Taking (away) the Initiative

Writing rules for games is easy. Writing rules explanations is hard.

I’m at that stage with my game where I’m writing out the bits that flesh out the mechanics. They are the bits that most gamers have long since internalised, and probably haven’t said out loud in ages. Like, what do you get to do in your turn? And what constitutes a turn anyway? Two things are pulling at my method here. One, I’m always looking to be as concise as possible, and that sometimes means saying nothing. Two, I want to explain what I expect from the game, which means more words more often than not.

Take initiative. It’s been in almost every game I’ve ever read. I’m now at the stage where I’m wondering how much will actually be lost if I simply didn’t include rules for it at all. And don’t forget, my game is WW2 so it’s going to have plenty of combat!

You see, outside of combat, no one needs, or misses, initiative. Ever. When combat starts, I guess the point of it is to parcel out the spotlight, and to make things seem fairer somehow. Well, how about just let the group dynamic take care of all that? It works fine outside combat as I say.

But with the writing bit, would I need to justify the absence of initiative like I’ve just done here? Or would its omission completely confuse the reader? I intend to discuss spotlight time and how to include people in a way that they feel comfortable with. Right now I’m thinking make all stuff combat agnostic.

What would you prefer?



Filed under RPG

5 responses to “Taking (away) the Initiative

  1. Richard

    That would remove one of the issues I’ve witnessed in the past where a military group of pcs make initiative rolls, the subordinates beat the officer/nco and then decide to go on hold until he acts or gives orders – technically not necessary of course as speaking is a free action in most games, but that doesn’t stop it from occuring.

    Between an allied group determination of initiative is not that important but how would the order of action be determined between pcs and foes?

  2. JP

    You will need to provide some form of resolution order, but it does not have to be overly complex or require dice rolls. But letting the PCs decide among themselves who goes first can encourage tactics. “Run Jim, we’re covering you!”
    It also makes for the one uber-villain who has a special “seize initiative rule” to be quite memorable…

  3. I agree with an above poster, I’ve always liked the idea of the PCs deciding their own order, but also having to compete with the enemy for initiative.

  4. My take is based on Fate (loosely, and getting looser by the minute). Current thinking is: who goes first depends entirely on the fictional circumstance, but, it can be altered with the use of Fate Points. Any scene is going to have aspects on it, so an initiative based aspect will often make sense. So, no roll, more like a FP auction (but likely over and done with very quickly… “ok guys, the Gestapo kick in the door, here, have Fate Points”)

  5. I think need for initiative depends on a lot on the system and what players think about their characters. For example, in a game where a character has some number representing how quick they are (such as dex in D&D based games, for an easy example), and if that number has a way to be improved, players might want to see that represented in play, and initiative helps with that when quicker characters always notice themselves reacting first. But again it all boils down to system and player expectations which varies so much from group to group. You could always pull from early D&D games: Everybody decides what they are going to do, and THEN you roll initiative to see in what order those actions resolve.

    But really, that seems to make more sense for one on one, quick combat. In a war game (something im not familiar with at all) I imagine much larger, more calculated attacks which should probably be talked out and discussed for awhile. So maybe I’d dumb initiative too…

    I DUNNO!

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