Per-side initiative sequence

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Aergraith
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Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Aergraith » Mon Dec 24, 2018 6:09 pm

I've always wondered about the classic D&D per-side combat sequence (post-Holmes). For a while I thought maybe I was doing it wrong but looking in the books it's as I thought: the winner follows the steps in order, and then the loser follows the steps in order.

I can't think of why that would be helpful, except that maybe having an order of operations makes fighting withdrawal work correctly (since you can't move after you attack, you generally get stuck in melee). It doesn't really matter much in a tie since it's all simultaneous.

It makes a lot more sense to me to perform all of the steps such that the winner does movement, the loser does movement, winner does missile, loser does missile, etc.

I guess I am wondering how the sequence came to be this way, and what problem it is trying to solve. Or, maybe I am too literal about the position of step C (in the B/X version) and it really is not intended to be side a does everything, then side b does everything.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:05 pm

This style of combat was a hold over from Chainmail or other war-gaming rules of the day, where you have 2 or more players in control of 2 or more armies going up against each other. The player that won initiative was "A", the other "B".

Player A would go down a checklist of all available actions for his forces until there were no more actions left to perform, then player B would do the same.

The checklist became the order of combat for each side in a round. The players would either be the winners or losers and take their turns accordingly in the order presented in the checklist of available actions.

Players had to look at the checklist of available actions as a flowchart of yes/no decisions: Can I do this? Yes/No. If Yes, end of turn for that character, move to next character. If no, move to next item on checklist, repeat decision tree.
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Aergraith » Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:44 pm

That makes sense... more a way to make sure all of the allowable actions had been ticked off before the next player.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:14 pm

Yes, its more that than a list for each player to follow. D&D has more players and they're all on one side (than Chainmail or other war games of the day), so it would make sense in subsequent editions to shift the priority of actions to each individual player, rather than a list of actions that each "side" can do.
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:17 pm

...Granted, without that list of army-like actions, my players all rush in all pell-mell and chaos ensues. They often wind up shooting each other in the back by accident, but that's what you get when you don't have any formal training in strategy or tactics! ;)
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by RobJN » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:13 am

Dread Delgath wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:17 pm
...Granted, without that list of army-like actions, my players all rush in all pell-mell and chaos ensues. They often wind up shooting each other in the back by accident, but that's what you get when you don't have any formal training in strategy or tactics! ;)
.... I don't suppose any of them are named "LEEROOOOOOOOY JENKINS!"?
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by shesheyan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:27 am

Dread Delgath wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:05 pm
This style of combat was a hold over from Chainmail or other war-gaming rules of the day, where you have 2 or more players in control of 2 or more armies going up against each other. The player that won initiative was "A", the other "B".

Player A would go down a checklist of all available actions for his forces until there were no more actions left to perform, then player B would do the same.

The checklist became the order of combat for each side in a round. The players would either be the winners or losers and take their turns accordingly in the order presented in the checklist of available actions.

Players had to look at the checklist of available actions as a flowchart of yes/no decisions: Can I do this? Yes/No. If Yes, end of turn for that character, move to next character. If no, move to next item on checklist, repeat decision tree.
That makes sense. I tried using per-side initiative for my solo game thinking it would make things simpler. But what I got instead is sometimes one side goes second on turn one and then wins initiative on turn two. For two full consecutive turns of attacks..! And then I remembered why we had many character deaths in B/X. So I returned to individual initiatives.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:34 am

RobJN wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:13 am
Dread Delgath wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:17 pm
...Granted, without that list of army-like actions, my players all rush in all pell-mell and chaos ensues. They often wind up shooting each other in the back by accident, but that's what you get when you don't have any formal training in strategy or tactics! ;)
.... I don't suppose any of them are named "LEEROOOOOOOOY JENKINS!"?
They sure ACT like it! LOL! In the last few sessions in the Caves of Chaos (Goodman Games 5th edition) against the orcs (cave B) they pressed in against 2 orcs firing arrows from the west, ignoring the passage to the north. four more orcs in the north passage pinched the party and killed Aseneth by hitting her with 4 arrows. The two archers to the west were rushed by 4 of the party, one of which was an NPC (Third) but both orcs got hits on her (one a nat20) and caused over 20 points of damage, slicing her in two.

The party lost 2 NPCs in one round, nearly lost Dubricus d'Amberville (another NPC) the next round, and one of their own PCs the round after, until they rallied and managed to defeat all the orcs in 3 rooms, grab their dead, 9 heads (for collecting bounties) and run!

As a long-time player, I would've never left any opening where an enemy could flank the party. Instead, they charged in like amateurs. :facepalm:

But, the party is mostly 3rd level, and if anyone is most like Leeeroy Jenkins, it'd be the Bloodrager barbarian halfling:
Orgtho, Halfling Blood Rager Barbarian (Mordenkainen's Codex of Allies homebrew)

The rest of the party, in case y'all are interested:
Dimble, Gnomish Paladin of Devotion (PHB)
Mouse, Gnomish Shadowdancer Rogue (Mordenkainen's Codex of Allies homebrew)
"Vincent" Half-Elf Assassin (PHB)
Ava, Human Sorcerer of Primordial Chaos (Mordenkainen's Codex of Allies homebrew)

Farned of the Great Church Elvish Cleric, Life Domain (NPC Goodman Games) (3rd level)
Third Human Fighter (NPC Goodman Games) (1st level)
Dubricus d'Amberville Human Wizard (NPC Goodman Games) (1st level)
Aseneth Human Wizard (NPC Goodman Games) (3rd level)

They're going to have a double funeral for Aseneth and Third in the next session on Wednesday. But about a week after in game-time, an evil cleric is going to raise both from the dead and charm them to haunt the party, claiming that they killed them! :twisted:
A big THANKS! to Giant Space Hamster & Chimpman for the cookies! (Dark Side be damned!) :D

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:37 am

shesheyan wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:27 am
That makes sense. I tried using per-side initiative for my solo game thinking it would make things simpler. But what I got instead is sometimes one side goes second on turn one and then wins initiative on turn two. For two full consecutive turns of attacks..! And then I remembered why we had many character deaths in B/X. So I returned to individual initiatives.
I like 5th ed's take that once initiative is rolled, it stays the same for the whole combat, instead of rolling it at the top of each round. Its just easier to manage that way.
A big THANKS! to Giant Space Hamster & Chimpman for the cookies! (Dark Side be damned!) :D

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by shesheyan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:41 am

Dread Delgath wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:37 am
shesheyan wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:27 am
That makes sense. I tried using per-side initiative for my solo game thinking it would make things simpler. But what I got instead is sometimes one side goes second on turn one and then wins initiative on turn two. For two full consecutive turns of attacks..! And then I remembered why we had many character deaths in B/X. So I returned to individual initiatives.
I like 5th ed's take that once initiative is rolled, it stays the same for the whole combat, instead of rolling it at the top of each round. Its just easier to manage that way.
Indeed. I use regular poker cards numbered 1 to 10 and distribute them per initiative at begining of combat. After that I just call numbers going up from 1.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Mike » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:19 am

The possibility getting to go twice in a row is the whole point of initiative. It creates uncertainty and fosters excitement. If you're just going to alternate there's no point in rolling at all.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:03 am

Mike wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:19 am
The possibility getting to go twice in a row is the whole point of initiative. It creates uncertainty and fosters excitement. If you're just going to alternate there's no point in rolling at all.
With the earlier editions, and chainmail rules, I agree.

Without speaking for others here, when I DM for 5th edition, I feel that there is plenty to keep track of already, and initiative shouldn't be another complication - especially since it is individual initiative most of the time.

However, when the party is in a narrow passage, I do enforce per-side initiative, where only the front ranks are allowed to make attacks. The secondary ranks can make attacks, depending on what the front ranks can do, as far movement, and if the second rank attackers have weapons with reach, ranged weapons, spells, etc.

If this is the case, I will have both sides re-roll initiative every round, for the very reason you state: uncertainty, fosters excitement and in some cases it does give the allusion to the 'fog of war' when 'anything can happen'.
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:15 am

Mike wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:19 am
The possibility getting to go twice in a row is the whole point of initiative. It creates uncertainty and fosters excitement. If you're just going to alternate there's no point in rolling at all.
In my experience, by the higher levels, whether the PCs go first or not can make a big difference on an encounter. If the PCs all go before the monsters and do an alpha strike, they can take out several monsters before they ever had the opportunity to attack. On the flip side, if the monsters go first, they can do some serious damage to the PCs, particularly since the PCs can't use reactions until after their first turn. After that, it's just round-robin, but that first round can impact the rest of the encounter in 5e.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by shesheyan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:19 am

From my experience with many wargames simultaneous damage dealing is the best way to foster tactical thinking and simulate the chaos of combat.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by RobJN » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:52 pm

Per-side initiative is definitely a holdover from the game's war-gaming roots. Also, back in the day, with parties that could sometimes number a dozen, it's a lot easier to track than more modern, smaller-party-is-the-expected-norm editions and systems.

Having always gamed with smaller groups, I tend to prefer individual initiative.

I dislike set initiative (we go, they go, we go.....) as that tends towards repetitiveness, and thus I prefer to roll it at the top of every round. Not only does this throw a bit more luck into the mix, but it also allows for consequences of actions in the round prior to shift things for or against the party.
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by shesheyan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:57 pm

RobJN wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:52 pm
I dislike set initiative (we go, they go, we go.....) as that tends towards repetitiveness, and thus I prefer to roll it at the top of every round. Not only does this throw a bit more luck into the mix, but it also allows for consequences of actions in the round prior to shift things for or against the party.
Very interesting discussion.

The To Hit roll (and damage result) is the random factor that introduces uncertainty. I don't need more than that at my table. I don't see the need to re-roll at the top of every round. If there too many random factors it nulifies good tactical decisions by players or their ennemies. ;)

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by RobJN » Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:18 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:57 pm
...it nulifies good tactical decisions by players or their ennemies. ;)
There's a saying about plans, battlefields, and contact with the enemy.... how did that go again? :geek:
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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by shesheyan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:43 pm

RobJN wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:18 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:57 pm
...it nulifies good tactical decisions by players or their ennemies. ;)
There's a saying about plans, battlefields, and contact with the enemy.... how did that go again? :geek:
:D True but not always. Also, this is a rpg not real life. You want to reward good planning by players. If randomness is too high they will just abdicate preparation,mcharge in every time and gamble because the result is too unpredictable.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Havard » Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:17 pm

Dread Delgath wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:05 pm
This style of combat was a hold over from Chainmail or other war-gaming rules of the day, where you have 2 or more players in control of 2 or more armies going up against each other. The player that won initiative was "A", the other "B".

Player A would go down a checklist of all available actions for his forces until there were no more actions left to perform, then player B would do the same.

The checklist became the order of combat for each side in a round. The players would either be the winners or losers and take their turns accordingly in the order presented in the checklist of available actions.

Players had to look at the checklist of available actions as a flowchart of yes/no decisions: Can I do this? Yes/No. If Yes, end of turn for that character, move to next character. If no, move to next item on checklist, repeat decision tree.
That is interesting. I never thought about the origins of this rule. In my group this was quickly reduced to just rolling which side acted first and then every action for that side happened randomly, with 2H weapon attacks being resolved at the end of the round. I liked rolling for sides rather than individually because it kept combat fast paced.

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Re: Per-side initiative sequence

Post by Dread Delgath » Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:13 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:17 pm
Dread Delgath wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:05 pm
This style of combat was a hold over from Chainmail or other war-gaming rules of the day, where you have 2 or more players in control of 2 or more armies going up against each other. The player that won initiative was "A", the other "B".

Player A would go down a checklist of all available actions for his forces until there were no more actions left to perform, then player B would do the same.

The checklist became the order of combat for each side in a round. The players would either be the winners or losers and take their turns accordingly in the order presented in the checklist of available actions.

Players had to look at the checklist of available actions as a flowchart of yes/no decisions: Can I do this? Yes/No. If Yes, end of turn for that character, move to next character. If no, move to next item on checklist, repeat decision tree.
That is interesting. I never thought about the origins of this rule. In my group this was quickly reduced to just rolling which side acted first and then every action for that side happened randomly, with 2H weapon attacks being resolved at the end of the round. I liked rolling for sides rather than individually because it kept combat fast paced.

-Havard
Yes. In war-games combat normally happened in outdoor settings, so melee was resolved last for brevity.

D&D combat is different because it can take place anywhere - not just in an outdoor open field or castle courtyard. Individual initiative becomes so much more desirable because of more players running individual characters, and there is a wealth of more options to consider. Even more so in later editions.

The side vs side initiative and combat round rules were very misleading IMO, because a lot of rules writers believed that once melee was engaged NO ONE could fire missile weapons.

In a war-game situation where the front rank was indeed engaged in melee combat with the enemy's front rank, the flanking ranks and others on the hill - far behind the front rank were NOT in melee combat and could still fire missiles at any damn body they bloody well wanted.

But its decisions like this that each side went down that check list and did movement, spell fire, missile fire, movement again (if possible - but of course, I am probably confusing my old rule set combat rules again and am listing the wrong things out of order) and then melee - other side rinse and repeat. It made each round go by in an orderly fashion and kept arguments to a minimum as to whether so-and-so's unit could move out of range or break off from melee before a cloud of arrows could pelt them and thin their ranks.
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