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CloudyLemonade92

Alternative Initiative

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OK, I'll probably get shot down for this. However, I'm new to the game and also a new GM. So I'm learning a lot on the fly but feel I've got a handle on things so far. Me and my players will be hitting our 9th session soon.

Anyway, down to business. After a few sessions I found the initiative roll to be very clunky and time consuming, and difficult to track and remember.

So, I decided to "homebrew" it. I have players each roll a D20 and add their points in Willpower and Vigilance to the roll. (The same for cool.) And I do the same for Adversaries only before the game to save time.

So far, no issues, it has sped up the encounters. 

Does anyone feel this is a bad move? What are the cons of this approach, or is it perfectly acceptable? 

Thoughts?

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Don't see anything wrong with your method, but the thing I twigged on to about the normal system  that has made it very quick for us, is looking at the results as a sort of decimal. 

So each initiative roll is X.Y where X is successes and Y is advantage. 

So you get a bumch of results like 3.1, 3.0, 2.3, 1.4, etc.

We then use destiny point tokens ona tracker light for PCs dark gor the bad guys, this lets us track it really easily each round.

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Pretty good, but I'd change it a little bit.

I'd suggest making the Skills and Characteristics contribute proportionately to how they tend to in RAW.

This is a rough estimate, but it is simple and should get you where you want to go. Compare which is larger, the Characteristic or the Skill, then add 2xRanks in the larger one and 1xRanks in the smaller one. If you have 3 Willpower and 2 Vigilance, that would net you +8, whereas if you only had 3 Willpower, it would net you +6.

Further, I'd suggest that if they have ranks in the skill and roll a nat 1 or nat 20 that you count it as a Triumph, which would grant them a Free Maneuver before the start of combat.

As for how I handle it, I use the RAW rules, but I simply keep track with tokens on a home-made initiative tracker that amounts to a cardboard ruler with 10 slots (when more is necessary, I just condense the tokens).

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I would use a D10 instead, making the results less random and more impacted by the characters' skill levels. 

I would also keep the situational use of Cool or Vigilance for initiative. There are some talents that stop doing anything if you don't keep that, and there are some specialisations that will need to have their career skills rebalanced.

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I'd suggest keeping it a d20 (if you take my suggestion regarding how to integrate Characteristics/Skills) because the basic Characteristic already adds a lot (4, if it is the average starting characteristic, unimproved) and if you use a d10, you are going to have a lot more ties.

As for integrating talents like Rapid Reaction, I'd suggest treating a Success as worth 2 and an Advantage as worth 1. That way an Advantage is (mostly) only god as a tie-breaker and a Success can push you ahead of someone who was beating you.

Boost are harder, but I'd treat them as adding 1.

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45 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Pretty good, but I'd change it a little bit.

I'd suggest making the Skills and Characteristics contribute proportionately to how they tend to in RAW.

This is a rough estimate, but it is simple and should get you where you want to go. Compare which is larger, the Characteristic or the Skill, then add 2xRanks in the larger one and 1xRanks in the smaller one. If you have 3 Willpower and 2 Vigilance, that would net you +8, whereas if you only had 3 Willpower, it would net you +6.

Further, I'd suggest that if they have ranks in the skill and roll a nat 1 or nat 20 that you count it as a Triumph, which would grant them a Free Maneuver before the start of combat.

As for how I handle it, I use the RAW rules, but I simply keep track with tokens on a home-made initiative tracker that amounts to a cardboard ruler with 10 slots (when more is necessary, I just condense the tokens).

I like the Nat 20, Triumph. That's a good idea. But also Triumph for nat 1? Also, why would the higher skill be x2? Maybe its obvious but I'm missing it.

18 minutes ago, micheldebruyn said:

I would use a D10 instead, making the results less random and more impacted by the characters' skill levels. 

I would also keep the situational use of Cool or Vigilance for initiative. There are some talents that stop doing anything if you don't keep that, and there are some specialisations that will need to have their career skills rebalanced.

That's interesting. And I guess that makes their ranks in it all the more impactful and less random. Hmm..

Yep I do use cool and Vigilance for when it makes sense.

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4 minutes ago, CloudyLemonade92 said:

I like the Nat 20, Triumph. That's a good idea. But also Triumph for nat 1? Also, why would the higher skill be x2? Maybe its obvious but I'm missing it.

A Triumph for nat 1 because you can get a Triumph on a failed roll, so even if you end up going last, maybe you were prepared enough to roll out of the way (free maneuver to get into cover).

Dice odds. If you add an Ability die, you bump up your potential by 2 symbols and bump up your average by a little bit. When you Upgrade to a Proficiency die you do not increase your potential, but you increase your average and increase the chance of getting a Triumph. Someone with 2 in the characteristic and 2 in the skill would have 4 in your way of doing things, and someone with 4 in the characteristic and 0 in the skill would also have 4. Whereas if you were to roll that in initiative, chances are it would be 5-6 symbols to 3.

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2 minutes ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

A Triumph for nat 1 because you can get a Triumph on a failed roll, so even if you end up going last, maybe you were prepared enough to roll out of the way (free maneuver to get into cover).

Dice odds. If you add an Ability die, you bump up your potential by 2 symbols and bump up your average by a little bit. When you Upgrade to a Proficiency die you do not increase your potential, but you increase your average and increase the chance of getting a Triumph. Someone with 2 in the characteristic and 2 in the skill would have 4 in your way of doing things, and someone with 4 in the characteristic and 0 in the skill would also have 4. Whereas if you were to roll that in initiative, chances are it would be 5-6 symbols to 3.

Ah, right. Of course.  That seems a much better way to do it. 

Thanks!

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If the Initiative-System takes away too much flow, just get rid of it. It will devalue Coolness and Vigilance a bit, but there are still places to put those to use. Just decide who is more "surprised" in the encounter and then alternate the Slots the participants would have contributed.
So for a PC-Ambush, it would look like:
PC - NPC - PC - NPC - PC - NPC (putting excess slots of one party simply at the end)
There shouldn't be a faster way to do it, and if you get more comfortable with the System, you can still try to use more complex solutions.

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One issue that I can think of is that some talents are written around the expectation that the PC can grab the top initiative slot and create a benefit for the rest of them (especially if the other slots are all slow). These - especially the ones that are only usable in round one - will become much less valuable (and in the case of round-one-only talents, nearly worthless if the PC isn't also an initiative-monkey), so you're going to need to address this. The straightforward option would be to allow those effects to be used at the top of the order regardless of what everyone's initiative actually is.

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I don't get how the d20 and skill rank and attribute counting is faster than the decimal system @Stethemessiah mentioned.  It's super quick, it only feels slow because you're unfamiliar with it.  You still have to write down and rank results.  But now you have a new mechanic which breaks other aspects of the game.  I just don't see the point.

 

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19 minutes ago, whafrog said:

I don't get how the d20 and skill rank and attribute counting is faster than the decimal system @Stethemessiah mentioned.  It's super quick, it only feels slow because you're unfamiliar with it.  You still have to write down and rank results.  But now you have a new mechanic which breaks other aspects of the game.  I just don't see the point.

It's not something I would use, but I can see its usefulness. All you have to do is write down you initiative number next to the relevant skill and then boom. Roll a d20, add your number and you're done.

As for breaking other aspects of the game, can you describe what aspects you think are broken?

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6 hours ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

All you have to do is write down you initiative number next to the relevant skill and then boom.

"...then boom"?  I mean, I always appreciate a good exaggeration to make a point, but, like the best comedy is based on truth, the best exaggeration is based on a meaningful difference.  The difference between that and the "normal" way isn't exactly a boom-level difference, if it even exists.

6 hours ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

As for breaking other aspects of the game, can you describe what aspects you think are broken?

As several others have already noted above, it affects the usefulness of some Talents.

There are also the narrative axis results, which, while it's true there's not a lot of RAW guidance on how to use them, it's pretty easy for a GM to allow players to leverage Triumphs and Advantages in a useful way just using standard ideas already laid out in the system.  You can't do that if you devolve back to pass/fail rolling.

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I'm fine with the RAW initiative. That said, the OP referred to it as feeling clunky and hard to keep track of, and it's more intuitive to just roll a d20 and add a number.

It's not necessarily going to make a ton of difference, but I can understand why some people might appreciate it, and it is more straight forward to new players.

4 minutes ago, whafrog said:

As several others have already noted above, it affects the usefulness of some Talents.

There are also the narrative axis results, which, while it's true there's not a lot of RAW guidance on how to use them, it's pretty easy for a GM to allow players to leverage Triumphs and Advantages in a useful way just using standard ideas already laid out in the system.  You can't do that if you devolve back to pass/fail rolling.

This was not in the original proposal, but I suggested a couple ways to rectify that. As for Talents, which ones are you referring to? The only one I can recall that directly adds to the result is Rapid Reaction (which I suggested added 2 to the result [per rank]). As for adding Boost, I did also have a suggestion for that.

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  I don't have all my books handy, but the talent that immediately came to my mind (because I'm in a game with a character that uses it) is the Mystic/Seer's Forewarning. which is completely dependent on first-round initiative order.

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4 hours ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

I'm fine with the RAW initiative. That said, the OP referred to it as feeling clunky and hard to keep track of, and it's more intuitive to just roll a d20 and add a number.

It's not necessarily going to make a ton of difference, but I can understand why some people might appreciate it, and it is more straight forward to new players.

I guess this gets to the heart of my point.  It might be more intuitive to just roll d20 and add a number, but that's true of the entire system, and there's always D&D if that's what you want.  There is certainly a learning curve, but once you get past the funky dice, tallying the results becomes second nature.  So a d20 might be straightforward at first, but if you want to play this game then it's worth embracing the system before deciding how to tweak it, because tweaking always has unintended consequences.

All that said, it's a pretty minor point.  It's none of my business what people do at their table, and I'm not "objecting" so much as challenging the premises.  The d20 method is not faster once you can tally the results easily; and the d20 method doesn't account for how the narrative dice are designed to work.

On that note, one point I forgot to make earlier was that the GM is free to apply setback or increase/upgrade the difficulty from Simple if they feel it is warranted, just like for any other skill check.  (Example:  the party is setting up an ambush, so they would be rolling Cool, but they didn't account for the sun being in their eyes...)  They can also flip a DP, turning "Simple" into "Easy".  That's not really spelled out in RAW, so new players may not have come across it yet; but it doesn't need to be spelled out because it's a natural application of the core system.  You can't really account for that with the d20 method without resorting to some unholy melange.

Edited by whafrog
added example

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1 hour ago, CloudyLemonade92 said:

@whafrog

You make some good points, perhaps I've jumped the gun with tweaking things and maybe we just need to take the time to learn it properly and get comfortable with it.

It's just so funky and we wanted to speed things up.

Yes! Absolutely you should. 

Just give it a chance.  :)

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I have played with quite a few options for initiative in this system and first I will say that the RAW Init when handled as a decimal is pretty fast for a numerical Initiative system. One thing about it though is that individual characters can get really fast results (via Talents, etc.) but because of Init slots it can basically be a bit of a descriptive wash at times and just end up being a mechanical thing. 

Typically I favor narrative and common sense Initiative when not using RAW, and I will switch back and forth within a session and in different encounters. Guns are better than melee weapons in most instances because damaging an opponent at a distance with an efficient weapon is preferable to having him in your face as long as you can hit him easily. So in Melee vs. Gun the gun is normally going to win. If it is Gun vs. Gun I will let the players go first if they want most of the time, but if I want the bad guys to go first I will flip a Destiny Point from Dark to Light and have the bad guys go first. I stole this form the Modiphius Conan game because I feel it is a good offset. I will also often use simultaneous attacks in a situation with volley fire from two sides. 

But my general rule is that combat should not be non-story and as such the way things play out can have a design that lends itself to a more exciting encounter. 

 

 

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My 2 cents

  • The way you roll for initiative (determine order) in RAW is prolly the best ... although I also employed the advantages as tie-breakers (decimals). 
  • Big thing to note = If you're already used to counting symbols during every other test in the game ... it makes more logical sense to just stick to counting symbols

 

  • First thing I don't like about RAW is each player group getting to decide who goes when.  (PC, NPC)
  • This can slow down combat, and for those coming in from other systems it can make it a slog
  • What I do, and something that makes gameflow a little faster, is as follows
    • Roll for initiative, and every character/minion gets their slot in line.  Same way as every other initiative system.  And I have a small chip or something on the initiative track paper so that I know where we're at in a turn
    • Also worth noting, before I move on, I have the house rule that players can only coordinate for like 1-2 minutes between each round.  Player actions are determined by each player individually, not by the party's defacto strategist
    • Anyhoo, during a character's turn, they can swap their turn with another ally.  (as GM I reserve this ability for named villains only)
    • Removing the before-each-action-conference speeds up the system dramatically.  It's not for everyone, but I like it since it cleans up the flow
  • In other words: it's D&D 5e initiative list, but with voluntary turn swapping initiated by individual characters

 

  • Second thing is I'm a lot more loosey goosey with whether you test for cool or vigilance to determine initiative
  • I also find other uses for these skills outside of initiative so it's not a single use skill
  • But yeah, if it's a sort of standard fight (not an ambush or someone pulls their gun suddenly) I just let players roll their better stat
    • obviously if a player is trying to game that leniency I'll deny it, but it works out
  • Basically, just not overthinking it works better

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i use the pathfinder int board to track int. instead of names i write s/a/t format, like the decimal (s.a). then organize the tabs in order and slid when actions are resolved. it works faster when i use pre-roll bad guys int

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On 11/30/2019 at 10:27 AM, thinkbomb said:

First thing I don't like about RAW is each player group getting to decide who goes when.  (PC, NPC)

I absolutely love this about the initiative system, and will probably be stealing it for most games.  I call it "Initiative Dancing," and a clever group can use it tactically, especially using various buffs and debuffs.  

Example: First round, we're at the top of the initiative order. My Jedi takes that slot and uses Bind on the lightsaber-wielding Inquisitor that we're fleeing. Then everyone else goes, my friends, the Stormtroopers, the Inquisitor, but he's a little limited in his abilities because he's immobilized.  The next round, I choose to go as late in the order as possible, hopefully dead last. Because Bind lasts until the end of my next turn. So with one use of the power, the Inquisitor is immobilized for two of his turns.

Or perhaps our slicer needs to reach a computer terminal to open the blast doors so we can reach out ship.  Unfortunately, it's too far to reach in one round, and we're in the middle of a firefight with a bunch of Stormtroopers.  He stays in cover for most of the first round, letting the group know he wants the last initiative slot. When it comes up, he starts running for the terminal, then next round, he takes the first slot to cover the last bit of distance, hide behind the terminal and start slicing.  He's still in a rough spot, but in any other system, he'd be sitting out in the open while the Stormtroopers took a full round of attacks at him.

Obviously, I'm a big fan of trying to control the top and bottom of of the initiative order, because that's how you get the biggest effect, but you can do these things all over.  When TIEs are chasing your light freighter, Evasive Maneuvers, Boost Shields, and Stay on Target can all be manipulated by clever initiative dancing.

It's not for everyone, but if your group has a tactics guy who enjoys stuff like this (and he's good at giving direction without being overbearing), mention it to him. The group might enjoy it.

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