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Inquisitor Tremayne

Initiative slots vs. set Initiative

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So very early on in our game the PCs gnashed their teeth against the RAW initiative rules and we "reverted" back to a set initiative: your roll determines your placement.  Anyone else encounter this?

 

Personally, I am a fan of the RAW initiative rules but I can't for the life of me figure out a way to sell my players on it.  I think the primary issue for them is that it broke immersion in some instances.  One particular encounter I had them spread out around a village fighting several minions, the idea that they could discuss tactics and initiative placement/order while being that spread out (let alone giving boost dice to allies they had no line of sight too) was too metagame-y for them.

 

Thoughts?  Suggestions?

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My group never had a problem with it, though we're graduates of WEG Star Wars, which doesn't have any initiative rules at all (we made up our own). 

 

The game is really balanced for the RAW method.  It allows the use of talents that go into the next turn to be better taken advantage of.  That said, if they're that determined to gimp themselves by not taking advantage of that I suppose it's their perogative. 

 

You could always let them know that they're welcome to enforce set initiative slots, but the NPC badguys are following RAW, and will be taking advantage of mobile slots for their turns. 

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Comlinks? Talking is easy with radios and no line of sight.  "Team one, you hit the north target! Team two, the south, 4 will hold and provide cover! zzzttt Over?!"

 

Whether or not assisting would be allowed would be more a matter of explaining the assistance.  It might not be possible depending on circumstances.

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I'm with you - it's really useful.  Early on in any fight, CC-2N8 (Marauder) tends to act later in the round (keeping the range as distant as possible until he's ready to strike).  Later on, he'll act first (hammering away at the biggest threat before it takes him down).  Tactically, the Initiative rules are superb...

 

If the problem is immersion though, perhaps present it in non-game terms?  If you're describing initiative slots like they're comic book panels or, appropriately enough for Star Wars, camera shots, you may fire their imagination.

Edited by Col. Orange

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--snip--

 

You could always let them know that they're welcome to enforce set initiative slots, but the NPC badguys are following RAW, and will be taking advantage of mobile slots for their turns. 

 

Beat me to it :P

 

If the players want to fix their selections to exactly what they rolled let them.  They are not really changing RAW, they are choosing to pick their PC's rolled slot.   So let them. 

 

But nothing says you have to do the same. 

 

Create a side-adventure or mini-arc that won't derail your main campaign, but lets you have a little fun.   Adjust your threats so you don't actually kill off anyone, this is intended as a learning experience.   Then pound them with your flexibility versus their static run.   

 

And you don't have to even tell them what you are doing initially :ph34r:.  Just let it play out and then one round say something like,  "....no... I think the sniper should go in the second slot...." as if lost in thought. 

 

The light bulb will come on.  ;)

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I think people assign a little too much ownership to their initiative roll and also view a round as some fixed measurement involving non stop action.

 

The Influence power gives a decent time comparison when using the ol 'these aren't the droids you are looking for' ability when it says you influence someone's mind for a about 5 minutes or one round of combat.  The point being an initiative roll doesn't mean a snap of the fingers and then shooting begins.  Prior to it there could be movement to various locations.  There could be discussions and then actions/maneuvers initiated based on the comlink discussion.

 

Now, extended conversation during a firefight needs to be limited, but there can still be conversation between players.  It needs to be terse but could happen.  Discussing the plan beforehand needs to happen so that contingencies are known and can be initiated simply, like 'if Team A can't overcome the opposition at the checkpoint in 2 rounds I'll call for them to fall back and Team B you need to be ready to flank to the right'.

 

Passing initiative slots back and forth makes perfect sense as well.  Team A reaches their spot, rolls initiative, and they get a lousy result.  Narratively that might mean Team B's roll was better but they aren't the ones that need to go first so Team B exposes themselves slightly to draw attention away from Team A and allow Team A to act.

Edited by 2P51

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I allow a certain amount of planning and table-talk during a battle, especially since a few my drunker players can never seem to remember which scenes their characters are actually in. However if someone seems particularly indecisive and multiple people are clamoring to give them advice, I usually silence them and  -- gently or firmly, as required -- remind everyone that this a fast, frantic fight that leaves little time for comittee debate. I've never had to do it, but I've also told people that if they stand idly much longer I'll flip a coin and they'll either attack the nearest enemy or run toward the nearest exit.

All that being said, there are two ways to win people over with this initiative system;
 

1. Keep battles moving even when someone steps away to use the bathroom, smoke a cigarette, or answer a text. This rule is convenient and relaxed in an out-of-game context, and it can hard to deny the benefit of that sometimes. (GMs should make extra note of this, because players benefit from it a lot more than they do; it's definitely one of those things you get insight on when you finally step out from behind the screen for a day or so, trust me.)

2. Have the bad guys coordinate crazy strageies. Have a Nemesis that, as per the advice in the GM screen booklet, has an extra turn at the end of the round, take two or even three turns in a row. (This works really well when you want to make Force users seem more impressive than the rules can currently make them, particularly if you throw Unmatched Mobility on top of it. :) ) Or perhaps some Stormtroopers lob grenades into a building the PCs are hiding out in, only to immediately follow that up by charging in with guns blazing before anyone can react. The possibilities are endless.

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And you don't have to even tell them what you are doing initially :ph34r:.  Just let it play out and then one round say something like,  "....no... I think the sniper should go in the second slot...." as if lost in thought. 

 

The light bulb will come on.  ;)

This is a little mean.

 

What I did to get my players on board was just stopped tracking it by individual. My Init tracking is just a pile of tokens/cards, on some are little YT-1300s for the players, and others are Symbols appropriate to the opponents (Imperial cog for imps, Starbird for Rebels, ect). When a YT comes Up I just say "Ok, players turn, who goes?"

 

Giving them a visual that wasn't linked directly to them fixed it right up. And the Cards are super easy to make, just some index cards, some small printed images easily found online, and a little glue/tape.

 

 

 

 

My group never had a problem with it, though we're graduates of WEG Star Wars, which doesn't have any initiative rules at all (we made up our own).

Actually it did...it used Perception, all participants rolled, side with the single highest roll went first in the order of Perception Die codes ;)

Edited by Ghostofman

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If all that seems meta-gamey, though, remind your players that everyone acting on a set schedule is WAY more metagamey in the context of crafting truly cinematic action scenes. Put simply, the looser the rules the more freedom you have to describe what's going on. :)

Truth here.  What's more realistic.  People moving at different times, or everybody in a combat acting in the exact same order continually, no matter how circumstances change.

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I'm actually on the other end of this. As a player, I wish more GMs (and groups) would use slots instead of fixed initiative. It drives me crazy. I got a group to try it, and I really liked the result. I found that it really allowed the party to set up tactics and sequences of events that build on one another, rather than everyone just punching in isolation.

 

For example, I addressed the group at one point in the fight. I told them that I was just going to keep shooting at the droids we were fighting, so I was offering the initiative to someone who could make better and more timely use of it. In another fight, one of the other players took the initiative to finish off my opponent so that I could pull out my blaster and lay down some cover fire for the rest of the party (since firing a blaster rifle in melee comes with a huge penalty).

 

Slots also allow you to pre-plan things like aiding and advantage boosting. If I'm co-piloting a ship, it's better for me to take my action before the pilot, since my result effects his actions. Taking it afterwards is odd and at best means you are tracking mechanics and effects over an entire round instead of back to back.

 

Lastly, fixed initiative punished those who roll poorly or don't combat spec their character. The "fighter" always goes first, and the squishies always get their faces punched off. With initiative slots, non-combatants can take actions early that help combat, like running for cover, canceling an alarm, or barring a door. Few games promote thoughtful gameplay over min-maxed combat.

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I'm actually on the other end of this. As a player, I wish more GMs (and groups) would use slots instead of fixed initiative. It drives me crazy. I got a group to try it, and I really liked the result. I found that it really allowed the party to set up tactics and sequences of events that build on one another, rather than everyone just punching in isolation.

 

As a GM I agree, it has the side effect of keeping everyone involved in the decision making, rather than players sitting back and deciding they can talk about something else, or text, or whatever because it's not their turn.

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What I did to get my players on board was just stopped tracking it by individual. My Init tracking is just a pile of tokens/cards, on some are little YT-1300s for the players, and others are Symbols appropriate to the opponents (Imperial cog for imps, Starbird for Rebels, ect). When a YT comes Up I just say "Ok, players turn, who goes?"

This worked for us too.

I love it as a player because while everyone else is debating what to do, I can just jump in and start swinging an axe. This is the flowchart I use for my Trandoshan:  

orkflowchart.png

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When we started playing the GM thought floating was dumb and made us use fixed. After actually reading the rules I thought it would be neat to try RAW and we haven't gone back ever sense. For the most part we follow a typical order with the heavy hitters first. But we do change it up turn by turn based on who needs to do what.

 

It's nice to have the flexibility to easily have the shooters shoot a target then the melee guy goes in then the next turn the melee guy goes and backs out to let the shooters attack again.

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Oh, and as for tracking, I have a tablet sized magnetic whiteboard and two different colors of magnets. When we roll for initiative I jot down the results on the board then alingn the magnets in order for PC and NPC slots. Works pretty well and gives me a scratchpad to keep track of notes and my WT and ST.

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Are you pretty much saying that they want the guy with highest initiative to go first, followed by next, etc, in a clear most-sux-to-least order? Versus, say, the guy who rolled 1 sux taking a slot generated by someone with 3 sux because his action is more valuable early in the round?  I mean, they still have to interact with the RAW initiative slots either way.

 

If you need to "sell" it I would say show examples where someone with a bad initiative slot roll going first radically redefines the combat - the slicer might go last by successes generated, but if he can slice a blast door between you and the bad guys and close/lock it, that pretty much ends the whole fight right there.

Edited by Kshatriya

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I have my players track initiative and even wounds dealt to enemies. Some might call that lazy, I call it "efficient" since it leaves me with more room to think on my feet and introduce mid-battle twists.

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Being able to switch initiative slots is also a boon when engaged in vehicle combat. If you look at the interaction between vehicle maneuvers and actions, particularly when viewed through the scope of vehicle combat, you can readily see where being able to alter the initiative order is of benefit.

 

Alternating initiative also allows certain talents to be of greater benefit. 

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Have you seen any of the fan-made player aids floating around? They are pretty good stuff, like there's a 8.5x11 sheet that has things like standard uses for Advantage, and actions/maneuvers in combat, and such. Something that is in front of the players to remind them of "what they can do" can be helpful if they don't understand the rules.

 

Another thing is just to get them to think cinematically, and described what they'd like to do, and then you take the time to explain in detail how they would go about that mechanically. If they don't get it after a while, tell them (not during a game session) that you need them to start stepping up and taking a little ownership of the game.

 

I am of the opinion that if my players just want to be entertained, we can watch a movie or play Talisman. Or Pathfinder, for that matter :) but if they want to have fun roleplaying together, I need them to flex some brain muscles a little bit. 

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And you don't have to even tell them what you are doing initially :ph34r:.  Just let it play out and then one round say something like,  "....no... I think the sniper should go in the second slot...." as if lost in thought. 

 

The light bulb will come on.  ;)

 

This is a little mean.

 

 

Yes, yes it is :P

 

But also effective.  Especially if you make sure it doesn't have long term negative effects to the PC's.

 

In a group of friends this will be effective and usually adds to the groups stock of humorous stories. 

 

Of course if you don't really know your group (new, a open shop game, etc) or your group lacks a sense of humor, you may not want to go there ;)   

 

Luckily the people I play with not only have a sense of humor, but have been playing RPG's for years and generally don't have a cow if the GM decides on an interpretation that is different than theirs.  The only real things the people in my group don't like is if you make a change to RAW and forget to let them know.  All of us GM and so all of us have our opportunity to tweak things.

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Thanks, lots of food for thought.  Another issue is half my players don't seem to take the time to really try to understand the rules and I am often left explaining options and rules on a regular basis.  So it isn't clear to them the benefits gained from initiative slots.

 

Do they understand spending advantages to boost the next player? If they do, the role of initiative slots should become immediately evident.

 

But as I mentioned, it's not always about a mechanical benefit. I recently played through the beginner box with original characters. Our mechanic/slicer droid was garbage in combat, but I kept wanting him to take the initiative to lock down doors and take other actions that could aid combat later. If we stuck with fixed initiative per our rolls, he'd have been going last almost all the time and basically not contributing.

 

Again, the benefits should be immediately obvious when your actions are more than "I fight my guy, you fight your's."

Edited by ScooterinAB

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Another issue is half my players don't seem to take the time to really try to understand the rules and I am often left explaining options and rules on a regular basis.  So it isn't clear to them the benefits gained from initiative slots.

I absolutely hate GMing for or playing with people who refuse to at least glance at the rules for a game. Just says to me "I don't care enough to invest half an hour into figuring out how to play, so now we constantly waste a ton of time while you continually have to educate us."

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