D&D 5E Why use initiative?

Scruffy nerf herder

Toaster Loving AdMech Boi
When I’ve used this system, what I’ve done is roll once for each group of mobs that take the same action (or category of action). So, one roll for all the enemy archers, one for all the enemy casters, one roll for all the enemy melee combatants. I prefer not to add an extra die for movement, so that hasn’t been an issue for me. I suppose, if I wanted to add that factor in, I would have them move or not move in groups - either the enemy archers all stay in place, or the whole block takes the penalty so the units have the option to move if they need to.

Yep, that aspect of it is pretty easy to handle for any DM who is already experienced with handling larger scale battles with lots of mobs. Whatever you can roll as a group for them you do, saves time for you and leaves more time for player fun.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think if I was going to use an initiative system like this again (and I’ve considered it many times), I would actually get rid of the different dice for different attack types element to further streamline it. Top of the round, everyone declares an action (Attack, Cast a Spell, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Hide, Ready, Search, Use an Object, or Other), in ascending order of Wisdom, then rolls a d6. Then everyone takes their turns in ascending order of number rolled (to keep with the standardization of higher rolls = better), with higher Dexterity being the tie breaker. On your turn, you can move up to your speed, take the action you declared at the top of the round, and take up to one bonus action.

Optionally, you could allow a character who for whatever reason can’t take the action they initially declared to Dodge or something instead.
 


What happens if I want to change my action based on what happens during the round? Am I forced to decide what I do before the round starts? Including movement?
The declaration phase is exactly for that. A round is only 6 seconds. Not one minute...
What I do allow, is if your original target is down, you can change the target.
Declaration phase: I charge at the archer in the back.
On your turn that round, the archer is killed. You can still charge an other target or simply move and attack. The basic intention here is to give a hint. I do the same with monsters.
Or I should say, used to do. We moved to side initiative since last year. It speeds things even faster.
 

Scruffy nerf herder

Toaster Loving AdMech Boi
What happens if I want to change my action based on what happens during the round? Am I forced to decide what I do before the round starts? Including movement?
Nope. Want to add an action? Communicate that to the DM then roll another die.

And yes, of course you'll want to change what you're doing. But you only picked a category of action in the first place and can always tack on a new action.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
What happens if I want to change my action based on what happens during the round? Am I forced to decide what I do before the round starts? Including movement?
At least in the Mearls version, you have to declare if you’re going to move, but not where you’re going to move. Likewise, you have to declare if you’re going to make a melee attack, ranged attack, spell, or other action, but not your target(s) or what specific spell or whatever.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
What happens if I want to change my action based on what happens during the round? Am I forced to decide what I do before the round starts? Including movement?

We play you declare your intention for the round. It is only six seconds, and if you start doing one thing and change your mind, you could easily run out of time.

Currently, since we resolve each action individually (instead of one person doing all their actions first, etc.), if you change your action, you just lose your current spot and can act on your next action instead. It more accurately reflects changing your mind in the middle of the round due to events unfolding.

It does mean you have to make some choices and decide if sticking to them and acting now is better or changing your mind and acting later.
 

MarkB

Legend
Some time after I first tried DMing 5th edition, I ran into a video by Matt Colville in his Running the Game series on YouTube. In it he mentioned a really cool alternative to initiative that one of the creators of 5E came up with:

D4 for ranged. D8 for melee. D12 for spellcasting. +D6 to move and/or do something. The lower rolls go first. This process occurs at the beginning of each round.

There are a couple of things that this accomplishes extremely well. The more actions you make, the longer you will need to perform them. Also some actions are more complicated and take more time to perform.

Not only is this more immersive when players think about how long it will take them to do what they want to do, but it actively encourages players to have fun strategizing with each other during many rounds. It also adds a very welcome layer to the strategy because now players can actually try to get an earlier initiative on a given turn, and they have to think about the cost/benefit ratio for the things that they do. E.g. "how can I heal Rumlar, and do it quick?"

So IMO this alternative is not only mechanically superior but it is more immersive. It makes combat feel real.
As a player I'd hate this system. Having to choose what, and how much, I'm going to do at the start of the round, before my turn comes up, and then finding that my chosen action may be invalid or counterproductive once I actually get to do it - I can't stand that kind of system. I've tried them a few times and never got along with them.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I never tried it but it has always bothered me that ranged actions had the lowest modifier. That makes no sense to me, you need time to aim with a ranged attack that you don't with melee and it takes longer to get to its target! I would do it like:

d6 melee
d8 ranged
d10 magic

and maybe +d4 if you include movement.

d4 move
d6 melee
d8 cantrip
d10 range
d12 spell
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
This thread resurrects itself every 3-4 months and generally bogs down into the "that won't work and I'd never use it" and "we use it and it's great" camps. First, let's get past the 2 big points.

Disclaimer: I've been using a variant of what the OP discussed for 5+ years. It's great.

  1. Rules of any kind can be complex until you play them for awhile, then they're old news. So that shouldn't dissuade people from trying something new in their game.
  2. If something sounds cool, great, but ask what you're wanting to do in your game. What does this new rule add that makes the game more enjoyable? And, can we add this new rule without slowing down our game too much?
Here's what we use.

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Is it faster/slower than default initiative? Faster, much much faster. Why? Because all 5 players and the DM are simultaneously deciding what to do, not one at a time. Players are making the best decision as they see it, not a perfect one, and it corrects "analysis paralysis." My combats run so much faster than the default days. It took about 3 combats for players to start getting used to the house rule without looking at a cheat sheet.

What does it add to your game? Unpredictability and tension. No one is guaranteed to go in a particular order each round.

Can I lose my turn by declaring actions? Maybe, but no differently than if you're a melee attacker in D&D and your target moves to the air and you can't reach them. In 5+ years, I've seen less than 5 times a PC made such a boneheaded decision on what to do that they screwed themselves over from acting. Players are reading the battlefield and making optimal decisions as they see it. Ultimately, in my "notes on use," I have a "defer to letting a player act" policy so that if a PC gets grappled and had a weapon ready to attack, they can sub in an action to using that weapon to try and escape. But, if you were moving your hands and incanting fireball, you don't get to fudge those words to mean lightning bolt.

Bonus actions? Aren't declared. They happen so quickly little preparation is needed. In a prior edition, they were called "swift" actions.

Are monsters too much to handle? Yes, as is. Players only have to track the player, but the DM might be tracking a dozen creatures. The DM needed a shortcut. So, monsters have 2 rules. If using a Natural Attack (like claw/bite), they use the d4 unarmed strike. If you're wondering why, do a search for the bear attack on Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Revenant. Everything else no matter the Action uses the monster's HD.

Movement? Tried a variant that considered adding a die for "reserving" the option to move. Too many die rolls (see the DM). Alternately, I have toyed with the idea of simply having anyone who wants to "reserve" the option to move to add +1 or maybe +2 to their roll. This would add strategy to the round and reward attackers who "have their feet set," but so far I haven't tried it.

Anyhow, to be civil folks, whatever works for your game table is best. Whatever works for my game table is best.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Some time after I first tried DMing 5th edition, I ran into a video by Matt Colville in his Running the Game series on YouTube. In it he mentioned a really cool alternative to initiative that one of the creators of 5E came up with:

D4 for ranged. D8 for melee. D12 for spellcasting. +D6 to move and/or do something. The lower rolls go first. This process occurs at the beginning of each round.

There are a couple of things that this accomplishes extremely well. The more actions you make, the longer you will need to perform them. Also some actions are more complicated and take more time to perform.

Not only is this more immersive when players think about how long it will take them to do what they want to do, but it actively encourages players to have fun strategizing with each other during many rounds. It also adds a very welcome layer to the strategy because now players can actually try to get an earlier initiative on a given turn, and they have to think about the cost/benefit ratio for the things that they do. E.g. "how can I heal Rumlar, and do it quick?"

So IMO this alternative is not only mechanically superior but it is more immersive. It makes combat feel real.
The main issue I have is that it doesn't really make the combat feel more real, it's just unreal in a different way. If you think about it, drawing an arrow, nocking the arrow, drawing back, aiming and firing is not faster(let alone twice as fast) as swinging or stabbing with a sword. A crossbow is going to be slower than a short bow. A greatsword is going to be slower than a dagger. The dagger will be faster than the short bow.

If you want to make combat feel real and immersive. Roll every round with a d20 or if that's too swingy, a d12 and then add weapon and spell speed factors to it. You can add that d6 for movement if you like.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
One issue with 5e is that as part of the steamlining they frequently use spell and feature durations of "until the (start|end) oif your next turn" to really mean "everyone will be affected by this during exactly one of their turns. It's a nice bit of streamlining combat when you have cyclical initiative. But it breaks down and requires other types of duration when initiative changes from round to round.

Picture this - you are a monk, and you stun someone who has already acted. Next round you go even faster - say you don't have to move in what you proposed, or you just roll better. You go before the person you stunned and there stun is completed - but they never lost an action to it.

Early editions where you rolled initiative every round (and could incorporate things like weapon speed and casting time) measured duration for full rounds, not ending part way though one. This does in some ways rounds down with if you go later in the round you could effect someone one less time, but they also had a lot less single round occurances, so if sometimes your 5 round duration afected someone 4 times or sometimes 5 times, that wasn't as big a change as 0 or 1.

This isn't a problem with variable initiative. It's the combination of variable initiative, 5e streamlining, and the number of short duration effects, esp. "1 of everyone's turn" ones.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't use cyclical initiative.

However, I can see how having a concurrent declaration phase could really cut down on combat length. Though, there will also be a bit of increased time in rolling the initiative dice each turn and the DM establishing the order for that turn. I think it's likely for many groups that it will save them more time than it costs them.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Though, there will also be a bit of increased time in rolling the initiative dice each turn and the DM establishing the order for that turn. I think it's likely for many groups that it will save them more time than it costs them.
Depends on how you do it. My group rolls each round. The person tracking initiative asks the current player to roll at the end of that players turn. By the time the last person is finishing, he's the only one who still has to roll. Initiative is done about 3-5 seconds after the round is over.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
One issue with 5e is that as part of the steamlining they frequently use spell and feature durations of "until the (start|end) oif your next turn" to really mean "everyone will be affected by this during exactly one of their turns. It's a nice bit of streamlining combat when you have cyclical initiative. But it breaks down and requires other types of duration when initiative changes from round to round.

Picture this - you are a monk, and you stun someone who has already acted. Next round you go even faster - say you don't have to move in what you proposed, or you just roll better. You go before the person you stunned and there stun is completed - but they never lost an action to it.

Early editions where you rolled initiative every round (and could incorporate things like weapon speed and casting time) measured duration for full rounds, not ending part way though one. This does in some ways rounds down with if you go later in the round you could effect someone one less time, but they also had a lot less single round occurances, so if sometimes your 5 round duration afected someone 4 times or sometimes 5 times, that wasn't as big a change as 0 or 1.

This isn't a problem with variable initiative. It's the combination of variable initiative, 5e streamlining, and the number of short duration effects, esp. "1 of everyone's turn" ones.
You can kind of resolve this by replacing all instances of “until the start/end of your/the target’s next turn” with “one round” and defining “one round” as “until the current initiative count on the next round” (that is to say, if the effect started on count 3 of round 1, it ends on count 3 of round 2). That would insure that such durations always last for at least one of everyone’s turn. Though, it creates the new problem of some creatures having two turns occur within that duration, if they acted after it on the round it started and before it on the round where it ends.
 

For the life of me, I think I will never understand wanting initiative to be more complicated than it currently is or involve more die rolls. The primary purpose of initiative is to establish sequential order to an event that -- at least conceptually -- is simultaneous.

My least favorite is the action-based modifiers. I've intensely disliked the so-called "Greyhawk" initiative or weapon based initiative. Simply put, any justification you can imagine for why a bow might be fast or a dagger might slow or a spell might be slow or a polearm might be fast, and I can imagine another justification for why the opposite is true. If, for example, a dagger is faster than a pike, why did armies ever use pikes? They'd have lost to a horde of knifezerkers! The truth is that if there were any real difference that were not down to the relative position or situation that would determine how quickly a weapon might be used, that implement would simply not be useful as a weapon at all. The Tueller Drill makes it pretty clear that what we think of as deadly range in the game isn't how reality works.

Frankly, it would make more sense if, regardless of the events of the round, any creature not incapacitated or dead at the start of the round got to take a turn that round even if they "die" before their turn. After all, how dramatic is it to have one last action before dropping? Once you allow that to be your framework, the majority of the benefits of going first collapse. They're not gone, but they're significantly mitigated. At that point you might as well use popcorn initiative, since going early in the turn order is now mostly a point of current positioning and who determines the information that the rest of the party needs. Now going first is both beneficial and kind of risky. Now it's a real choice.

What people are really trying to do with initiative is game the action economy. Trying to find a way for them to have a turn and others not to. To get ahead of the damage curve. To get the effects of surprise without all that mucking about with surprise rules. And to do all that under some guise of fairness. In any case, I don't think this really adds much to the game. It's not a strategic or tactical choice. Going first is all but universally the best option, and delay was so uncommon a move that it was removed entirely with very little grumbling (and subsumed in the very inferior "ready"). So it's a false choice. It's also overvalued so players already think it's better than it actually is. So why encourage more systems that make the false choice more false if anything?

Just feels like throwing good design after bad.

Otherwise, you can still just use OD&D missile/melee/magic sections of the round.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Depends on how you do it. My group rolls each round. The person tracking initiative asks the current player to roll at the end of that players turn. By the time the last person is finishing, he's the only one who still has to roll. Initiative is done about 3-5 seconds after the round is over.
How do you have initiative die size vary depending on the declared Action then?
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
For the life of me, I think I will never understand wanting initiative to be more complicated than it currently is or involve more die rolls. The primary purpose of initiative is to establish sequential order to an event that -- at least conceptually -- is simultaneous.
Yeah, that is part of what bothered me personally is that you have sequential order to simultaneous actions. So, we broke down actions to more simulate the idea of everything happening together. Each participant does one thing before others act, but they don't get to do everything before the next person acts.

My least favorite is the action-based modifiers. I've intensely disliked the so-called "Greyhawk" initiative or weapon based initiative. Simply put, any justification you can imagine for why a bow might be fast or a dagger might slow or a spell might be slow or a polearm might be fast, and I can imagine another justification for why the opposite is true. If, for example, a dagger is faster than a pike, why did armies ever use pikes? They'd have lost to a horde of knifezerkers! The truth is that if there were any real difference that were not down to the relative position or situation that would determine how quickly a weapon might be used, that implement would simply not be useful as a weapon at all. The Tueller Drill makes it pretty clear that what we think of as deadly range in the game isn't how reality works.
I don't mind speed factors being used, but reach is also an issue which more often overlooked or simply ignored.

Frankly, it would make more sense if, regardless of the events of the round, any creature not incapacitated or dead at the start of the round got to take a turn that round even if they "die" before their turn. After all, how dramatic is it to have one last action before dropping? Once you allow that to be your framework, the majority of the benefits of going first collapse. They're not gone, but they're significantly mitigated.
That is an interesting idea, especially if it works both ways and creatures get to finish their turns as well.

What people are really trying to do with initiative is game the action economy. Trying to find a way for them to have a turn and others not to. To get ahead of the damage curve. To get the effects of surprise without all that mucking about with surprise rules. And to do all that under some guise of fairness. In any case, I don't think this really adds much to the game. It's not a strategic or tactical choice. Going first is all but universally the best option, and delay was so uncommon a move that it was removed entirely with very little grumbling (and subsumed in the very inferior "ready"). So it's a false choice. It's also overvalued so players already think it's better than it actually is. So why encourage more systems that make the false choice more false if anything?
We aren't gaming action economy, we are breaking down actions to simulate simultaneous actions better. It adds quite a bit of tactics actually, but that is also because movement is also an action now, and with more types of movement working together and tactics becomes part of the game for us.

Now, it is more simulationist, so for the people who don't want that it would just over complicate things.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah, that is part of what bothered me personally is that you have sequential order to simultaneous actions. So, we broke down actions to more simulate the idea of everything happening together. Each participant does one thing before others act, but they don't get to do everything before the next person acts.


I don't mind speed factors being used, but reach is also an issue which more often overlooked or simply ignored.


That is an interesting idea, especially if it works both ways and creatures get to finish their turns as well.


We aren't gaming action economy, we are breaking down actions to simulate simultaneous actions better. It adds quite a bit of tactics actually, but that is also because movement is also an action now, and with more types of movement working together and tactics becomes part of the game for us.

Now, it is more simulationist, so for the people who don't want that it would just over complicate things.
I don't agree that what you are describing is more simulationist, it's just different.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I don't agree that what you are describing is more simulationist, it's just different.
It is in the sense of allowing actions to be resolved one at a time for each participant instead of taking all your actions at once.

For example:

A moves
B moves
C casts
D attacks

A attacks
B attacks
C moves
D attacks again

instead of:

A moves and attacks (while B, C, and D are frozen)
B moves and attacks (A, C, and D are frozen)
C casts and moves (A, B, and D are frozen)
D attacks twice (A, B, and C are frozen)

RAW taking all your actions at once and then being frozen while every one else resolves theirs isn't very simulationist, but by allowing actions to be resolved one at a time all creatures are acting "more" at the same time, and not frozen (as long anyway).

It keeps players more engaged as well. No one is waiting around, looking at their cell phones, etc. because they know their next action is coming up soon. Tactics play a bigger role as well (we've added some things though to enhance this even more).
 

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