View Full Version : Group initiative

2009-03-03, 03:25 PM
So lately I have been trying this rule with a group of players who are mostly new to DnD. The biggest hassle of running combat was recording the initiative, making sure all were in order, reordering initative due to delays, readied actions, etc. Ive tried computer programs, easy erase boards, and still nothing is better then a piece of paper. But it was still time consuming and frankly irritating.

So with this new group I decided to try this concept I read somewhere on some internet sight (can't remember exactly, though would like to give credit to the author). This is what I call group initiative.

Basically you just find the average modifier for initiative of the entire group. Then one of the players roll for the PCs and I roll for the monsters. When its a groups turn they can take their actions in any way they want, and in any order. So a cleric could move, then wait for the fighter to finish his actions, and then use his standard action.

So far its working really well. The combats go quicker, everyone seems more interested. What I am wondering is, have any of you playgrounders used that systems, and are there pitfalls in it?

Magnor Criol
2009-03-03, 03:45 PM
That's an interesting concept. I don't know how much I'd like playing it personally. It lessens the value of feats like improved initiative and other class features and feats like that. But it does wonders for team combat, I suppose, letting everyone coordinate well.

One thing that my group found worked wonders was notecards. Just write everyone's name down on a notecard, or a postit note, or whatever small scraps of paper you have lying around, one to a piece. Make one for the monsters, too. Then just set them in the order of combat. Easy to rearrange as things change in the fight, easy to reset for the next battle.

2009-03-03, 04:24 PM
So with this new group I decided to try this concept I read somewhere on some internet sight (can't remember exactly, though would like to give credit to the author). This is what I call group initiative.

Group initiative already existed as an option in AD&D 2E and it's what my group used when we played 2e

2009-03-03, 04:37 PM
My DM has little magnets that he can write on with a dry erase marker, that stick to the inside of his DM screen. I don't know where he got it from but it saves time and he doesn't forget who goes when.

2009-03-03, 04:46 PM
I personally use a hybrid system of the above; I have all PCs roll individual Initiative, but roll npcs or groups of enemies separately. Sometimes I even have several groups (eg, one group for the enemies, one group for allied NPCs), but either way it saves a lot of bookkeeping, and allows me to group enemy actions all at once instead of having to sprinkle them throughout the battle. However, the PC's rolls are still important, as are Initiative improving feats and the like. It's worked pretty well for me thusfar. :smallsmile:

2009-03-03, 04:53 PM
Consider using a laptop. With Excel or some similar program, it's pretty easy to plug in each PC's and monsters Initiative, AC, touch AC, Flat Footed AC, hit points, Saves, etc. You spend 5 minutes doing this at the start of each game session, and then all you need to do is Sort at the beginning of each new combat based on what they roll for Initiative. Saves a ton of time. I've also seen it done with a White Erase board, with all the numbers right in full view of the PCs, and it also works well.

2009-03-03, 04:55 PM
I have my party take 10 on initiative checks, along with all the monsters. As part of my prep, I tri-sect index cards and write monster names and initiatives across the top, arrange them in order, and get on with the combat. Worked pretty darn well for the last year.

Mark Hall
2009-03-03, 04:56 PM
A suggestion to refine your idea:

Have the party roll a single initiative, but instead of doing the average, they add their respective modifiers to it.

So, the party has 4 people, with +8, +4, +2 and +1 to initiative. They roll a 10, and so go on 18, 14, 12 and 11. The enemies all have the same modifier, +2, so when the GM rolls a 13, they go on 15, between the first character and the second character. Ties should go to PCs, simply because they're the protagonists, and protagonists are always cooler. If the PC-side character is an NPC, they go after the enemies, because antagonists are cooler than side-kicks.

Oh, and seat the party in order of initiative bonus, so you can just go around the table.

2009-03-03, 05:12 PM
Mark Hall - this houserule only simplifies the rolling, but if various enemies have various initiative modifiers it's not really different from normal initiative and its recording hassle.

I DMed a game with group initiative as well, only that instead of average, I used the highest initiative for each group - while it made feats like Improved Initiative mostly obsolete, I think it worked well.

2009-03-03, 05:31 PM
I really like Magnors note idea, or using magnets and such I see working really well. I think a more proactive aproach from the players would keep them interested. Would be especially good if I can get cards or magnets the same color as the minies the players use to represent their characters.

What I noticed however is with this new group is that they seem more focused when the combat is happening. Now either that is because of their newness to the system, and everything is still more interesting, or making the entire group on the same initiative made a more cohesive unit.

While its true that initiative boosting feats and spells are not as useful in this system, I think its not that big of a deal. Since monsters are under this system as well, I found it rare that they have more then +3 (so far, playing Red Hand of Doom) to their group initiative. A character that has improved initiative feat adds a effective +1 to the group initiative (with 4 players or less), which might not seem like a large number, does tip the balance. What I mean its not so good for the character who selected it, but its better for the rest of the group.

2009-03-03, 05:44 PM
It's a noble idea, and definitely good for beginners. However, if anyone ever readies or delays actions, it can get sort of weird.

2009-03-03, 05:51 PM
Actually it works really nice for readied actions. Since all monsters are on the same initiative, you just use a standard action to get a standard action as a reaction to something the monster does. The next round, the character who readied the action is back in the standard group initiative.

Delaying is a bit more problematic, but my players didn't use that option yet, so I didn't have to rule that yet. Anyone got any suggestions to cover that aspect?