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Freelance GM
2014-12-22, 10:08 PM
I don't have as much time as I'd like to paint a more complete picture of this half-finished idea, but here's the basics of it:

I am working on a homebrewed, moderately complex D10-based system for sci-fi RPGs with Halo/Mass Effect-ish tech levels.

I'm trying to find a different way of doing Initiative- I don't feel like "taking turns" in the D&D sense captures the frantic back-and-forth of a sci-fi shootout.

The question I'm asking is this: "Could you have an initiative system that works like Instant Speed in Magic: the Gathering?"

All I've got right now is something halfway between the X-Wing Miniatures game and a different homebrew. Characters have two scores in combat: an Initiative score, and a Priority. These would be inversely proportionate: the higher your Initiative, the lower your Priority, and vice versa, so characters who act first react last, while the last character to act reacts first. Characters take their turn on their initiative, but other characters have a number of Reactions they can use for a variety of tasks. Characters with a Priority higher than the current character react before the triggering action is completed, like an Instant card in Magic, while characters with lower Priorties react after the action is completed.

Reactions would be small actions like firing snap-shots, drawing a weapon, sliding around a piece of cover, or diving to the ground, while normal Actions would be more significant- throwing a grenade, firing a carefully-aimed burst, sprinting across the battlefield, or starting to hack a computer.

The problem with the current idea is that in theory, by making combat more back-and-forth and "fast paced," running it becomes exponentially slower- One character takes an action, and every other character gets a chance to do a Reaction before or after that triggering action is completed. Then the next character takes an action, and everyone gets to react. Characters have a small, finite number of reactions, so it would speed up as it got closer to the end of the round, but I'm still concerned that it might be too slow.

Before I try to test this, does anyone have any better ideas, critiques, feedback, or references I may find useful?

steelsmiter
2014-12-23, 02:14 AM
Don't make them inversely proportionate. Make Intiative based on the speed of the body (something like Agility) and Reaction based on the speed of the mind (Perception? Wit?). I like that you leave reaction at things that can only be done reflexively, while keeping Initiave to things that require some level of forethought.

Done this way, people who focus on the physical stat can analyze things faster, those who focus on the mental (term used loosely here) can make split second decisions, and those that do both, do bot, and those that are terrible at either act (and react) last

Mark Hall
2014-12-23, 02:28 AM
You might take a look at Hackmaster initaitive... No rounds, just seconds. Are you going to take 4 seconds to aim, or are you going to do an instant snapshot at -6 to hit? MOvement is per second, so you have to keep engaged with the combat at all times.

Freelance GM
2014-12-23, 08:51 AM
Don't make them inversely proportionate. Make Intiative based on the speed of the body (something like Agility) and Reaction based on the speed of the mind (Perception? Wit?). I like that you leave reaction at things that can only be done reflexively, while keeping Initiave to things that require some level of forethought.

Done this way, people who focus on the physical stat can analyze things faster, those who focus on the mental (term used loosely here) can make split second decisions, and those that do both, do bot, and those that are terrible at either act (and react) last

The reason behind the inverse relationship is that the character who acts last in initiative can react first and react fastest. You're not last because you're the slowest, you're last because you're watching everything unfold- waiting for the right moment to act. Another important detail I forgot to mention at the time- you can choose to add or subtract your Agility from your Initiative, which in turn boosts your Priority. As a result, the people with the worst Initiative modifiers will typically be in the middle.

I like the idea of using a mental stat for Reactions, though. It seems like the Dex/Agility/Reflexes stat is always overwhelmingly good in a sci-fi game, so any opportunity to make another stat more powerful is a good thing.


You might take a look at Hackmaster initaitive... No rounds, just seconds. Are you going to take 4 seconds to aim, or are you going to do an instant snapshot at -6 to hit? MOvement is per second, so you have to keep engaged with the combat at all times.

I've heard of Hackmaster, but I don't think I've ever actually seen any of it until now. Definitely looks like something I should pick up at some point, just from the basic rules- it seems like the slightly-more-lethal version of D&D I've been wishing for.

While the Counting Up thing is a really clever way of doing initiative, I'm not sure it does what I'd want this system to, but the more I think about it, the more I think it would actually work. Maybe I'm just adverse to it "after a life of being restrained by unnecessary rules."

After another minute of contemplation, the only real issue I can see is that swinging a sword at speed 8 is a ton slower than firing 5 rounds across the battlefield with an assault rifle. The volume of fire and frequency of attacks may make accuracy irrelevant (hey, kind of like in real life!) It would probably take a lot of reworking to get the system "balanced" for combat that places an emphasis on rapid-firing ranged weapons. I'm going to keep looking at this, to see if I can make it work, or at least integrate some of its ideas into this system.

steelsmiter
2014-12-23, 09:45 AM
The reason behind the inverse relationship is that the character who acts last in initiative can react first and react fastest. You're not last because you're the slowest, you're last because you're watching everything unfold- waiting for the right moment to act. Another important detail I forgot to mention at the time- you can choose to add or subtract your Agility from your Initiative, which in turn boosts your Priority. As a result, the people with the worst Initiative modifiers will typically be in the middle.

So basically, taking a Wait Maneuver and not specifying what you're waiting for. No need for a statistic for that. Everyone can do it.

Freelance GM
2014-12-23, 05:01 PM
So basically, taking a Wait Maneuver and not specifying what you're waiting for. No need for a statistic for that. Everyone can do it.

Not quite- characters with lower Initiatives react faster, so if you have a high initiative and wait, you're kind of screwing yourself over, because your reactions still occur after someone else completes an action.

The person who starts combat with the lowest initiative has the ability to insert a reaction before anyone else finishes what they are doing.

An example would be like this.
Player 1 says, "I use my action to pop up and shoot player 2."
Player 2 says, "I use my Reaction to try to dodge."
Then Player 3 says, "As soon as I see his head, I use a Reaction to I shoot him."

Player 3 has the lowest initiative, so his reaction can occur before Player 1 makes his attack. If player 3 kills player 1, player 1 can't attack, so player 2 doesn't have to dodge. Player 2 and Player 3 survive.

If it was flipped, with Player 3 shooting at player 2, and Player 1 reacting, it wouldn't go the same way. Since Player 1 has the highest initiative, his reaction happens last, so Player 3 shoots player 2, and then player 1 shoots player 3. Player 1 is the only survivor.

steelsmiter
2014-12-23, 05:11 PM
Alright. Good luck with it. I don't see the point, but clearly there is supposed to be one.

Mark Hall
2014-12-23, 10:30 PM
After another minute of contemplation, the only real issue I can see is that swinging a sword at speed 8 is a ton slower than firing 5 rounds across the battlefield with an assault rifle. The volume of fire and frequency of attacks may make accuracy irrelevant (hey, kind of like in real life!) It would probably take a lot of reworking to get the system "balanced" for combat that places an emphasis on rapid-firing ranged weapons. I'm going to keep looking at this, to see if I can make it work, or at least integrate some of its ideas into this system.

The Hackmaster system is based off Aces and Eights, which was a western system, and thus had a bit more about gunplay. However, I'll throw in... why should melee be balanced against firearms? Unless you're playing Jedi, there's not a real point to balancing them.

Hytheter
2014-12-23, 10:56 PM
The Hackmaster system is based off Aces and Eights, which was a western system, and thus had a bit more about gunplay. However, I'll throw in... why should melee be balanced against firearms? Unless you're playing Jedi, there's not a real point to balancing them.

Rule of cool.

Sometimes you just want Sword Guy to be able to compete with Gun Guy instead of just getting ruthlessly gunned down before he even gets within his weapon's reach.

Mark Hall
2014-12-24, 01:49 AM
Rule of cool.

Sometimes you just want Sword Guy to be able to compete with Gun Guy instead of just getting ruthlessly gunned down before he even gets within his weapon's reach.

"Never bring a knife to a gunfight."

Freelance GM
2014-12-24, 11:12 AM
However, I'll throw in... why should melee be balanced against firearms? Unless you're playing Jedi, there's not a real point to balancing them.

Oh, no, you're totally right- using a sword should not = using a gun. Especially not in the setting I have for this.

What I meant was that a typical assault rifle has a cyclic rate of fire between 600 and 900 rounds per minute- at least 10 rounds per second. So, in the time it takes a human character to take a 5-foot step, another character could spam 10 or more attacks.

With the potential for that many shots, accuracy becomes a little irrelevant. To balance the game, guns would either have to have laughably poor accuracy, or implausibly low damage to be balanced with the number of attacks they could put out. I'm not too keen on either idea.

The idea I'm playing with right now is a tad more abstract, and almost the process in reverse- instead of the DM counting up seconds, players spend points to perform actions and reactions.

Characters have two pools of points- one for Actions, modified by the DEX equivalent, one for Reactions, modified by the WIS equivalent. Characters will have between 5-10 points in each pool. Major, defining actions, like a 10-round spray of automatic fire, or trying to hack a door, or firing a heavy weapon, may take 5 Action points to do, while smaller tasks, like reloading, or finding an item, may only need 3. A character can "wait" to convert leftover Action points to Reaction points, but I'm not sure about letting that work both ways.
Reactions cost less, and have proportionately weaker effects, but can interrupt other character's Actions, as described in earlier posts.

It's not fool-proof, but it's not finished, or even remotely testable yet, either. Opinions?

steelsmiter
2014-12-24, 12:21 PM
So, in the time it takes a human character to take a 5-foot step, another character could spam 10 or more attacks.

With the potential for that many shots, accuracy becomes a little irrelevant.
Not if you treat each step (or about 1 second) as a single attack with rapid fire that hits at a rate based on Margin of success. I know in GURPS, most manageable weapons have Recoil between 1 and 5, which means one shot hits per multiple of recoil. In d20, it's BAB+d20 over AC to determin margin of success. To get a manageable hit rate, simply divide margin by Recoil.

So your 10 rounds per second hit might only hit 2 times with a high enough recoil.

Mark Hall
2014-12-24, 12:37 PM
Accuracy is only not important if you have infinite ammo, or continuous resupply. Sure, you can spray shots around, but throwing that much ammo is not always the best way.

Freelance GM
2014-12-24, 04:13 PM
Not if you treat each step (or about 1 second) as a single attack with rapid fire that hits at a rate based on Margin of success. I know in GURPS, most manageable weapons have Recoil between 1 and 5, which means one shot hits per multiple of recoil. In d20, it's BAB+d20 over AC to determin margin of success. To get a manageable hit rate, simply divide margin by Recoil.

So your 10 rounds per second hit might only hit 2 times with a high enough recoil.

There are pretty heavy penalties for recoil, but most characters built for combat are able to reduce it. Also, the system is lethal enough that 2 or 3 hits are all the character really needs.


Accuracy is only not important if you have infinite ammo, or continuous resupply. Sure, you can spray shots around, but throwing that much ammo is not always the best way.

This is true for the players, but how often do villainous mooks have to worry about running out of ammo? The problem is compounded for every extra mook in a fight, because 5 mooks firing 10 rounds per second and only getting 2 hits each is still 10 hits.

It looks like this needs a lot more basic groundwork and testing done before I can get any further- you all can't really help me fix the rules if I don't even have them fully thought out yet. Thanks for the input, though. I'll post again when I have more for us to work with.

DoomHat
2014-12-24, 04:39 PM
1st edition L5R had the perfect solution I think. I'm pretty sure the only reason it wasn't carried into later edition is that it felt very counter initiative for gamers so used to standard D&D initiative.

Everyone rolls initiative in the normal way, using the equivalent of Wisdom as the bonus. Then, starting from lowest to highest, everyone declares their action for the round. Once declarations have concluded, rolls are made and resolved top to bottom.

This way there's no need for things like Opportunity Attacks and other 'Reaction' mechanics. The player's with the highest initiative can see what all the slower witted characters are up to before choosing their action that round. Also, it helps prevent Dice Stacking boredom mid combat, because players (or at least the faster ones) have to pay attention to the changing situation in the round to make the best action.

ReturnOfTheKing
2014-12-24, 04:53 PM
"Never bring a knife to a gunfight."

Hope you don't mind if I sig this?

Mark Hall
2014-12-24, 08:34 PM
Hope you don't mind if I sig this?

It's an old saying, and hardly mine. Feel free.

SiuiS
2014-12-24, 08:54 PM
This actually have me an idea I may try to work on later.

Instead of everyone getting their turns, use a Magic the a gathering stack. Every participant has X tokens. Every "round" something happens; the world does something, the situation changes, the lava flows, the forest fire continues, the enemy army begins shooting your way, the rockets flare and begin liftoff, etc., and all parties get to bid on responding to that by paying tokens. Each party can then respond to those actions by paying tokens. Any remaining tokens can be spent responding to those actions, etc.

This lets people act multiple times throughout a round, punctuating the combat with a tiered tree of priorities and responses. It's going to take much longer and throws the entire concept of rounds out the window, complicating durations and such, but it sounds fun.

ReturnOfTheKing
2014-12-24, 11:26 PM
It's an old saying, and hardly mine. Feel free.

I know, it was in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull among other things. Funny thing how I seem to be the only person in the world who likes that movie