Optimizing party initiative: exercise in futility

24 posts / 0 new
Last post
I've seen (and faced) several parties with a Warlord who was rocking Combat Commander, and the most common result was not "the party goes first" but "DM lets the players roll initiative, then inserts monsters in the initiative order the way he feels will make for an interesting combat".

Having the option as a party to go first is cool once in a while. That's why daily "we win initiative" powers like Stall Tactics are awesome. But doing it every fight only results in either unchallenging fights or competent DMs compensating for it in some way.

I do think that optimizing your own initiative is still valid (nobody wants to go last, after all). But everyone doing it, or one player spending a few resources on putting party initiative through the roof, has diminishing returns.

Thoughts?
If your DM is actively stuffing over your optimisation then yes, optimisation is not worth it.  If your DM works by the rules, optimising party init is among the most effective means of winning.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Making combat more interesting means stuffing over optimisation? Or to put it another way, does the party winning initiative every time make for fun fights?
I'd say yes, since it makes things shorter in normal cases and forces the DM to favor my preferred encounter style if they want to make fights that aren't over in a flash.



What is that style? Wave combat? FATE style? Something else?
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Making combat more interesting means stuffing over optimisation? Or to put it another way, does the party winning initiative every time make for fun fights?


If I think it's fun to go first and kill everything, then yes, it does.  If I'm optimising for that, that means I think it's fun.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
If your DM gets pissed at multiattackers he can give everything resist 30 all. He/She can generally do whatever they damn well please, since they are the DM. What is the point of this?
10/10 Would Flame Again: An Elite Paladin|Warlock The Elemental Man (or Woman): A Genasi Handbook The Warlord, Or How to Wield a Barbarian One-Handed The Bookish Barbarian Fardiz: RAI is fairly clear, but RAZ is different That's right. Rules According to Zelink!
The DM who is just inserting monsters in initiative is houseruling. If he wants to spread out the monsters, it's better to just roll individually for every monster (for minions I chunk them into 2 or three groups). A taclord is still going to get his party going faster than most monsters, but one or two are far more likely to have rolled a 19 or 20 and go in the middle of the party.

I started doing this because, DMing for non-opped groups, I felt it was cheesy to have all the lurkers, for example, going at the same time, so they can set flanks for each other and ready to all attack with CA with impunity (since they all act on the same number). It also got me out of bad DM habits like moving all the monsters, then doing all my attacks, which is faster, but unfairly bones or gets boned by some PC powers.
This is not just a matter of optimizing initiative, but really optimizing anything. A good DM should indeed counter optimization with something. If that something is always present, then optimization indeed becomes pointless. But if that something is more occasional, then I think it keeps things more fun.

Say initiative is optimized, countermeasures I might use are, increasing encounter start distance to about 20 squares, making the encounter in a maze of rooms so not everything can be attacked at once, attacking the group during the night shift when the warlord is asleep, using the rare enemy leader who gives his own allies a +X initiative, creating a scenario where the party uses multiple entrances to raid a complex where some PC's don't benefit from the warlord's bonus, using monsters that can go insubstantial as an immediate interrupt to being hit once per encounter, monsters that pop out of dying monsters, and I could keep going. There isn't just one boring way to counter optimization as DM.

And often sometimes you just want to let it go, and let their schtick work. Make the challenge so the PC's have to kill everything before an alarm is sounded, make an encounter where lava is chasing them and they have to kill some magma elementals in their way before they drown in lava, make back to back encounters without short rest where they have to pounce on the enemy and kill efficiently to conserve resources, etc.

I don't think the DM needs to be dickish, to challenge the players. Varied encounters and tactics should create a pleasant enough environment for all involved.
Playing with a jerk DM:  exercise in futility.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I agree there are ways to deal with this tactically, but ultimately if you can't deal with something the players are doing from an optimization standpoint talk to the players in question. I'd far rather have a DM ask me to change something about my build than have him cheat around it and leave the resources I spent as dead weight. 
I would guess that as long as it doesn't happen every single encounter it would be okay. Does the DM do other things to keep the opper's on their toes so to speak or is this just them being a jerk?

Once in a while throwing a monkey wrench into the mix should be fine but if the DM knows that the party was built to mostly maximize the alpha strike mentality and continually screws you over then this becomes a bigger issue.

Besides, a good DM should have a variety of tactical tricks they could use to counter the oppers. Just as always winning round 1 of combat can get boring and tiresome, IMHO, so can a DM doing the same ole thing to mess with team player going first. 
I generally have a house rule that no more than 2 PCs or Monsters can go first. So if the PCs all win initiative, 2 of them go and then the highest init monster goes, then 2 more PCs can go, then the 2nd highest monster, and so on.

When all of one side goes first, it tends to make for unfun encounters in my experience as a player, particularly if my side has significant controllers or nova experts or the monsters have hard control or nova potential. That tends to smooth things out.
Awesome, loving the replies here guys.

I'd say yes, since it makes things shorter in normal cases and forces the DM to favor my preferred encounter style if they want to make fights that aren't over in a flash.


So you basically use it as a tool to teach your DM to make every encounter matter? (assuming you mean short fight = filler) Interesting, hadn't thought of that before.

Suggestions


More suggestions


Good ideas, I'm gonna use those. Not every encounter obviously.

Playing with a jerk DM:  exercise in futility.


What if I told you my players actually asked me to insert monsters into certain places in the initiative order to make the fight more interesting and challenging?

I would guess that as long as it doesn't happen every single encounter it would be okay. Does the DM do other things to keep the opper's on their toes so to speak or is this just them being a jerk?

Once in a while throwing a monkey wrench into the mix should be fine but if the DM knows that the party was built to mostly maximize the alpha strike mentality and continually screws you over then this becomes a bigger issue.

Besides, a good DM should have a variety of tactical tricks they could use to counter the oppers. Just as always winning round 1 of combat can get boring and tiresome, IMHO, so can a DM doing the same ole thing to mess with team player going first. 


It's not a big problem in my groups, just something I keep encountering. I was curious if my experience was the same as other folks, and if not, how they handled it.
...attacking the group during the night shift when the warlord is asleep...



Eladrin Taclord says Hi.
It's not a big problem in my groups, just something I keep encountering. I was curious if my experience was the same as other folks, and if not, how they handled it.



It's not something i've ever encountered that i know of but frankly i would't really mind so much. Sometimes not going first is not always a bad thing. I like to see how things are going to unfold and what positioning the DM will be placing monsters in. But everyones playstyles and what the expect at the table varies so...
It's not something i've ever encountered that i know of but frankly i would't really mind so much. Sometimes not going first is not always a bad thing. I like to see how things are going to unfold and what positioning the DM will be placing monsters in. But everyones playstyles and what the expect at the table varies so...


You've never played with/against an optimized controller, have you?
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />
Playing with a jerk DM:  exercise in futility.


What if I told you my players actually asked me to insert monsters into certain places in the initiative order to make the fight more interesting and challenging?


Well, first off, you obviously can't be considered a jerk for doing what your players ask you to do. But I'm pretty sure Mand12 is referring to a DM who does that without player buy-in.

But secondly, I would ask your players why they are investing so much in feats, class features, etc...to blow initiative out of the water, if they don't want to beat Team Monster in initiative. As much as Combat Commander sounds like a great feat, it's ONLY great if you WANT to beat the monsters in initiative. If that's not your goal, there are plenty of other things you could do with those resources.
Besides in the group i play in party initiative op is me hoping that if we win initiative the other palyers in my group act in some sort of cohesive manner and not all just scatter. Having a controller win initiative and drop a party unfriendly zone between your charger and the enemies goes a long way to make the DMs job that much easier. Having a defender in the group forget about their positioning and player their character like a weaker version of a slayer makes the DMs job that much easier. So the DM for my group could give us the first round of initiative and the surprise round and unless everyone listened to me we would still wind up in a perilous situation.Yell
Yes, terrible players make the game harder and waste beneficial situations. That's true in pretty much every aspect of life and has no bearing to optimization. We aren't going to stop suggesting Battle Captain just because you have people that refuse to take cincture of vivacity, won't let you heal them anyway because they don't want to spend surges, and when they do get hurt enough to be healed, they run away and 2nd wind, wasting the hit bonus (you might be playing 4e wrong if ...)
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
Say initiative is optimized, countermeasures I might use are, increasing encounter start distance to about 20 squares, making the encounter in a maze of rooms so not everything can be attacked at once, attacking the group during the night shift when the warlord is asleep, using the rare enemy leader who gives his own allies a +X initiative, creating a scenario where the party uses multiple entrances to raid a complex where some PC's don't benefit from the warlord's bonus, using monsters that can go insubstantial as an immediate interrupt to being hit once per encounter, monsters that pop out of dying monsters, and I could keep going. There isn't just one boring way to counter optimization as DM.

This. There are so many tools a DM has at his disposal aside from initiative that there's really no reason to houserule. The classic counter to alpha striking is doing waves of monsters, but as Mengu illustrates, the countermethods are really only limited by your creativity.

I really dislike rules that intentionally confound players that optimize for a certain benefit. I believe they should reap the benefits of resources spent, or otherwise they become (justifiably) bitter. But sometimes this means some extra work/creative workaround to keep things challenging, and it's sometimes more work than a typical DM is willing to put in.
And there's also the good, old, simple wave attack.
hmm ... I'm going to suppose/guess that Surprise and
Initiative should have been 50/50 propositions, both.

Surprise round:
Monsters surprise PCs
PCs surprise Monsters
Varied

Initiative:
Monsters go first
PCs go first
Varied

= 9 x 9 grid of possibilities

The problem here, is this is easily dumped off of
whatever game maths this was "supposed" to have.
Moving the whole thing to PCs win both = game over.

C.O.-ed for absolute middle of the road maths,
PCs could lose surprise and initiative, and still win
an encounter by say round 6, most of the time.

Mommy's got a good houserule (back a few posts).

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.