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Unearthed Arcana 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."

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]


 

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Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
A lot of people are saying that ranged should be slower than melee, but I think that the article gets this right. A melee attack is not the amount of time it takes to swing your weapon. It has always been described as a complex series of swings, thrusts, and parries attempting to land a hit. Firing a bow is a much simpler and faster action then engaging in melee combat.

I agree, though, that bonus actions shouldn't add to the initiative score based on the premise that you don't know what your bonus action will be until you establish the details of you primary action, which doesn't happen until your turn.

As for having spell level determine the die roll, this makes sense if you're using the variant where your weapon determines the roll, as it's a similar level of granularity. I'd go with:

Cantrip: d6
1-3: d8
4-6: d10
7-9: d12
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
I think it's been mentioned, but all of the suggestions to modify spellcasting based on spell level (or complexity) means the spell caster has to decide what spell they're casting at the beginning of the round. This UA variant, as presented, isn't that restricted. You get to decide what spell to cast when your turn comes up, not at the start of the round. Having to declare first limits options alot for spell casters, and they will often end up with nothing to do. Monster I was going to charm moved out of LoS? Tough luck. UA RAW? Oh, I'll just cast fireball at that cluster of enemies instead (or, like the example in the article, change tactics to slow a foe I noticed seems to be getting ready to run.)

I think to keep this Init variant as fun as possible means still allowing flexibility on the generic declarations the players make at the start of the round.

You're right, of course. I didn't take that into account because I would never implement a system that causes people to lose their action. :p

Naturally, it made me forget that bit, as I would just allow people to change their mind and do something else instead. Sure, you'd wind up acting later (because you'd roll init from the point at which you changed your action) but you'd still get to do stuff. (Which I think is critical.)
 

phantomK9

Explorer
Conceptually I really like most of the ideas in it, but there are some REALLY big holes in it. Primarily that melee attackers are going to get really wrecked by this. Especially if they are of the move and attack type.

One mitigation for that is already in the optional rules presented, roll the weapon damage die for initiative. This evens the playing field a great deal, should not be optional but part of the standard rules set.

I really don't like having to roll a die for movement and attack all at the same time. Either have the player roll for movement, and then roll the attack or possibly do something like increase the die type if the player wants to move and attack. So the melee character in the example who is attacking with a warhammer wants to move and attack, rather than rolling move die + attack die, just bump up the attack die by one level. Not a perfect solution, but far better than the stand there and suck it, that is presented.

Spell die should be 1d6. The spell starts when the caster's number comes up, but does not end until that number + the spell level. If the caster is hit before the spell completes then the caster rolls a frigin' CONCENTRATION CHECK!!!! How is that even something that was forgotten. Concentration checks are part of the base game, no need to add some weird new obscure rule, just use what is already there.
 

hastur_nz

First Post
Just before we got our hands on 5e to playtest, I ran an AD&D campaign, where we attempted to use the AD&D i.e. 1E rules. Part of it was initiative, where everyone declared their action, then rolled initiative (d6, IIRC), then actions were taken in turn. So pretty similar to "Greyhawk Initiative" here. I'm pretty sure we struggled to adapt, and struggled to find any benefit, and 2e was similar if not worse, so I think we moved back to a pretty traditional 3.x style of initiative.

So while I understand what Mike is saying, about how the added randomness of each round adding to the potential for different outcomes, I'm not sure extra randomness adds extra fun, or extra narrative, because all it really does is force the players to try and account for additional randomness by trying harder to reduce the impact of the random outcomes and swing things back in their favour - something that is easier the more players you have, but could be harder if you only have 4 or even less players. So rather than have one player say "I'll cover the door", you get three players all saying "I'll try and cover the door" - is that really more fun? Sounds like it might help with 6+ players, but I've rarely gamed with that many at one table.
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
And I respect your anecdotal story. And it sounds like you guys are having fun with it! Still don't believe it. My own anecdotal experience is just way different. Sorry. :)

That doesn't make any sense.

Yes, it is an anecdote. But that is all that is needed in this case. It speeds up combat in our game. It won't speed up combat in all games and it might not in yours, but it does in ours.
 

One comment on movement, the system adds 1d6 to initiative for it. And he suggests everybody do it just in case. Not sure if this was already suggested, but why not eliminate the add and assume everybody is doing it unless they declare they are "standing fast" (not moving). Let them subtract 1d6 from their initiative if they stand fast. Less math this way overall and not moving / maybe doing nothing as a result is a specific choice this way, not forgetting to add a d6 for movement. The bonus for standing fast and being prepared is an idea I like as well... and if you end up not moving you didn't get the bonus because you were preparing to move as needed. Just a thought.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
A lot of people are saying that ranged should be slower than melee, but I think that the article gets this right. A melee attack is not the amount of time it takes to swing your weapon. It has always been described as a complex series of swings, thrusts, and parries attempting to land a hit.
Yep, and it still makes sense even in a 6-second rather than 1-min round.

Where it falls apart is when ranged guy is in melee. That's why AoOs for ranged attacks make a lot of sense - in the absence of that, ranged being 'fast' has issues.

I think it's been mentioned, but all of the suggestions to modify spellcasting based on spell level (or complexity) means the spell caster has to decide what spell they're casting at the beginning of the round. This UA variant, as presented, isn't that restricted.
Not if you're deciding which spell to cast or who to shoot with an arrow it isn't, if you're deciding whether you might want to move, OTOH...

You get to decide what spell to cast when your turn comes up, not at the start of the round. Having to declare first limits options alot for spell casters, and they will often end up with nothing to do.
Oh, like the melee guy in the example? Horrors! ;P

this might be a reason Mearls doesnt like Bonus Actions ... it doesnt work well with his Initiative System. :p
Or vice-versa.

So the rules don't cover this, but who declares first, the players or the monsters? Or would standard initiative be a good way to determine, with highest declaring last. Or does everyone decide and then reveal their dice at the same time?

It seems that having information, such as a wizard deciding to cast a spell, might mean picking different actions on your side (perhaps everyone in the party adds a move die to try and take cover or spread out before the wizard casts).

Am I overthinking this?
Not at all, adding more clarity/consistency about declaring actions is clearly a possibility.

A declare-then-act variant I vaguely remember back in the day went:

Declare in ascending order of INT.
Act in descending order of DEX.

The idea being the smarter characters could have an idea of what others were doing.

In 5e, that'd be WIS or whatever they're calling Sense Motive this ed...
 
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BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
One comment on movement, the system adds 1d6 to initiative for it. And he suggests everybody do it just in case. Not sure if this was already suggested, but why not eliminate the add and assume everybody is doing it unless they declare they are "standing fast" (not moving). Let them subtract 1d6 from their initiative if they stand fast. Less math this way overall and not moving / maybe doing nothing as a result is a specific choice this way, not forgetting to add a d6 for movement. The bonus for standing fast and being prepared is an idea I like as well... and if you end up not moving you didn't get the bonus because you were preparing to move as needed. Just a thought.

Sounds like a good thought to me. I always liked that movement in 5e wasn't a "Movement Action".
 

OB1

Jedi Master
A lot of people are saying that ranged should be slower than melee, but I think that the article gets this right. A melee attack is not the amount of time it takes to swing your weapon. It has always been described as a complex series of swings, thrusts, and parries attempting to land a hit. Firing a bow is a much simpler and faster action then engaging in melee combat.

I agree, though, that bonus actions shouldn't add to the initiative score based on the premise that you don't know what your bonus action will be until you establish the details of you primary action, which doesn't happen until your turn.

As for having spell level determine the die roll, this makes sense if you're using the variant where your weapon determines the roll, as it's a similar level of granularity. I'd go with:

Cantrip: d6
1-3: d8
4-6: d10
7-9: d12

Agree with your reasoning on ranged vs. melee and in general think that people are putting way to much emphasis on the importance of going early in a round (winning initiative does not equal winning combat). Also, I love the idea that if you think the dragon is going to breathe this round or the wizard unleash a fireball, you might be best off only rolling a d6 for movement to find some cover early in the round. All that said, I'd say if your weapon has the loading property you must roll a d6 if you need to load it that round.

I think you just convinced me that bonus actions should be a bonus. As in you don't have to roll anything extra to activate them since they are a bonus. Makes things way simpler and keeps fast classes (monk, rogue) fast.

I'd say with your spell casting variant that you can cast anything under the die you roll, but I'm not sure I like the granularity of it so I'll probably stick with a d10. I do like using the weapon die, however as it gives a tactical reason to use lower d weapons, especially for a rogue.
 

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