Unearthed Arcana: "Greyhawk" Initiative

The latest Unearthed Arcana by WotCs Mearls is up. "Mike Mearls introduces an alternative initiative system, inspired by AD&D and the journey to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin—the birthplace of D&D—for Gary Con 2017. While the initiative rules in fifth edition D&D are great for keeping the action moving and being easy to use at the table, the Greyhawk initiative variant takes a different approach. These rules add complexity, but with the goal of introducing more drama to combat."

He's calling it "Greyhawk Initiative". It'll be interesting to compare this to how we interpreted his earlier version of alternative initiative.

Mearls also talks about it in this video.


[video=youtube;hfSo4wVkwUw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfSo4wVkwUw[/video]


 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

A little bit too much die-rolling for my taste, but it's a step in a good direction.

Also, it's nice to see Rath, Rupert, and Delsenora back in action again. :) I guess they must have survived fighting that troll.
 
Initial reactions:

This reminds me of a variant initiative system from Len Lakofka's Leomund's Tiny Hut column in The Dragon, that was very popular in my area (I used something like it for a decade), but not so much of AD&D's actual initiative system (aside from being complicated and inconsistent, that is).
Maybe I'm not remembering the official one in enough detail?

Initiative Dice
Die Action
d4 Ranged attack
d6 Movement
Swap gear
Any other action
d8 Melee attack


Still seems you can draw, knock, pull, and loose an arrow before an adjacent enemy can hit you in the face, fairly consistently. Maybe if you're Legolas. ;)
It's bad enough ranged attacks don't draw AoOs (among other things).
Weird.

Multiple Actions. If an effect grants you an
additional action without the use of a bonus
action, you roll an initiative die for only one of
your actions. Use the largest die that
corresponds to any one of the actions you plan to
take.
If the system addresses extra attacks anywhere else, I missed it. Apparently attacking two or more times is somehow /not/ attacking any faster. At least it's not attacking /slower/, like bonus actions apparently are.

What about Extra Attack, or at least Action Surge, reducing your initiative for the first attack/action?

For instance, when you Action Surge you roll your initiative, take one action at 1/2 the result, and the second normally.

Delaying. You cannot use the Ready action
under these rules, but you can instead choose to
delay your turn. Instead of taking your turn on
your initiative count, you simply act on a later
initiative count, before or after other creatures
as you choose. I
That's generous.

I'd think if you're genuinely dithering, you shouldn't roll initiative until you decide what you do, then, on the count you make that decision, roll initiative and add it to the current count.

I think Ready could work, too. When rolling initiative, state the specific action you're readying. If you beat the initiative of the creature who triggers the ready, you can use your Reaction to interrupt it or just take your action right after it finishes (but still have your Reaction). If it beats you, you don't get to take the readied action.

Edit: I feel like there needs to be a 'too slow' rule, like if you do too much and roll too high there's a threshold where your action rolls over into the next round.

Variant: Spell Disruption
For added AD&D flavor, you can introduce the spell
disruption rule. Under this rule, if a creature that wants
to cast a spell takes damage during the round before it
can act, it is restricted to casting cantrips on its turn.
Wow, that is weak. And double-dog-optional-variant-optional. I guess putting casters at any kind of disadvantage is all but unthinkable.

For Added D&D flavor, maybe add the level of the slot to the die roll, and if you're hit 'between' the die roll and the level modifier, the spell is spoiled and the slot lost. (At least, I think that's pretty close to one of the two conflicting AD&D casting-in-melee rules...)
 
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ad_hoc

Adventurer
My table has been using a simplified version of this and we love it.

A couple thoughts on the UA Article:

Durations - I don't think this works. Some abilities could just not do anything like a Monk's Stunning Strike.

Surprise - Highly dislike this. Just have them roll d10, when their initiative comes up they can use reactions and are no longer surprised.

Dodge - If a character wants to Dodge I have been having them start on initiative count 0 so that they get the benefits for the entire round.
 

jaelis

Explorer
Looks like fun, I'll have to give it a try.

Durations - I don't think this works. Some abilities could just not do anything like a Monk's Stunning Strike.
I guess that is deliberate. But you know when you use the ability whether the target has gone yet or not.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
Bonus action spells ... so fast casting spells are slower in this system. 1d10 for casting a spell and a 1d6 for the spell being a bonus action, or am I reading it wrong?
 

Mercule

Adventurer
I need to read over it. I'm interested in seeing how it works, but it looks a bit fiddly.

My biggest question is what the heck does this have to do with Greyhawk? That association makes me concerned with any other "Greyhawk variants" that Mearls may post.
 

schnee

Villager
The dude's run it at Cons. That is the absolute worst place to do anything new ever.

I'm excited and will try it my next few games.
 
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ad_hoc

Adventurer
Bonus action spells ... so fast casting spells are slower in this system. 1d10 for casting a spell and a 1d6 for the spell being a bonus action, or am I reading it wrong?
A bonus action uses the die of the the action it is associated with.

So if you were to:

Move, Cast a Cantrip, Cast Healing Word on your turn you would roll 2d10+1d6.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Looks like fun, I'll have to give it a try.


I guess that is deliberate. But you know when you use the ability whether the target has gone yet or not.
Turns out I am wrong as far as Monk's Stunning Strike goes.

Now it has the chance to stun for 2 turns because it lasts until the end of the following round.

Still not great, but with Delaying I can see how it would be difficult to design.
 

jaelis

Explorer
It looks to me like, if you don't know whether you want to attack or cast a spell, you can roll 1d8+1d10, and then decide on your turn?
 

fjw70

Explorer
I like the turn order changing each round. I did this with cards (re-shuffling each round). I loved it but my players hated it. :)

Not sure I would like all the rolling this system entails.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
A little bit too much die-rolling for my taste, but it's a step in a good direction.

Also, it's nice to see Rath, Rupert, and Delsenora back in action again. :) I guess they must have survived fighting that troll.
Those names bring back memories.
 

maceochaid

Explorer
how would this work using "light" "finesse" and "heavy" for weapon speed.

1d4 = light
1d6 = finesse
1d8 = weapon
1d10 = heavy

how would that change things?
 

Gadget

Explorer
Still seems you can draw, knock, pull, and loose an arrow before an adjacent enemy can hit you in the face, fairly consistently. Maybe if you're Legolas. ;)
It's bad enough ranged attacks don't draw AoOs (among other things).
Weird.
I noticed this immediately as well, ranged attacks are already quite powerful in this edition. In the system's defense, I believe it is supposed to allow ranged attackers to attack before opponents close with them and engage. At the risk of making the system more fiddly, I would impose a higher initiative dice to making a ranged attack in melee. Perhaps granting an opportunity attack for attempting to do so? Maybe even have a successful opportunity attack disrupt the action entirely?

Wow, that is weak. And double-dog-optional-variant-optional. I guess putting casters at any kind of disadvantage is all but unthinkable.
I noticed this as well. I think part of the problem is that you are not selecting the spell, target or anything in the initiative phase, so if you are disrupted, you could just claim "I was going to cast a cantrip" to avoid losing a slot. Maybe just have the action be negated entirely? You could still claim the cantrip excuse, but your action will be frustrated.

For Added D&D flavor, maybe add the level of the slot to the die roll, and if you're hit 'between' the die roll and the level modifier, the spell is spoiled and the slot lost. (At least, I think that's pretty close to one of the two conflicting AD&D casting-in-melee rules...)
The problem is that you are not selecting the specific spell in the declaration phase, so you can't add to the initiative dice when rolling.
 
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Still seems you can draw, knock, pull, and loose an arrow before an adjacent enemy can hit you in the face, fairly consistently. Maybe if you're Legolas. ;)
It's bad enough ranged attacks don't draw AoOs (among other things).
Weird.
Agreed. If I were using this system, I'd flip it around: ranged attacks d8, melee attacks d4, movement d6. Ranged attacks would still beat "move + melee" 62% of the time (and tie 9% of the time, losing only 27% of the time); but if you're already in melee, melee would beat ranged 69% of the time (and tie 12% of the time, losing only 19% of the time). That seems plausible.
 
I need to read over it. I'm interested in seeing how it works, but it looks a bit fiddly.

My biggest question is what the heck does this have to do with Greyhawk? That association makes me concerned with any other "Greyhawk variants" that Mearls may post.
He says he tried it at GaryCon to give it an old-school vibe. Gary + Old School = Greyhawk.

Nothing more to the name.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
I just want to say I really like this passage from the examples: "Rath (7) has no enemies within reach. His player makes a point of asking the DM if optional rules taken from a website of dubious repute are really what the campaign needs, but the character can still do nothing on his turn."

And it's good to see Rath, Rupert, and Delsenora back in action. Though I wonder why they're using Greyhawk initiative in the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar...
 

schnee

Villager
how would this work using "light" "finesse" and "heavy" for weapon speed.

1d4 = light
1d6 = finesse
1d8 = weapon
1d10 = heavy

how would that change things?
That's been discussed in other places - using the damage dice as the initiative roll.

I like it aesthetically. It would be very 2E, because Weapon Speed was all about 'why does that dude with the 12' pike act before the dude with a dagger'?

It would make martials declare actions with far more detail than a spellcaster though. Unless spellcasters did the variant of 'spell level + some size of dice', which would also bring back a HUGE amount of old school feel. More powerful spells were almost always longer to cast (Power Word Kill was a notable exception) and spell interruption was so painful back then...
 
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