D&D General The Problem with Individual Initiative

I'm not sure I understand the situation you're describing. If the knight refuses to retreat until his companions are away, then wouldn't that entail his being left alone momentarily, i.e. they are retreating while he is not? And yet it's described as a problem with individual initiative that the party isn't retreating as a group. It seems to me that's just what this player is describing their character as doing, but maybe I'm not understanding something.

That being said, why isn't it sufficient to declare an action to ready a retreat once the knight's companions are all safely away?

Hmm. Perhaps I should clarify. The issue is not that a single knight cannot ready an action and retreat after the rest of their compatriots it's more of a timing thing and a story thing. What if two characters want to retreat together? I'm not saying that it's not possible, I just find that it is unnecessarily awkward. Perhaps it's less the cyclical initiative and more the restrictions on readying and the action economy. Movement or action but not both.

I also think that it is awkward for characters to exchange items if they have differing initiatives. Without having a method to sync I just find some fairly simple actions to be possible but drawn out and unnecessarily complicated.

M
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Hmm. Perhaps I should clarify. The issue is not that a single knight cannot ready an action and retreat after the rest of their compatriots it's more of a timing thing and a story thing. What if two characters want to retreat together? I'm not saying that it's not possible, I just find that it is unnecessarily awkward. Perhaps it's less the cyclical initiative and more the restrictions on readying and the action economy. Movement or action but not both.

I also think that it is awkward for characters to exchange items if they have differing initiatives. Without having a method to sync I just find some fairly simple actions to be possible but drawn out and unnecessarily complicated.

M
Or something that comes up a lot. The characters are traveling in a set order, moving in lock step with one another. Suddenly, initiative is rolled, and now everyone is moving ahead in a herky jerky fashion, and if they wanted to walk together at the same time, they need to ready actions to do so.

I've seen this wreak havoc with Protection fighting style and Paladin auras, where a character couldn't remain protected at all times by moving with Fighter/Paladin, and had to mysteriously lose their protection in between turns.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The combat system is a tool for determining which side wins when two opposing factions try to defeat each other. It's not intended to solve the problem of evading another group. D&D used to have rules for evasion, but it doesn't anymore. So you're going about it the right way.
True enough. Unfortunately, we've seen too many people here on the boards who are so dogmatic about the game mechanics of D&D that they stick with them even when don't work as they feel they should... and then complain about it and insult all the WotC designers because the designers haven't deigned to "fix" these "massive issues" with the game.

There's a reason why D&D is a roleplaying game and not a board game.
 

soviet

Hero
True enough. Unfortunately, we've seen too many people here on the boards who are so dogmatic about the game mechanics of D&D that they stick with them even when don't work as they feel they should... and then complain about it and insult all the WotC designers because the designers haven't deigned to "fix" these "massive issues" with the game.

There's a reason why D&D is a roleplaying game and not a board game.
5e is simply badly designed in this regard.
 

I find that one rather simple trope from almost any action/sf story feels unnecessary difficult to port to 5e D&D: the knight that guards everyone's back allowing their team mates to retreat. I understand why delaying was sacrificed on the Altar of Speeding up play for 5th edition but for example I have player who's knight always refused to retreat until he's sure his companions are safely away. Under 5e this means that depending upon his character's initiative he will often be left alone until his next turn. Does anyone else find that the cyclical initiative precludes reasonable group tactics?
Yes, absolutely. Cyclic initiative is deeply misguided. It's the root cause of issues like player boredom which game designers try to patch with kludges like legendary actions, but the real solution is quite the opposite: have the players talk to EACH OTHER instead of just to the DM, and then declare their actions to the DM all at basically the same time (after the DM has already decided on monster actions, to avoid picking rock after seeing scissors). You can use initiative rolls if needed to decide what order things actually happen in, but DO NOT USE INITIATIVE TO DISRUPT INTER-PLAYER COMMUNICATIONS.

Incredibly, I see even very good GMs advising the opposite, such as advocating for rolling initiative outside of combat to determine whose turn it is to talk. Fortunately, other very good GMs are aware that initiative is horrible. Ben Robbins' article on the subject is Initiative: the Silent Killer
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Hmm. Perhaps I should clarify. The issue is not that a single knight cannot ready an action and retreat after the rest of their compatriots it's more of a timing thing and a story thing. What if two characters want to retreat together? I'm not saying that it's not possible, I just find that it is unnecessarily awkward. Perhaps it's less the cyclical initiative and more the restrictions on readying and the action economy. Movement or action but not both.

I also think that it is awkward for characters to exchange items if they have differing initiatives. Without having a method to sync I just find some fairly simple actions to be possible but drawn out and unnecessarily complicated.

M
I hadn't gathered from your OP that the issue was about the narrative emerging from combat. In that case, I'd suggest the problem is the rigidity with which the initiative order is being regarded as a thing in the fiction. It's a mechanism for resolving opposed actions (i.e. who strikes whom first and that sort of thing) without having to roll a Dexterity contest for every such pair of events. One standing result for all participants is used because it's assumed that there will be a lot of this type of opposition in combat. For the round to round narrative that emerges from combat to make sense, the turns within each round should be regarded as taking place more or less contemporaneously. The initiative order only matters when there is opposition, so, for example, if two PCs want to exchange an item for which they both use their object interaction on their turn, there's no reason to say that didn't happen. But, if a monster's initiative is between that of the two PCs and it (say) kills one of them before that PC can offer/accept the item, then it has interrupted the exchange.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
5e is simply badly designed in this regard.
As a board game? Sure. In fact ALL versions of D&D mechanics do not make for very good board games. I mean, there's a reason why WotC's numerous attempts at turning their combat rules into miniatures games and board game have resulted in games that have had no real staying power on the market.

The Miniatures Handbook? Dungeon Command? Wrath of Ashardalon and The Legend of Drizzt? All of them have been made to let people play the D&D combat mini-game without all that pesky "roleplaying" getting in the way... and it's been determined fairly obviously that no one really want to play any of that. Few people care. And in fact... turns out it's the roleplaying is what makes D&D what it is and the thing that keeps people coming back to it. D&D is a roleplaying game, not a board game. And which is why some people's need to keep wanting the D&D combat mini-game to be as airtight a board game as like Terraforming Mars or Root just seems odd to me.
 

soviet

Hero
As a board game? Sure. In fact ALL versions of D&D mechanics do not make for very good board games. I mean, there's a reason why WotC's numerous attempts at turning their combat rules into miniatures games and board game have resulted in games that have had no real staying power on the market.

The Miniatures Handbook? Dungeon Command? Wrath of Ashardalon and The Legend of Drizzt? All of them have been made to let people play the D&D combat mini-game without all that pesky "roleplaying" getting in the way... and it's been determined fairly obviously that no one really want to play any of that. Few people care. And in fact... turns out it's the roleplaying is what makes D&D what it is and the thing that keeps people coming back to it. D&D is a roleplaying game, not a board game. And which is why some people's need to keep wanting the D&D combat mini-game to be as airtight a board game as like Terraforming Mars or Root just seems odd to me.
No it's badly designed as an RPG too.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
No it's badly designed as an RPG too.
Depends on what a person wants in their RPG, wouldn't you say?

Some people think the Master's Degree in Mathematics you need in order to play Champions is what makes that game great. Others would disagree. Just like some people think the incredibly detailed swordfighting rules of The Riddle of Steel are what makes that RPG great. Others would disagree. Or that the incredibly open Aspect system of FATE allows players to really delve into who their character is, is what makes that RPG great. Others would disagree.

So I can't state for any sort of fact that as a roleplaying game D&D 5E is "bad", because it will depend entirely on what a player finds important in their RPG.
 

soviet

Hero
Depends on what a person wants in their RPG, wouldn't you say?

Some people think the Master's Degree in Mathematics you need in order to play Champions is what makes that game great. Others would disagree. Just like some people think the incredibly detailed swordfighting rules of The Riddle of Steel are what makes that RPG great. Others would disagree. Or that the incredibly open Aspect system of FATE allows players to really delve into who their character is, is what makes that RPG great. Others would disagree.

So I can't state for any sort of fact that as a roleplaying game D&D 5E is "bad", because it will depend entirely on what a player finds important in their RPG.
I don't disagree, but it seems to me that if your tactical combat/adventure gaming style RPG doesn't allow people to perform standard activities such as moving in formation, fleeing from a combat, or outrunning someone then this is a significant design failure. Such actions would appear to be entirely within the scope of activities that 5e players would expect to undertake.
 

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