Initiative

The DM lists the combatants in order after determining Initiative...

EDIT: I think I misinterpreted "lists" as "tells the PCs".  It doesn't say the DM "tells the PCs".

I have never played this way, it's always been a poorly kept surprise.  Is this a new idea or did we not realize a previous edition updated this?  Anyone play this way, does it help?


And the -20 for being Surprised is funniest modifer ever.
One of the people I've played with does announce initiative order, and it does speed things up a little bit. Knowing when we're going to act helps us plan our turn before we get to it, and we'd all learn it by the end of the round anyways.
I played 2nd where the PCs would literally sit in order after rolling initiative (one of the Optional Rules for 2nd Initiative) but we didn't know the enemies Initiative.
I think you're misinterpretting the phrase in the playtest document. When it says "the Dm lists the combatants in order" what it means is it the DM makes a list of everyone's initiative. It doesn't necessarily mean they let the players know when the monsters will act. 
I think most 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder/4e/4e essentials GMs do reveal the initiative orders. If most everyone is doing it, you might as well make it a rule. I can see your case, Jim, but it's never been worth the trouble to hide the initiative order at my table, for exactly the reason that Sevus describes.
I'm the dm for our group and I actually offload tracking initiative to one of my players.  I'll let him know where my groups act and he tracks it for me from then on.  Very nice to have one less thing to worry about and something that speeds combat up.
It certainly makes sense for the DM to make a list (of some sort) of the initiative order. In fact I'm not sure you could do it any other way (unless you offload it onto a player as has been suggested - but the point is that someone makes a list).

As for actually announcing the initiative order - my policy would be to not do so. I don't actually think it's a big issue - but in any encounter where you're using 'lurker' style creatures or traps that 'act' in the initiative sequence that might not be apparent to the player characters at the start of the encounter, witholding the initiative sequence can add to the element of surprise.

Of course, you could probably make the other argument - that it's more surprising to tell the players that they will act in a certain sequence only to jump in and interupt them when you spring the trap, or have the creature burst onto the scene. I just personally think this is likely to annoy your players more than the alternative.
  
If they are going with a 20 modifier for surprise would it be better to give a +20 to the creature/PC that gained surprise rather then subtracting it from everyone who got surprised?
I think you're misinterpretting the phrase in the playtest document. When it says "the Dm lists the combatants in order" what it means is it the DM makes a list of everyone's initiative. It doesn't necessarily mean they let the players know when the monsters will act. 

Hmm, I think your right.  Thanks!

If they are going with a 20 modifier for surprise would it be better to give a +20 to the creature/PC that gained surprise rather then subtracting it from everyone who got surprised?

I love a -20 modifier!  But what about having the Surprised creatures not roll, and just use their modifiers?

It certainly makes sense for the DM to make a list (of some sort) of the initiative order. In fact I'm not sure you could do it any other way (unless you offload it onto a player as has been suggested - but the point is that someone makes a list). 



From time to time I used index cards with names of PCs, NPCs and monsters and sorted them according to current initiative order. Index cards for monsters often were turned blank side up until characters had chance of identifying them.

From time to time I used index cards with names of PCs, NPCs and monsters and sorted them according to current initiative order. Index cards for monsters often were turned blank side up until characters had chance of identifying them.




That's a very good idea.

Do you find you have problems with players using meta-knowledge (i.e. "I see a blank card is before/after my turn, so I know the DM has some sort of surprise in store")?      

If they are going with a 20 modifier for surprise would it be better to give a +20 to the creature/PC that gained surprise rather then subtracting it from everyone who got surprised?



I don't like the idea of a modifier at all, it change the order of the whole encounter since we never re-roll initiative. What i would probably use as an alternate rule will be this :

  1. Determine surprise

  2. Roll initiative

  3. Play the round of combat in each order of initiative. Highest go first.

If the fight continue repeat step 3. Combattant who are surprised can't act on their turn but become unsurprised.  

From time to time I used index cards with names of PCs, NPCs and monsters and sorted them according to current initiative order. Index cards for monsters often were turned blank side up until characters had chance of identifying them.

That's a very good idea.

Do you find you have problems with players using meta-knowledge (i.e. "I see a blank card is before/after my turn, so I know the DM has some sort of surprise in store")?

This is what I do.  I hold the stack in my hand and take from the back so the players can see who is "on deck".  I leave the monsters blank. 

After the first round, most players know what goes when anyway.

If they are going with a 20 modifier for surprise would it be better to give a +20 to the creature/PC that gained surprise rather then subtracting it from everyone who got surprised?

I don't like the idea of a modifier at all, it change the order of the whole encounter since we never re-roll initiative. What i would probably use as an alternate rule will be this :

  1. Determine surprise

  2. Roll initiative

  3. Play the round of combat in each order of initiative. Highest go first.

If the fight continue repeat step 3. Combattant who are surprised can't act on their turn but become unsurprised.

I like that the surprisers all get a surprise attack, which wouldn't happen if enemies with high Initiatives became unsurprised in your suggestion.

But what the -20 modifier also means is that in a surprise encounter the allies will go as a group followed by the enemies going as a group for the entire fight, save for some Readied Actions.

But what the -20 modifier also means is that in a surprise encounter the allies will go as a group followed by the enemies going as a group for the entire fight, save for some Readied Actions.



It also means that Alpha Striking is the best method of engagement, and removes any real conflict resolution. If the PCs get surprise, you might as well follow up with "You succeed in your ambush and rout the enemy."
I'm not especially a fan of exchanging standstill and slap each other silly combat for hit-and-run, stealth-based combat. Both are bad, but one is slightly less one-sided.
I'm the dm for our group and I actually offload tracking initiative to one of my players.  I'll let him know where my groups act and he tracks it for me from then on.  Very nice to have one less thing to worry about and something that speeds combat up.


Yep, do the same thing here and have them record it on an initiative tracker where everyone can see it.  Can't see any benefit to keeping monster initiative secret.  I don't think it's unrealistic to assume that Bob the cleric will be able to figure out whether the mage is going to have a chance to dive behind the pillar before the goblin gets a shot off with his crossbow.  These are battle-trained heroes after all. 
 I like that the surprisers all get a surprise attack, which wouldn't happen if enemies with high Initiatives became unsurprised in your suggestion.

But what the -20 modifier also means is that in a surprise encounter the allies will go as a group followed by the enemies going as a group for the entire fight, save for some Readied Actions.




Becoming unsurprised as the only action you get in your turn doesn't mean they can do anything else. However they might have quick reflexes and regain their Dex bonus to AC if they menage to get a good initiative. However as I stated in the rule, combattant who are surprised can't Act (or if you prefer can't do anything and are totally unaware) on their turn. 

So you get your surprise free attack, but after the first round things are way less one side act, the other side act etc etc. 
It certainly makes sense for the DM to make a list (of some sort) of the initiative order. In fact I'm not sure you could do it any other way (unless you offload it onto a player as has been suggested - but the point is that someone makes a list).

As for actually announcing the initiative order - my policy would be to not do so. I don't actually think it's a big issue - but in any encounter where you're using 'lurker' style creatures or traps that 'act' in the initiative sequence that might not be apparent to the player characters at the start of the encounter, witholding the initiative sequence can add to the element of surprise.

Of course, you could probably make the other argument - that it's more surprising to tell the players that they will act in a certain sequence only to jump in and interupt them when you spring the trap, or have the creature burst onto the scene. I just personally think this is likely to annoy your players more than the alternative.
  



well the not anouncing only has effects during the first round, as you keep the same initiative the whole battle.
if you tell the players the initiative at the begining of the first round they will know, o i am up next and can plan their action before their initiative comes up.
If they are going with a 20 modifier for surprise would it be better to give a +20 to the creature/PC that gained surprise rather then subtracting it from everyone who got surprised?



I don't like the idea of a modifier at all, it change the order of the whole encounter since we never re-roll initiative. What i would probably use as an alternate rule will be this :
 



all efects that last for one round last from when you use them till the end of your next turn.
So basicly there is no longer a benifit of having high initiative after the first round anyway.
I want to streamline combat to get it as fast as possible, so we can then slow down and get some roleplaying done during the combat (which this edition seems to highly encourage).

I'm thinking of losing the initiative tracker and doing the following:

Look at my monsters, work out the average initiative modifier and then roll 1d20. Add the average to it and then announce it to my players.

Everyone rolls.

Whoever beats my initiative gets to go first (probably left to right, but the players are free to swap with each other as they see fit).

Monsters go.

Everyone else goes (preference given to those who have yet to act).

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The reason for this is that it can take longer to call initiative then it does to finish the fight. So by simply setting a DC for players to beat, I'm hoping to cut out a step.

I also want to get my players out of the "combat has rigid actions" mindset and get them into the "what would be cool to try to do" mindset or the "how realistic is this action" mindset.
I like the 4E Initiative simple system and the new Surprise Rules personally.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter