"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A different initiative system

An unplaytested, hypothetical, alternate sequence for resolving B/X combat:

All combatants complete each portion of the sequence before proceeding to the next portion of the sequence.

A. Morale checks, if needed (page B27)

B. Movement per round - meleed opponents may only move defensively, if not meleed the character can move and fire missiles or move and fight hand-to-hand (close for melee). Spellcasters may not move and cast spells.

C. Missile fire combat - Missile combat will be handled in the following order:
1. Thrown
2. Short Bow
3. Long Bow
4. Sling
5. Crossbow

D. Magic spells - magic spells will be handled i order of the level of the spell being cast (lowest level to highest level)

E. Melee combat - Melee combat will be handled in the following order during the first round of combat, when opponents first close:
1. Lance
2. Polearm
3. Two-Handed Sword
4. Spear
5. Staff
6. Battle axe
7. War Hammer
8. Sword
9. Mace
10. Club
11. Hand Axe
12. Short Sword
13. Dagger

For all subsequent combat rounds, after opponents have closed, melee will be handled in the reverse order (daggers to lances). combatants using the same weapon will go simultaneously.

When it becomes important to know who goes first when doing something besides straight up combat, opposed d6 individual initiative rolls (modified by DEX Initiative Adjustments), will determine what happens first. For example, two characters diving for the same object, a character trying to dive behind cover before an opponent can fire an arrow at him, or trying to move past a bodyguard to get to the evil ruler.

This might be fairly close to the system shown in the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets but I haven't looked at those in a while so I could be wrong. What do you think?


  1. I think you should let spellcasters move a little bit. 5' maybe 10'. Some versions of D&D call it shifting/taking a step or somesuch. I realize B/X doesn't allow movement to spellcasters, I just disagree with it on that teeny tiny point.

  2. I like it Pat. It works best, of course, when there is a high probability that your opponent can die in the first round. Once you factor in multiple hit dice, the advantage of the longer weapon is undermined, after the initial round. Other than the lance and polearm, perhaps you should allow longer weapons to attack first, in every round, not just the first?

  3. A couple of thoughts:

    (1) If people want to disengage and 'move' when they are in melee, you could let them do it in their normal weapon order during the melee phase, instead of attacking, rather than adopting special defensive movement rules in the movement phase.

    (2)If I was playing with AD&D type rules where you get your strength bonus to thrown weapon damage, I would have thrown weapons go last rather than first in the missile phase.

    I like this type of system though, and this is a good version!



  4. Ouch. Looks a bit complicated for my tiny skull...

  5. There must be something paranormal going on here - I posted a very similar alternative combat sequence on my blog on the very same day! Mine is equally hypothetical and untested :)

    As Paladin in Citadel suggests, I've allowed weapons with longer reach to always gain the initiative. I was kind of imagining that people carrying such weapons would usually be able to maneuver so that an opponent with a smaller weapon would be at the disadvantage. You could easily imagine the contrary as well though, I think.

    Two features of your system that I really like are the missile fire ordered by weapon speed and the spell-casting ordered by level. I'll think about adopting those ideas in my system as well.

  6. If you're going for a complex initiative system, I had an interesting one a while back. You use weapon speeds and casting times, and magic-item-use delays, and monster-ability-use delays. Movement counts as 1 segment.

    How this works is you take an action, and the "delay" is kind of a "recovery time" after the action. So I call Initiative 1, and if anyone wants to move they can move, and then they're available again on Init. 2. But if someone attacks with a dagger, it has a delay of 2, so they would be available again on Init. 3. In any case, after you act you have to roll a 1d6 for a further Initiative delay before acting again. Movement has no extra 1d6 delay. It handles jogging and running pretty well without extra rules, because you get a movement every segment which represents running, or a couple moves in a row which represents a jog. After 10 segments the round goes back to 1. Each round is 1 minute, each segment 6 seconds.

    The system allows for someone with a hammer or a dagger to attack at the same time, but the dagger-wielder possibly gets to jab one or two more times before the hammer-wielder goes again.

    For reach weapons like lances and spears, if your weapon is Reach 10 it means you reach across 10' and you can't attack someone 5' away (adjacent) or 15' away (two empty squares between). This means once the dagger-wielder gets in, the pike-wielder needs to back up to attack again. Or, stand behind a shield-wall of friends in front of you, or on the other side of a low obstruction or atop a wall. There isn't a rule about the pikeman getting to hit first. This is because (1) it probably isn't this bristling unit of pikes, and if it is then you might want a more-abstracted mass combat system because there are a lot of interesting things going on in the movements of units that a 1:1 combat system isn't going to represent, and (2) the reach weapons are used more as a different tool in the toolbox in a small party. Missile weapons are good but not in a melee, reach weapons are good but only in certain situations, melee weapons are good but they're in-your-face and there are downsides with that.

  7. Little late to the party but this is interesting. I think it's a little more rulesy than i would want for a B/X game but I'm debating what to do with initiative in a potential AD&D 1E game and something like this might work. Little bit of RQ Strike Ranks in there but I like it.


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