Initiative

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bobloblah
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Initiative

Based on a comment I've seen here and there about ACKS, it seems many groups find Initiative, presumably individual Initiative, to be a major slowdown in a game of ACKS. This runs so completely contrary to my own experience at the table that I am extremely interested in understanding the nature and source of the problem for other groups. So, what is the problem? Why does Initiative, in particular, slow down your game?

bestial warlust
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I've used individual initiative since I started playing Moldvay basic back in the day and I never found it slows down the game. Keep in mind when I ran AD&D I never used the convoluted rules there either. ACKS I don't find it slows down however, I don't let a player flounder when it's their initiative I keep them moving if they can't make a decision I move on to the next player. Usually my group is pretty quick I've had the same group now for at least 20 years.

bobloblah
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My experience is nearly identical to yours. Hence my curiosity. Of course, us posting like this probably makes anyone for whom this is a problem pretty reticent to speak up now...

CharlesDM
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Interesting. I've been tempted by alternative initiative systems (like http://autarch.co/forums/general-forums/house-rules/ammonar-initiative), but not because I've had a problem.

I do group "mooks" to roll less. [Checks core ...] But that's in the rules: "Each round, 1d6 is rolled for initiative for each adventurer, monster, and group of identical monsters, each called a combatant."

I tend to roll more than the minimum, i.e. instead of once for 20 identical goblins, 2 of 10 or 4 of 5.

bestial warlust
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One thing I should clarify on the GM/DM side I roll one initiative if all the opponents are the same e.g. all orcs, goblins etc.. if there are different groups such a s ogres/goblins I'll roll separetly for each group or if one opponent is more powerful such as a dragon and a group of kobolds. But again I've never noticed a slow down.

Aryxymaraki
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My experience is that any time you ask a player to roll dice and tell you the results, there is going to be some unavoidable level of time involved with that.

Rolling initiative every round as you do in older systems, as opposed to once per combat as you do in newer systems, is going to involve more time spent rolling initiative.  Especially given how fast the other parts of combat can be resolved, this may lead to a much higher percentage of time spent on intiative than on combat relative to later editions, and it might feel like even more of a difference than it actually is.  (That is, in 5E, rolling initiative might take 2% of the total combat time, while in ACKS it might take 10%.  Of course, the ACKS combat is taking much less time overall still.)

Perhaps this contributes to people feeling like initiative is slowing the game down?  It is true that if you only rolled initiative once in ACKS, you could probably cut out a noticeable amount of combat time and make combat resolve even faster.

bobloblah
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Do you really think Initiative every round accounts for 10% of the time? I'll grant that it's more than a single roll at the start of combat, but how much more as an overall percentage?

Aryxymaraki
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Do you really think Initiative every round accounts for 10% of the time? I'll grant that it's more than a single roll at the start of combat, but how much more as an overall percentage?


-bobloblah

I mean, it was a random number :p  I don't think either 10% for ACKS or 2% for 5E is perfectly accurate, no.  But in a 5-round combat, I do think you'd spend about 3-5x as long on initiative in ACKS as you would in 5E (measured in actual time), and since 5E combats tend to be longer (outside of "you really should have used D@W for this"), each second spent in an ACKS combat is a higher percentage than it would be in a 5E combat.

The exact percentage of time spent rolling initiative will obviously vary based from group to group and from encounter to encounter.  Encounters with short rounds spend more time on initiative, encounters with longer rounds spend less time.

I don't think this is a problem, it's just the nature of comparing percentages across things of varying length.  ACKS spends more time on initiative than 5E does, 5E spends more time on resolving attacks than ACKS does.

Loswaith
Joined: 2017-05-12 02:19

For me I've not found it an issue.

I'd expect much like has been mentioned, with it more a perception thing.

With ACKs and other games with initiative per round it is typically one swing around the group for inititave and then a second swing around for actions, while for single initiiative its more one swing around the group for initative then just single rounds for actions after the first.  Most people tend to see getting their actions as the fun bits.

Though in either system initiative can take a fair while if the DM does a roll for each enemy, as opposed to just groups of them, or players do a seperate roll for each henchman and their character (my group usualy just rolls a few dice at once with the character and each henchman assigned different colours).

I personally found in older systems where initiative was about declaring your action at that start of a round it felt much longer, and was typically scratched to be declaring actions on your initiative phase.

bobloblah
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Hm. That's interesting: one of the things I've been doing is having each player make one Initiative roll for their PC and all Henchmen, war dogs, trained falcons, horses, familiars, mercenaries, partridges in pear trees, or whatever else their menagerie currently consists of. They then apply any individual modifiers to that roll. I never even really consciously adopted this as a system; it just kind of happened. It saves some tiny, fractional amount of time (players who roll for things sequentially for things they could roll in parallel with different coloured dice are generally threatened with character death).
jojodogboy
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I haven't noticed that round by round initiative slows anything down.  We all just roll initiative and I count down from 7.  They don't report them until I get to their initiative point, as I don't need that info.  They have no problem keeping track of  1 or 2 numbers each round.

I do tell them in general terms what the monsters are doing, then go around and have them declare actions before they roll.  They are mostly stuck with the general nature of their action.

I never thought about it until just now, but each player handles their henchmen/war dogs/wolves differently.  Some roll one die and apply the different mods and others roll a separate die.  I really don't care as long as they do it the same way each time (and not based on the first roll).

I also roll one d6 per opponent type, but sometimes roll more if they are encountering multiple leader or PC types.

Nikephoros Phokas
Joined: 2011-10-19 17:02

An extra die roll (plus figuring out their order) each round per combatant per round is a lot, essentially doubling the numbers of dice rolled. I found that rolling one die for each monster group gave them a tremendous "shock" power too being able to move and attack all at once. A third problem I had was that ranged weapons lost their ability to reliably volley to kill off people before they reached your lines (or got off a spell), I switched to phase iniative with everyone moving at the same time within a phase, or using individual initiative when it matters (like in a ranged duel or spell duel). My phases look like this:

1. Morale

2. Declare spells

3. Short movement (base movement)

4. Ranged

5. Resolve magic

6. Long movement (running or charging)

7. Melee

This also lets people dodge spells or more reliably shut down magic-users (who can wear armor in my campaign though this introduces a risk of the spell delaying to next round so you essentially weigh the risk of disruption from arrow vs. the risk of disruption from armor). Sleep is not as devastating against 1st level parties if they can move out of the line of sight if they suspect it is being cast.

bobloblah
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That's pretty similar to the sequence in BECMI (and B/X), with the addition of "long movement." I'm not sure I'm clear on one thing, though: do you run that sequence twice in a round (i.e., once for Initiative winners, and then again for Initiative losers), or only once (with Initiative determining who moves first during "short movement," then who shoots first during "ranged," etc.)?

I think there's general agreement here that one d6 roll for every combatant is a bit much, particularly on the Judge's side of the screen. Like others, I also roll for monsters based on group, and sometimes I just make one d6 roll for all enemies if I'm feeling lazy. Similar to what my players do, I still adjust these based on individual modifiers (and have sometimes done so based on monsters' Surprise modifiers).

koewn
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AS&SH does phases; a phase 1 of 1/2 move melee and charg attacks, stationary missiles and magic, and 1/2 movement, then a phase 2 of full move melee/charges, 1/2 move missiles, 1/2 move magic, and the other half of a full movement. 

Reads almost like 2 rounds per round; each side does each phase in initiative order. I think some or much of that derives from the more complex multi-attack rate it uses.

...so, I'd ended up writing an application to track initiative, and largely it's because I don't feel like rolling the dice when I'm not a player. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The computer's just as good at mostly random numbers and is better at keeping track of stuff.

jojodogboy
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Just out of curiosity, do most DMs keep track of initiative for the PCs as well as the NPCs? 

bobloblah
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Not a chance. They roll in the open, and then I count down (i.e., 9...8...7...). Remembering their Intiative is their problem. I've never seen anyone actually forget.

bestial warlust
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I have a small whiteboard I keep in my game room and write down the intiatives.

Loswaith
Joined: 2017-05-12 02:19

Just out of curiosity, do most DMs keep track of initiative for the PCs as well as the NPCs? 


-jojodogboy

These days my GMs and myself generally just write them down.

Though back when I played a lot of AD&D , I tended to just scroll off numbers and players jumped in as their phase was up (though that was often a large group).

Dr Pete
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If people are writing it down every round, I can see how it would massively slow things down to do initiative every round, but just calling out numbers goes ... fast.  Even with the GM handling a few numbers themselves.

Hardrada
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Excel spreadsheet. We're transitioning to Google docs to make it more transparent and ensure modifiers are more accurate for all combatants. This seems to also help players stay focused since it's easier to track through the round, but we've only been using the new system for two sessions or so, and the sample size is therefore too small to make any sweeping judgements.

Broadly, the main slowdown seems to be too many choices for all the PCs, henchmen, and hirelings. It's a constant tension between limiting choices in the name of both time and realism (since there should be some friction in terms of message sent v. message received) on one hand and, on the other, the concern of players that the hirelings and henchmen ought to act in better accord).

bobloblah
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Excel spreadsheet.

-Hardrada
What necessitated the use of a spreadsheet? Is it the sheer number of combatants? Some other complexity? Admittedly, in my own group the party has rarely exceeded about 20 members, including Henchmen, Familiars, animals, NPCs, etc.
Broadly, the main slowdown seems to be too many choices for all the PCs, henchmen, and hirelings. It's a constant tension between limiting choices in the name of both time and realism (since there should be some friction in terms of message sent v. message received) on one hand and, on the other, the concern of players that the hirelings and henchmen ought to act in better accord).

-Hardrada
Can you give specific examples? I generally let PCs run their Henchmen as they see fit, only intervening based on significant conflict with a given Henchman's personality and goals, or the failure of a Morale roll (which I believe has only happened a very small handful of times; the party tends to lavish their Henchmen with rewards to keep them loyal). I'm curious as to what you're doing, as I often have self-doubt about the degree of control I allow my players over their longer-term Henchmen...
Hardrada
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One huge piece of relevant context is that we're playing online, and all five players have small children in and out of the background. With over twenty combatants (last combat was over thirty separate lines even running groups of hirelings and nooks as single lines), it's imperative for me to be able to keep things on track and moving forward.

Regarding henchmen, I tend to gravitate towards your camp for simplicity, but I struggle conceptually with the hive mind that is essentially at play. Anyone in management will appreciate that message received does not always equal message sent even when everyone is doing their best and of good will.

On top of that, though, it would be simpler to have players give their NPCs orders as realistically possible and then just play everything out rather than constantly have to wait on someone to regain situational awareness following a diaper change in order for them to decide the henchman holds his action.

Alex
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Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I have each player roll for his own character, henchman/men, and mercenaries (one roll for PC, one per henchmen, one per group of identical mercs/pets). I have the monsters roll for each unique named monster, and then for each group of identical monsters. If the number of monsters is large, I break it into groups of around equal size to the number of characters opposing them. For instance, if a party of eight encounters twenty goblins, I'd divide the goblins into three groups, of 7, 7, and 6 goblins respectively.  I then count down from 10. If when I get to you, you don't know what you want to do, you hold. 

I don't understand the argument that rolling for the group of identical monsters creates too much of a 'shock effect' as using group initiative (the usual alternative) means that every encounter is entirely shock, as all forces on one side go first.

I do think there is value in phased initiative for some groups. I used it for about 1/3 of the original Auran Empire campaign. However, the players found that the game was more fun with individual initiative. 

Rodriguez
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I usually let each player roll once for his PC and the roll is also used for the henchmen using the individual initiative modifiers. Then I roll once for all the monsters as a group. The rest is just "who beats the monsters" can go first, then its my turn and then the remaining characters can act before the next round starts.
wmarshal
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I've found that having the players roll individual Initiative each round keeps them engaged with the game. In the 3E and 5E games we played where Initiative was rolled only once at the beginning of a combat there would be a greater tendancy for the players' minds to get distracted by smartphones, etc.

Nikephoros Phokas
Joined: 2011-10-19 17:02

That's pretty similar to the sequence in BECMI (and B/X), with the addition of "long movement." I'm not sure I'm clear on one thing, though: do you run that sequence twice in a round (i.e., once for Initiative winners, and then again for Initiative losers), or only once (with Initiative determining who moves first during "short movement," then who shoots first during "ranged," etc.)?

I think there's general agreement here that one d6 roll for every combatant is a bit much, particularly on the Judge's side of the screen. Like others, I also roll for monsters based on group, and sometimes I just make one d6 roll for all enemies if I'm feeling lazy. Similar to what my players do, I still adjust these based on individual modifiers (and have sometimes done so based on monsters' Surprise modifiers).


-bobloblah

There is no initative roll at all, everything happens at the same time phase by phase. I decide the moves of the monsters in my head, then the players all move (or shoot) and then I do. If a situation calls for individual initative the players roll 1d10+Dex mod, on 7+ they go first on 4- they go last.

The effect apart from speeding the game up is that you can reliably get out of the way of spells being cast and an overwhelmning volley of ranged attacks, ranged attacks will reliably go before melee attacks and spellcasters will always have the risk of their spells being disrupted by ranged attacks. The melee all happening at once reinforces the feeling that it's one big clash and not a bunch of individuals who happen to fight near each other.

bobloblah
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There is no initative roll at all, everything happens at the same time phase by phase...The effect apart from speeding the game up...

-Nikephoros Phokas

Heyyyyyyyy...pretty sure this part makes you the people I was originally trying to find with this thread! So, what makes (semi-) individual Intiative too slow, in your opinion?

As for the other effects, why do you want dodging spells and disrupting casters to be reliable?