View Full Version : D&D 3.x Other Brainstorming: Split initiatives/Shorter rounds = dynamic combat?

2018-08-08, 03:59 PM
Some have complained that d20-based games (D&D 3, 3.5, Pathfinder, etc) suffer from dull combat, because there's little more to do than take your action, wait till your go, then take your action again. More dynamic combat, with mobile fights and tactical options, are supposedly missing from these systems.

I'm not intending to comment on whether that's true or not - I just have a (relatively) simple idea that could add some dynamism to combat in D&D et al: we split the 6 second round into two halves, re-work Full-round actions somewhat, modify how Attacks of Opportunity work, and add in the idea that some actions can - and will - be interrupted.

EDIT: We playtested it, and didn't like it as much as I thought we might - so feel free to skip ahead to a new idea that was born out of this one... (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=23287805&postcount=9) Or carry on to see how the brainstorming went!

I've got the bare bones of the idea here- but what I'm looking for is whether this seems likely to work in practice, what tweaks need to be made, what oddities from supplements I haven't accounted for, and so on.

Here goes:


Split initiative
Roll initiative as normal. Note the result. You take one action on this initiative. Also note your initiative result -10. You take a second action on this later result.

Either of your actions may be a Standard action, but the other must be a Move action. That is, you can take a Move action on your rolled initiative, and Standard on your Split initiative, or the other way round.

This way, you get the same amount of stuff to do as in regular d20, but your actions are split through the round - meaning they can be interrupted, and don't all happen at once. We now have a mechanical way that stop you from taking all you actions in one, uninterrupted turn.
(I understand from long experience that actions aren't in theory supposed to be happening all at once for each PC - but in practice, that's what tends to happen. You move, you attack: no-one else gets to do anything while you take your 6-second action.)

Full-round actions
Full round actions require a Standard action to start, and a Move action to finish.

Attack of Opportunity
An AoO is only provoked for an action that distracts you from combat - getting something out of your backpack (not out of your pocket), picking a lock, reading a scroll (but not casting a spell). Moving out of a threatened area does not provoke an Attack of Opportunity, but moving through one does.

Any action that takes a prolonged period of time to perform - such as moving, casting a spell, etc - may be interrupted by someone acting between you starting it, and your next initiative turn. That is, if another character has a turn between your Rolled initiative and your Split initiative, they may use that turn to disrupt what you are doing.
In this concept, attacking doesn't take a prolonged time to perform - you are looking for a chance to strike, then you strike swiftly.

Altair the Wizard rolls 20 initiative, Boris the Bandit (and his 2 cronies) roll 15, and Bridget the Barbarian rolls 12.
On 20, Altair decides to cast Colour Spray, using a standard action. His next turn is on 10 (20-10 = 10).
On 15, Boris rushes toward Altair to attack him, while his cronies rush at Bridget. They will reach their targets on 5 (15-10 = 5).
On 12, Bridget interrupts Boris's move by Bull Rushing Boris as he approaches Altair, her ally. (Bridget has Improved Bull Rush, so Boris gets no AoO.) Boris is knocked off course. Bridget can take a Move action on 2 (12 - 10 = 2).
On 10, Altair finishes casting Colour Spray - Boris has been moved out of the cone of effect by Bridget, but he hits the two cronies as they rush up to attack him. They fail their saves and go down like a stack of staves.
On 5, Boris weighs up his options, and legs it - a Move action, provoking no AoO - but...
On 2, Bridget chases after Boris.
On 20, Altair quick draws his dagger (no-one said he was an optimised Wizard), and start to Coup-de-grace the unconscious bandits (full round action, which will take both this Standard action, and his next action on Initiative 10).
On 15, Boris RUNS (4x movement rate: split over the full round action, which will take both this Standard action (2x movement), and his next action on Initiative 5 (the rest of his RUN speed)).
On 12, Bridget ditches her sword (free action to drop it), and draws her bow. As the others are doing full round actions, on 2, Bridget gets her Standard action, and shoots Boris (after he's run 4x his move rate - his full round action).


Clearly this needs some work - probably we need to qualify which actions provoke, which actions are interruptable, etc. That's why I'm asking for brainstorming!

Any other comments gratefully received.

2018-08-09, 06:58 AM
This looks promising. Some questions, what happens if you delay? how much do you delay,? What about readied actions? What about full attack, how many attacks do you do at which instance?
It takes far more control and effort to track combat, but it gives a nice sense of time.

2018-08-09, 07:02 AM
I've played systems like that. Shadowrun has every action you can take in a turn on a different initiative step. Some go even further: we're currently playing a German RPG called Splittermond, where every action takes a number of "tics", so if you attack with a two-handed blade (10 tics) you move ten poitns along the initiative track, so different actions take different amounts of time. I think AD&D had a system a bit like that as well?

Indigo Knight
2018-08-09, 07:19 AM
Yeah, ad&d (or second ed'. not sure) had initiative counters. where there was a speed modifier for every action.

@OP - why did you choose that the second action would happen after interval 10?

2018-08-09, 07:46 AM
This looks promising. Some questions, what happens if you delay? how much do you delay,? What about readied actions? What about full attack, how many attacks do you do at which instance?
It takes far more control and effort to track combat, but it gives a nice sense of time.

Thanks for the input! Good questions...

Delayed action
You may delay your action as normal - reducing your initiative by any number so that you act later in the round.
You may delay either your rolled initiative, or your split initiative.
If you delay your rolled initiative, then your split initiative takes place 10 steps after the delayed turn. If you delay your split initiative, then next round, your next rolled initiative is also delayed. That is, if you rolled 20, took your action, and choose to delay your split initiative from 10 (20-10 = 10) until 5, then your next initiative turn in the next round will be 15 instead of 20.

Readied action
Readying an action is a standard action. Any time that you have a standard action available to you, you may elect to ready an action instead. If the trigger for your readied action doesn't come up before your rolled initiative in the next round, then you take no action.

Full attack action
Full round actions are always started with a standard action. Imagine that the first attack of the full attack action takes some time to line up, to judge the opening - the remaining attacks are an increasingly inaccurate flurry of follow-ups.
In the standard action, you make one attack. The remaining attacks are taken during the move action. This allows you to opt to end your full attack action after the first attack, if you wish, and take a different move action instead.


I'm making this up as I go along, really, so any questions like this are welcome. I'll be play testing this soon, once I think I have enough to go on.

2018-08-09, 07:54 AM

@OP - why did you choose that the second action would happen after interval 10?

Arbitrarily, really - it's a d20 system, so 10 is halfway through the die. Also, it's a simple subtraction, the same for everyone.

If I'd made it "half your rolled initiative" then there'd have been clusters of split initiatives at the bottom end of the initiative track - half 15 is 7, half 10 is 5, half 8 is 4, etc - and more confusing, if anyone had a negative initiative, half -5 is -2!

Maat Mons
2018-08-09, 04:58 PM
So... instead of taking one turn per round, you take two half-turns per round?

2018-08-09, 11:55 PM
Couple of small notations, and I wish I was wearing something other than the black hat right now:

(1) For PbP games (and only PbP as opposed to Roll20 or FtF), this would blow out combat resolution times more or less by definition since it necessarily asks everyone to post at least twice per round rather than once ... and it takes long enough to finish a single round of combat in PbP as it is.

(2) Notice that under this system a round's complexity grows pretty substantially the more combatants you've got in it. The initial example has three Named Characters and two cronies. Those cronies bite the dust in less than one round. If the cronies had been instructed to do something more complicated - specifically, Readied Actions on mages or other characters - then it starts to get complicated.

(3) Mages with high Initiative and a preference for direct damage line/cone/burst effect spells get borked hard by this system since if they have to go first, they have to basically call their shots on the target and give it a chance to react first to get out of the way of the casting before it lands, and then counter the enemy's assault. Indeed metagaming becomes a larger concern here since players will know the spell being cast while their characters won't. That isn't really something that happens in orthodox D&D combat because the spell lands at about the same time as it's first declared you're casting it. Yes, you could impose a Counterspell-ish mechanic to keep this tendency down to a minimum, but the main problem is that even if you don't know what spell is being cast, you know something's being cast - in a sense it turns all spells into what they'd be as full-round actions, i.e. notified to the opponent and giving him a chance to prepare contingencies for it arriving.

(EDIT: (3a) - I wonder whether this sort of mechanic, though - taking your turn in half-turns, thus giving you more time to react - could work as an alternative to a Rogue's Evasion feature, since it's meant to be fluffed as preternatural quickness or a sort of sixth sense that means they don't take damage from spells as much as others do?)

(4) I have a feeling that, oddly enough, people with low Initiative actually prosper under this system for similar reasons - this is basically forcing an opponent to give his enemy an idea of what he's doing before the consequence of that result hits him. I don't know if that's wrong or right, that's just the general observation on this system.

(5) Swift Actions and Immediate Actions in particular need separate consideration, since Immediate Actions in particular allow a person to respond to another character's action before it's completed. There are large swathes of ToB maneuvers -- counters -- that are devoted to this sort of thing. A person can take a swift action once per round in addition to standard plus move action (and in the case of the Ruby Knight Windicator, several if the DM is generous with Divine Impetus.) Or indeed consider how the Belt of Battle - a common must-have for characters of all types because it grants more actions per round - functions. Does the person have to split their bonus actions between the two halves of the round, or what?

(6) Also consider how Rapid Spell or Quicken Spell function in this system too. My guess would be that Quicken Spell -- which renders a spell a free action -- becomes even more powerful than it already was since it takes out any possibility for a spell's target to deploy countermeasures or prepare for the spell coming in.

(7) What would action-affecting spells such as Incite, Inhibit, and Slow do under this system? Slow would have to be adjudicated carefully since it allows either a move or a standard action but not both. Under this system that would probably hobble people more than they already are. Inhibit probably acts as it already does, but does Incite force you to take your standard action and move action at once, no second half-turn?

Again, I wish I was wearing something other than the black hat. 3.5's initiative system is just eye-gougingly terrible to implement in PbP, and I've sometimes toyed with the prospect of trying to come up with something different, but I have failed. This will I think make FtF D&D combat a bit more interesting and capable of strategising, but it does also alter how different classes will approach combat generally.

2018-08-10, 02:14 AM
Thanks for the input - yes, the idea is that you get two "half turns" per round instead of one full turn. Yes, this would bloat out any PbP version of the game with all the problems mentioned above - but I'm sorry, from my experience, I really don't think D&D is suited to PbP at all, certainly not in the RAW format. It might be useable by a GM as a framework for interpreting the plans of players, but to try to PbP each round in turn? No, it's a terrible system to use.

But anyway, let me tell you how it went in practice at a table top play test, last night!


Notes from a short playtest last night:
It doesn't work!
Or rather, it does work, but it requires so much management of the actions of characters, that it's nearly useless. My players, having to deal only with their own characters, didn't have too bad a time of it - they had to remember whether they'd just taken a Standard or a Move action, and whether it was their Rolled initiative, or their Split initiative each round - but me as the GM? I could barely keep track of four goblins.

Conclusion - it's not worth it! We quickly gave up, after just a couple of rounds.

Or rather, it's not worth the bother in that format...


Short rounds version
What we tried next was short rounds, removing the difference between Standard and Move actions, making Full-round actions into "Double actions", and declaring that movement doesn't provoke and AoO. We retained the idea that prolonged actions start on your turn and finish immediately before your next turn - meaning that spell casting, moving, and so on, may be "interrupted" by someone else's action on a lower initiative step.

This version ends up being much more frenzied - actions are short, movement is frequent and hectic.

We also spotted that it means that multiple attacks need to be turned into standard actions in some way, or thrown out. We like multiple attacks - so I proposed that they work just as they would for a full round action, but are a standard action instead: you make your first attack at full BAB, then your next at -5, and so on.
This worked fine for our PCs and humanoid monsters - but it seems likely to be a bit over powered for monsters with claw/claw/ bite combinations.

All in all, we liked it, it was fun, and certainly more dynamic.


Anyway - more notes as we try more things out again tonight!

Indigo Knight
2018-08-19, 04:02 AM
So, what ended up changing was full action, multiple attacks, provoking AoO?

I think that, for me, what's missing is handling dynamic rounds - delay, ready, fizzling casting, comboing actions with a partner.
Current combat rules are too restrictive for players to operate this options.