess. Dexterity is a form of prowess.

You're stretching things here, but regardless, initiative is not direct opposition and never will be.
Yes, it is. It represents the directly opposed efforts of you and your opponents to do whatever it is you're doing on your turns before they do, and vice versa.

No, initiative isn't finding out whether you are successful in swinging your sword before I cast the spell. Do you know why? Because after you roll initiative, you might change your mind and push me, or grapple me, or run away, or a number of other things. Winning initiative doesn't lock you into an action, while you are locked into your action as soon as a contest begins.
The "action" you are locked into by rolling initiative is trying to do whatever it is you do on each of your turns in combat before your opponent does whatever it is they do on each of their turns. The sword swinging and spell casting were just examples.

Going by his tweet, all we know is that initiative is not a contest. Period. Nothing of his motives are given.
Right, so my speculations as to his motives are just as valid as yours.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure we are talking homebrew but then we are talking house rules.

For the rolling stats and non-5e games etc... i was suggesting for 5e homebrew and the PCs based on those - not other systems.
Am I misreading, or are you trying to suggest that rolling for stats in 5e counts as homebrew?

Last I checked, rolling for stats as a method of char-gen is right there in the 5e PH...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You're mixing up fictional events with actual events at the table. Players at the table in the real world roll initiative to resolve who goes in what order each round in a fictional combat that has already been established to be taking place in the fiction. The way this is established is usually that one of the players or the DM declares an action for a character that s/he controls that requires resolution in combat rounds. Part of the resolution of that and subsequent actions declared for the participants is to roll initiative to determine the order of resolution. So first it's established at the table that combat is happening in the fiction, and only then are the combat resolution mechanics engaged, including the rolling of initiative.
I'm not mixing up anything. Initiative in the game is rolled before any attack happens. That's the order of things. It's very literally impossible for an attack to happen prior to initiative being rolled, so no side is attacking the other. They may want to attack the other. They may look like they are going to attack the other. But no attack or combat has happened yet.

Look at the examples under
Yes. Let's look at them.

"Surprise". Adventurers surprise bandits by "springing from the trees to attack them."
TO attack them. Meaning, no attack has happened. You can see the intent, but no attack or combat has happened prior to initiative.

A gelatinous cube surprises adventurers by engulfing one of them before they notice it.
This is literally impossible until AFTER initiative is rolled. Prior to that, no combat or attack has happened, even though initiative is a part of combat

In each case, the unnoticed party surprises the other by attacking before being noticed. The fact that the resolution of those attacks at the table awaits the engagement of the combat resolution mechanics in no way means that offensive action hasn't been committed to in the fiction. If not, then why engage the mechanics?
In the first example it's irrelevant whether the action in the fiction has happened, since it is only the intent to attack and not an attack. In the second example while the cube engulfs someone before being noticed, it does not engulf anyone before initiative. In fact, that the cube can engulf someone before it is noticed, and yet that person still rolls initiative, is proof positive that no opposition has occurred with initiative. You can't oppose something either directly or indirectly, if you are unaware of it.

My point is the distinction you're making has no meaningful difference in actual play. I'm speculating, but I don't think the designers intended for the word direct to hold as much weight as you're giving it. Compare this with the language used in the "Contests in Combat" sidebar where there's no mention of "direct opposition". All that's required for a contest under that description is that prowess is pitted against prowess. Dexterity is a form of prowess.
You seriously don't think that whether something is a contest or not is a meaningful difference in game play?

The "action" you are locked into by rolling initiative is trying to do whatever it is you do on each of your turns in combat before your opponent does whatever it is they do on each of their turns. The sword swinging and spell casting were just examples.
I can opt to do nothing, which isn't an action or something that I would be trying to go first at, yet I still roll initiative.

Right, so my speculations as to his motives are just as valid as yours.
Is this some sort of "I'm rubber, you're glue." moment? I said that already when you assumed what the designer meant without a single iota of evidence to back you up. If I assume that aliens made him rule that way, it's just as valid a speculation about his motives as yours. That validity is 0. Or, you can just accept what he said at face value and not ascribe a motive pulled out of your backside to him.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I'm not mixing up anything. Initiative in the game is rolled before any attack happens. That's the order of things. It's very literally impossible for an attack to happen prior to initiative being rolled, so no side is attacking the other. They may want to attack the other. They may look like they are going to attack the other. But no attack or combat has happened yet.
You’re still mixing things up. Initiative is rolled at the table. Attacks happen in the fiction. You’re using the order of mechanical resolution to make an argument about the chronology of events in the fiction, which is like comparing apples to oranges. Initiative doesn’t relate to a discrete fictional event the way an attack roll does. What it represents in the fiction is a continuous effort to move and act quickly that lasts throughout the entire combat encounter. It’s part of the mechanical resolution of action declarations made at the table, including the one that initiated combat. I'm not here to tell you how to run your game, so do what you want, but I have to ask, what do you think the point is of the DM signaling the beginning of combat and asking for initiative rolls when neither s/he nor any of the other players has declared a combat-initiating action?

Yes. Let's look at them.



TO attack them. Meaning, no attack has happened. You can see the intent, but no attack or combat has happened prior to initiative.
It's pretty clear to me because of the context of this example being in the combat section and the way movement and action happen in turns in combat that the fiction being described here is the outcome of a combat-initiating action declaration on the part of the players to close to melee or attack range from a hidden position and initiate attacks all in a single round. The resolution of that declaration and subsequent actions requires the determination of surprise, rolling of initiative, and resolution of attacks in initiative order. All of that follows the players' declaration for their PCs to initiate combat against the bandits. Without that action declaration, there's no reason to begin combat by engaging the rules for combat resolution.

This is literally impossible until AFTER initiative is rolled. Prior to that, no combat or attack has happened, even though initiative is a part of combat
Initiative is the 3rd step of combat. The 1st is to determine surprise, so as soon as it has been determined that the cube has surprised the adventurers, combat has begun.

In the first example it's irrelevant whether the action in the fiction has happened, since it is only the intent to attack and not an attack.
Without a declared action to attack on the part of the players there's no reason for the fictional outcome to be that the adventurers spring from the trees to attack. If the players had said they wanted to spring from the trees to say hello there'd be no reason to begin combat and no surprise determined. The context here is we're reading about combat and surprise in combat.

In the second example while the cube engulfs someone before being noticed, it does not engulf anyone before initiative. In fact, that the cube can engulf someone before it is noticed, and yet that person still rolls initiative, is proof positive that no opposition has occurred with initiative. You can't oppose something either directly or indirectly, if you are unaware of it.
You're still mixing up rolling initiative, which happens in the real world, with a gelatinous cube engulfing an adventurer, which happens in the fiction. Initiative can certainly play a role in the opposed efforts of the cube and the adventurer in danger of being engulfed if, for example, the adventurer has the opportunity to use a reaction that affects his/her saving throw against becoming engulfed.

You seriously don't think that whether something is a contest or not is a meaningful difference in game play?
Listen to what I'm saying. This distinction between direct and indirect opposition you're insisting is important to whether an ability check counts as a contest isn't supported by the "Contests in Combat" sidebar. All that's required for a contest under that description is for one ability check to be compared to another. An initiative roll certainly fits that description.

I can opt to do nothing, which isn't an action or something that I would be trying to go first at, yet I still roll initiative.
Rolling a higher initiative would give you the opportunity to do nothing first, but it's obviously not the intent of the rules that you do nothing with your turn. The assumption is that your character is a participant in a battle. In fact, if you told me at the beginning of combat that your character was going to do nothing during the battle, there wouldn't be any need for you to roll initiative or have a turn. Also, attacks against you might auto-hit. The rules assume a certain level of active participation on the part of the characters.

Is this some sort of "I'm rubber, you're glue." moment? I said that already when you assumed what the designer meant without a single iota of evidence to back you up. If I assume that aliens made him rule that way, it's just as valid a speculation about his motives as yours. That validity is 0. Or, you can just accept what he said at face value and not ascribe a motive pulled out of your backside to him.
Likewise your assumption that his ruling is based on more than two opponents in initiative and notions of it not being direct opposition.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You’re still mixing things up. Initiative is rolled at the table. Attacks happen in the fiction. You’re using the order of mechanical resolution to make an argument about the chronology of events in the fiction, which is like comparing apples to oranges. Initiative doesn’t relate to a discrete fictional event the way an attack roll does. What it represents in the fiction is a continuous effort to move and act quickly that lasts throughout the entire combat encounter. It’s part of the mechanical resolution of action declarations made at the table, including the one that initiated combat. I'm not here to tell you how to run your game, so do what you want, but I have to ask, what do you think the point is of the DM signaling the beginning of combat and asking for initiative rolls when neither s/he nor any of the other players has declared a combat-initiating action?
I'm not mixing anything up. Initiative is rolled at the table, but initiative is an in game event that happens prior to attacks happening. In game you have two sides and where everyone is going to be reacting at different times. That happens before any in game attack can possibly happen. You can't know if the first person is going to attack or do something else until after the initiative roll.

It's pretty clear to me because of the context of this example being in the combat section and the way movement and action happen in turns in combat that the fiction being described here is the outcome of a combat-initiating action declaration on the part of the players to close to melee or attack range from a hidden position and initiate attacks all in a single round. The resolution of that declaration and subsequent actions requires the determination of surprise, rolling of initiative, and resolution of attacks in initiative order. All of that follows the players' declaration for their PCs to initiate combat against the bandits. Without that action declaration, there's no reason to begin combat by engaging the rules for combat resolution.
If that's what is clear to you, you are misreading things badly. No movement can happen and no attack can happen until AFTER initiative is rolled. This is true with or without surprise.

Initiative is the 3rd step of combat. The 1st is to determine surprise, so as soon as it has been determined that the cube has surprised the adventurers, combat has begun.
And yet not one single attack has happened prior to initiative being rolled. "Combat" may have begun, but actual combat(the fighting part) doesn't happen until AFTER initiative.

Without a declared action to attack on the part of the players there's no reason for the fictional outcome to be that the adventurers spring from the trees to attack. If the players had said they wanted to spring from the trees to say hello there'd be no reason to begin combat and no surprise determined. The context here is we're reading about combat and surprise in combat.
I get that. The problem you are facing is that a declared attack isn't an attack. No attack can happen until AFTER initiative happens both in and out of the game world.

You're still mixing up rolling initiative, which happens in the real world, with a gelatinous cube engulfing an adventurer, which happens in the fiction. Initiative can certainly play a role in the opposed efforts of the cube and the adventurer in danger of being engulfed if, for example, the adventurer has the opportunity to use a reaction that affects his/her saving throw against becoming engulfed.
No. No I'm not. I understand that the cube wanted to engulf the adventurer, but may never actually be able to accomplish that if it misses the initiative roll. The guy next to the adventurer might use win initiative and use a reaction to alter things.

Listen to what I'm saying. This distinction between direct and indirect opposition you're insisting is important to whether an ability check counts as a contest isn't supported by the "Contests in Combat" sidebar. All that's required for a contest under that description is for one ability check to be compared to another. An initiative roll certainly fits that description.
I hear what you are saying, and you are still wrong. The contest section specifying that to be a contest the opposition must be direct not only defines indirect opposition as all opposition that is not direct, but also makes it very important. The contests in combat sidebar isn't relevant as those are still contests, which must involve direct opposition. At no point does the sidebar specifically override that requirement. In fact, all of the examples and wording in the sidebar is about direct opposition.

Rolling a higher initiative would give you the opportunity to do nothing first, but it's obviously not the intent of the rules that you do nothing with your turn.
This is just rubbish. hundreds, if not a thousand times or more over the years I have declared that I am doing nothing on my turn, including round 1. There are many reasons why such a declaration would be made and it doesn't go against the intent of the rules in any way, shape or form.

In fact, if you told me at the beginning of combat that your character was going to do nothing during the battle, there wouldn't be any need for you to roll initiative or have a turn. Also, attacks against you might auto-hit. The rules assume a certain level of active participation on the part of the characters.
Nice Strawman. I didn't say battle. Winning initiative and doing nothing involves but a single round.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
The next person I see that says natural language is better then jargon is gonna get pointed to this thread.
A few people arguing on the internet doesn't mean it isn't better.

They would still be arguing about something.

The vast majority of groups are going to prefer the natural language so they don't need to learn a new language just to play a game.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I'm not mixing anything up. Initiative is rolled at the table, but initiative is an in game event that happens prior to attacks happening. In game you have two sides and where everyone is going to be reacting at different times. That happens before any in game attack can possibly happen. You can't know if the first person is going to attack or do something else until after the initiative roll.
You treat initiative as a discrete event in the fiction. How interesting! It's unclear to me from what you've written here, but it seems like you treat it as a sort of watching and waiting moment before anyone can take action. Is that right? What's also unclear is why there are sides and to what anyone is reacting if no attack is yet happening. Of course you won't know whose action and movement will be resolved first before initiative, but surely something has happened in the fiction to cause the DM to call for initiative in the first place. I know in my games it's what I've called a combat-initiating action declaration, but I'm curious what that event is like in your games. From what you've posted up-thread, I might conclude it happens anytime two parties meet each other, but that doesn't seem right to me because, at least in my games, that would lead to beginning a lot of non-combat encounters by rolling initiative.

If that's what is clear to you, you are misreading things badly. No movement can happen and no attack can happen until AFTER initiative is rolled. This is true with or without surprise.
Okay, so in your games, a player can't say, "I'm done haggling with this merchant! I unsheathe my sword and attack," until after initiative has been rolled? You see, to me, that's just the sort of thing that would trigger initiative being rolled.

And yet not one single attack has happened prior to initiative being rolled. "Combat" may have begun, but actual combat(the fighting part) doesn't happen until AFTER initiative.
Attacks aren't resolved until after initiative is rolled, but I think I've made it clear that, in my games, at least one combat-initiating action has been established as being in the process of happening in the fiction before we roll initiative and is actually why initiative is rolled. That way we don't need to put scare quotes around combat. It's very clear that the combat rules are being used because combat has been established as occurring in the fiction.

I get that. The problem you are facing is that a declared attack isn't an attack. No attack can happen until AFTER initiative happens both in and out of the game world.
Attacks are resolved after initiative is rolled. That doesn't mean the attacks aren't already established as happening when initiative is rolled. In my games, if you declare an action, that means your character is attempting that action.

No. No I'm not. I understand that the cube wanted to engulf the adventurer, but may never actually be able to accomplish that if it misses the initiative roll. The guy next to the adventurer might use [sic] win initiative and use a reaction to alter things.
Right, that's why the initiative roll is part of the resolution of the directly opposed efforts of the cube and the adventurers.

I hear what you are saying, and you are still wrong. The contest section specifying that to be a contest the opposition must be direct not only defines indirect opposition as all opposition that is not direct, but also makes it very important. The contests in combat sidebar isn't relevant as those are still contests, which must involve direct opposition. At no point does the sidebar specifically override that requirement. In fact, all of the examples and wording in the sidebar is about direct opposition.
Nothing indicates that the wording in the contests section supersedes that in the sidebar. All the sidebar requires is that prowess (Dexterity) be pitted against prowess (Dexterity).

This is just rubbish. hundreds, if not a thousand times or more over the years I have declared that I am doing nothing on my turn, including round 1. There are many reasons why such a declaration would be made and it doesn't go against the intent of the rules in any way, shape or form.
Of course it isn't against the rules to do nothing on your turn. What I mean is it's a corner case. The rules are built to allow you to do things on your turn, so saying you do nothing is going to make things like rolling initiative and having a turn seem superfluous.

Nice Strawman. I didn't say battle. Winning initiative and doing nothing involves but a single round.
I didn't say you said that. I said "if" you said that. Also, initiative isn't part of any round, so technically what you're describing involves more than just a single round.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You treat initiative as a discrete event in the fiction. How interesting! It's unclear to me from what you've written here, but it seems like you treat it as a sort of watching and waiting moment before anyone can take action. Is that right? What's also unclear is why there are sides and to what anyone is reacting if no attack is yet happening. Of course you won't know whose action and movement will be resolved first before initiative, but surely something has happened in the fiction to cause the DM to call for initiative in the first place. I know in my games it's what I've called a combat-initiating action declaration, but I'm curious what that event is like in your games.
It's based on intent. You can usually tell when someone is hostile BEFORE they attack you, just as you can sometimes make mistakes and get into a combat with a side that wasn't going to ever attack you. Initiative happens prior to any attack or the attack literally can't happen.

Okay, so in your games, a player can't say, "I'm done haggling with this merchant! I unsheathe my sword and attack," until after initiative has been rolled? You see, to me, that's just the sort of thing that would trigger initiative being rolled.
In my game, too. The player makes that declaration and before any sword attack happens, initiative is rolled.

Here's a major problem with treating the attack as happening before initiative is rolled. The player says, "I'm done haggling with this merchant! I unsheathe my sword and attack!" Now initiative is rolled and the merchants 4 guards all beat the PC. All 4 hit, the first one knocks the PC unconscious and the other 3 kill him. Under the way I run things, that's the end of it. Under your system, the PC's attack has already happened and you have to roll to hit, even though the PC is now dead before his initiative comes up.

Attacks aren't resolved until after initiative is rolled, but I think I've made it clear that, in my games, at least one combat-initiating action has been established as being in the process of happening in the fiction before we roll initiative and is actually why initiative is rolled. That way we don't need to put scare quotes around combat. It's very clear that the combat rules are being used because combat has been established as occurring in the fiction.
And I have no problem with you doing that in your games. If you want the attack to have happened before initiative is rolled, you can do that. By RAW, though, that's impossible.

Attacks are resolved after initiative is rolled. That doesn't mean the attacks aren't already established as happening when initiative is rolled. In my games, if you declare an action, that means your character is attempting that action.
It means he wants to attempt that action. He may never get the chance to attempt it if he rolls poorly for initiative.

Right, that's why the initiative roll is part of the resolution of the directly opposed efforts of the cube and the adventurers.

Of course it isn't against the rules to do nothing on your turn. What I mean is it's a corner case. The rules are built to allow you to do things on your turn, so saying you do nothing is going to make things like rolling initiative and having a turn seem superfluous.
It can't directly oppose. You see, if it's possible for initiative to happen and a PC does nothing, and it's not a corner case as I see it happen once every few combats, then it can't require opposition. If it required opposition, it wouldn't be possible to roll for it and do nothing.

Nothing indicates that the wording in the contests section supersedes that in the sidebar. All the sidebar requires is that prowess (Dexterity) be pitted against prowess (Dexterity).
It doesn't need to supersede the sidebar. The sidebar agrees 100% with the contest section. The Dex vs. Dex example is a one on one directly opposed contest.

Also, initiative isn't part of any round, so technically what you're describing involves more than just a single round.
But all it takes is 1 single round of doing nothing to prove that initiative cannot be direct opposition, as doing nothing isn't any sort of opposition and initiative was still rolled.
 

Hriston

Explorer
It's based on intent. You can usually tell when someone is hostile BEFORE they attack you, just as you can sometimes make mistakes and get into a combat with a side that wasn't going to ever attack you. Initiative happens prior to any attack or the attack literally can't happen.
So, you call for initiative the moment a participant intends to attack, right? If you're the DM, you know when the monsters are planning to attack and ask for initiative then, but how do you know when the PCs intend to attack? Do the players tell you their characters are contemplating an attack so you can call for initiative?

In my game, too. The player makes that declaration and before any sword attack happens, initiative is rolled.
Okay, but that's more than just thinking about attacking. That's an action declaration to attack. At that point in the fiction the character is attacking the merchant. Initiative is then rolled at the table as part of resolving that action declaration.

Here's a major problem with treating the attack as happening before initiative is rolled. The player says, "I'm done haggling with this merchant! I unsheathe my sword and attack!" Now initiative is rolled and the merchants 4 guards all beat the PC. All 4 hit, the first one knocks the PC unconscious and the other 3 kill him. Under the way I run things, that's the end of it. Under your system, the PC's attack has already happened and you have to roll to hit, even though the PC is now dead before his initiative comes up.
Why in your game did the merchant's guards suddenly decide to kill the PC in cold blood? According to everything you've told me about your game, the only thing that happened before that was the intent to attack the merchant had formed in the PC's mind. Those guards must be some terrific mind readers! And no, what you attribute to me is nothing like my game. In my game, the PC goes to unsheathe his sword so he can strike the merchant, and his guards, seeing this, react quickly and kill him before he can complete his attack. Combat is over before his turn comes up.

And I have no problem with you doing that in your games. If you want the attack to have happened before initiative is rolled, you can do that. By RAW, though, that's impossible.
You aren't paying very close attention to what I've been saying. It's not that the attack has happened. It's that it's in the process of happening. The PC is in the process of unsheathing his sword and moving to attack the merchant. Direct conflict is underway and palpable. That's why the merchant's guards themselves move into action to defend their employer. Not only is this possible by the rules, but I believe it's intended.

It means he wants to attempt that action. He may never get the chance to attempt it if he rolls poorly for initiative.
No, he actually, in the fiction, attempts to attack the merchant, but he is apprehended and killed by the merchant's guards. The guards, in my game, wouldn't have killed him just for wanting to attack the merchant. I mean, they aren't mind readers!

It can't directly oppose. You see, if it's possible for initiative to happen and a PC does nothing, and it's not a corner case as I see it happen once every few combats, then it can't require opposition. If it required opposition, it wouldn't be possible to roll for it and do nothing.
The combat rules presuppose opposition. If a player chooses to do nothing on his/her turn, not even taking the Dodge action, then that may very well be the best way to oppose his/her foes in that particular situation.

It doesn't need to supersede the sidebar. The sidebar agrees 100% with the contest section. The Dex vs. Dex example is a one on one directly opposed contest.
I'm not sure what example you're talking about, but that's exactly what I'm saying initiative is: a one on one, DEX vs. DEX contest between you and anyone that takes opposing action, its main idiosyncrasy being that, similar to how a single DEX check stands for the entire time a character attempts to stay hidden, your initiative roll result stands for the entire time you're in combat.

But all it takes is 1 single round of doing nothing to prove that initiative cannot be direct opposition, as doing nothing isn't any sort of opposition and initiative was still rolled.
You aren't going to convince me that opponents in combat aren't in opposition to each other, so we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So, you call for initiative the moment a participant intends to attack, right? If you're the DM, you know when the monsters are planning to attack and ask for initiative then, but how do you know when the PCs intend to attack? Do the players tell you their characters are contemplating an attack so you can call for initiative?

Okay, but that's more than just thinking about attacking. That's an action declaration to attack. At that point in the fiction the character is attacking the merchant. Initiative is then rolled at the table as part of resolving that action declaration.
No. It's simply false that a declaration to attack is an attack. It's a declaration and nothing more.

Why in your game did the merchant's guards suddenly decide to kill the PC in cold blood? According to everything you've told me about your game, the only thing that happened before that was the intent to attack the merchant had formed in the PC's mind. Those guards must be some terrific mind readers! And no, what you attribute to me is nothing like my game. In my game, the PC goes to unsheathe his sword so he can strike the merchant, and his guards, seeing this, react quickly and kill him before he can complete his attack. Combat is over before his turn comes up.
A body language shift and/or he's reaching for his sword. What those things aren't, though, is an attack. The attack can't happen until after initiative.

You aren't paying very close attention to what I've been saying. It's not that the attack has happened. It's that it's in the process of happening. The PC is in the process of unsheathing his sword and moving to attack the merchant. Direct conflict is underway and palpable. That's why the merchant's guards themselves move into action to defend their employer. Not only is this possible by the rules, but I believe it's intended.
In the process does not equal an attack, though. It's not an attack until the person actually, you know, attacks.

The combat rules presuppose opposition.
So what. That doesn't make initiative opposition. Does the combat section as a whole presume opposition? Yes. Does every combat rule involve opposition? Not even close.

If a player chooses to do nothing on his/her turn, not even taking the Dodge action, then that may very well be the best way to oppose his/her foes in that particular situation.
LOL

You aren't going to convince me that opponents in combat aren't in opposition to each other, so we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
Great! Since I never once claimed that. We can agree to disagree about something I never said or agreed with in the first place.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Initiative is rolled at the table, but initiative is an in game event that happens prior to attacks happening. ...

No movement can happen and no attack can happen until AFTER initiative is rolled. This is true with or without surprise.

And yet not one single attack has happened prior to initiative being rolled. "Combat" may have begun, but actual combat(the fighting part) doesn't happen until AFTER initiative.

The problem you are facing is that a declared attack isn't an attack. No attack can happen until AFTER initiative happens both in and out of the game world. ...
Hriston said:
Attacks aren't resolved until after initiative is rolled ...

Attacks are resolved after initiative is rolled. That doesn't mean the attacks aren't already established as happening when initiative is rolled. ...

Right, that's why the initiative roll is part of the resolution ...
Ye gods, I'm having flashbacks to the rules arguments I sat through back when I was serious about M:tG...declaration of attack, resolution of attack, combat phase...next thing you'll both be on about is who's the active player and what order the reactions can happen in.

Lan-"I'm not entirely sure this represents 5e in the way the designers had in mind"-efan
 

pemerton

Legend
that's more than just thinking about attacking. That's an action declaration to attack. At that point in the fiction the character is attacking the merchant. Initiative is then rolled at the table as part of resolving that action declaration.
I think [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION] is from the school of thought that player action declarations don't in themselves change the fiction until they're mediated through whatever resolution process the GM calls for. As you note, this creates "mind reading" puzzles in some contexts, and [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION]'s response is that something happened in the fiction ("A body language shift and/or he's reaching for his sword") which is physical enough to perceptibly manifest an intention but muted enough to not violate the basic principle of this school of thought.

The strongest proponent of this school of thought on these boards is Saelorn (I can't mention him because he has me blocked), but it's one I've seen advocated by other posters quite frequently. It is typically connected to other views about the roles of GM vs players in establishing the content of the shared fiction. In its strongest form, a player action declaration is best understood as a suggestion to the GM that the GM incorporate the occurrence of a certain event into the shared fiction.

You’re still mixing things up. Initiative is rolled at the table. Attacks happen in the fiction. You’re using the order of mechanical resolution to make an argument about the chronology of events in the fiction, which is like comparing apples to oranges. Initiative doesn’t relate to a discrete fictional event the way an attack roll does. What it represents in the fiction is a continuous effort to move and act quickly that lasts throughout the entire combat encounter.
This reminded me of the following comments by Ron Edwards:

The causal sequence of task resolution in Simulationist play must be linear in time. He swings: on target or not? The other guy dodges or parries: well or badly? The weapon contacts the unit of armor + body: how hard? The armor stops some of it: how much? The remaining impact hits tissue: how deeply? With what psychological (stunning, pain) effects? With what continuing effects? All of this is settled in order, on this guy's "go," and the next guy's "go" is simply waiting its turn, in time.

The few exceptions have always been accompanied by explanatory text, sometimes apologetic and sometimes blase. A good example is classic hit location, in which the characters first roll to-hit and to-parry, then hit location for anywhere on the body (RuneQuest, GURPS). Cognitively, to the Simulationist player, this requires a replay of the character's intent and action that is nearly intolerable. It often breaks down in play, either switching entirely to called shots and abandoning the location roll, or waiting on the parry roll until the hit location is known. Another good example is rolling for initiative, which has generated hours of painful argument about what in the world it represents in-game, at the moment of the roll relative to in-game time.​

When I first read this I was in my fifteenth year, or thereabouts, of GMing Rolemaster, and thus intimately familiar and imbued with the requisite simulationist sensibilities. It explained why, of all the optional/supplementary systems found in the seven volumes of Rolemaster Companions, initiative was the one that got the most attention and had the most variations, all trying to cope with this question about what it represents.

I haven't played RM for about 10 years now, but I currently play and GM another system which - in its core resolution mechanics - has very similar simulationist leanings, namely, Burning Wheel. And interestingly it doesn't have an initiative system at all! - it relies on (a moderately complex system of) blind scripting and simultaneous declaration and resolution.

Classic Traveller - another ultra-sim system that I am currently GMing - has no initiative either but rather simultaneous resolution. (It's not clear whether declarations are meant to be blind or not, but combat hasn't been a big enough part of our Traveller game for this to really need deciding in any non-ad hoc way.)

(Also, for completeness: Traveller has parry rules but no hit location so the other problem Edwards notes doesn't come up; RM has parrying which factors into (among other things) determining critical severity; and the crit roll determines both hit location and the bulk of the damage; so I think there is less dissonance in this respect than RQ; but the bump in the rug for RM is that it has a lot of trouble with piecemeal armour whereas RQ handles that very elegantly.)
 

pemerton

Legend
Can someone please summarize this for me? I've totally lost track of this.
My summary is perhaps biased because I think [MENTION=6787503]Hriston[/MENTION] is right.

The questions are:

Is rolling initiative an aspect of combat resolution?

Is rolling initiative a type of stat-check contest?​

[MENTION=6787503]Hriston[/MENTION] answers yes to both questions, along the following lines:

If a player (for a PC) or the GM (for a NPC) declares a combat-ish action (attacking with a weapon, fireballing, etc) then (i) the combat rules are activated, and (ii) two sides (in the typical case, at least) are in opposition in respect of the just-commenced battle.

The fact of (i) refers us to the combat rules, which say to do various stuff at the start of combat including determining initiative for each participant. The fact of (ii) helps us understand how and why determining initiative is a type of stat-check contest: we have these opposed entities, each trying (literally) to get and retain the initiative in the battle that has just commenced, and so we use DEX for this (because it's the quickness/reaction time stat) and we compare results to work out who wins (because that's how contests work); and, because there are (often) more than two participants, we rank the non-winners by result (which is a logical extrapolation from the simple case of only two opponents).​

[MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION] answers no to both questions, along the following lines:

A contest depends upon opposition. (He also has views about direct opposition, but I think they can be set aside for economy.) Combat involves opposition; but combat doesn't commence until one entity attacks another; and an attack is not commenced/made until an attack action is declared; and an attack action cannot be declared until a character's turn comes up; and no one's turn can come up until an initiative order is established; and establishing such an order depends upon making initiative checks; hence initiative checks happen prior to combat commencing and prior to any opposition arising; hence initiative checks are not a stat-check contest, even though they might superficially look like it.​

An apparent consequence of Maxperson's approach is that the GM has to call for initiative checks based on some sort of intuition, or an apprehension of the possibility that an attack might be declared once the initiative sequence is established and hence characters start taking turns.

Hriston points to this consequence as one that divorces the call for initiative from that mechanic's place in the combat chapter; and adduces this as evidence in favour of the alternative view!

As I said, I think Hriston is right. But as per my post just upthread, I also think it's no surprise that this is contentious.
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Top