D&D General The Problem with Individual Initiative

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
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.
For those that feel those things are important? Yes, absolutely it would be seen as a design failure.

For those that those kinds of things aren't important to be represented mechanically and instead could be handled under 'Rulings, Not Rule'? Those players probably don't care or mind at all.

The question is just how many of each type of player there are in the D&D ecology, and thus how many pages are worth spending on creating rules for them? I don't disagree that there are some players that would rather slice the Spell section in half in order to make a much more advanced tactical combat simulation board game... but is that really what most players want or need? I'm not so sure.
 

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soviet

Hero
For those that feel those things are important? Yes, absolutely it would be seen as a design failure.

For those that those kinds of things aren't important to be represented mechanically and instead could be handled under 'Rulings, Not Rule'? Those players probably don't care or mind at all.

The question is just how many of each type of player there are in the D&D ecology, and thus how many pages are worth spending on creating rules for them? I don't disagree that there are some players that would rather slice the Spell section in half in order to make a much more advanced tactical combat simulation board game... but is that really what most players want or need? I'm not so sure.
This is a strawmen. You don't need pages and pages of 'advanced tactical combat simulation board game' rules to be able to resolve a foot chase.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
This is a strawmen. You don't need pages and pages of 'advanced tactical combat simulation board game' rules to be able to resolve a foot chase.

Given that the 5e DMG has rules for chases (starting on pg 252), this seems like a remarkably poorly-chosen example.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For those that feel those things are important? Yes, absolutely it would be seen as a design failure.

For those that those kinds of things aren't important to be represented mechanically and instead could be handled under 'Rulings, Not Rule'? Those players probably don't care or mind at all.
Their DMs might, though, once all those rulings (which set in-game precedent) end up having to be compiled into a sheaf of established house rules.
The question is just how many of each type of player there are in the D&D ecology, and thus how many pages are worth spending on creating rules for them? I don't disagree that there are some players that would rather slice the Spell section in half in order to make a much more advanced tactical combat simulation board game... but is that really what most players want or need? I'm not so sure.
I'm not after an advanced tactical combat-sim board game, but @soviet has a point in saying there's a few holes that IMO could easily be fixed without adding much word count if any.

Moving in formation, or otherwise acting in unison: allowing tied initiatives solves this in a heartbeat.

Pursuit or running combat: instead of allowing for "kiting" with mini-teleport-like moves, if the move speeds are otherwise the same just give each a d20 (high is faster) to indicate whether the distance between them grew or shrank during that round (or other period of time as appropriate), and only if-when that distance shrinks to 0 can attacks be made.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Their DMs might, though, once all those rulings (which set in-game precedent) end up having to be compiled into a sheaf of established house rules.
Well, I'm one of those people that probably (mistakenly) thinks that a DM with a giant sheaf of house rules like that actually IS looking for a much more robust combat-sim game experience. Because the reason to write all those dozens and dozens of rules down is so that the DM and players can always reference back to them, so that there is an everlong consistency of how their game should be played. The idea that for the game to have meaning, it has to be run and played the exact same way all the time so that players always have that consistency of knowledge and expectation so that they can make "tactically correct" moves. And if you don't have all these corner-cases written down, then you can't get that consistency. (But I freely admit I'm probably putting more emphasis on this idea than probably other intend or believe, so that's my fault.)

As opposed to the opposite method (that I subscribe to) of just making up a ruling in the moment when something occurs that there's no rule to reference... and then forgetting about it. And if/when that moment shows up again some time down the line-- next month, next year, next campaign-- the DM just again makes up a new ruling based on the new situation, even if that new ruling ends up being different than what they ruled the first time. Not that any of us would even remember if it WAS different. And to me that's perfectly okay.

I know that bugs some people... the idea that a DM could possibly rule the relatively same situation two different ways at two different times... but I just don't have that same problem with it. To me, the D&D board game is so wishy-washy and merely representative that the requirement that the game always be the same just seems like a whole lot of work for little gain to me. We play the game as-is because it's part and parcel of the D&D experience... but it's not so important that it be bronzed or carved in stone.

And while I can't say whether the designers agree or disagree with my take or yours... the fact that their designs seem to often sit between both of us leads me to think that the whole thing is a pick-and-choose situation. Some things one person finds important get embraced in the design... other things are not. And we all end up getting only a part of what we probably would wish to have.
 
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Oofta

Legend
Well, I'm one of those people that probably (mistakenly) thinks that a DM with a giant sheaf of house rules like that actually IS looking for a much more robust combat-sim game experience. Because the reason to write all those dozens and dozens of rules down is so that the DM and players can always reference back to them, so that there is an everlong consistency of how their game should be played. The idea that for the game to have meaning, it has to be run and played the exact same way all the time so that players always have that consistency of knowledge and expectation so that they can make "tactically correct" moves. And if you don't have all these corner-cases written down, then you can't get that consistency. (But I freely admit I'm probably putting more emphasis on this idea than probably other intend or believe, so that's my fault.)

As opposed to the opposite method (that I subscribe to) of just making up a ruling in the moment when something occurs that there's no rule to reference... and then forgetting about it. And if/when that moment shows up again some time down the line-- next month, next year, next campaign-- the DM just again makes up a new ruling based on the new situation, even if that new ruling ends up being different than what they ruled the first time. Not that any of us would even remember if it WAS different. And to me that's perfectly okay.

I know that bugs some people... the idea that a DM could possibly rule the relatively same situation two different ways at two different times... but I just don't have that same problem with it. To me, the D&D board game is so wishy-washy and merely representative that the requirement that the game always be the same just seems like a whole lot of work for little gain to me. We play the game as-is because it's part and parcel of the D&D experience... but it's not so important that it be bronzed or carved in stone.

And while I can't say whether the designers agree or disagree with my take or yours... the fact that their designs seem to often sit between both of us leads me to think that the whole thing is a pick-and-choose situation. Some things one person finds important get embraced in the design... other things are not. And we all end up getting only a part of what we probably would wish to have.

Neither style is right or wrong, but I would also say that I do much the same you do. Thing is though, is that it rarely feels like the situations are exactly the same. Very similar? Sure. But in general the weird things that come up are so unusual that I'm okay with handling it on a case-by-case basis.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, I'm one of those people that probably (mistakenly) thinks that a DM with a giant sheaf of house rules like that actually IS looking for a much more robust combat-sim game experience. Because the reason to to write all those dozens and dozens of rules down is so that the DM and players can always reference back to them, so that there is an everlong consistency of how their game should be played. The idea that for the game to have meaning, it has to be run and played the exact same way all the time so that players always have that consistency of knowledge and expectation so that they can make "tactically correct" moves. And if you don't have all these corner-cases written down, then you can't get that consistency. (But I freely admit I'm probably putting more emphasis on this idea than probably other intend or believe, so that's my fault.)

As opposed to the opposite method (that I subscribe to) of just making up a ruling in the moment when something occurs that there's no rule to reference... and then forgetting about it. And if/when that moment shows up again some time down the line-- next month, next year, next campaign-- the DM just again makes up a new ruling based on the new situation, even if that new ruling ends up being different than what they ruled the first time. Not that any of us would even remember if it WAS different. And to me that's perfectly okay.
Thing is, the moment someone does remember that the original ruling was different - which happens fairly often IME even if the original ruling was years ago - you've got a potential (and IMO valid) player-side argument on your hands. Arguments like that aren't fun and can sometimes get heated, thus if I can avoid them by noting previous set precedents* and sticking to them as far as practical, I will.

* - within the same campaign/setting. Change of campaign or setting means, if so desired, all those rulings can go out the window leaving a blank slate.
I know that bugs some people... the idea that a DM could possibly rule the relatively same situation two different ways at two different times... but I just don't have that same problem with it.
Doesn't just bug me in D&D, it bugs me in all sports when rules get changed such that a record set 50 years ago holds no relevance today.
To me, the D&D board game is so wishy-washy and merely representative that the requirement that the game always be the same just seems like a whole lot of work for little gain to me. We play the game as-is because it's part and parcel of the D&D experience... but it's not so important that is be bronzed or carved in stone.
Note, however, this philosophy also extends far beyond the combat mini-game.

The most frequent place I've had to make rulings is around non-combat spells and their various interactions. How, for example, do or can the spells Light, Darkness, Continual Light, Continual Darkness, Deeper Darkness, Sunray, and a host of other light-affecting spells each interact with all the others and-or with mundane light sources? Some of this is covered in the spell write-ups, to be sure, but sorting the rest out by houserule is work I only have to ever do once; and I'd rather do it that once and get it over with than have to argue with myself (and maybe my players) every time these things arise.
And while I can't say whether the designers agree or disagree with my take or yours... the fact that their designs seem to often sit between both of us leads me to think that the whole thing is a pick-and-choose situation. Some things one person finds important get embraced in the design... other things are not. And we all end up getting only a part of what we probably would wish to have.
Agreed. :)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Thing is, the moment someone does remember that the original ruling was different - which happens fairly often IME even if the original ruling was years ago - you've got a potential (and IMO valid) player-side argument on your hands. Arguments like that aren't fun and can sometimes get heated, thus if I can avoid them by noting previous set precedents* and sticking to them as far as practical, I will.
Well, of all the people here on the boards whose players potentially would remember stuff like that and have a problem with it... it would not be a surprise to me at all that your classical AD&D/2E style of game would be one that did, LOL! The things that your table finds important in the game is probably wildly different than what is found in mine. :)
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I agree with the recommendation above that a chase is a bad time for initiative. It's really a series of skill checks, and relative speed.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
But if everyone has the same speed, then we need to determine whether or not the group runs away as a group, or if some of the members can be overtaken by enemies who can react quicker, and the system the game provides for that is...initiative!

Hence the problem. To use the chase rules, you need to stop using initiative, and let group A (the chased) attempt to escape group B (the chasers).

Because initiative is cyclical, that means at any given time group A wishes to flee, there can be members of group B who have yet to act in the turn, or who could act before all members of group A could attempt to leave the scene.

If we have two sides in a battle, and due to initiative, it looks like this:

A1
B1
A2
B2
B3
A3
B4

Group A, being down one person (A4, who has just died, say), wishes to flee. By rights, everyone should be allowed to act and decide if they wish to interfere with the fleeing party, chase after them, or let them go.

If you were to simply dispense with initiative and say "Group A flees en masse", does B2 and B3 lose their turn to allow A3 to escape, when they could prevent it by say, making a Grapple attempt?

I've never personally been in a game where this would occur. What generally happens is, in order for a chase to even begin, every member of the fleeing group act before the pursuers, and be out of range of any pursuer actions that could prevent the flight (or the pursuers are prevented from acting due to some other circumstance)...unless everyone wishes to flee on their own and let the devil take the hindmost.

In this circumstance, you can see how individual initiative actively hampers such group actions. Now someone might say "well, the DM can just decide to let the players escape", but I never said group A was the players! What if group A are the NPC's? I have difficulty imagining a table where the DM can say "the bad guys flee, ok, let's start using the chase rules" and the players wouldn't immediately go "wait a second, I still have an action!".

Side initiative allows for group actions, but it's also terrible, because in practice, if five guys all act before anyone on your team does...well, let's just say, the Cleric dies.

And this is why, when people say "well, you just run away", I'm always bewildered, because the initiative system makes fleeing harder than just fighting to the death.
 

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