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Old February 22nd, 2013, 04:29 PM
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Default Let's Talk Initiative, Shall We?

General game mechanics discussion...



Way back in the day, I preferred individual initiative every combat round. I played that way for years. Sure, in the hands of the wrong GM, it makes for an awful break in the flow in the game--another dice throw, EACH combat round. But, I made it work. My players liked it. And, our old AD&D (1E) games were amazingly fun.

As I became a more mature gamer, more experienced, with a better understanding of how things worked, I realized that what I was gaining in simulated realism by rolling nish each round, I was losing in the unrealistic method of characters acting back-to-back in a combat.

Let's say a foe goes last in a round and then wins nish the next round, going first. If that foe runs both turns (to, say, go warn his buddies), then he gains a very unrealistic advantage in distance moved with respect to the other characters in the combat: One moment the foe is next to a PC, and the next, the foe is impossibly far before the PC has been able to do anything.




For this, and other reasons, my preferance was altered. Today, I still prefer individual initiative, but I like to roll it once and use the same order for the entire combat, but still allowing PCs to move their place in the nish line-up by using a hold action.

I roll once. That establishes the "flow" of the combat, and for most combats, the order does not change.

Compared to the nish-every-round method that I used to use, this is much faster and more conducive to flowing, exciting combats--and still, it has a bit a feel of simultaneous action though it is a turn-based structure.





What I want to talk about is the other major forms of initiative. You may set your players up in a certain order (by a character stat or ability, or by player experience--or by personality, allowing those that tend to act quickly to go first all the time, giving those that like to think a bit time to think) then using that order the entire game, no matter what.

One form of initiative is one I've flirted with the free-form method, where the first player that indicates an action gives his character initiative. The GM directs play, basically deciding who has and doesn't have initiative based on player description and the dynamics of the scenario.

That method has pro's and con's, but it does intrigue me.





Then, you've got games, like Classic Traveller, where initiative doesn't matter at all because the game round factors are not considered to go into effect until the end of the round. Effects aren't immediate--a character doesn't take damage in the middle of the round. All damage is considered effective at the end of the round. Thus, a foe could be killed early in the round, but that foe still gets his chance to act that round--because the damage that kills the foe is not applied until everybody in the round has had a chance to act.

Because damage is not applied until the end of the round, it really doesn't matter who goes first. Thus, the GM doesn't need to bother with initiative.

In an instantaneous-effect game, like Star Wars, if a stormtrooper gets blown away early, before he's had a chance to act, then that's too bad. Trooper dead. He doesn't get a turn because he was killed before he can act. I think most RPG's these days operate this way.





I'm interested in hearing from those who like the other major way of determining initiative: That is, to have some method of nish determination (maybe have the character with the highest chance on a "side" make a throw, or have all characters throw, using the highest result), then using that to determine nish for "sides". Whomever wins, the entire side gets to go. If the players win, the all the PCs act first. If the foes win, then all of the foes act first, followed by all of the PCs acting together. Sometimes, winning side-initiative gives the winner the choice of having his side act first or last--whichever he thinks is more beneficial. Once nish is determined, that same side order is used throughout the combat.

Who likes this?

It seems quite popular in many games. What I dislike about it is that it allows unrealistic coordination. Let's say that you're in a Star Wars game, and the 5 PCs come up against 9 stormtroopers lead by a Dark Jedi. Whenever the PC side comes up, all 5 PCs can coordinate their attacks ont he Dark Jedi--all at one time. If the PC side acts first, the PCs could unrealistically ignore the troopers and attack the Dark Jedi multiple times before he's had a chance to move. This type of thing also appears in fantasy games where the PCs are trying to kill the enemy spellcaster first.

I really don't think this method is any faster than individual nish rolled for the first round only, with that order kept throughout the combat.

You people who play this way...what about it appeals to you?
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