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


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Aldarc

Legend
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.
I'm sure you recognize that you are essentially trading one awful metagame aspect for another, right?

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.
Problem is, D&D does take combat turns no matter which system you choose: the default or the Mearlsian one. Furthermore, D&D combat already assumes that you are constantly doing what you can to survive a combat round, even if it's not your turn. You are "avoiding" hits when the foe fails to hit, and you are looking for your next opportunity to make a hit.

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.
Of course, you are instead having people declaring what they will do, so the metagamed planning of actions and gaming of the "quasi-speed" initiative initiative system is upfront.
 

Sadras

Legend
Apologies I have not been following the entire thread, so some of these may have already been covered.

But first off how are save-duration spells dealt with in Mearl's system where the save is rolled every round in 5e?

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.

I like this :)

And, removing the dex mod and just having it be a straight 1d20 roll accomplishes some of the other work.
What is the negative aspect of including the dex mod?

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.

Love this idea :)

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).

So for instance, your Lightningbolt (level 3 spell, so +3 to initiative - using this houserule) is going off on 10 after the roll and all modifiers, but opponent A (whom you were targetting) dies on 8. On 9 initiative you retarget your Lightingbolt to opponent B. i.e 9 +3 = 12
So now you act on 12 as opposed to 10. You thinking something along those lines?

I'm sure you recognize that you are essentially trading one awful metagame aspect for another, right?

Sorry, blonde moment here, which metagame aspect are you referring to? Rolling initiative every round?
 

Aldarc

Legend
Sorry, blonde moment here, which metagame aspect are you referring to? Rolling initiative every round?
No worries. I was referring to a trend that I saw in my trial runs of this initiative system: the players were gaming the initiative system. So while it lacked the meta-game element of players knowing and planning around known turn orders, it did shift the meta-gaming towards the players creating a front-loaded plan of attack and reducing the use of character options to maintain low initiative rolls. While the experiences will vary between tables, for my table this new system generated less roleplaying and more combat-oriented metagaming than the previous one.
 


Problem is, D&D does take combat turns no matter which system you choose: the default or the Mearlsian one. Furthermore, D&D combat already assumes that you are constantly doing what you can to survive a combat round, even if it's not your turn. You are "avoiding" hits when the foe fails to hit, and you are looking for your next opportunity to make a hit.

You don't have to stick to those two. Historically in AD&D, there were only rounds, not turns--all player decisions were made concurrently, up front, at the beginning of the round (see Rath & Delsenora example in the 2nd edition PHB), not on separate "turns." Turns are a toxic concept and function primarily to serialize player interactions--to prevent players from taking up the DM's attention when it isn't their "turn". (And then some DMs act surprised that players tune out in between their turns! If you exclude players from participation in 75% of the game, don't be surprised when they pay attention only 25% of the time!) Just throw them out and go back to rounds: everybody declares their action for the round, then everybody resolves their actions, rolling initiative if necessary to resolve conflicts.

We see certain complaints in this thread about being unable to do certain things on your "turn" because you declared something else at the beginning of the round. That's a sign of an impedance mismatch. You shouldn't take input from players both at the beginning of a round and on a "turn" within a round, or you wind up with frustrating resolutions like "you said you were going to attack the orc, but you didn't say you were going to move, so now that he's stepped back 10' it is now your turn but you can't move since you didn't roll a move die, so you are forced to declare 'I do nothing.'" That's insulting and unnecessary--it just rubs the player's face in the fact that his decisions are being artificially segmented by the initiative system you're using. Instead, just let him declare the action once ("I attack the orc") and when it comes time to resolve the action, resolve it, using dice if necessary. ("You advance ten feet and [player rolls a 7, total = 12] strike at the orc, but misjudge the distance and your attack falls short by an inch.")

If two players both declare that they're attacking the same orc, and one of them rolls a killing blow while the other one misses, then fine, they kill the orc. If they both roll killing blows, again, fine. You can have an initiative contest if your players want to see who gets bragging rights on the killing, but regardless, they both accomplished their goal for that round: that orc is dead.

It's simpler and better than PHB cyclic initiative.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So for instance, your Lightningbolt (level 3 spell, so +3 to initiative - using this houserule) is going off on 10 after the roll and all modifiers, but opponent A (whom you were targetting) dies on 8. On 9 initiative you retarget your Lightingbolt to opponent B. i.e 9 +3 = 12
So now you act on 12 as opposed to 10. You thinking something along those lines?
Not quite. To follow on with your example, you declared your action for the round was to cast lightning bolt and rolled 7 init., +3 for a 3rd level spell, so resolving on 10. Once 7 comes around and you start casting (yes, the +3 represents your casting time, or certainly should) you're committed to the casting - and can be interrupted during this time.

Now the Mearls system would have you declare your spell's target up front and then lock you in to that declaration; I'd rather see targeting either made malleable so you can change it on resolution, or not declared at all until you unleash your spell. So, in either case if your original target went down on a 9 you'd find a new target and shoot it (and, of course, everything around it) on a 10 when you resolve as normal. No extra time involved.

Same thing for a melee warrior surrounded by foes. You declare your action for the round is to attack but you shouldn't be forced to decide which one you're actually going to swing at until your init. comes up.

Aldarc said:
No worries. I was referring to a trend that I saw in my trial runs of this initiative system: the players were gaming the initiative system. So while it lacked the meta-game element of players knowing and planning around known turn orders, it did shift the meta-gaming towards the players creating a front-loaded plan of attack and reducing the use of character options to maintain low initiative rolls. While the experiences will vary between tables, for my table this new system generated less roleplaying and more combat-oriented metagaming than the previous one.
That's an interesting - and I must say, rather unexpected - observation.

In the "Gandalf initiative" thread someone's come up with an interesting variant you might want to look at that involves rolling three different-coloured d6's - one for action, one for movement, and one for bonus - that aren't additive. It needs tweaking, but the basics seem to be that if you roll bonus-5 move-4 action-2 then those things happen in that order (high goes first) for that round, and then it's all re-rolled next round. So, lots of dice (could be problematic for a DM running lots of monsters), and lots of ties (fine by me!). Original proposal had it that unused rolls could be carried forward, that one's under debate.

Lan-"taking the initiative"-efan
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Although in a lot of ways I like G.I., I agree that it introduces different movement problems from the RAW version. Not sure "worse", but different.

But here's an idea that might solve some of the issues:

- You can move as many squares (up to your movement speed) as half of your turn number.
- If you want to move more squares, you can delay your turn by twice the number of squares you need.

So let's say you're on count 7. You can move up to 3 squares AND take your action. If you need to move 4 squares, you can delay until Initiative count 8.

So if on your turn your target has moved, depending on numbers you might be able to also move, or you may have to defer.
 

Datalore

First Post
One rule I've used to get the feel of speed factor without the complexity is light weapon attacks use a d6, regular weapon attacks use a d8 and heavy weapons use a d10. This applies to melee and range.

As for bonus actions, they are reduced by a single die step.

Those fix my issues with the system and keeps it simple.
 

Nimblegrund

Explorer
Considering giving this initiative system a go with a few tweaks:

1)I think I like the Weapon Speed and Spell Disruption variants. Giving some utility to lower-damage weapons is appealing to me. You could even give some weapons a "fast" quality that they roll an initiative die lower than what their damage die suggests, or "slow" to do the opposite.

2)I think I might tweak the delaying rules to allow for actions on another character's turn, so long as they can describe what they are waiting for, and can roll low enough on initiative to do it. For example, if two orcs with bows are moving, firing, and then moving back behind full cover, and a player with a bow rolls low on initiative, he could declare that he is going to fire his bow at an orc if it comes into sight. I don't think this would necessarily break anything. However, readied actions wouldn't be able to fall over to the next round under this system.

3)An alternate delaying system... another tweak I might allow is allow players to "wait". Essentially the player does not roll initiative until he is ready to declare an action. Once the player declares an action, he rolls, and adds the current initiative count to his roll. For example, The cleric is unsure of what to do with his turn, so he waits. On initiative count 5 the fighter is attacked and wounded. The cleric announces he wants to move and cast a spell, so rolls 1d10+1d6 and adds it to the current count (5) and rolls an 8. He will act on initiative count 13. This seems fair to me since the cleric got information he could not have had otherwise.

4)Redeclaration: If a player's turn comes up and wants to declare a different action than the one he declared earlier (for example, the melee fighter's turn comes up and there is nobody for him to attack, and he didn't declare a move) then instead of taking any actions he declares a new set of actions, rolls the dice, and adds them to his current initiative count. You must roll all dice for the new declared action(s.)

Example: Regdar declares a melee attack, and rolls 1d8, and rolls an 8. On initiative count 6, his allies fell the enemies that were adjacent to Regdar. Regdar curses and wishes he had declared a move, but he has to wait until his turn to redeclare. On initiative count 8, it's his turn. He redeclares a move and a melee attack, rolling 1d8+1d6 and gets a 4. On initiative count 12 Regdar will gather his wits and move to a new foe and attack.

I think this is fair as well, since *not* declaring a move is a sort of gamble, and having a late initiative is probably enough of a penalty by itself without robbing the player of his turn as well.

5) I will probably not have bonus actions count against initiative. However that leaves an issue where if a player chooses to ONLY use a bonus action on his turn (no move, no attack, no anything, just a bonus action) he has no dice to roll. You could rule that such a player would act on initiative count 0 (unless he was surprised) which would be... interesting? Possibly game breaking?
 

Syntallah

First Post
I have been using this system for some time now (first, the DM Speed Factor variant and then Mearls' Greyhawk variant), and I love it. It randomizes combat for me and my group quite nicely, and does not slow things down hardly at all. Some things that I have tweaked or just do:

- Players must simply declare their actions, not targets. In the case mentioned a few posts ago, if a wizard declares a Lightning Bolt, that's it; I don't care where he casts it or at who. He declared that spell so he has to cast it or forfeit that particular action. No need to worry that his target died a few segments before his turn.
- I modified the Initiative Dice table as follows:

Die Action
d4 Missile weapons
d6 Skill or Ability checks
d8 Melee weapons
d8 Using a Tool or Implement
d8 Retrieving an item at hand
d10 Casting a spell
d10 Retrieving a stowed item

Modifiers (all cumulative)
Finesse, or Light property; quicken 1 step
Ammunition, Heavy, Loading, Two-handed; slow by 1 step
High Level Spells (i.e. 6th level or higher); slow by 1 step

- You can Delay your turn as long as you want. So, if your initiative count was a 7, but you want to see how things shake out, or the above mentioned wizard wants to wait until his meat shields have moved away from his intended target, he can Delay until 8,9,10,11, whatever. As a new segment rolls by, I simply ask the player "do you want to go?" If yes, his Delay beats all ties for that segment, if not, we finish that segment and move to the next... and so on...
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I have been using this system for some time now (first, the DM Speed Factor variant and then Mearls' Greyhawk variant), and I love it. It randomizes combat for me and my group quite nicely, and does not slow things down hardly at all. Some things that I have tweaked or just do:

- Players must simply declare their actions, not targets. In the case mentioned a few posts ago, if a wizard declares a Lightning Bolt, that's it; I don't care where he casts it or at who. He declared that spell so he has to cast it or forfeit that particular action. No need to worry that his target died a few segments before his turn.
- I modified the Initiative Dice table as follows:

DieAction
d4Missile weapons
d6Skill or Ability checks
d8Melee weapons
d8Using a Tool or Implement
d8Retrieving an item at hand
d10Casting a spell
d10Retrieving a stowed item

Modifiers (all cumulative)
Finesse, or Light property; quicken 1 step
Ammunition, Heavy, Loading, Two-handed; slow by 1 step
High Level Spells (i.e. 6th level or higher); slow by 1 step

- You can Delay your turn as long as you want. So, if your initiative count was a 7, but you want to see how things shake out, or the above mentioned wizard wants to wait until his meat shields have moved away from his intended target, he can Delay until 8,9,10,11, whatever. As a new segment rolls by, I simply ask the player "do you want to go?" If yes, his Delay beats all ties for that segment, if not, we finish that segment and move to the next... and so on...

I’d recommend considering that they delayed character go last in the segment. That is, those who actually rolled that segment are acting, and the delayed character is reacting to the actions in that segment.

It also allows you to retain the Ready action, which does go first, but limits your options in a different way.

In other words a pro/con or risk/reward choice on whether to delay or not.
 

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