The Initiative mechanic is quite simple: the Players each roll a d10 and add their respective PCs' Agility Bonuses, then modify their totals by any special circumstances (Paranoia, Rapid Reflexes, etc) to achieve their final "steps" in the Initiative order, and the GM does the same for the Mooks/Goons/Scrubs/Nancys and any "elites"/major villains. As Mooks average an AgB3-4, a poor die roll puts them at the bottom of the Inititative order, and this is the "cyst". The Initiative order becomes heavily weighted, and it is then my observation that it's really not so bad having ALL the Mooks taking the final Turn in each Round. Let's be generous and say one PC ends up with a total Initiative less than the Mooks…there still exists this "cyst", a clump of Mooks, all taking their Turns at (essentially) the same moment. This…doesn't sit well with me. Even if I (as a GM) end up having the highest (or even the middling) Initiative step in the coming combat encounter, it is still heavily weighted in favor of the Mooks. Wherever the "cyst" lies in the Initiative order it creates a pendulum, first swinging heavily one direction, then the other.
They're Mooks: in a ranged engagement a few will "martyr" themselves, laying down cover fire and acting the fool target in the open while their compatriots dodge for cover (unless they have the lowest Initiative in the Round, in which case all of them end up caught in the open clearing) or, if it's a melee encounter, they mob up on the Acolytes, one at a time, taking their Turns charging in, attacking…but…the Mooks have a sort of "GM precognition". Let's say Mook #1charges Acolyte A (Flak Armour and TB3), gets a good hit in and does 4 points of Damage. Assuming the Acolyte begins the encounter unhurt, the Mooks (all armed with swords and SB3) realize he's still in for a bit, so Mook #2 charges Acolyte A, gets a really good hit in (maxes out) and does 6 points of Damage. Mook/GM precognition then kicks in: Mook #3 (the GM) surveys the situation and can decide to throw himself into the fray with Acolyte A as an "overkill" measure, hoping to critically injure or incapacitate Acolyte A, or move to engage a different target. Mook#1 gets the Charge bonus. Mook #2 gets the Charge bonus AND the Outnumbering (2-1) bonus. Does Mook#3 go for the "overkill" charge AND Outnumbering (3-1) bonus, or decide to tie up another target to deny Acolyte A assistance (negating the Outnumbering bonus)? I've manipulated firefights in this manner, too. Is this fair to the Players?
As the GM, I'm not concerned whether I get the highest Initiative step or not. I have the "cyst" and Mook/GM precognition on my side. And I don't think that's fair to the Players. So, here's what I've been doing to create a level sense of combat ebb and flow…
First, I determine if anyone is Surprised. Surprised PCs/NPCs/Mooks will miss their first Turn.
Next, I have the Players roll Initiative and I record their scores. I use 4"x6" cards, the first laid out like this:
PC/NPC/Mook Agility (Bonus) Paranoid (+/-) Unnatural Agility/Rapid Reflexes (U/R) Total
At this point I'm simply recording Initiative scores, so the Mooks can be recorded on one line, but NPCs (both allied and "special" villains) receive their own, individual Initiative scores.
Note: for those instances when 2 (or more) PCs have the same Agility score AND the same Initiative score, I "bump" the PC(s) with Paranoia one "step" higher. If 2 (or more) PCs still have the same Initiative score, I have the Players roll off (high d10 wins), bumping the winner one "step" higher, but never equal or greater than the PC with the highest Initiative score.
Example: PC/NPC/Mook Agility (Bonus) Paranois (+/-) Unnatural Agility/Rapid Reflexes (U/R) Total
Evan 39 (3) - -/- 10
Cyan 33 (3) - -/- 9
Omen 33 (3) + -/- 9+
Mooks (x10) 30 (3) - -/- 7
Evil Bastard 42 (4) + -/- 9+
No one is Surprised. The Initiative order is: Evan, Evil Bastard, Omen, Cyan, Mooks. Evil Bastard's 9 is "faster" than Omen's 9 (based on Agility scores), Omen's 9 is "faster" than Cyan's 9 (because he's paranoid), and so on. Regardless of whom actually has the highest OR lowest Initiative scores, PCs will ALWAYS act first (they're heroes [unless they're Phaenonites]) and last in a Round. So, even if Evil Bastard had scored 11 or higher for his Initiative score, Evan would still be acting first in the Round.
Next, I put the names of PCs, NPCs, and Mooks in descending order, from the first to act each Round to the last, on another 4"x6" card. The Acolytes are outnumbered (almost) 4:1, and I split their opponents into two groups. Evil Bastard will take personal command of one group, and the others will follow his yelled orders.
The Initiative order now is: Evan, Evil Bastard, 4 Mooks, Omen, 6 Mooks, Cyan. The Mooks could easily have the 9+ and Evil bastard could have the 7, in which case EB takes command of the larger of the two groups, moving in more slowly.
The "cyst" of Mooks is broken up, its weight more evenly distributed through the Turn, and the PCs can mitigate those distributions by acting in concert with each other (we've found that the Delay Action is used more frequently and to better advantage) and by having the first and last Turn in every Round. I let the Players know who the Mooks are and who the Evil Bastards are (we use the minis, and the Players usually recognize the Mooks/Goons on sight, and can tell the difference between them and their commanders…which is as it should be, considering Acolytes must always be observant).
Used in concert with my Armour/Toughness House Rules (see "Armour Protects. Toughness, uh…" thread), Players are making better use of set dressings (cover, flanking, suppressing fire, etc), they're playing smarter through cooperative tactics (using their strengths to cover their weaknesses), combats and firefights roll smoothly from one of the hall to the other end of the street, and there are smaller blocks of time between the GM's and players' Turns, meaning everyone stays focused on the game instead of twiddling their thumbs.
Now, looking back on this, I don't think I've explained this near well enough for it to make complete sense to everyone. One thing to remember is it doesn't really matter that Mooks are going before PCs even when they're Initiative is lower than PCs. The Acolytes in the examples above (Evan, Cyan, and Omen) range in Rank between 3-5,m were supported by a cast of four other Acolytes, and (due to poor circumstances) have little of their standard gear, weapons or equipment (a Flak Vest, a Hand Flamer, a Las-Pistol, a Knife…nothing major, really), their encounter takes place in a run-down brownstone hotel, spanning decrepit halls, defunct elevators, fire escapes, street-side vendor carts and the appropriation of a laundry truck, the Mooks (of which there were 16) use the Kill Squad Trooper profile but are only wearing Flak Vests, and Evil Bastard uses the full Arbitrator profile. Evil Bastard also had a pet Psyker… The PCs prevailed, some heavily wounded, others scratched, but they carried the encounter. I guess it has more to do with a GM knowing his/her Players; and knowing their Characters; than it does with an actual "template" for this Initiative House Rule. I guess I'm throwing it out to the forum, unrefined and hoping for a bit of help getting it defined.
Give it a try.
For all I know it can't be a Initiative template, rather just a different thing I do.