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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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't really like this, for many reasons. It's fiddly, wastes time, warps balance, wastes actions and overall it feels like a pet project that will only waste design time with important opportunity costs for the worse of the game.

If you don't like cyclic initiative, there is a simpler way to keep stuff running. Get a deck of cards running from 1 to 50. Whenever it's time for combat shuffle and give each player two cards + Dex bonus (minimum 1) then the DM draws one card for each monster + the best Dex bonus in the group (+1 for any legendary actions). DM puts her lowest card and declares which monster acts in that slot. Players with a lower card can show it and get their action or movement before that monster. Monster gets their turn, DM shows another card and players with a lower card can get an action or movement before that monster. And so on until all monsters get a turn, then any residual players get their turn. Shuffle and repeat. As long as players have actions or movement they can keep intervening with their initiative cards. Once they are out of them they discard all of their cards.
This way players have to keep attention as they don't know when they get to intervene, and they aren't pressured to use their bonus action as it could still be useful later.
Shuffling and deealing cards each round can't possibly be any less fiddly than rolling dice. :)

Also, at first glance this seems to give a significant advantage to the PCs, as they are always reacting to the opponents rather than proacting. Ideally in any random-order system nobody knows who will act next, but here when the DM lays a card down and says "the ogre acts on this count" the PCs who would otherwise act before it have information (the ogre acts before any of the orcs) that they should not, which will influence their decision-making. The opponents don't get the benefit of this same advance knowledge.

At least with true cyclic initiative everybody has the same knowledge, that being the turn order. Randomizing initiatives is intended to remove this.

Lanefan
 

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But what happen then if the monster move to engage the PCs. Does the caster still cast fireball or then switch to a different spell?

That's the bit where my players and I disagree. :) I like the chaotic nature of the system. Your fireball might go off before the ogre moves; it might not. You'll have to think on your feet. My players don't like it - they like the predictability of "PC turn - monster turn - PC turn - monster turn".
 

LapBandit

First Post
I want to try: Everyone including enemies declares their actions at the start of the round and they resolve in initiative order. That's right, your friend might run into the way of that Fireball or you might waste your movement heading towards a dead enemy, but it makes combat more dynamic and chaotic and I really like it.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I want to try: Everyone including enemies declares their actions at the start of the round and they resolve in initiative order. That's right, your friend might run into the way of that Fireball or you might waste your movement heading towards a dead enemy, but it makes combat more dynamic and chaotic and I really like it.

See, I wonder.

Do you like it as a player or as a DM?


Because as the DM you are one mind controlling the entire team, much reduced chances for anything crazy to happen and if it does, no big deal.

The players on the other hand have to coordinate and it is immediately far more difficult for them to do so. And if something crazy happens that causes one of them to get severely injured or even killed, it is a much bigger deal than when Orc #54 died.



Also, you will never have a point in time when everyone declares their actions "at the same time" because people will have to take turns and of course, they can't react to what people further down the line decide to do. More than likely the person casting fireball decides to drop it on the fighter's head after the fighter locked in their action, rather than the fighter deciding to run into an area they know is about to explode.

And the DM will either go first so the players know exactly what will happen on the monsters turns, or last and therefore have the ability to change tactics in response to the players. They generally shouldn't (sometimes they should, if it makes a better story or makes their declared actions work better) but there will be times it happens and even if there isn't you'll be accused of changing in response to them instead of sticking with your original plan.


Unless you write everything down first, then all reveal at the same time, but at that point we are trying really hard to do something that most tables don't see the need to do.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
See, I wonder.

Do you like it as a player or as a DM?


Because as the DM you are one mind controlling the entire team, much reduced chances for anything crazy to happen and if it does, no big deal.

The players on the other hand have to coordinate and it is immediately far more difficult for them to do so. And if something crazy happens that causes one of them to get severely injured or even killed, it is a much bigger deal than when Orc #54 died.

A sombre looking orc walks towards the announcement rock in the centre of the of the cavern. He starts calling out a list of names. Orc # 37 lets out a heartbroken wail. Her husband, Orc #54, is among the list of the fallen.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
I finally watched the video and it doesn't make me like the system any more. Actually the opposite. It occurs to me that someone needs to correct Mike on a few things.

First what I agree with. I understand the need of a designer to go back and revisit what he has created and question, "Was that really the right thing to do?" That is totally understandable, and I appreciate what he did with the work on the initiative system. Heck, I got caught up and did a little work on it myself a couple pages back. But while I appreciate the work, I don't agree with the results.

One thing that sticks out is how he kept saying it "increased drama". Really? I think we have different ideas on what drama is. His example of the wizard that was near death and they needed to roll low so they could beat the undead jester over there and save the wizard. Except they had no chance. There was no drama. Maybe some tension as they rolled to see if anyone could roll lower? But the bad guy only had to roll one die. Everyone else needed to roll a die to move and another for their action. There was virtually no chance they were going to save the wizard.

And it is a perfect example of one of the problems with the system. Bad guy does a bunch of stuff and goes last, ending move by wizard. Then does one quick action to get two actions in a row and kill the wizard. Rinse, repeat. It might be interesting once, but after the 5th time the bad guy offs your character with back-to-back actions you are going to be done with it.

Plus I can see players starting to pick up that play style. Which there is nothing wrong with, but now you are just playing a different game, not a better game.

Finally one that has me screaming and pulling my hair out. His insistence that Bonus Actions are bad because of Two Weapon Fighting. ARGH! How many times have we brought up here that the problem is not with Bonus Actions! It is with requiring a Bonus Action for Two Weapon Fighting. Give me at least ONE example where Bonus Actions are a problem that DON'T mention Two Weapon Fighting! Then we can have a conversation about the pluses and minuses of Bonus Actions. :mad:
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I remember how horrible it was trying to look up tables for speed factors, spell levels and various initiative modifiers every round back in 2e. Rounds, happened, very, slowly... I disapprove of this system.

If they didn't want predictable turn orders, why don't you just take the initiative system that already exists 5e and just roll every round?

I think that they could suggest a range of possible steps from the simplest to the most complex options:

1) roll initiative once per combat + no pre-declaration of action needed (standard rules)

2) roll initiative once per round + no pre-declaration of action needed (more randomness)

3) roll initiative once per round + pre-declaration of action needed (even more randomness with chance of waste)

4) roll initiative once per round + pre-declaration of action needed + init dice by action type (Mearl's rules)

Plenty of options...
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
See, I wonder.

Do you like it as a player or as a DM?
In my case, both.

Because as the DM you are one mind controlling the entire team, much reduced chances for anything crazy to happen and if it does, no big deal.

The players on the other hand have to coordinate and it is immediately far more difficult for them to do so. And if something crazy happens that causes one of them to get severely injured or even killed, it is a much bigger deal than when Orc #54 died.
The players don't have to co-ordinate; but they often choose to. That said, realism dictates that not every plan or co-ordinated move is going to come off right, and yes - sometimes the front line are gonna get fireballed if they rush in too soon.

As for the DM controlling the whole team - most of the time my dumber monsters don't co-ordinate much at all; more intelligent opponents sometimes co-ordinate and sometimes don't, depending on a host of factors. About the only times I use party-level co-ordination or better is if a) the opponents have any sort of hive mind (e.g. are all psionically linked or are all operating as puppets run by a single controller) or b) the opponents are in fact another adventuring party.

Also, you will never have a point in time when everyone declares their actions "at the same time" because people will have to take turns and of course, they can't react to what people further down the line decide to do. More than likely the person casting fireball decides to drop it on the fighter's head after the fighter locked in their action, rather than the fighter deciding to run into an area they know is about to explode.
Wizard says she's casting fireball. Fighter says she's running in. Wizard doesn't target until resolution, and as spells by RAW always go right where they're targeted to go then if the Fighter gets hit that's on the Wizard.

Far better is a system that requires aiming of such spells, but that's another diversion entirely.

And the DM will either go first so the players know exactly what will happen on the monsters turns, or last and therefore have the ability to change tactics in response to the players. They generally shouldn't (sometimes they should, if it makes a better story or makes their declared actions work better) but there will be times it happens and even if there isn't you'll be accused of changing in response to them instead of sticking with your original plan.
Yeah, this could become an issue at some tables where there's less trust in the DM to play in good faith. That said, it makes the case for having the DM roll the opponents' initiatives each separately, rather than as a group, so that the DM's declarations can go wrong too.

Lan-"I still say there needs to be a better mechanism in this to allow realistic (but reasonable) action changes in response to during-the-round developments"-efan
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Finally one that has me screaming and pulling my hair out. His insistence that Bonus Actions are bad because of Two Weapon Fighting. ARGH! How many times have we brought up here that the problem is not with Bonus Actions! It is with requiring a Bonus Action for Two Weapon Fighting. Give me at least ONE example where Bonus Actions are a problem that DON'T mention Two Weapon Fighting! Then we can have a conversation about the pluses and minuses of Bonus Actions. :mad:
So what's your solution? Remove TWF from the Bonus Action mechanic and put it...where?

Make the second weapon a free action? Too generous, as then the bonus action can be used for something else and the TWF person gets a free extra strike every round at cost of only a shield's worth of AC.

Ban two-weapon fighting entirely? Yeah, like that'll ever fly. (not that I'd mind, personally - nerfing the Drizz't wannabees would be a strong feature)

So what's the answer?

Lan-"my dislike of economics is slowly spreading to include action economics"-efan
 

Pauln6

Hero
I think I would just not charge anything in the initiative dice for the use of a bonus action. If you can't perform your chosen action or any other actions I would also let you move half move at the end of the round.
 

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