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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

Hussar

Legend
Doesn't cost them an action but it does otherwise hinder them during that time; no reactions, no AoO's, etc. in the specific case of stun.

And don't forget: for each time (more or less, there might be a minor mathematical discrepancy) it does nothing this will, by law of averages, another time cost the target two actions. Stun it on a 6, it loses its initiative this round that would have been 3, then rolls 14 for next round and loses that one too.

Conversely, as you say, it could just as easily go this round 14: target action, 6: target stunned, next round 6: stun wears off, 3: target action. Dice are fun that way. :)

I don't know the odds of losing 0 vs 1 vs 2 actions - my gut tells me it's about 25-50-25% but I've no math to back that up.
Also noting [MENTION=6796566]epithet[/MENTION]'s post above too.

I could see this as being probably the biggest effect. It would make combat very swingy. It might be very possible for a critter to get two attacks in a row on a PC, which, potentially, can be devastating. Particularly when you factor in abilities and whatnot that mitigate attacks - Shield fighters granting disadvantage, Light Clerics using Flare, various reroll mechanics that are tied to reactions.

Not that that's necessarily bad. Just that it will likely result in more deadly combats. A monster getting to double up on effects can, potentially, be very dangerous to the party and, since it's all based on luck, it's automatically going to advantage the monsters rather than the PC's, over time.
 

Maxperson

Orcus on an on Day
I think they provide methods for breaking ties in initiative for ease of play, so there's no ambiguity about the order of resolution. On the other hand, they put the responsibility of deciding the order resulting from a tie in the hands of the DM, so, as was mentioned up-thread, it's within the DM's purview to have ties result in simultaneous resolution.
Which is why I dubbed it the non-rule rule. If that rule didn't exist, there would literally be no difference in how initiative plays out. The DM would still make the decision, which could still result in simultaneous resolution.

Nothing, AFAIC. I'm inclined to let initiative-tied turns be resolved simultaneously, and also wouldn't be averse to treating each round as a "roughly simultaneous", six-second ball of activity, although the system may need some tweaking to accommodate that.
I look at the dex of the tied individuals and high dex goes first. If dex is tied, it's simultaneous. As I mentioned earlier, truly simultaneous actions are fairly rare.
 

epithet

Explorer
Also noting [MENTION=6796566]epithet[/MENTION]'s post above too.

I could see this as being probably the biggest effect. It would make combat very swingy. It might be very possible for a critter to get two attacks in a row on a PC, which, potentially, can be devastating. Particularly when you factor in abilities and whatnot that mitigate attacks - Shield fighters granting disadvantage, Light Clerics using Flare, various reroll mechanics that are tied to reactions.

Not that that's necessarily bad. Just that it will likely result in more deadly combats. A monster getting to double up on effects can, potentially, be very dangerous to the party and, since it's all based on luck, it's automatically going to advantage the monsters rather than the PC's, over time.
I have found the opposite to be true, actually. Rerolling initiative every round has generally been to the party's benefit, despite some "exciting" moments. It creates unpredictability, which the player characters (being more versatile) can take advantage of better than typical NPCs. This has been true of a party level 5 - 7, and a party 11 - 13. I might be the case that rerolling init made the lowest levels more difficult, I haven't tried that.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
For effects like this, have them last exactly a round. If the Monk stuns someone on initiative 6 then that stun lasts until init. 6 next round, regardless of when the Monk's next initiative comes up. These durations would be tracked by the player of the character that caused them, so here the Monk's player would, on init. 6 in the second round, advise the DM that the stun had worn off (unless of course it was renewed in the meantime, but you get the drift).

To cover Max's point about variable duration being more realistic (which it is), instead of having the duration be a locked-in 1 round (or 20 "segments") have the player roll a d20+10 to give how many segments the stun lasts. Stunned on 6 this round means you could snap out of it anytime between 15 next round and 16 the round after. (and don't bother telling me 5e doesn't have segments; for this, it would now)

There's some places where one can very easily bring a bit of realism back in, and re-rolling initiative to simulate the unpredictability and fog of war is one.
That's what we did in 1e and 2e and, frankly, it sucked. Effects like the monk's stun could be really good or really bad, all based on having to reroll initiative. And it wasn't one darn bit more realistic than setting the order and just running through the list cyclically. The only thing it did that might have been a positive was make turn order unpredictable - which was OK for characters that didn't have to track round-based durations.

Both systems are abstractions, but I do like the one where we deal with initiative numbers once and once only and I never really have to consult them again. I find it a lot more user friendly, both as a GM and as a player.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
I have found the opposite to be true, actually. Rerolling initiative every round has generally been to the party's benefit, despite some "exciting" moments. It creates unpredictability, which the player characters (being more versatile) can take advantage of better than typical NPCs. This has been true of a party level 5 - 7, and a party 11 - 13. I might be the case that rerolling init made the lowest levels more difficult, I haven't tried that.
Unpredictability is, in the long run, usually bad for the PCs. They are subject to a lot of it over the course of a game since they're at the center of all action that involves it.
 

epithet

Explorer
Unpredictability is, in the long run, usually bad for the PCs. They are subject to a lot of it over the course of a game since they're at the center of all action that involves it.
It has been my experience that the PCs are the cause of much more unpredictability than the dice are, and they usually find annoying ways to exploit it to their advantage.
 

Lanefan

Hero
That's what we did in 1e and 2e and, frankly, it sucked. Effects like the monk's stun could be really good or really bad, all based on having to reroll initiative. And it wasn't one darn bit more realistic than setting the order and just running through the list cyclically. The only thing it did that might have been a positive was make turn order unpredictable - which was OK for characters that didn't have to track round-based durations.
The very unpredictability is what makes it more realistic.

What happens when initiatives are locked in is that players start metagaming and making plans based on who goes when in the order; which should in theory be close to impossible on a chaotic fog-of-war battlefield. Re-rolling, while not completely eliminating this, serves to greatly mitigate it.

Both systems are abstractions, but I do like the one where we deal with initiative numbers once and once only and I never really have to consult them again. I find it a lot more user friendly, both as a GM and as a player.
Locking it in is easier, for sure, but sometimes the easy way isn't necessarily the best way.
 

Hussar

Legend
I have found the opposite to be true, actually. Rerolling initiative every round has generally been to the party's benefit, despite some "exciting" moments. It creates unpredictability, which the player characters (being more versatile) can take advantage of better than typical NPCs. This has been true of a party level 5 - 7, and a party 11 - 13. I might be the case that rerolling init made the lowest levels more difficult, I haven't tried that.
As [MENTION=3400]billd91[/MENTION] said, anything that increases randomness benefits the DM's side of the equation. The players have to get lucky every time. The monsters only have to get lucky once. Sure, it might benefit the PC's and it likely will. But, when it helps the other side, which should also happen fairly frequently, it can radically up the difficulty of an encounter.

As far as realism goes, well, that's not a consideration for me. I accept that D&D combat is largely abstract, so, trying to make it more realistic is, to me, just not something I really want to deal with. If I did, I'd wind up rewriting the entire combat section to the point where I might as well play a game that actually has realistic combat. :D
 

5ekyu

Explorer
I have found the opposite to be true, actually. Rerolling initiative every round has generally been to the party's benefit, despite some "exciting" moments. It creates unpredictability, which the player characters (being more versatile) can take advantage of better than typical NPCs. This has been true of a party level 5 - 7, and a party 11 - 13. I might be the case that rerolling init made the lowest levels more difficult, I haven't tried that.
My experience with random init in other systems rolled turn by turn was that it attacked planning. If sequence order is at all important then it allows for planning and coordination of once known that order remains.

If you have tactics that need the cleric fo follow up with the rogue "I use guiding bolt, you have advantage and sneak you can work that out even across turns **if** the init order remains the same.

But if its random order each turn, forget it.

You reduce the scope of tactics and combo play to only "what can we get done together in this "segment of time" that exists between init rolls.

If it remains static, the focus remains on the "turns" of a character not this arbitrary not seen in character reroll tick.

I prefer to not discourage planning and coordination.

If nothing else, if I were somehowxrequired to roll random init, I would have us roll init fir THE NEXT TURN at the start of a turn.

So at any moment you know the sequence you are working thru **and** the next sequence. That at least allows you to coordinate across one init roll.

Personally I prefer far more systems which put the sequence of play order more into **choice ** control than dice control.

Hence my homebrew.
 

Lanefan

Hero
My experience with random init in other systems rolled turn by turn was that it attacked planning.
Good.

If sequence order is at all important then it allows for planning and coordination of once known that order remains.

If you have tactics that need the cleric fo follow up with the rogue "I use guiding bolt, you have advantage and sneak you can work that out even across turns **if** the init order remains the same.

But if its random order each turn, forget it.

You reduce the scope of tactics and combo play to only "what can we get done together in this "segment of time" that exists between init rolls.

If it remains static, the focus remains on the "turns" of a character not this arbitrary not seen in character reroll tick.
My contention is that the focus shouldn't be on the metagame "turns" but rather on what's happening in the fiction in the chaos of war; and that the type of planning and co-orcination you're talking about should neither be free nor easy.

I prefer to not discourage planning and coordination.
Ahead of time, sure. But once the swords and axes start flying, forget it.

If nothing else, if I were somehowxrequired to roll random init, I would have us roll init fir THE NEXT TURN at the start of a turn.

So at any moment you know the sequence you are working thru **and** the next sequence. That at least allows you to coordinate across one init roll.

Personally I prefer far more systems which put the sequence of play order more into **choice ** control than dice control.
Even if it's random they can still choose who goes when, but it would involve a lot of delaying while people waited for other turns to come up - in other words, their ability to pull off their co-ordinated plan comes at a cost of frequently acting late in the round.

But this isn't even the worst part. The worst part in cyclic init. is that the players also know when the opponent's turns are (or will after the first round), allowing them not ony to co-ordinate among themselves but to meta-plan around when the foes get to act. This problem - for problem it is - goes away if init's are rerolled each round and the DM rolls opponent init's in secret.
 

Hussar

Legend
Meh, I really don't see it as a problem. It works both ways as well. The DM gets to plan around things as well and since there's only one DM, he can implement his plans easier than if the players have to hash out ideas. Like I said, it's just not worth the extra hassle IMO.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Good.

My contention is that the focus shouldn't be on the metagame "turns" but rather on what's happening in the fiction in the chaos of war; and that the type of planning and co-orcination you're talking about should neither be free nor easy.

Ahead of time, sure. But once the swords and axes start flying, forget it.

Even if it's random they can still choose who goes when, but it would involve a lot of delaying while people waited for other turns to come up - in other words, their ability to pull off their co-ordinated plan comes at a cost of frequently acting late in the round.

But this isn't even the worst part. The worst part in cyclic init. is that the players also know when the opponent's turns are (or will after the first round), allowing them not ony to co-ordinate among themselves but to meta-plan around when the foes get to act. This problem - for problem it is - goes away if init's are rerolled each round and the DM rolls opponent init's in secret.
"Ahead of time, sure. But once the swords and axes start flying, forget it."

Mostly I see both, sometimes its things they discussed out of combat then work towards in combat. Add in a random roll between stages in a combat and you vastly reduce opportunities to implement plans just due to the added random screw of a new unit roll.

"Even if it's random they can still choose who goes when, but it would involve a lot of delaying while people waited for other turns to come up - in other words, their ability to pull off their co-ordinated plan comes at a cost of frequently acting late in the round. "

5e does not have delay, so if you are meaning this for some other game, not 5e, that's fine. 5e has ready and ready limits you to a rather selective sub-set of options and the if-then etc.

" The worst part in cyclic init. is that the players also know when the opponent's turns are (or will after the first round), allowing them not ony "

That's a feature, not a bug, it's not a problem, it's an option.

Really, what makes it some objective problem ?

Both sides in a cyclic init learn the order and can make choices based on it.

Why is it good or better to have a random re-order at specified times making that "break for new init" a much bigger element in how the combat plays?

"More random" and "less choice driven" are not goals I would choose to enhance combat scenes if I was focusing "on the fiction of the scene" because "random" does not care about fiction.
 

epithet

Explorer
Meh, I really don't see it as a problem. It works both ways as well. The DM gets to plan around things as well and since there's only one DM, he can implement his plans easier than if the players have to hash out ideas. Like I said, it's just not worth the extra hassle IMO.
The reason rerolling initiative appealed to the group in the first place was that players wanted to have more control over when they took their actions. With static initiative, following the published turn order rules, you act on your turn, period. You can hold an action to take as a reaction, but you can't say "I going to wait and go after the rogue." We were letting people do that anyway, with the house rule that you can adjust your initiative down as much as you want to, but that meant that in subsequent rounds you'd be stuck down there at the bottom of the tracker. If you let players delay their turns once per round (stating on your original initiative what you want your lower adjusted initiative to be,) that means that if a player "wins" initiative it makes turn order into a tactical choice. It makes feats and items that give advantage to initiative more appealing, too.

Another thing it lets me do is create a hidden actor on the combat tracker for the lair with a +10 init bonus. Rerolling every turn means that the PCs are never quite sure when lair actions will come up, adding dramatic tension.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I don't think that the only options should necessarily be static initiative or re-roll per round initiative.

The Cypher System, for example, has a pretty intuitive initiative system that is a mix of static and free form. Foes have an associated Target Number or Difficulty Class. Players roll initiative. Players who roll higher than the DC can act before the foe in whatever order they prefer. The foe acts. Players who roll lower act after the foe in whatever order they choose. Having multiple foes is generally not an issue either.
 

Hriston

Explorer
Which is why I dubbed it the non-rule rule. If that rule didn't exist, there would literally be no difference in how initiative plays out. The DM would still make the decision, which could still result in simultaneous resolution.
A strict reading of the initiative rules without the paragraph about what to do in the event of a tie would have combatants with tied initiative rolls always act simultaneously (at the same time). The 3rd paragraph allows ties to be broken.

I look at the dex of the tied individuals and high dex goes first. If dex is tied, it's simultaneous. As I mentioned earlier, truly simultaneous actions are fairly rare.
Perhaps interestingly, the Holmes Basic Set (1977) rules decide initiative by comparing Dexterity scores, which is, I think, the earliest initiative system published specifically for D&D. The original rules (1974) use Chainmail's initiative system which has two options: the "Move/Counter move" system, the ancestor to AD&D's side initiative, and the "Simultaneous Movement" system, which requires players to write out orders for their units beforehand, simultaneously take half their movement checking for unintended melee contact, complete the movement phase, and then resolve missile fire and melees in simultaneous phases. Simultaneous in a system like this means something like "happening roughly in the same one minute of time". A similar system could be devised for 5E, all action in a given round happening "simultaneously" in roughly the same six seconds as a level of abstraction.

Any simultaneity at all requires some level of abstraction. For example, if you're accustomed to resolving combat in Planck time units, simultaneous events are going to be far more rare than that in which your above method would result.
 

Maxperson

Orcus on an on Day
A strict reading of the initiative rules without the paragraph about what to do in the event of a tie would have combatants with tied initiative rolls always act simultaneously (at the same time). The 3rd paragraph allows ties to be broken.
Nah. A strict reading shows that only one person can go at a time. "The DM ranks the combatants in order from the one with the highest Dexterity check total to the one with the lowest." That necessitates having to break ties somehow, and without the non-rule rule, it falls to the DM to decide just like with the non-rule rule.

Perhaps interestingly, the Holmes Basic Set (1977) rules decide initiative by comparing Dexterity scores, which is, I think, the earliest initiative system published specifically for D&D. The original rules (1974) use Chainmail's initiative system which has two options: the "Move/Counter move" system, the ancestor to AD&D's side initiative, and the "Simultaneous Movement" system, which requires players to write out orders for their units beforehand, simultaneously take half their movement checking for unintended melee contact, complete the movement phase, and then resolve missile fire and melees in simultaneous phases. Simultaneous in a system like this means something like "happening roughly in the same one minute of time". A similar system could be devised for 5E, all action in a given round happening "simultaneously" in roughly the same six seconds as a level of abstraction.

Any simultaneity at all requires some level of abstraction. For example, if you're accustomed to resolving combat in Planck time units, simultaneous events are going to be far more rare than that in which your above method would result.
I don't want to get too complicated with initiative. A lot of those old 70s and 80s games had rulebooks that were thicker than Game of Thrones books, and more complicated than trying to figure out the tax code.

A quick easy dex check with ties going to highest dex, and further ties being simultaneous is as complicated as I want it. :)
 

5ekyu

Explorer
I don't think that the only options should necessarily be static initiative or re-roll per round initiative.

The Cypher System, for example, has a pretty intuitive initiative system that is a mix of static and free form. Foes have an associated Target Number or Difficulty Class. Players roll initiative. Players who roll higher than the DC can act before the foe in whatever order they prefer. The foe acts. Players who roll lower act after the foe in whatever order they choose. Having multiple foes is generally not an issue either.
Indeed. While I see rolling randomly every turn as a bad option, I certainly don't thing rolling once is a good option, just better.

In my homebrew scifi 5e gsme, I use first or last.

On the opening turn, players quickly decided whether a PC goes first or a PC goes last.

If they choose first, a singlenpc goes first, their choice, then a foe (FM choice) alternate until you get yo the end where an npc is always going last.

If they choose last, a foe goes first alternate etc but a PC goes ladt.

That turn order is then set.

Newly arriving characters are added into the middle but font change ghd first/last.

So its entirely choice driven with alternating play side hy side.

Tactical aspects of the situation drive the choices, not the die rolls.

Works great and plays quick.
 

Maxperson

Orcus on an on Day
Indeed. While I see rolling randomly every turn as a bad option, I certainly don't thing rolling once is a good option, just better.

In my homebrew scifi 5e gsme, I use first or last.

On the opening turn, players quickly decided whether a PC goes first or a PC goes last.

If they choose first, a singlenpc goes first, their choice, then a foe (FM choice) alternate until you get yo the end where an npc is always going last.

If they choose last, a foe goes first alternate etc but a PC goes ladt.

That turn order is then set.

Newly arriving characters are added into the middle but font change ghd first/last.

So its entirely choice driven with alternating play side hy side.

Tactical aspects of the situation drive the choices, not the die rolls.

Works great and plays quick.
That's an interesting system and I can see where it would have some appeal. For myself, though, it doesn't make sense that sides alternate like that. It makes sense to me that there would be clumps on one side or the other going before someone on the opposing side. If three PCs beat my fastest monster, one PC loses to him, then two monsters go, I have no problem with that.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
That's an interesting system and I can see where it would have some appeal. For myself, though, it doesn't make sense that sides alternate like that. It makes sense to me that there would be clumps on one side or the other going before someone on the opposing side. If three PCs beat my fastest monster, one PC loses to him, then two monsters go, I have no problem with that.
Absolutely. Every init system seems to embody some degree of compromise vs realism in order to reach whatever its goals are.

Part of my major focus in many games as they have developed over the years have been to focus on two keys - character capability and player choice (the former being a manifest coding of the latter.)

One of my biggest gripes with most diced knit system has tended to be what rolls init? Mostly if it were me, it would be a combo of perception and quick thinking or tactics - more situational awareness - but also discipline could play a tole etc etc etc...

All in all I see it as hard to tie to specific character traits in a simple way and my go to for "not character trait" is "choice".
So we tried it a while back and loved it.

That said, with new groups of players where I want yo minimize house rules, I just go with regular init by RAW and let advantage and disadvantage play a significant role.
 

Lanefan

Hero
Absolutely. Every init system seems to embody some degree of compromise vs realism in order to reach whatever its goals are.

Part of my major focus in many games as they have developed over the years have been to focus on two keys - character capability and player choice (the former being a manifest coding of the latter.)

One of my biggest gripes with most diced knit system has tended to be what rolls init? Mostly if it were me, it would be a combo of perception and quick thinking or tactics - more situational awareness - but also discipline could play a tole etc etc etc...

All in all I see it as hard to tie to specific character traits in a simple way and my go to for "not character trait" is "choice".
So we tried it a while back and loved it.

That said, with new groups of players where I want yo minimize house rules, I just go with regular init by RAW and let advantage and disadvantage play a significant role.
What did you think of Merals' variant initiative system that he put out - was it last year? earlier this year? There was a big thread in here about it.
 

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