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."

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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Coroc

Hero
Swim in plate??? I've a hard time seeing that work, unless the armour is made of modern lightweight materials (and even then it's a stretch) as opposed to steel and iron.

And didn't knights in armour need assistance from a squire and-or stairs or a stepladder to mount a horse?

Lanefan

You did read right. wait I got a link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzTwBQniLSc

I did only find a vid of samurai armor swimming on the quick search, but plate armor is less cumbersome than samurai armor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLcT5J7yg9k

To get yourself really well educated on any topic of historic martial arts

I highly recommend https://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria/videos

This guy knows it all about swords and most about any other historic weapon

The armor you needed a crane for was tourney armor, so stiff that you could not even turn your head to the side.
Probably they used it to protect extra important persons like a king in the case he had to participate in a tourney.

These armors are special purpose only never used in a war (But you tend to see them more often than the stuff they actually used in wars when you go to any historic exhibition because this stuff did not wear as much and more often was decorated than the plain stuff used in actual wars)
 

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Staffan

Legend
You did read right. wait I got a link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzTwBQniLSc

I did only find a vid of samurai armor swimming on the quick search, but plate armor is less cumbersome than samurai armor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLcT5J7yg9k
I don't have a problem with having a full range of movement in well-made plate armor. The problem is the approximately 20 kg of steel you're carrying, which would make you sink like a rock. I checked a diving site, and they said that a diver needs to carry about 6-10% of their body weight to become "neutrally" buoyant. 20 kg of plate is more like 25%.
 

Coroc

Hero
I don't have a problem with having a full range of movement in well-made plate armor. The problem is the approximately 20 kg of steel you're carrying, which would make you sink like a rock. I checked a diving site, and they said that a diver needs to carry about 6-10% of their body weight to become "neutrally" buoyant. 20 kg of plate is more like 25%.

Still your chances to drown in soaked padded armor are higher, I did not mean to say you can swim like in a bath dress but you can do short distances

That buoyant thing I believe refers to not moving, like divers using weights to faster dive down. If you lie flat on your back (I think its more difficult for some people than others, despite being an extraordinary swimmer I never managed to be good at that trick) and play "dead man" you are buoyant, without much or no movement. It works far better in saltwater and in the dead sea in Israel it is easy as pie bec. of the high salt concentration there.

The first thing u learn as a lifeguard is get rid of your / the victims clothes if possible. When they soak it is easy several kilos at the wrong places of your body your arms and legs.
 
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Coroc

Hero
I don't have a problem with having a full range of movement in well-made plate armor. The problem is the approximately 20 kg of steel you're carrying, which would make you sink like a rock. I checked a diving site, and they said that a diver needs to carry about 6-10% of their body weight to become "neutrally" buoyant. 20 kg of plate is more like 25%.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4tTUXdK7-0 this is an excellent series of real jobs in several periods (check the channel for more)

and I have seen another video wit this guy where he does all sorts of tricks in plate armor I cannot swear that he was also swimming or just telling that its possible I try to find it. Despite this guy being approx. my age or older he is quite sportive and does all sorts of stunts himself.
 


G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Still your chances to drown in soaked padded armor are higher, I did not mean to say you can swim like in a bath dress but you can do short distances

...

The first thing u learn as a lifeguard is get rid of your / the victims clothes if possible. When they soak it is easy several kilos at the wrong places of your body your arms and legs.

I'm skeptical.

Sure, padded armor absorbing water is going to reduce your mobility, but at least the extra weight is going to be...water. So the same specific gravity as the stuff you're floating in.

I know with certainty I couldn't swim 5' with a 45 pound weightlifting plate attached to me, even if it didn't reduce my mobility at all. Again, it's not just the mass it's also the specific gravity.

If people still wore armor I'm 100% certain lifeguards would be told: "first remove the armor, then the clothes".
 

Coroc

Hero
The people in the middle ages at least the fighting men were far stronger than average people nowadays. I did not say you would break the world record in 100m free style with armor but you surely could cross a moat or such. The problem with soaked clothes is that it hampers your movement and your movement keeps you above water. the armor does not soak, well maybe your clothes underneath, but it would be only some layers of linen whereas padded armor might be as many as 15 layers of linen. Do you know those linen shirts they sell on medieval market fares? imagine 15 of them soaked in water, must be like a wet featherbed as a cloak.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
The people in the middle ages at least the fighting men were far stronger than average people nowadays. I did not say you would break the world record in 100m free style with armor but you surely could cross a moat or such. The problem with soaked clothes is that it hampers your movement and your movement keeps you above water. the armor does not soak, well maybe your clothes underneath, but it would be only some layers of linen whereas padded armor might be as many as 15 layers of linen. Do you know those linen shirts they sell on medieval market fares? imagine 15 of them soaked in water, must be like a wet featherbed as a cloak.

I don't think it's a matter of strength. You use strength/endurance to overcome drag while moving laterally. Floating by itself is nearly effortless by comparison. It's really two different things, and I don't think the kind of strength used in the former to overcome 45 pounds of dense mass (iron/steel) pulling you straight down. At least, not for very long.

This is just conjecture on my part. I certainly haven't conducted experiments on this. But I'd want to see a movie of somebody swimming in metal armor to believe it.
 

Took a while to catch up in this thread in order to post my 2 cents worth.....

I am the type of player and especially the type of GM that detests nonsensical outcomes. I have played with players that think you can convince a random noble to sell his family into slavery, hand over their entire fortune to you and run naked thru the streets if you can roll 3 nat 20's persuasion checks in a row.

That is why I am liking where this system is going. Don't get me wrong, it is going to be a hell of a lot of work for the GM in large combat, probably requiring software tools to do effectively. But for players, same number of rolls with more dice, and the tiniest bit of arithmetic is not a lot to ask. Everything else is them being too afraid of what they will loose.

The example mentioned earlier about the initiative cost of having to move and heal (2 dice) being unlikely to save a party member from being merely stabbed by a stationary enemy (1 die.... hehe) is clearly one of those cases. To think there is any chance that a player can "walk 5 feet, climb a 5 foot wall, leap over a table, use my action to dash 30 feet, then cast a spell using metamagic as a reaction" before the enemy can "poke them with my dagger again" is, in any reasonable analysis, preposterous.

I agree that it does put a focus on more tactical type combat, and having a diagram or physical representation of the battle will probably help speed up decision making a lot. One example of a way this will go down well that I like would be as follows: I chose to stay right here and guard this spot. My enemy closes and attacks me. If the enemy does manage to win initiative (with a bit of luck on the multiple rolls) then they successfully hit me first. If, given that I have done nothing this round except prepare for the attack and have had plenty of time to have my weapon and armour in the optimum position (thus giving me the advantage of only rolling 1 die) I do win initiative, then I hold my action until the enemy closes, but then strike first because I am set and ready for the attack. The third possibility is that the enemy chooses not to attack me. Then of course if there is nobody near me to strike the attack is wasted, but that is the sacrifice you make for the initiative advantage.

One new idea that just popped into my head as I write this excessively long post (sorry........) simplifies it a lot: If you want an unrestricted turn where you can do whatever you want when your turn comes around, roll d20. If you forgo movement, as in you resolve to stay put and defend that spot, you roll a d12. If your only objective is to get the hell out of there, you may roll a d8 and your only options in the round are dodge <EDIT: meant Disengage> or dash--and offensive bonus actions/reactions are no longer an option in that round.
 
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Feedback from last night was that this system punishes mobile characters (Rogues in particular) too much, though it didn't reallty come with an explanation of why. I don't see it myself. We'll try again next week, and come to some conclusions then. I think I might ask for a written submission from players.

Has anyone tried this in a game where PCs have mobility (Swashbicklers Rogues, mobility feat, Monks, etc)?

If you want an unrestricted turn where you can do whatever you want when your turn comes around, roll d20. If you forgo movement, as in you resolve to stay put and defend that spot, you roll a d12. If your only objective is to get the hell out of there, you may roll a d8 and your only options in the round are dodge or dash--and offensive bonus actions/reactions are no longer an option in that round.

I really like that!

I'd perhaps complicate it a bit further by saying that if you have something that normally improves your initiative (like UA Ranger or Rogue Swashbukler) then you make the roll at Advantage.

Or, if you really like the addition of DEX or INT modifier, reverse the dice (d20 for move only, d8 for unrestricted), and have highest goes first.
 

Eubani

Hero
Maybe if classes had certain actions that either did not add a dice or reduced a dice to maintain style and functionality. For example With Rogue Movement would reduced to d4 and Cunning action (and any action derived from it) would cost no dice. I do not believe MM gave this system enough thought with how it interacts with classes and effects on how they function both mechanically and aesthetically. I think another section needs to be added to these rules defining how each class effects the dice. I would als join in on the chorus that I believe that the dice for melee and ranged should be swapped if not using via weapon dice.

Given a bit more thought I think being over encumbered and having levels of exhaustion (maybe some other statuses or spell effects) should add or increase dice. Overall I believe that MM has not given enough though to the ramifications of this system.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Given a bit more thought I think being over encumbered and having levels of exhaustion (maybe some other statuses or spell effects) should add or increase dice.
Probably simpler if these things instead of changing the dice or needing more dice just added a flat number e.g. overencumbered gives +2 on any move initiative (but ranged, casting, and melee are unaffected), each level of exhaustion gives +1 on any move or melee initiative (but ranged and casting are unaffected), and so on.

Good idea, though.

Overall I believe that MM has not given enough though to the ramifications of this system.
Isn't that what we're here for?

Lanefan
 

Aldarc

Legend
Overall I believe that MM has not given enough though to the ramifications of this system.
Given his opinion about bonus actions, in general, I suspect that this initiative system may be less of an issue in his own houseruled game. But tackling this onto the pre-existing system seems meh.

Also, I wonder if there would be a way to switch things around such that the Mearls's system falls more neatly in-line with the overarching design philosophy of 3e+: i.e. "roll higher for everything!"

Obviously a lot of people who played 1-2E may Mearls's find "roll low" method non-complicated, but none of my players played 1-2E, and they found the idea of suddenly rolling low to be counterintuitive in light of the rest of the game's design. I still am skeptical that my players (or me, for that matter) would be onboard with the system even if the initiative system was re-adjusted to roll higher, but it would probably do a lot to make it more intuitive or acceptable to my players.
 

I discussed the initiative variations presented here with my roommate. He responded very poorly to the idea of changes. Mostly his arguments were about complexity, which are of course valid, but there was also an obvious bias toward perceived "loss of opportunity" of the PCs, even though anything that effects the characters also affects the opponents.

Given the desire for as simple a system as possible, I also was thinking about the idea of using cards to determine initiative order. If you use cards with each combatant written on them, shuffle them and deal out the initiative order, that would be a much faster system. One of the realism problems--namely being able to use OOC knowledge of order of action to influence decisions--can be solved simply by not dealing the cards out in advance.

This system does not allow for Dex bonuses to initiative, but I was thinking a balance could be found by dealing out a small number (no more than 5, less if there are fewer combatants) of cards in order, and if any combatant currently drawn has a Dex mod, roll d4 for each +1. For each 1 rolled, that card jumps one space closer to the front. As each turn is taken, put the next card from the deck at the end of the sequence, and make whatever adjustments are necessary for the Dex mod of the new card. Thus the players (and the GM) have access to a minimum amount of advance knowledge of the order of action in the round.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
It's true (translation: I agree) that there are a lot of completely justifiable tweaks to the system that quickly lead to too much complexity and game slowdown. And I also agree that this may not work as a bolt-on because it affects other aspects of the game. (For example, abilities and effects that give modifiers to Initiative should perhaps be changed to alter the die roll, or AT LEAST rewritten to change the sign. But this new system also presents a whole new design space for special abilities.)

But that doesn't mean it isn't worth discussing instead of dismissing out of hand.
1) Good solutions may be found to make this a perfectly viable option.
2) Even if that doesn't happen, it might someday be adopted for 6th edition, so let's improve it now.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
It's true (translation: I agree) that there are a lot of completely justifiable tweaks to the system that quickly lead to too much complexity and game slowdown. And I also agree that this may not work as a bolt-on because it affects other aspects of the game. (For example, abilities and effects that give modifiers to Initiative should perhaps be changed to alter the die roll, or AT LEAST rewritten to change the sign. But this new system also presents a whole new design space for special abilities.)

But that doesn't mean it isn't worth discussing instead of dismissing out of hand.
1) Good solutions may be found to make this a perfectly viable option.
2) Even if that doesn't happen, it might someday be adopted for 6th edition, so let's improve it now.

This system isn't worth discussing and should be dismissed out of hand.
.
.
.
Okay, that was a joke. But I still think the whole system is needlessly complicated, doesn't solve an actual problem and reduces player agency. It is just bad, bad, bad.

But hey! If others like it, that's great! Have fun. ;)
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
But I still think the whole system is needlessly complicated

I'll admit it's more complicated than the current system, but so is having a table of weapons instead of having everything just do 1d6. Yet many people clamor for more weapons. So then we get to the "needlessly" part, which moves us to your next two assertions...

doesn't solve an actual problem

You may not think some "features" of the current system are actual problems, but others do. There are many examples just in this thread of the effect that a fixed rotation of turns introduces. There's also the perennial "realism" problem, and while I acknowledge that everybody has different thresholds/filters for that, it doesn't make it any less real of a problem for those whose thresholds have been crossed.

and reduces player agency.

Now this one has me flummoxed. How does it reduce player agency? I suspect we are defining the term differently. Do you mean because there are fewer possible permutations of how to use your action and movement? That's fewer player options, not reduced agency, in my book. And I'm ok with it because some of those current options are so inexplicable narratively that I'd like to see them go.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Well my post was mostly intended as a joke, but does represent my actual opinion. So, okay, I'll answer.

I'll admit it's more complicated than the current system, but so is having a table of weapons instead of having everything just do 1d6. Yet many people clamor for more weapons. So then we get to the "needlessly" part, which moves us to your next two assertions...

It looks like we agree that it is more complicated. My "needlessly" qualifier is due to the opinions below, as you noted.

You may not think some "features" of the current system are actual problems, but others do. There are many examples just in this thread of the effect that a fixed rotation of turns introduces. There's also the perennial "realism" problem, and while I acknowledge that everybody has different thresholds/filters for that, it doesn't make it any less real of a problem for those whose thresholds have been crossed.

Yeah, I don't see any rule problems caused by the current initiative system. There are play styles that are encouraged by the fixed order, like planing your action based on who goes before you and who is next for example, but that is not really a problem. Unless you just don't like it, maybe?

"Realism" could be a problem, but honestly I think the default initiative system is just as "realistic" as Mearls' new system. In that neither is very "realistic". If you wanted more realism you should break everything into segments and everyone can move in 5' increments one at a time. Then attacks and spells would start from the point you stopped moving. Or something like that. But just making the order random every round and penalizing characters with bonus actions doesn't add "realism".

But if you just like the randomness? Sure, personal preference.

Now this one has me flummoxed. How does it reduce player agency? I suspect we are defining the term differently. Do you mean because there are fewer possible permutations of how to use your action and movement? That's fewer player options, not reduced agency, in my book. And I'm ok with it because some of those current options are so inexplicable narratively that I'd like to see them go.

In the sense that something might happen during a round that you might want to react to, but since you rolled poorly there is nothing you can do about it. And if you roll poorly on the following round there is a good chance you won't be able to do anything at all. In the Mearls system you are locked into an action that you decided on before you even know what is going on.

With the initiative as written, on your turn you can do whatever you want. It's your turn. Have fun!

But hey, maybe you like that. Seriously, I get it. People like different things and I can understand the appeal. But on the other hand I know a lot of players that will just get frustrated and quit if you try to tell them they can't do anything on their turn because they made the wrong call at the beginning of the round.
 
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Chaosmancer

Legend
This was brought up before, but I wonder if it is worth bringing up again.

There are two major components of this rule set which may need to be addressed separately.


Rolling 1d20+dex every turn and pre-declaring your actions does the vast majority of the work this system does in terms of encouraging a more random outcome that cyclical initiative does. And, removing the dex mod and just having it be a straight 1d20 roll accomplishes some of the other work.



So, does that system I just described do the majority of what you want, or do people really and truly like this multi-dice and multiple types of dice system that is causing a lot of separate issues?


Because the issue of classes like the rogue and monk being severely penalized for taking all their actions, or classes not being able to use situational bonus actions goes away if it is simply rolling a d20 every round. Heck, the math for initiative is non-existant and while I think it would slow down things a little, it clearly does so far less than determining what your pool of dice is going to be for this turn and adding them all together.


I'll stick with cycling. I brought this system up to one of my players and he seriously disapproved of trying it out, said it was way more than he was comfortable with and I happen to agree, but it is potentially useful to talk about which side of the system bothers you. They are different parts and accomplish different things.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, I don't see any rule problems caused by the current initiative system. There are play styles that are encouraged by the fixed order, like planing your action based on who goes before you and who is next for example, but that is not really a problem. Unless you just don't like it, maybe?
You might not see it as a problem but to me this one awful metagame aspect alone is more than enough reason to take cyclic or turn-based initiative of any kind and throw it in a lake.

"Realism" could be a problem, but honestly I think the default initiative system is just as "realistic" as Mearls' new system. In that neither is very "realistic". If you wanted more realism you should break everything into segments and everyone can move in 5' increments one at a time. Then attacks and spells would start from the point you stopped moving.
That's actually what I'd prefer, hence my suggestions of having movement add +1 to initiative per x-distance moved rather than just adding a random roll. Anything - anything! - to get away from the mini-teleport sort of movement we've had since 3e and maybe even before.

In the sense that something might happen during a round that you might want to react to, but since you rolled poorly there is nothing you can do about it. And if you roll poorly on the following round there is a good chance you won't be able to do anything at all. In the Mearls system you are locked into an action that you decided on before you even know what is going on.
I don't at all mind there being some means of altering your declared action (in particular, something as simple as retargeting a spell or missile) if your initially-declared action no longer makes sense, and think this needs to be written in somehow (though with rather strict limits, to prevent abuses).

With the initiative as written, on your turn you can do whatever you want. It's your turn. Have fun!
Problem is, combat doesn't take turns. Combat doesn't believe in turns. Combat tries to kill you, and you do whatever you can to survive.

But on the other hand I know a lot of players that will just get frustrated and quit if you try to tell them they can't do anything on their turn because they made the wrong call at the beginning of the round.
Again, put in some factors that allow for retargeting (or, better and simpler yet, simply make it that you declare your target when you fire/resolve rather than at start of round) and other minor ways of reacting to changes in the situation...and then just accept the fact that you might not always get to do what you want, and neither might your foes.

But if the "loss of player agency" you refer to is the added inability to meta-gamely know who goes next all the time I have no sympathy whatsoever.

Lan-"the fog of war is rolling in"-efan
 

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