Initiative in 5E Core

How do you think it should work?

Simple?

This would be the group initiative rules that were standard from 1974 to 1999.

Complex?

This would be the optional individual initiative rules in 1e, and the cyclical rules in 3 and 4.

Really Complicated?

This would be the weapon-speed modified optional individual iniatitive rules from 2e.
---

My vote would be for the group rule. One person rolls initiative, and that's it. Each side takes a turn. A single combat round is 2 turns (Players, Monsters) instead of 10 turns (5 Players,  5 Monsters), and thus immediately takes a fraction of the time.

The insatiable drive to make it more 'realistic' is the only reason individual initiative took off. It takes more rolling, more recordkeeping, people forget when their turn is, people have to WAIT for their turn, so they get bored and lose track of what's going on. Look up 'Initiative Tracker' in Google - there's a mini-industry around trying to make this task slightly less unpleasant.

If you have a cottage industry designing ways to make a part of your game less annoying, it might be a good idea to take a long look at just getting rid of that part.
There was group initiative in 2nd?  I remember weapon speed, but I thought everyone rolled there own inish.  Please referesh my memory.
Pages 93-94 in the 2nd ed. PHB.
"Initiative is normally determined with a single roll for each side in a conflict. This tells whether all the members of the group get to act before or after those of the other side(s).
There are also two optional methods that can be used to determine initiative. Each of these optional methods breaks the group action down into more individual initiatives."

They absolutely knew that breaking the group action down into a ton of individual actions drastically slows down the game. That's why it's an option, instead of core.
we must have always used the option, I honestly don't remember group initiative, though I kinda remember harrassing a player who had to make a die roll for all of us so maybe that was it.

I'm completely okay with group initiatives.  Great for Warlords to help buff.  It would also eliminate those few times you miss someone.
Most people I know who used the individual initiative rules in AD&D and 2E never tried the group rules. They looked at them and said "It's not realistic".

When, in fact, the opposite is true. 
4E initiative mostly boils down to group initiative in my experience. +1 to this.
Are you interested in an online 4E game on Sunday? Contact me with a PM!
Show
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
In both 1st and 2nd editions of AD&D, all of the groups I played in or ran did initiative the same way:

1. One player (and we alternated each round) would roll the initiative die for the group.  That was the base initiative.

2.  Each player modified his or her own initiative based upon (a) the initiative modifier from dexterity and (b) the weapon speed or the weapon he or she was using or the casting time of the spell he or she was casting.

It worked very well for us, and really was pretty easy.  I thought taking those various speeds into account was really pretty good.  It wasn't, and isn't, everyone's cup of tea, but it was sort of a hybrid system in that, overall, all initiative for the group started in the same place, but when you took an action depended on what you chose to do or use. 

I'd be okay with that, or the current system, in the new edition.  I could live with group initiative but I think it's a little too homogenous for my taste.       
Older editions were all move or shoot though, right?  So a whole team losing initiative wasn't as devistating as it could be in later editions where people could run up and drop nonsense on you.
Arilon: That's the Group Initiative with Modifiers option from page 94.

 Here's the description of it:


Some people believe that using a single initiative roll for everyone on the same side is too unrealistic. It is, admittedly, a simplification, a way to keep down the number of die rolls required in a single round, allowing for much faster combat. However, the actions of different characters, the types of weapons they use, and the situation can all be factors in determining initiative.
Using this optional method, one initiative die roll is still made for each side in the fight. However, more modifiers are applied to this roll, according to the actions of individual characters. These modifiers are listed on Table 56.



It's still much slower than true group initiative, though. And more complicated, because you have to use the entirely optional weapon speed rules.
Older editions were all move or shoot though, right?  So a whole team losing initiative wasn't as devistating as it could be in later editions where people could run up and drop nonsense on you.



Actually, nope. They could move, shoot, charge, cast spells, whatever.

But if they cast spells, then any attacks made on the casters went off on the caster's initiative, not the attackers. You could lose initiative and still disrupt the casters. Casting in combat wasn't very smart, really. It was a check on caster power they decided it was a good idea to get rid of. We all know how that turned out. 
I could see a single die roll per side, then use the init bonus of each player/monster to determine the order. One caveat is when team monster is noticably larger than the party. I'd still prefer to see the DM roll for groups of monsters instead of all of them just once. Something like grouping monsters using the party size as the maximum number of monsters sharing the same base initiative. Having all of team monster going ahead of team PC due to bad luck can easily lead to a player being unconscious by the time their turn comes around.

Magic Dual Color Test
I am White/Green
I am White/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
I am both orderly and instinctive. I value community and group identity, defining myself by the social group I am a part of. At best, I'm selfless and strong-willed; at worst, I'm unoriginal and sheepish.
I'm for individual initiative. Group initiative or individual initiative neither are realistic, and I personnaly believe that group initiative is less realistic. Do you see a lot of combat where all participant will be ok you hit first, then we will hit you ?

Also if there is 10 initiative or 2 initiative. The only difference will be the number of initiative rolled. You still have to make 10+ attack rolls.
I've taken to doing individual initiative but with out rolling. If you have a +5 to init then you go before some one who has a +3. This will be in every combat regardless of anything else. You can even set your players around the table in initiative order so that everyone knows who's up next and can start planning their action accordingly.

I write down initiative order on a piece of scratch paper at the beginning of the night and insert monsters as necessary. It's extremely fast and keeps an individual initiative feel.
I've taken to doing individual initiative but with out rolling. If you have a +5 to init then you go before some one who has a +3. This will be in every combat regardless of anything else. You can even set your players around the table in initiative order so that everyone knows who's up next and can start planning their action accordingly.

I write down initiative order on a piece of scratch paper at the beginning of the night and insert monsters as necessary. It's extremely fast and keeps an individual initiative feel.



Do you do anything for powers that replace an initiative roll with a skill roll (like give everyone a +5), or just not allow them?  I think there is a skill utility that allows you to make a history check, and people can chose to use your roll over theirs.
Either 3/4e cyclical initiative, or a new system of fixed initiative where, essentially, everybody on both sides 'takes 10' for their initiative so you always know who goes in what order (with rules for tiebreakers as appropriate, probably higher DEX, then higher INT determining order in that case).
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I've taken to doing individual initiative but with out rolling...



Do you do anything for powers that replace an initiative roll with a skill roll (like give everyone a +5), or just not allow them?  I think there is a skill utility that allows you to make a history check, and people can chose to use your roll over theirs.



If there's something that replaces an initiative modifier then you'd use that modifier instead. So if you have a utility power that allows you to make a history check then you'd use your history modifier instead of your initiative modifier. If the power lasts the entire encounter then you'd just update everyone's initiative values for those encounters. If it lasts a single round, then they'd act at a higher value for just that round.
Uhg, didn't think that question through. Thanks!
Now it should be noted that the fixed initiative system does have a potential flaw in it. As most monsters (outside of a few undead and slimes) have at least a +1 to initiative you're looking at an initiative score of 0 then you are guaranteed to go last every single combat.

If you roll for it, even if the monster has a +1 to init and you have a +0 you would expect to go first still roughly 45% of the time. In this system it will never happen. This stands to punish characters with low dexterities.
Rerolling initiative at the beginning of each round of combat make more sense, is more realist and lets everyone the chance of attacking first. It also adds an element of imprevisibility to combat and that is fun. A set order of initiative makes combat order too static.

Spells and weapons shouldn't have the same initiative modifiers. A level 9 spell is more complexe and should take more time to cast than a 1st level one. A great sword takes more time to swing than a dagger.

Dex should be added to the initiave, to reprenset reflexes. So should rolling a d20, so that luck can let players act first from time to time even if they are a fighter who wields a great sword and has low dex.
Rerolling initiative at the beginning of each round of combat make more sense, is more realist and lets everyone the chance of attacking first. It also adds an element of imprevisibility to combat and that is fun. A set order of initiative makes combat order too static.

Spells and weapons shouldn't have the same initiative modifiers. A level 9 spell is more complexe and should take more time to cast than a 1st level one. A great sword takes more time to swing than a dagger.

Dex should be added to the initiave, to reprenset reflexes. So should rolling a d20, so that luck can let players act first from time to time even if they are a fighter who wields a great sword and has low dex.

Rolling initiative every round could get cumbersome. Unless of course you had an application to do it for you.
Rerolling initiative at the beginning of each round of combat make more sense, is more realist and lets everyone the chance of attacking first. It also adds an element of imprevisibility to combat and that is fun. A set order of initiative makes combat order too static.

Spells and weapons shouldn't have the same initiative modifiers. A level 9 spell is more complexe and should take more time to cast than a 1st level one. A great sword takes more time to swing than a dagger.

Dex should be added to the initiave, to reprenset reflexes. So should rolling a d20, so that luck can let players act first from time to time even if they are a fighter who wields a great sword and has low dex.

Rolling initiative every round could get cumbersome. Unless of course you had an application to do it for you.



You mean like hands and dices, like we use to do in 2e?
You mean like hands and dices, like we use to do in 2e?



I always did the d6 for each side in 2e. Now that was fast!
Out of curiosity, is the reason you're all sticking with the individual initiative, although it makes combat take much, much longer, because you feel it's more realistic, as was posited by 2E?

Or is there some other reason? 
Out of curiosity, is the reason you're all sticking with the individual initiative, although it makes combat take much, much longer, because you feel it's more realistic, as was posited by 2E?

Or is there some other reason? 



I dunno about realistic (as abstract as D&D combat is and has always been, it's hard to call realism in as an argument on any front), but it's far less swingy.  Having all of one side go before all of another side as a matter of course puts too much randomness into it for my tastes.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Too swingy. I can see that.
> Rolling initiative every round could get cumbersome.

IIRC, the 3E dev team said that's exactly why they dumped it from 3E. The time required to resolve a combat round went down by about 1/3 when they switched from the 2E system (which they started out using) to the 3E one during development.
I'm all for individual initiative, mostly because of the swinginess of group initiative. It's a simple enough switch that I don't see why the book couldn't offer both as options, though. Unlike other systems that take up a lot of space, it'd take maybe a couple extra lines to offer both sides of this system.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
We always run it so the players get individual initiative, while all the monsters act on 1 initiative roll. If there are different kinds of monsters in the encounter, then 1 initiative roll per monster type.
We always run it so the players get individual initiative, while all the monsters act on 1 initiative roll. If there are different kinds of monsters in the encounter, then 1 initiative roll per monster type.

This is exactly the kind of thing to be addressed with 5E's modularity. Myself, I'll choose to use individual inits for the PCs and separate inits per unique monsters. I thought about a system where you roll every round to change your init in a range of -2 to +2, but it seems more work than the reward.
The means by which initiative is used (be it groups or individuals) is mostly group prerogative in the end. I don't think it should have an impact on how the rules work.

That being said, I'd like to see level based and minor adjustment modifiers removed from initiative. What's wrong with d20+dex or so on? It's a lot easier to deal with two numbers than to keep adding more variables to it.
The means by which initiative is used (be it groups or individuals) is mostly group prerogative in the end. I don't think it should have an impact on how the rules work.

That being said, I'd like to see level based and minor adjustment modifiers removed from initiative. What's wrong with d20+dex or so on? It's a lot easier to deal with two numbers than to keep adding more variables to it.



Some classes/concepts benefit more than others by going early. I don't see a problem as long as the additional variables are all fixed. It doesn't take any longer to look up what is in the INIT box than in the DEX box.

One reason, BTW, not to roll each round (or perhaps a reason to roll each round) is that it enables a combatant (monster or PC) to go twice in a row before another. This really ramps up the effects of "until the end of its next turn" effects, and allows for wicked combinations. Also is a good way to kill a defender if the monsters attacking him knock him down and then roll good on their initiative (especially if monsters roll as a group.) 
How do you think it should work?

Simple?

This would be the group initiative rules that were standard from 1974 to 1999.

Complex?

This would be the optional individual initiative rules in 1e, and the cyclical rules in 3 and 4.

Really Complicated?

This would be the weapon-speed modified optional individual iniatitive rules from 2e.
---

My vote would be for the group rule. One person rolls initiative, and that's it. Each side takes a turn. A single combat round is 2 turns (Players, Monsters) instead of 10 turns (5 Players,  5 Monsters), and thus immediately takes a fraction of the time.

The insatiable drive to make it more 'realistic' is the only reason individual initiative took off. It takes more rolling, more recordkeeping, people forget when their turn is, people have to WAIT for their turn, so they get bored and lose track of what's going on. Look up 'Initiative Tracker' in Google - there's a mini-industry around trying to make this task slightly less unpleasant.

If you have a cottage industry designing ways to make a part of your game less annoying, it might be a good idea to take a long look at just getting rid of that part.

I'm not convinced that having individual initiative actually slows the game down. The amount of tracking required is exceedingly minimal and barely adds anything to my burden at the table. I come preset to the table with each encounter's monsters initiative (and stealth and perception) checks pre-rolled for one thing. Even when I don't do that though it is a 2 minute process at the start of combat, I just say "roll initiative" and go around the table and write them all on scrap paper in order. Leave a few spaces between each creature and its fine. Once in a while someone pulls a delay etc and I just write an arrow pointing to the new spot.

While doing initiative by side is a bit quicker to start you off, it also takes time each round and there are all sorts of strange timing things that come out of it. Working those out and rolling again every round probably in the long run makes it as much of a time suck as just doing it once individually at the start of the fight.

While I have played a good bit with Maptool and its init tracker was handy I don't miss it at all at the table and have never felt the need for anything more elaborate than a pencil and a piece of paper.

That is not dead which may eternal lie
Rolling as a side each round is way more engaging.  Individual initiative is boring and doesn't really amount to much except you randomly get a dude going in between groups of monsters sometimes.

There's lots of neat initiative systems.  I like the one where all the different types of actions go in order, like

start casting
ranged attacks
move/more ranged attacks
melee
finish casting

or something, and the sides just go on group initiative that way.  Roll one dice and then everything goes.

the coolest one i know of is everyone rolls initiative, and then highest initiative says what they're doing last but resolves first.  works best in a low number of action systems though, otherwise you just get "i walk away from it" all day.
Rolling as a side each round is way more engaging.  Individual initiative is boring and doesn't really amount to much except you randomly get a dude going in between groups of monsters sometimes.



Actually, I find group initiative boring. When it is time for the GM to go, he spends a lot of time moving his toys, rolls a lot of dice, and asks players what their ACs are, or has them make saving throws. When it is the players turn, they spend five or ten minutes discussing what they will do, then they take turns moving their toys, often with frequent take backs as they change their minds.

With individual initiative, a character might go, then some monsters move up to attack him, then another character goes and tries to rescue the first, and then another one lays down some smack on a group of monsters that haven't moved yet, then that group of monsters charges after that character and so forth. A lot more fluid.
Some classes/concepts benefit more than others by going early. I don't see a problem as long as the additional variables are all fixed. It doesn't take any longer to look up what is in the INIT box than in the DEX box.



Problem I have is the variables are so numerous it really makes keeping tabs hard sometimes. I have to remember my feat bonus, my half level, the party warlord's feature, an untyped bonus from another feat, etc... Smaller bonus would be fine, but I'd prefer to see it quantified down to most characters and monsters end up going at d20 + dex (and maybe +X variable depending on the circumstances).

Maybe if bonuses to initative were typed as their own kind of bonus it would be easier to keep track of them. If anything, half level has got to go. It does nothing but make the math grow needlessly.
> Rolling initiative every round could get cumbersome. IIRC, the 3E dev team said that's exactly why they dumped it from 3E. The time required to resolve a combat round went down by about 1/3 when they switched from the 2E system (which they started out using) to the 3E one during development.



I don't see how that's possible - unless they were using one of the optional initiative rules in 2E? I could see it reducing time by 1/3rd if everyone was rolling individual initiative every round - as one of 2E's optional modes has it.

AbdulAlhazred: My average AD&D combat with group initiative takes 5 minutes. If I were to add 2 minutes at the start of that to roll up and record individual initiatives, that's a 40% increase right there. 

I suppose it's not just group initiative that makes things so much faster in AD&D. It's everything that goes with it. There's no "taking turns" amongst players. There's 2 turns in each round of combat - players, and monsters. Whereas in a 5 on 5 combat with individual initiative, and players deciding what to do based on the situation as it prevails on their turn, you have as many as 10 turns per round of combat.

Which, I suppose, is why it takes 5 to 10 times as long to play a round of 3E combat as it does to play a round of 1E combat. There's 5 times as many turns being taken in each round. 
> I don't see how that's possible - unless they were using
> one of the optional initiative rules in 2E?

I don't remember whether they said which method they were using, but since they cut 1/3 off of the time by not rerolling every round it probably wasn't the full-on "individual rolls, modify based on all these factors, after declaring everything in advance and you can't change your declared action, etc" - that 'phase' of a 2E round usually ended up being much more than 1/3 of it!

OTOH, seeing how long some groups can take just to settle the initiative order at the start of an encounter, I can see how switching to a roll once rather than roll every turn approach could shave 1/3 off of the encounter time.

I liked weapon speeds... and the group I played 2nd ed with never seemed to be slowed down by them.  In fact the turns were quicker than any 3.x game I've played in.  (for the sake of full disclosure; that group never touched 3.x so I can't compare like for like.  They were also the most experienced group I have played with so many years of experience may have just streamlined the decision making process...) 

I've played most ways of initiative. But after rediscovering group initiative and declaration and resolution after many years, I don't think I could go back. Not as a regular thing, anyway.

Finding that if I play AD&D as a two-turn combat round, players, monsters, etc, I can get it to where 1 minute of game combat time is resolved in 1 minute of real life time... I just like that speed too much.
I wonder what would happen if we mixed the group roll, with a combined initiative bonus from all the party members. All the party members work out who on there side is going 1st / 2nd / ect. Add / minus all there imitative factors before leaving off to adventure. Then a single roll either once, or per round would replace all the need to keep track of imitative until someone starts delaying actions and wot knot.
I liked the weapon speed rule but it could be an optional rule for those who choose speed over complexity.  I'd like to see base initiative modified for each character, monster.  Then a modifier for what you're going to do using weapon speeds, spell length, or anything you may want to do.  Certain weapon attacks and complex spells SHOULD take longer to do.  Choosing to simply run away shouldn't.  It could work like this: take the characters base initiative, add weapon or spell modifier, plus action modifier.  Initiative modifiers could be part of a magic item, feat, or skill.