D&D General The Problem with Individual Initiative

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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!".
If A1 and A2 could delay their actions until A3's initiative, they can all flee together at that point; leaving B4 out of luck.

Then, once everyone's on the move it changes to [pick your pursuit system here] along with maybe some missile fire.
 

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S'mon

Legend
Possibly-controversial opinion: Side initiative dramatically slows down play. It's not the worst method, but it's close.

Side initiative starts with two minutes of blank stares as no-one wants to go first, then ten or more minutes of discussion as everyone argues why they shouldn't go first then ten more minutes or arguing why they should go last.

Group tactics sounds good, but in practice if the GM hands off the action ball to the players, they just drop it.

Yes, I saw this when I tried doing side initiative in 5e. I think this is why (eg) Moldvay Basic uses phases - every PC moves, then every PC missile attacks, melee attacks, and finally spellcasts. It's a lot easier for the GM to manage - to get the players to act - if s/he says "OK, everyone move" then "all missile attacks" "all melee attacks" & finally "all spells".
 


James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
If A1 and A2 could delay their actions until A3's initiative, they can all flee together at that point; leaving B4 out of luck.

Then, once everyone's on the move it changes to [pick your pursuit system here] along with maybe some missile fire.
Yes, and that's why I think most reasonable DM's would allow for delaying. Now if only WotC would realize how important that is...
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes, I saw this when I tried doing side initiative in 5e. I think this is why (eg) Moldvay Basic uses phases - every PC moves, then every PC missile attacks, melee attacks, and finally spellcasts. It's a lot easier for the GM to manage - to get the players to act - if s/he says "OK, everyone move" then "all missile attacks" "all melee attacks" & finally "all spells".
Easier for the GM perhaps, but sure takes away a lot of options from the players.

I can't move after (or while) doing something else? I can't wait for the lightning bolt to go off and then move into that space so as to hold the line and stop the foes from claiming it? I can't put a quick spell on someone's weapon before they attack in the same round?

This is why we got away from this sort of resolution system, I think. Admittedly, there's IMO better ways to do it than what we have now (which is why we've kinda built our own homebrew initiative system from scratch), but even 5e as written has Moldvay beat on this.
 

Andvari

Hero
Easier for the GM perhaps, but sure takes away a lot of options from the players.

I can't move after (or while) doing something else? I can't wait for the lightning bolt to go off and then move into that space so as to hold the line and stop the foes from claiming it? I can't put a quick spell on someone's weapon before they attack in the same round?

This is why we got away from this sort of resolution system, I think. Admittedly, there's IMO better ways to do it than what we have now (which is why we've kinda built our own homebrew initiative system from scratch), but even 5e as written has Moldvay beat on this.
You can do anything, but since there are an infinite amount of possible actions, the rules only cover the most typical actions. The DM judges when you act based on the actions you take. Doing something really quick would be among the first actions, while intentionally delaying until something happens would necessarily take place after that something.

You can move up to half your speed and still make melee attacks, for example, so you can extrapolate what else you might be able to do after moving from that.

Though I think it makes more sense if, in each segment, initiative winners go first and then the the losers, before moving to the next stage. Not as easy to keep track of, though, if there are many combatants involved, and tough on spell casters if there are no disruption saves.
 


People get really tied up about initiative in D&D.

I've been running shadow of the demon lord for years and it essentially uses side initiative, which has always worked well for my group.

It'd be trivally easy to put in D&D. At it's mist simple, you could let players always act first unless they were somehow surprised.

One big benefit I find to this is that there's no jarring shift into combat, the two parts of the game feel part of the whole IMO.

If a group cannot co-ordinate their own order in combat, I see that as a problem with the group dynamic that needs to be sorted out and it shouldn't be covered for by a rule.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I know some people/groups are not fans of initiative and see it as a disruption of the narrative flow of the game (for lack of a better term, or perhaps think it is disruptive for other reasons) but this is not my experience. The call from the DM to "Roll Initiative!" is like putting on a jock jam at a sporting event. . . the table gets hype!


As I have a classroom sized dry erase board as essentially one whole wall of my game room, I put the initiative up on the board, using different color markers for the different factions (black for PCs, red for enemies, purple for unallied NPCs, blue to mark someone under a spell effect, etc) everyone can see where initiative stands and it flows really well once I call out to for folks to give me their number and I jot them down in order (so, I will say "Who has higher than 20? Who has 15 to 20? Who has 10 to 15? etc until I have everyone jotted down). And I usually have a list of pre-rolled d20s I use for things like enemy initiative (I roll actual enemy attacks and damage in the open)
 

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