10 April 2013

I is for Initiative

Initiative. Is there anything else in AD&D that is tinkered with as much in the history of the game? More so even than level limits and spell slots, this is the winner. I loved Gary to death, but the writing on initiative was not his best. One can argue that the way speed factor is described in the DMG that even a thief can get 3 attacks off before an attacker with a pike can.make his first! So how does that work exactly? Does it take 3 rounds? Does the thief actually get "extra attacks" that he is not entitled to? It is somewhat...bewildering at times.
Speed factors in practice!
[That said, I cannot recommend more highly DM Prata's ADDICT document that breaks down the AD&D initiative system by steps if one want top play initiative BtB (By the Book). ADDICT pdf]
I like to tinker. I believe I have said that before. Well, Hackmaster 4e did a really good of merging the AD&D and 2e initiatives together. I played with a variant of that one for a while. Now Kenzer Company, in Hackmaster 5E, has adapted their Aces and Eights Western RPG system for initiative. And this is the current system I'm tinkering with.
First of all, there is only one initiative roll at the beginning of combat to determine when each character begins acting. The combat is measured in "tics" and counts up until the combat is over. Once a character begins acting each action takes a number of tics to complete. There is nothing random about it. So, let's start the adaptation.
First up, surprise. The DM will determine surprise. Sorry, but that's an adjudication call. It's insane to have a 34% chance (2 in 6) of being surprised each and every combat. If surprise is warranted, the surprised character(s) or side begins acting once everyone else has started.
Each player is rolling for each character; no group init (the DM can, of course, roll for groups of monsters for ease; this does actually give the players a bit of an edge. Roll d6, add reaction adjustment for DX. The player begins acting when their number comes up. What are the actions?
1. Spells. The player starts casting. If material components are required, 1d4 is added to the count to grab them if they are readily available. Exception: a girdle of many pouches (or the like) only adds a one. Spell components might already be in hand (like an archer with a drawn bow) add nothing. The next spell occurs in its casting time plus a d4 if components are necessary. 1 Segment = 1 Tic. 1 Round =10 Tics. Note that wands are very powerful and can be activated every TIC unless an item description says other wise (Cf.,wand of fire, "pyrotechnics," DMG, pg. 135) ! One will, of course, run through charges really quick in that instance!

2. Missile Combat. Weapon-in-Hand goes on your first tic. After that, Rate of Fire 3 weapons, 3 tics. RoF 2: 5 tics. RoF 1: 10 tics. RoF 1/2: 20 tics. Exceptions: A Quiver of Ehlonna (or the equivalent) subtracts 1 Tic. A crossbow of speed halves the Tic count (i.e., light in 5, heavy in 10). A specialist bowman with a drawn bow still fires before initiative is rolled.
3. Melee Combat. Now it gets a little complex. The first attack with a weapon is easy. Adjacent to foe and swing. After that, the speed factor comes into play: that's the Tic count. Ah, but what about fighters with multiple attacks. Subtract 1 Tic from Speed for every extra attack the fighter has. The same works for cavaliers with weapons of choice or weapon specialists. Alternatively, one can allow two attacks with the weapon when the count comes up. If the charcater is dual wielding, use the rules in the DMG (pg. 70), but note that the off-hand weapon has its own count.

If you disengage, that is, you have active enemy fighters around you, your weapon "resets": move and attack normally when adjacent to a foe.

Monks are a interesting case. Open hand speed factor is 1. Their numbers of attacks per round is based on level. It's best just to go with one attack per tic. That either makes them uber or gives them a bit of an edge, depending. However, they have a lack of AC and, if using AC modifiers to hit, they're balanced in that way as well.
4. Movement. 1" of movement (10') per Tic. Other actions (within reason) can combine with this, such as changing weapons on the run, grabbing spell components, etc. Not that to begin casting or to fire a weapon, the character must not be moving. Exceptions: Wands or crossbows can be fired on the run. Bows (of both types) can be fired from a moving horse, as can wands; crossbows (despite evidence in the movie LadyHawke) cannot be reloaded on horseback.
5. Psionics. If one uses psionics then, rather than stop the combat and play it out, each action is a Tic. The DMG (p. 79) states "psionic combat tokes place very quickly - in segments rather than rounds." Since this system 1 Segment = 1 Tic, there is no reason to stop. Take that, Illithid scum! Or not....


6. Other actions. Grabbing a potion from a pouch and quaffing it: 1d4 tics. Drawing or sheathing a weapon: 1 Tic. Dropping an item in hand: 1 Tic. Using an "at will" power or ability: 1 Tic. Remember, Tics = Seconds. Also, some actions can combine with movement; use common sense.

All-in-all, there are two things I like about this system. First, the lack of rolling speeds thing up and makes combat more fluid. Two, it keeps everyone engaged; no one is sitting there, twiddling dice, and waiting for the end of the round. things could change rapidly.

Until tomorrow, gentle readers.

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