Initiative!

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Blacky the Blackball
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Initiative!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:00 pm

The rules for initiative in classic D&D tend to be very vague (at least those in the RC - B/X or BECMI might have been clearer).

How do you guys do it?

Group initiative or individual initiative?

Statement of intent before initiative is rolled, or just say what you're doing when your initiative comes up?

Do you use the "a spell caster who takes damage before their initiative comes up has their spell disrupted" rule?

In what order do statements of intent have to be made?

Can statements of intent be changed in response to the statements of intent of other combatants? (e.g. Fighter 1 announces that he is going to hit Fighter 2, but then Cleric 3 announces that she is going to cast a spell, so Fighter 1 wants to hit her instead hoping to beat her initiative and disrupt it.)

In what order do the attacks of zombies or people with two handed weapons that "always lose initiative" go?
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Re: Initiative!

Post by Hugin » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:14 pm

It's been a while, and we experimented a fair bit, but we usually used either individual initiative for the PCs and group for the opponents, or individual for everybody. I don't think we did any declarations of intent before your initiative count can up. (Note that we used the RC; prior to that we only had the expert rules so we didn't really know how to play properly :oops: )

The spellcaster being struck after starting a spell (and losing it) always confused me as to how that was supposed to be handled.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Gawain_VIII » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:20 pm

By the book: group initiative.
Once a winner is determined, "intent" is stated at the time of action (meaning whoever goes last can change their minds). Action is determined in order:
1. Missile attacks
2. Magic
3. Melee attacks
4. Two-handed weapons
5. Zombies (always go last, regardless of initiative)
(I may be mis-remembering, missile and magic might be reversed.)

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:40 pm

Hugin wrote:The spellcaster being struck after starting a spell (and losing it) always confused me as to how that was supposed to be handled.
Yeah, it says in the beginning of the spellcasting chapter that spells can be disrupted if you are damaged while casting them, which can only happen if you announce you're casting the spell at the beginning of the round and then lose initiative.

If you only decide to cast a spell when your initiative comes around and then immediately do so, then it can never be disrupted in that manner.

Similarly, some spells and actions also seem to indicate that you need to decide (and/or announce) what you're doing before initiative is rolled:

Statue - if your action for the round is to turn to stone, you get a bonus to your initiative in order to be able to do it before the person attacking you gets to hit you. That implies that you must decide to do it before initiative is rolled, and your opponent must have already committed to hitting you before initiative is rolled (otherwise they wouldn't bother - they'd hit someone else).

Word of Recall - You automatically win initiative in the round you cast this spell, so you obviously need to announce it before initiative is rolled.

Smash - When doing a smash attack you automatically lose initiative, so you obviously need to announce it before initiative is rolled.

Unfortunately, the combat chapter doesn't mention a statement of intent before initiative is rolled in either group initiative or individual initiative - despite these various things needing it to happen.

It would seem that the obvious solution is that everyone simply announces their action for the round at the beginning before initiative is rolled. The issue then is deciding who has to commit first. Can the fighter wait until the caster has announced whether he is casting a spell or not before deciding whether or not to attack him based on that decision? Can the caster wait until the fighter has announced whether or not she is attacking him before deciding whether or not to cast a spell based on that decision? Someone's gotta decide first, and whoever it is gives the other an advantage.

And can one of them change their mind after the other has reacted?

The way I've normally done it is to give the players the choice - if they want to wait and see what the monsters are doing for the round before telling me what they're doing, they can do so but will get a -1 penalty on their individual initiative rolls; but if they are willing to announce their actions (and therefore commit to them) before seeing what the monsters are doing for the round then they can do so and will get a +1 bonus to their individual initiative rolls instead.

And either side (players or monsters) can then change their mind and do something else, but will take a -2 penalty on their individual initiative rolls if they do so.

So the sequence in a round is:

1) Players optionally announce their intended actions for the round (and get a +1 initiative bonus if they do).
2) Monsters announce their intended actions for the round.
3) Player who haven't announced yet do so (and get a -1 initiative penalty)
4) Players or monsters optionally change their announced intent (and get a -2 initiative penalty if they do)
5) Everyone rolls individual initiative - although I'll often roll a single group die for a bunch of monsters for the sake of simplicity.
6) Everyone who "automatically wins initiative" acts in initiative order, and must perform the action they announced.
7) Everyone except those who "automatically lose initiative" acts in initiative order, and must perform the action they announced.
8) Everyone who "automatically loses initiative" acts in initiative order, and must perform the action they announced.

That sounds a lot more complicated than it is, when explicitly written out like that!
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Re: Initiative!

Post by dulsi » Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:44 pm

In 2E and 3.0E, we announced before rolling. The DM never announced the monsters intended actions. Our intentions were just weapon or magic to use. I don't think we usually specified who we were attacking. Changing actions was rare and usually limited to movement. In 2E you didn't really have much that gave initiative bonus if you did it.

We actually screwed up initiative when playing 3.0E which hindered spell casters. Spells that took a standard action we still assumed they were started at the beginning of the round like previous editions and could be interrupted.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by rabindranath72 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:08 pm

The RC does not include the vital step of declaring intentions, which is a piece of errata. This is important because, as you note (among the other things), spellcasters can be interrupted. If a spellcaster is interrupted, he cannot cast the spell.

The order is:
- Movement
- Missile
- Spells (and Turn Undead, according to Frank Mentzer; the information is missing from RC and the old BECMI books)
- Melee

An alternative order suggested in the Immortals boxed set which I have used with some success is:

Side A:
- Movement
- Missile
- Magic items

Side B:
- Movement
- Missile
- Magic items

Side A:
- Spells (and Turn Undead)
- Melee

Side B:
- Spells (and Turn Undead)
- Melee

In this way a spellcaster can be interrupted even if he is on the winning side of initiative, which creates some interesting strategic points.

In any case, if initiative is tied, the actions are staggered and each side goes at each of the steps in parallel.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Seer of Yhog » Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:57 pm

We did it as follows:

Every player declares and then rolls initiative at the start of each round, by rolling 1d6 + Dex bonus. The enemy rolls once as a group, unless there is a powerful leader, who would roll separately. The reason for rolling each round is that, over the course of a battle, combatants could become injured, and generally slow down - as circumstances dictated, I would penalise a player's initiative. Ties are re-rolled.

Combat order was: spellcasters (they uttered a command word and maybe one quick gesture IMC, as I assumed that memorisation was sufficient preparation), then everyone else. Archers could fumble a bit in nocking their arrows, swordsmen might be really on the ball, etc. This was instituted to give lower-level mages a fighting chance - this advantage crumbled in higher levels, once weapon mastery and other skills came into play.

All combatants had one initiative option - they could forego an attack this round, to be the first next round. In game terms, this meant the player had to select an opponent for his/her next attack, and watch them. They could deflect attacks if they had the skill, and move closer to their opponent, but that was it. Depending on my mood I occasionally gave enemies a +1 to hit PCs choosing this option. This was the best way to get the drop on a spellcaster.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by Havard » Wed Oct 07, 2009 1:04 pm

We do the following.

Each group/side makes a roll at the beginning of combat. We don't bother with statements untill its the players turn to make an action. If there is a question of who acts first within one side, the character with the highest dex acts first. We don't bother with segments.

If players fight against eachother, they are considered being on different sides and thus have to make separate rolls.

Characters with 2H weapons act at the end of the round (according to initiative roll if both sides have 2H weapons). This rules also applies to other situations where a character looses initiative (cant think of any right now though).

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Re: Initiative!

Post by cab » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:08 pm

Roll d6+dex bonus, +other bonuses (haste, deferrment from other rounds, etc.) each round. Individual initiative.

Start counting down, when I get to your number, you go. You may move (which takes time) and attack, thus ending your action at a later number. You may cast a spell, you may attack, you may do whatever you wish. Or you may wait. Then whenever someone else acts you may jump in and interfere.

Example: A thief rolls a 4, adds 2 for his dex bonus, he's hasted, so he adds another 1, so he's going on a 7. He's positioned just up behind an enemy mage.

Said mage rolls a 6.

The thief decides to wait and see when I count down to 7. The mage decides to cast a spell; the thief player can now take a swipe at the mage (a backstab that will disrupt the spell, if it hits!).

Ties are rerolled where it matters; a single d6 roll, unmodifed. If these numbers are again a tie, the two actions are genuinely simultaneous.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Hugin » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:16 pm

Geoff reminded me that we used to do rolls each round too. I can't believe I forgot about, and it makes me wonder what else I'm forgetting.

There was one campaign that had a strange "unwritten rule" develop regarding initiative: the leader of the party was the member who won initiative! :D
Basically the character that acted first determined the 'plan of action'. He acted and the rest did their best to support that action, even if they had wished that action wasn't done! It was a lot of fun for that campaign and it was character driven as well which is all the better. Of course, I did have them in a situation were one of the characters turned to another and say "I think we need a plan for this one" (they were facing a triceratops in the Colosseum in Thyatis).

Another somewhat initiative-related development was that two of the characters took alternating turns when it came to opening doors. That lead to some fun roleplaying when it had been a while and the two characters were trying to figure out whose turn it was.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Khuzd » Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:10 pm

I have alway hated group initiatives and statement of intents... Any game with satements of intents makes me flee to another game.

My system: each PC rolls d6. DM rolls 1d6 for most NPCs and another d6 for leader monsters, spell casters... so DM rolls a few d6.

Halfling bonus+1, and +2 in melee if you pass a check of "Fighting instinct". Each player does his action in his turn.

Missile weapons (sling, bow) have normal initiative.

Two-handed sword, pole weapons, smashing attacks, people fighting with a weapon in each hand, always go last, even if "hasted" [I have a doubt with knife-shields, I have not decided... and they are very frequent in my campaigns]. If there is a tie:

Two-handed weapons and Fighters with two weapons roll to break the tie. Smashing goes last.

Zombies go always lastest (?) than anything (even smashing goes before than zombies).

MAGIC: Wands and Rods need only a short word to activate, so they are like any other initiative.

But casting spells require words and movements and you can be disturbed while casting... so, the PC starts casting at his initiative turn... and magic activates its effect AFTER all physical movements (even AFTER the zombies).

Example: Pepe de Casachunga (Belcadizian E10) rolls a 1 in initiative; he waits patiently his turn; the player decides that, as he is the last, he wil cast a spell of fireball. Nobody can disturb him while casting.

Next round, Pepe rolls a 6; fearing that his enemies could distub him while casting a spell, he prefers another action: throwing his spear or castinn a "lighning bolt" from his wand (only 6d6, instead of a 10d6 from a natural casted spell).

EXCEPTION: those wizards who have studied at Glantri or Alphatian great universities and have the General Skill "Quick casting" can check against Dexterity to cast his spell very quickly, just like a wand, in his initiative turn. If they fail the check, they can try another thing (wand, dagger..)

Players very quickly detect that "ey, that necromancer has quick casting, he has been in Glantri studying..." Not all magic-users are the same. Also, Alfheim elves, sidhes, clerics, etc... do not have "quick casting" (only elves or fey who have studied at those universities, not many in the world) so a magic-user tends to be "better" wizard than other spell casters.

In high levels, wands do not offer a lot of damage, but they are fast...
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Re: Initiative!

Post by Bouv » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:27 pm

Being our first time round this past weekend, I just did group initative for each side and went in their marching order to make life easier. As they grasp the rules more, stuff will become more clear.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Gawain_VIII » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:56 pm

Blacky the Blackball wrote:
Hugin wrote:The spellcaster being struck after starting a spell (and losing it) always confused me as to how that was supposed to be handled.
Yeah, it says in the beginning of the spellcasting chapter that spells can be disrupted if you are damaged while casting them, which can only happen if you announce you're casting the spell at the beginning of the round and then lose initiative.
You got a page reference on that? I can't find it--I always believed that to have originated in AD&D, not BECMI.

Re-reading through the combat chapter in the RC, I see how I've been doing things wrong. In the past, I've assumed:
1. Roll group init.
2. Winning side: (make intent known)
A. PCs not attacking make their moves & other actions
B. Missile attackers move and attack (or attack them move)
C. Ditto for spellcasters (if your target is dead, change targets, spells, or go for melee, can't do missile because that phase is over)
D. Ditto for melee
E. Ditto for two-weapon, dual-weapon, shield bash, etc.
3. Repeat for losing side.

But, upon re-reading, keeping what's been discussed here in mind, I should have been doing this instead:
1. Roll group init.
2. Winning side:
A. Everyone moves (whether you're attacking or not), people not attacking take their other actions -- Intent is assumed to be made here since the next phases can't happen until you know what you're doing
B. Missile attackers attack (they already moved)
C. Ditto for spellcasters (if your target is dead, pick a new spell/target or change your mind and go for melee, can't do missile 'cuz that phase is already over)
D. Ditto for melee (if your target is dead, well, tough, at least you're not in melee range of the losers on their turn)
3. Repeat for losing side.
4. Two-weaon, dual-weapon, shield bash, zombies, etc. attack (they already moved during phase A of their group's initiative, so now it's just a matter of resolving the numbers)

I'm not playing a classic game right now, so if anyone wants to test this out, let me know how smoothly (or roughly) it flows.

Cheers,
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Re: Initiative!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:01 am

Gawain_VIII wrote:
Blacky the Blackball wrote:
Hugin wrote:The spellcaster being struck after starting a spell (and losing it) always confused me as to how that was supposed to be handled.
Yeah, it says in the beginning of the spellcasting chapter that spells can be disrupted if you are damaged while casting them, which can only happen if you announce you're casting the spell at the beginning of the round and then lose initiative.
You got a page reference on that? I can't find it--I always believed that to have originated in AD&D, not BECMI.
Page 32 of the RC, under "Casting Spells". The text starts at the very bottom of the second column, and continues onto the third column - where we get (at the end of the second paragraph):
RC, page 32 wrote:If the character is disturbed (i.e. hit in combat, tackled, etc.) while casting a spell, the spell will be ruined, and will still be "erased" from his mind just as if it had been cast.
I don't know whether or not it's an addition in the RC or was also in the older BECMI books, but over on Dragonsfoot, Frank Mentzer has confirmed that his intention was that spells were announced at the start of the round, and could be disrupted if someone beat your initiative, even if the final wording of the BECMI books didn't make that clear.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by snorri » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:32 am

Total DM's lazyness, as usual :
- group initiative
- each player state what he does and roll the dice for immediatly, regardless of weapon (anyway, no offensive spellcaster in the current party).

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Re: Initiative!

Post by Gawain_VIII » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:52 am

Blacky the Blackball wrote:Page 32 of the RC, under "Casting Spells". The text starts at the very bottom of the second column, and continues onto the third column - where we get (at the end of the second paragraph):
RC, page 32 wrote:If the character is disturbed (i.e. hit in combat, tackled, etc.) while casting a spell, the spell will be ruined, and will still be "erased" from his mind just as if it had been cast.
I don't know whether or not it's an addition in the RC or was also in the older BECMI books, but over on Dragonsfoot, Frank Mentzer has confirmed that his intention was that spells were announced at the start of the round, and could be disrupted if someone beat your initiative, even if the final wording of the BECMI books didn't make that clear.
I must've skipped right over that this morning when I was looking at it. I swear I read those three paragraphs a half dozen times... just missed it. I'll look in the BECMI books to see if it's there too.

As far as Mentzer's intent--it's not stated specifically, but if following the by-the-book checklist, even if not said directly, intent HAS to be made known at LEAST by the end of the Movement phase--otherwise you won't know which phase of the round your character will be acting in. The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to delcare that my players should state their intent at the start of the round, (regardless of which side wins) so that spell interruption is possible.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by agathokles » Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:50 am

A bit of thread necromancy to complete the discussion. The Basic Set, on page 3 of the DM's book, states that Intentions are declared before Initiative.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by migo » Sat Jan 28, 2012 10:46 am

I've always just gone with counterclockwise or clockwise around the table - if that, often it's just whoever decided on their action first goes first. Then after all the players go, it's the monsters. Exactly like Final Fantasy on the NES, and since that was based on D&D I kind of feel like I was doing it right.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by RobJN » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:37 pm

When I DM'd, I'd go around the table asking intentions, then we'd roll initiative, and step through the 4 phases of the combat round.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:57 am

agathokles wrote:A bit of thread necromancy to complete the discussion. The Basic Set, on page 3 of the DM's book, states that Intentions are declared before Initiative.

GP
Moldvay or Mentzer?

Either way, that was obviously lost in editing by the time of the RC.
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Re: Initiative!

Post by rabindranath72 » Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:05 pm

Blacky the Blackball wrote:
agathokles wrote:A bit of thread necromancy to complete the discussion. The Basic Set, on page 3 of the DM's book, states that Intentions are declared before Initiative.

GP
Moldvay or Mentzer?

Either way, that was obviously lost in editing by the time of the RC.
Mentzer DMR.
Though I am pretty sure Moldvay has something to the same effect, too.

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Re: Initiative!

Post by agathokles » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:05 pm

Yes, Mentzer's. I can't say about Moldvay's.

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