Friday, November 6, 2015

Quick Initiative Idea

I use side-based Initiative in my DF game. We used Partial Surprise rolls to determine which side goes first, and then all of that side (PCs, or NPCs) goes first. A substantial victory can mean surprise, otherwise, we're just seeing who got started a little quicker. We changed the Partial Surprise rules a little because "win and go first, lose and be stunned, tie and you're tied" thing is pretty brutal - most fights start with even a prepared group being pummeled for a while before they react.

But Christopher Rice put up an interesting post about random rolling to determine place in the initiative order. It's a one-time roll, of course, since GURPS doesn't have combat rounds and thus gets weird quickly with re-ordered initiative (take it from someone who tried that, back in the day, before anyone bothered with Wait.)

One idea that springboards off of one of Christopher's ideas is this:

Merged Initiative/Surprise

Initiative and Surprise are determined randomly.

Side Based

The leader of each side makes an initiative roll per Partial Surprise, p. B393. Add the result to the highest Speed of any character on that side. The side with the higher total goes first.

Individual Based

As Side Based, but add the leader's roll to each inidividual's Speed. Arrange turn order based on that number. Optionally, everyone rolls individually, and takes the bonuses from their leader.

This basically means a side with smarter characters, guys with higher Tactics, a leader (especially with Born War Leader!) will generally go faster. They may even pace the fight against fast foes who aren't as well lead. A leader with Tactics, Born War Leader 2, and Combat Reflexes will be rolling 1d+5, 1d+6 against less-intelligent creatures (and they'll roll 1d-2 for being leaderless, 1d-1 if one has Combat Reflexes.) Very fast opponents can still go more quickly, but it'll be very uncommon. Very tactically organized foes will be a surprising threat.

Just a thought. I haven't tried it, but it does merge the Partial Surprise rolls and rules about the benefits of organization, leadership, Tactics, etc. with a Speed-based random-roll based initiative system.

I should post my Partial Surprise house rules at some point, too!


  1. Since Hjalmarr Holgerson has Tactics, Born War Leader 2, and Combat Reflexes, he approves of this concept. 

    1. Heh. That's because you don't realize it's effectively giving a bonus to faster foes, while the rules as written mean it doesn't matter if your foe has Speed 1 or Speed 10 . . .

  2. I also use side-based initiative in the DF game I run, just because it's easier than interspersed order. (If there is no surprise, I reuse the Partial Surprise rules, minus the mental stun, to see which side goes first.) None of my PCs has great Basic Speed, so there haven't been any objections. It does add one extra roll per combat, but it means the players always go in the same order without having to wait for the GM (except in the rare case where an opponent took a Wait), which speeds play.

    One funny bit in the Partial Surprise rules is that a leaderless party gets -2. I think that, by a strict reading of the rule, every party of PCs I've ever seen would get that penalty. I've never quite been cruel enough to inflict that penalty on my PCs, though. I let them get away with appointing a theoretical leader, then failing to listen to anything he says.

    1. Leader of a group of PCs is more of an aspirational job than one with actual benefits.

  3. "I should post my Partial Surprise house rules at some point, too!"

    Yes, yes you should!

    1. They're not exciting. I'll find them. I may revise them at some point . . . it's too easy to rack up upwards of a +6-8 bonus to that 1d roll in DF. CR for +2, smarter for +1, +1 for Tactics, +2 to +4 for BWL, and then leaderless foes with all the penalties . . .


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