As mentioned in a recent twitter post I made while it was fresh in my mind, I devised a neat take on combat initiative that might not be a terrible idea.
Breaking it down into the steps
- Roll some amount of dice and add a bonus of some description. This result should be a large number that would get a regular hero through a regular combat with maybe 20% initiative left to spare.
- Whomever has the highest total goes next. This remains a rule throughout the combat, so if someone still has the highest total after performing an action, they keep taking actions until this is no longer true.
- Perform an action by spending some number of initiative points. If this or any other adjustment reduces a character’s total below 0, then that character becomes exhausted via an appropriate mechanic.
- Once everyone reaches 0, re-roll initiative, divide the result by 1 + the character’s current fatigue, and add that to everyone’s totals. Keep doing this until the combat is resolved, or everyone passes out.
A duel between two fighters, each rolls 5d6, one adds 3 to the total, and the other adds 7. Results are 23 and 24.
Fighter B, with a total of 24 goes first, and draws their weapon for 2, dropping their total to 22. Because this drops them below their opponent, their turn ends.
Fighter A creates a small amount of distance between them for 1 point, then since their total still isn’t below their opponents, they also draw their weapon for 2. Their total now being 20, their turn ends.
Fighter B now needs to close the distance between them, and since they didn’t start in melee, this requires 3 points of move. They happen to be dumb, so spend those points to close, dropping their total to 19, and ending their turn before they can attack.
Fighter A is now in melee with B without needing to move, so performs an attack for 4. Fighter B has an option to dodge as a reaction, so spends 3 initiative to do so resulting in Fighter A having 16 initiative, and Fighter B also having 16. Since Fighter A’s initiative still isn’t lower than Bs, they take the opportunity to attack again for 4, dropping their total to 12 and ending their turn.
Fighter B could have continued to attempt dodging until their opponent dropped under their initiative and provided them an opening, but instead let the attack through so they could spend 1 point to create distance, 2 points to drink a potion, and then ready a counterattack for 4 points, leaving their total at 9 and ending their turn, but since they pre-spent the initiative on the counter, it’s easier to pull-off should it be triggered.
Fighter A fails their perception check to notice the prepared counter, and spends 1 movement to close, and 4 to attack. This triggers B’s counter, and not only thwarts the attack, but responds in kind. Fighter A’s total is now 7 so their turn ends.
Fighter B is pretty happy with this turn of events, and immediately readies another counter for 4, dropping to 5 and ending their turn.
Fighter A isn’t a muppet, so realises that they’re going to have the same trick played on them. They kick sand at their opponent for 2, and ready an attack for if their opponent retreats for 4, ending their turn with 1.
Fighter B, thinking that the readied action is a counter, decides to create distance in order to ready a ranged weapon. They spend 1 point to retreat, but trigger Fighter A’s attack in the process. Their total is still higher, so they take the opportunity to retreat for another 1, ready a throwing knife for 2, and throw it for 4. Their turn ends with their total at -3, meaning they gain a level of exhaustion.
Fighter A realises that they’ve only got one good action left in them, but since their opponent is already exhausted, they throw their weapon at them for 4, dropping them to -3 and giving them a point of exhaustion. While their total is still not below their opponents, initiative is re-rolled, divided by 2, and added to both totals. This results in Figher A having a new total of
-3 + ( 21 / 2 (round down) ) = 7, and Fighter B with
-3 + ( 26 / 2 (round down) ) = 10. Fighter A’s initiative is now lower, so their turn ends.
Fighter B takes the opportunity to ready (2) and throw (4) another knife, dropping their total to 4, but thankfully they managed to wound their opponent enough to end the fight before things got worse.
It’s certainly not a perfect plan, and just by writing this, I’ve managed to poke a few holes in how it could be exploited, but if the right balancing mechanics were introduced, it could work quite well.
Some articles that inspired me: