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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Alternates to initiative

    Are there any fun alternatives to initiative that I could incorporate to my game? Or maybe entirely new forms that change how character action occured in a time crunch.

    P.S. I know that initiative is pretty heavily ingrained into most fantasy RPGs, and that any general change to it would require a pretty sizable overhaul to any system. But I'm not worried about that, I just want to hear the ideas for right now.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Depends a lot on what system you use. In D&D, I started to really enjoy rerolling initiative each round, both as a player and as a DM. It makes the combat more dynamic, makes player pay more attention, and makes bonus to initiative more valuable.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    I've toyed with some. They tend to take a lot of explanation for which I lack time right now, but one is a sort of "action point" system where you roll essentially initiative to get action points, and then various actions cost different amounts of action points (depending on the scale of the "initiative" roll and how your "rounds" are structured), and, instead of having the roll determine turn order, you have people bid for initiative using action points.

    This led, in the one experiment I did with it, to players being unwilling to bid, for some reason, so we wound up rolling off. To counteract this, I suggest having everyone announce the actions they intend to take, and THEN let them bid for who takes their action first.


    The other one is one for a combat system I'm still working on, because it's not as clean as I'd like, but the goal in it is that each character rolls once per round. Period. Everyone acts simultaneously, and people roll their dice for their actions and work out the results, then confer with the GM and each other, as necessary. Everyone's actions work based on the state of things at the start of the round, and all results are applied at the end of the round. This means two people could kill each other during the round, because neither dies before they get to act.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    You could try popcorn initiative. Everyone rolls for initiative in the first round and the winner goes first. It doesn't matter what everyone else rolled. At the end of your turn, you get to choose who goes next. The last one to act in the round gets to choose who goes first in the next round (which could be themselves).

    At first, it sounds like the winner would just pick a teammate who would also pick a teammate until all the enemies go last, but that's a bad idea. The enemies will all get a turn and they could pick themselves to go first next round and get two turns in a row before the other side can go again. Plus, sometimes it's better to go second: you don't have to worry about where an enemy will be after you move if he already took his turn, for example.

    This also allows for cool teamwork moves like "I'm going to go over here and taunt the minotaur, then the minotaur will go and hopefully move toward me, then whichever one of you goes next can shoot him in the back."
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinizak View Post
    Are there any fun alternatives to initiative that I could incorporate to my game? Or maybe entirely new forms that change how character action occured in a time crunch.

    P.S. I know that initiative is pretty heavily ingrained into most fantasy RPGs, and that any general change to it would require a pretty sizable overhaul to any system. But I'm not worried about that, I just want to hear the ideas for right now.
    HERO system does it by descending Dex. Although it's a point based supers system at it's core, so Dex costs more than Str etc. Still Fantasy HERO is a thing and works just fine.

    Probably won't translate into the typical d20 format, especially if there are rolled stats.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    What I generally do in any RPG not involving a map and miniatures, is go around the table asking for actions and then describe everything happening more-or-less simultaneously. It makes combat less tactical and more about what your character wants to do.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    RuneQuest does it by strike ranks. A combatant's strke rank is a combination of modifiers from their size (reach helps), dexterity and weapon length (did I say that reach helped?). Lowest strike ranks go first, and attacks on the same strike rank are effectively simultaneous, spells take a number of strike ranks to cast so can be interrupted if hit during the cast.

    I vaguely remember Judge Dredd having an action sequence (with increasing numbers of actions) determined by dexterity.

    BECMI D&D usues initiative, but throws in a few odd twists: the order is ranged attacks, spells, one handed weapons, two-handed weapons, each phase going by the overall group initiative; one has to declare actions first in which case any ranged hit will interrupt a spell being cast.

    Action declaration is an interesting complication - some systems make mroe use of it than others. In my experience,where systems use it those going first declare last (once they know what everyone else has declared).

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Wrath & Glory has a simple turn order - first one of the players goes, then the GM goes, then another player, then the GM. Meta-currency can be spent on both sides to go twice in a row, but not more. The GM can also spend currency to go first. It works well enough and honestly comes down to the same thing as rolling for initiative pretty often. Same goes for abandoning initiative entirely as Dungeon World does.
    Last edited by Morty; 2019-12-09 at 05:29 AM.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Street Fighter the RPG has a cool initiaive system. Each round everyone chooses their action, which has a Speed based on your Dex and the move's speed modifier. Everyone declares actions starting with the slowest, but a faster action can interrupt a slower one. It makes for a pretty dynamic game because most attacks also let you move.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    IMO, Initiative rolls are a necessary evil.

    Most other alternatives I've seen are more interesting, but slow down gameplay too much and/or cause some serious issues.

    e.g.: I like the idea of rolling Initiative every round, but not only it slows down a game already notorious for its slow combat, it also creates some incredible frustrating / annoying situations (e.g.: players being full-attacked twice before getting a chance to retaliate or defend themselves).
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2019-12-09 at 11:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    IMO, Initiative rolls are a necessary evil.

    Most other alternatives I've seen are more interesting, but slow down gameplay too much and/or cause some serious issues.

    e.g.: I like the idea of rolling Initiative everu round, but not only it slows down a game already notorious for its slow combat, it also creates some incredible fruatrating / annoying situations (e.g.: a player full-attacked twice before getting a chance to defend himself).
    I'd suggest the opposite.

    Roll initiative at the start of the day. Your initiative is a reflection of your awareness/mood. If something good happens, make a roll and keep it if it's higher than your current initiative. If something bad happens, roll and keep low. Do a full reroll whenever the party rests or during major transitions (like entering a dungeon).

    Outside of combat, characters with higher initiatives can interrupt those with lower initiatives. Grog the ironclad goes to slap the cheeky merchant with his iron pimp-slap, Nimble-Jack intercepts the attack with a well-timed high-five.

    It allows the GM to smoothly transition between combat (so that your players don't spam their buff spells when they hear "Roll Initiative"), it allows the GM to maintain tension out of combat, and it makes players pay attention to their characters' living conditions (as these influence their initiative).
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2019-12-09 at 06:28 PM.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Shadow of the demon lord's initiative is pretty simple:

    All things being equal, all PCs go (since they usually initiate the fights) and then the enemies go.

    no rolling... just the PCs, then the baddies.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    In Dungeon World (you should totally check it out) there is no initiative at all. The GM might go around the table one player at a time, but it is not required. Dungeon World has the concept of Moves. The GM makes a move, PC(s) possibly react with a move then it's the GMs turn again. In practice this could go like this:
    GM: "The orcs swings his axe at you. What do you do?" - GM is setting up a situation with a danger (the orc hitting you).
    PC: "I parry him with my war hammer and smash his skull!"
    GM: Okay, sounds like "Hack & Slash" move, roll for it.
    PC rolls a partial success. In this case this means that the danger is not averted, but the PC also succeeds.
    GM: "Yeah, you manage to parry a few of his blows, but he's strong. You both get a few blows in. We both roll for damage. Now meanwhile ... " - and it's the next player's "turn".

    Star Trek 2d20 and similar systems use a system I quite like: One PC usually goes first (players' decision), then an NPC, then a PC and so on until everyone has acted. If you want to change that, you can spend a game resource called Momentum (or Threat) to allow the same side to go again. You cannot do this twice in a row.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    The RPG Splittermond (free basic rules, but German only) has a continuous initiative timeline. I believe the initial order is determined by dice roll (+ stats), and then any action you take simply moves you an according number of steps forward. The last actor in the initiative order is next to act. This means depending on the distance to the next actor you might be able to do several actions costing only a few steps (talking, walking, ...) until you pass any other actor, who would then be the last in the order and it would be their turn. A longer action (e.g. casting a spell) is likely to move you ahead of most or all other actors, so you would have to wait until everyone else has passed you before you can act again.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinizak View Post
    Are there any fun alternatives to initiative that I could incorporate to my game? Or maybe entirely new forms that change how character action occured in a time crunch.

    P.S. I know that initiative is pretty heavily ingrained into most fantasy RPGs, and that any general change to it would require a pretty sizable overhaul to any system. But I'm not worried about that, I just want to hear the ideas for right now.
    Just off the top of my head, how about this. Every time you would "roll initiative" the GM deals the players and himself a hand of 5 poker cards. The GM puts down his card and the players can plan about how they want the turn to go, but without saying what they have in their hand or are going to play. Then they put down their cards face down and everyone turns the card around.

    Initiative goes from high to low, with suits ranked Diamond > Hearts > Spades > Clubs and King > Queen > Jack > 10 > 9 etc. Everyone who plays an ace can decide if he counts it highest or lowest. Next turn, the round continues with the remaining cards in the hands. If combat should take more than 5 turns, the deck is shuffled again and new hands are dealt. The GM moves all opponents at the same time, perhaps with especially impressive enemies getting their own hand.

    You can also adjust this to your system. For example, in D&D 3.5 you could deal extra cards for people getting more initiative through feats or traits or high dexterity scores. I'd suggest an additional card for every +2 you'd normally get on your initiative roll.
    Last edited by Mystral; 2019-12-10 at 08:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    I remember how initiative played out in Mechwarrior being a suprisingly refreshing rehash. Better initiative has you acting later in the round, and you can interrupt another characters actions by declaring you will take your, so long as you haven't acted yet. It let you make the first move if it was tactically important, react to what was transpiring more fluidly, or watch and wait to see how you should contribute. Granted, most of the time you didn't want to be in a lot of fights outside of your 'Mech, but when it happened I liked that take on initiative.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Hackmaster has Initiative, but only in the "When are you paying enough attention that you get to go" sense. After that, you can attack every so many turns based on your Speed, which is determined by the weapon you use... someone with a dagger can attack every 7 seconds (less, if they're skilled with it, or willing to Jab, which forgoes penetrating dice rolls), while someone with a two-handed sword goes every 16 seconds (again, less if they're skilled with it). Cast a spell as a mage, and not only do you have the casting time, but you have a few seconds of spell fatigue in the meantime, and have to spend some seconds readying material components, and so on.

    Worked in to all this is dynamic defense dice (depending on your weapon, style, and situation, you might roll different dice for defense), Threshold of Pain and Trauma saves (get hit hard enough, and you might get disabled for seconds to minutes), and so on.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Anyone can act in any order, but whenever anyone acts against someone, that someone gets a complete turn afterwards, which can be resolved as a reaction.
    Last edited by CombatBunny; 2019-12-10 at 01:01 PM.

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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Let's see…

    I like the way 3e D&D handles initiative.

    I like the way Battletech handles initiative: one side chooses a mech to move, then the other side chooses a mech to move, repeat. If the sides are uneven, once one side has twice as many unmoved mechs, they move 2 on their turn instead of 1. Repeat with "triple / 3", "quadruple / 4", etc.

    I like the way HERO handles initiative, with a character's Speed score determining both how often and when they get to go (divide 12 seconds up roughly evenly by their Speed score).

    I like the way… Exalted? Scion? Maybe others (HoMM5?)… handle initiative. First, there's reaction time: how many ticks / seconds does it take your character to respond? Then, every action has a time cost; your next action occurs that many ticks / seconds later. HERO feels like a precursor to these systems.

    I like the way some tables handle initiative, where initiative is either just party vs GM (or the party always wins that) and the GM just goes around the table, asking, "what do you do?", then handles their side. It's quick and simple.

    I like the way the old Marvel FACERIP system handled initiative. Initiative bonus was based on Intuition (although still largely dominated by Arangee); actions were declared from worst initiative to best, then resolved in reverse order. So the characters who could best read the battle had the advantage.

    I like the way (old editions of) ShadowRun handles initiative, getting to go on your initiative (starting high and counting down), and every 10 after that (not unlike BAB / iterative attacks in 3e) where a good Street Samurai can go first, and second, and possibly third, before anyone else gets to go.

    I kinda liked the way Street Fighter handled initiative, with a double-blind "choose your action, which has an initiative modifier and effect".

    But I really like the way 2e handled initiative - or, rather, the way most of my tables handled initiative in 2e. Rolling initiative every round kept things fresh and unpredictable, kept the players more engaged than 3e's (and other systems') more predictable methods. I loved that spells had a casting time, and were interruptible. I just regret that more actions weren't handled with a "foo begins doing bar" … "foo finishes doing bar" pairing, to add that extra tension to the game.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-12-11 at 09:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    I kind of liked the WEG Star Wars D6 method. Characters/NPC declared their actions starting with the lowest DEX character, then the next lowest, etc. This gave the character/NPC with the highest DEX a chance to plan their actions based on what the slower guys were doing. Then, when it came time to actually act, the highest DEX character/NPC acted first, then the next highest, so on and so forth, until the guy who had the lowest DEX finally got to act.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    I kind of liked the WEG Star Wars D6 method. Characters/NPC declared their actions starting with the lowest DEX character, then the next lowest, etc. This gave the character/NPC with the highest DEX a chance to plan their actions based on what the slower guys were doing. Then, when it came time to actually act, the highest DEX character/NPC acted first, then the next highest, so on and so forth, until the guy who had the lowest DEX finally got to act.
    Seems like that would let a higher dex character play keep away and stay out of melee with a lower dex one. Maybe less of an issue in star wars since ranged weapons are super common.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    I've done systems where 'Initiative' is a skill, and it's rolled only in cases where 'who goes first?' is immediately relevant to the outcome of a particular resolution (for example, if you want to take an action specifically to interrupt someone else's action). Otherwise, order is fluid and basically synchronous (so if Character A attacked and killed Character B, and Character B attacked and killed Character A in the same round, then both actions would go through unless Character A was specifically using an attack ability that acted like a counter or interrupt, which would be keywords that some things have and other things don't).

    There's upsides and downsides. It's pretty useful to have a specific order at least among the PCs to default to, in case people get stuck in decision paralysis. So basically assume clockwise around the table if no one says anything, but people can opt to go out of turn if they have a reason to.

    Honestly though, I'd probably go back to a more traditional initiative system over this particular method.

    I like the idea of having some kind of supply of banked action points that you purchase actions from (so e.g. some attacks would cost more AP than others), but its unwieldy in a tabletop setting, especially if you're going around more than once in a round. It might be possible to do smoothly if you had an automated tracker and no hard 'round' boundaries. You could do something like:

    - When it's your turn, you can spend any AP you have banked all at once. You lose any unspent AP. At the end of your turn, you declare 'Bank X' where X is a number of ticks. You gain X AP, and your next turn is after X ticks have passed.

    - Characters have a maximum amount of AP they can bank at once (perhaps determined by a stat).

    - If two characters would go on the same tick, the one with more banked AP goes first. If two characters go on the same tick and have the same amount of banked AP, PCs go first over NPCs, and between PCs just make a decision.

    - Interrupts, reactions, counters, and the like would be actions that cost AP but can be taken outside of your round. You could even make a general rule that any action can be 'rushed' and taken out of order, but at double AP cost or something like that (or have that kind of thing correspond to feats/class features/etc that characters can build into).

    You'd basically need support software that lets everyone just input their 'Bank' delays on their own and have it say 'okay, next is you!'. Could probably do it in Roll20 or other things. I suppose you could also have a timeline and when players move, they literally move their token down the timeline and take the corresponding amount of AP from a token pile.
    Last edited by NichG; 2019-12-11 at 01:02 AM.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    SLA Industries has a slightly different scale to D&D wherein stats typically go from 1-15, so they split their combat into 5 phases per turn, and everyone acts simultaneously in each phase for every 3 points of DEX you have. So for example:

    DEX 1-3: Act in phase 3
    DEX 4-6: Act in phases 2 and 4
    DEX 7-9: Act in phases 1, 3 and 5
    DEX 10-12: Act in phases 1, 2, 4 and 5
    DEX 13-15: Act in phases 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
    DEX 16+: You get a bonus action and can take it wherever you please, like a free "held action".

    There are skills and feats you can take in order to shuffle your order around or to ensure that you have priority during your active phase, but it's quite straight forward once you get the hang of the 'book-keeping' at the end of each phase. Everyone knows when they're going to act, how often, and is a lot less "swingy" than a D&D character with DEX 20 rolling a 1 and getting arbitrarily screwed over by a nameless goblin despite nominally having superhuman reflexes.
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Oh, I missed one (I'll have to add it back into my list (EDIT - done)):

    I like the way the old Marvel FACERIP system handled initiative. Initiative bonus was based on Intuition (although still largely dominated by Arangee); actions were declared from worst initiative to best, then resolved in reverse order. So the characters who could best read the battle had the advantage.

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by Wraith View Post
    SLA Industries has a slightly different scale to D&D wherein stats typically go from 1-15, so they split their combat into 5 phases per turn, and everyone acts simultaneously in each phase for every 3 points of DEX you have. So for example:

    DEX 1-3: Act in phase 3
    DEX 4-6: Act in phases 2 and 4
    DEX 7-9: Act in phases 1, 3 and 5
    DEX 10-12: Act in phases 1, 2, 4 and 5
    DEX 13-15: Act in phases 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
    DEX 16+: You get a bonus action and can take it wherever you please, like a free "held action".

    There are skills and feats you can take in order to shuffle your order around or to ensure that you have priority during your active phase, but it's quite straight forward once you get the hang of the 'book-keeping' at the end of each phase. Everyone knows when they're going to act, how often, and is a lot less "swingy" than a D&D character with DEX 20 rolling a 1 and getting arbitrarily screwed over by a nameless goblin despite nominally having superhuman reflexes.
    So, a lot like Hero, then? Any experience with Hero/Champions, to comment on how they compare? I'm kinda curious now how Hero would play if it had traits to manipulate you turn order.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-12-11 at 09:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    You'd basically need support software that lets everyone just input their 'Bank' delays on their own and have it say 'okay, next is you!'. Could probably do it in Roll20 or other things. I suppose you could also have a timeline and when players move, they literally move their token down the timeline and take the corresponding amount of AP from a token pile.
    Just use a circle for your initiative tracking. There's a larger token for Current Turn, and when you bank you move your personal marker that many spaces back and take that many chips. When it's your turn again spend X chips based on what you want to do and then bank again. Maybe have a mechanism so people do not just bank 1 at a time, but save up the 5 for their halberd attack all at once instead. Can also put actions that can be interrupted on the tracker, though that could get a little busy visually.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Glimbur View Post
    Just use a circle for your initiative tracking. There's a larger token for Current Turn, and when you bank you move your personal marker that many spaces back and take that many chips. When it's your turn again spend X chips based on what you want to do and then bank again. Maybe have a mechanism so people do not just bank 1 at a time, but save up the 5 for their halberd attack all at once instead. Can also put actions that can be interrupted on the tracker, though that could get a little busy visually.
    Yeah, I was discussing this with someone in our group and in conclusion I think the best way is that you lose all but 1 or 2 unspent AP. The little bit of carryover prevents people from taking a long time to figure out how not to waste their last few AP when e.g. they have 7 banked, a 5 AP special attack, and basic attacks are 3, or something like that. As long as it's small change it carries, but if you try to Bank 1 to avoid someone interrupting, you'll never have enough AP to do more than movement or minor actions.

    It makes some forms of interruption just a matter of creating circumstances where someone will really need to spend AP outside of their turn.
    Last edited by NichG; 2019-12-11 at 12:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    I like FFG Star Wars' handling of Initiative as a group resource.

    Everyone rolls initiative, but each initiative slot can be used by any PC until everyone has had a turn in the round.
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  28. - Top - End - #28
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    Telok's Avatar

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    EDIT:

    So, a lot like Hero, then? Any experience with Hero/Champions, to comment on how they compare? I'm kinda curious now how Hero would play if it had traits to manipulate you turn order.
    It's really similar. Traits to manipulate turn order in Hero would be powers. Depending on what you wanted:
    Triggered Aid:Speed, only for moving your active phase up, costs your next phase plus whatever e durance cost to use.

    I mean, I've seen a power that was a +4 speed, max speed 10, lasts 3 rounds, does 5 dice NND self stun at the end, one charge, obvious inaccessable focus: pill bottle, recharged by visiting a pharmacy/chem lab for 3+ hours. A really cheap power that kicks a mook up to martial arts/speedster levels of actions for a limited time.
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  29. - Top - End - #29
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    Planet Mercenary takes it closer to a, well, a party/parlor game: the first person who declares an action goes first, no matter how dumb the idea. This makes for some Leeroy Jenkins moments. I don't recall how enemy initiative works into this, though.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Alternates to initiative

    The initiative system in the game I'm working on (see sig) is pretty core to the game. Frankly - TTRPG systems should be built from the ground up with their initiative system in mind. Slapping a new one onto an existing system is invariably a bad idea unless it's just a minor tweak.

    Quote Originally Posted by Initiative in Space Dogs: A Swashbuckling Space Western
    A Full Turn –
    1. Initiative/Morale Phase: Each side rolls a 3d8 to decide order of action and on a tie the one with a character with the highest Sharpness score chooses initiative order. If the NPCs’ roll fails their Morale Test then they break.
    2. Movement Phase: In initiative order each side moves and chooses their Action(s).
    3. Ranged Phase: Every character who is not in melee and chose a ranged Action acts in initiative order.
    4. Melee Phase: Every character who chose to Run acts in initiative order. Then all melee attack rolls are rolled at the same time.
    Then you start again from the top. I've found it works pretty well, and the only major change I made from the get-go was changing from individual to side-based initiative. After my first playtest with three players, it became pretty obvious that it was far too slow for individual initiative.

    I've found that I prefer side-based anyway, as it both encourages teamwork, and it makes keeping track of rounds easier. Especially since all buffs/debuffs in Space Dogs only last for the current turn and OCCASIONALLY the next - virtually no tracking required.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2019-12-24 at 04:38 AM.

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