After taking some additional time to ruminate on my three requirements for an initiative system, I decided to take a stab at making an initiative system specifically with those three requirements in mind. Something which maximized excitement, without requiring too much time or attention from the players.
Players roll initiative individually, based on the speed of the weapon they are using. Most weapons, and any character who is not using weapons, roll 1d6 for their initiative. Characters using slow weapons, such as the sword pictured, roll 1d4 for their initiative. While characters using fast weapons, such as rapiers, loaded loaded crossbows, or daggers, roll 1d8 for their initiative. Slow, Average, and Fast weapons align nicely with the great, medium, and small/minor weapons in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
There are no modifiers to these rolls. However, characters roll their initiative die a number of times equal to their dexterity bonus or penalty (with a minimum of 1 die rolled). If the character has a bonus, they take the best result of the dice they rolled, and drop the rest. If the character has a dexterity penalty, they do the opposite. Using only the worst result.
So a fellow with a -2 dexterity modifier wielding a Zweihänder would roll 2d4, and whichever result was lower would be their initiative. Meanwhile, a fellow with +2 dexterity wielding a dagger would roll 2d8 and take whichever result was higher as their initiative. Characters with initiatives of 1, -1, and 0 would all roll only a single die.
12 Comments »
Posted by LS on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 11:28 pm
Categories: Lamentations of the Flame Princess, System Independant
Tags: Subsystems, Theorycrafting
Recently, Courtney asked if he could experiment on those of us in his Saturday game. I like experiments, so I said yes. So did everybody else. Courtney sent us the rules he was brewing (specific references to which will be light, as I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask Courtney how he feels about having them posted), and we began setting up our characters. The system isn’t run-of-the-mill D&D by a long shot, and I liked a lot of what I saw, particularly the way equipment will be managed. My funds were limited, so I started out with nothing but a big-ass sword, which I noted had a -3 initiative penalty. At the time, it seemed like a fine tradeoff.
I arrived late to the game, so it was already well underway by the time I showed up. Sometimes the French revolution gets exciting, and you forget that you need to wake up at 5:30am the next day in order to get to the D&D game on time. I mostly watched and listened, since I wasn’t fully up to speed on what our goals were. Everything seemed to be going well, and we were soon preparing an ambush for a set of giant cats.
There has already been some discussion of what followed. Suffice to say that the players were confused and frustrated by the initiative system. I, in particular, didn’t like it at all. Once Courtney explained it, I saw how it was–on paper–an elegant and interesting method. Clearly it did not work in practice. Though, with refinement, I think it could be more engaging than other methods. Playtesting will tell in future sessions.
Thinking about it, Initiative is odd. Every rule has permutations between various systems, and house variants besides, but the sheer number of vastly different methods of running initiative, and the effects those have on play, is kind of fascinating. It can be rolled individually for each combat participant, which takes more time, but maintains a clear order of operations. Alternatively it can be rolled for each ‘side’ of the combat (typically players / things players want to be dead), which keeps combat moving at a much faster pace, but might be a bit jumbled, with more confident players inadvertently edging out quieter players. Some people roll initiative only once, as Pathfinder does, which keeps things moving along, particularly when initiative has been complicated in other ways; whilst games like LotFP re-roll the initiative every round, so you’re never sure if your next turn will come before-or after-the thing that’s trying to kill you. Some games apply all manner of modifiers to initiative, while other keep modifiers simple, and still others use no modifiers at all.
And then there are some who run initiative in phases, as proscribed by the AD&D DMG. Spells must be declared at the start, then missile attacks take place, then melee attacks take place, then spells go off. This one consistently confuses me, and various GMs have frequently needed to tell me that I can’t perform an action, because if I’d wanted to do that I needed to declare it during an earlier phase. And then, of course, there are those who don’t use initiative at all. I’ve never tried this myself, but those who have seem perfectly happy with it.
It occurs to me that my ideal initiative system serves three functions, in descending order of importance:
- It does not require me to think too much. I want to focus on what my next action is, not when the rules allow me to take said action.
- It is fast. If the forward momentum of the game has to pause to figure out who is going next, then it is taking too long.
- It adds some amount of excitement to combat, beyond merely establishing turn order. If points 1 and 2 were all we cared about, why not move in descending order of dexterity?
The most basic system I first encountered when I started playing OSR style games is a good example of an initiative system which fills all of these criteria. Roll 1d6 for each side of combat, rerolling each turn. It requires zero thinking on my part, takes perhaps 10 seconds to resolve, and keeps everyone on their toes because you never know if the bad guys will get two turns in a row. That doesn’t mean the system is perfect. Points 1 and 2 are more or less pass/fail requirements. If a method fails either of them, then it’s junk and needs to be improved. Point 3 has a lot of room for creativity, though.
The goal of brewing a good initiative system is to maximize the excitement it adds to combat, without failing the other two tests.
3 Comments »
Posted by LS on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 1:35 am
Categories: System Independant
Art by Jennifer Rodgers
=The Defiler’s Creature=
Armor 17, 3 Hit Dice, Movement 180’ ground 240’ leap, 1 bite attack doing 1 Hit Point of damage per depth level plus swallows whole, Morale 12.
The Defiler’s creature is the size of a pit bull dog and hops along on its two legs. It can only attack with its lower mouth (its barbed tail is a sexual organ which it will not use in this dimension, while its upper mouth merely recites Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Spanish). On a successful hit, the creature will do 1 Hit Point of damage and swallow its opponent whole, no matter the size difference between them.
Inside the creature, a swallowed victim will find an identical creature with the same starting stats. This creature will do 2 Hit Points of damage on a hit and swallow the victim whole, which will result in facing another creature inside which will do 3 Hit Points of damage on a hit and swallow the victim whole, and so on and so on.
Killing a creature after being swallowed causes a character to be vomited up to the next higher level to face a new creature doing one less Hit Point of damage per hit (unless vomited back into the real world, in which case the original creature will be the opponent). The creature has infinite stomachs, so multiple characters swallowed by the creature will face their own individual “creature trees.”
If the original creature in the real world is killed, the creature indeed dies, but all of its internal organs vaporize, killing all who were still within it.
The most notable thing about the Deflier’s creature is how funny it is. The mouth that recites Chaucer in Spanish, and the scary barbed tail which is completely useless as anything other than a sexual organ are both pretty funny. Although from a play perspective, they’re unlikely to come up, so they’re mostly intended to amuse the reader / GM, rather than the players. (Though I suppose the GM should mention that one of the mouths is constantly speaking, and if any character speaks Spanish, that could make for a pretty amusing revelation). A pit-bull sized creature swallowing humans whole is also pretty funny, and also serves as a useful misdirection. If the players have encountered any of the other monsters from this module, they’ll know to expect some kind of treachery. But they’re unlikely to expect quite what they get.
Really, this creature is quite easy to defeat. It has good movement speed and could easily escape from the players, but with a morale of 12 that’s unlikely to occur unless the creature’s mistress recalls it. Its AC is on the high end, but is hardly un-hittable, and with a measly hit dice of 3 it won’t survive more than a few solid attacks. The strength of it lies in its ability to divide the players.
On any successful hit, a PC is separated from her fellows. If the creature is in single combat against a mid level fighter, that’s no problem. The fighter’s HP pool, armor class, and ability to hit consistently will make short work of the creature. But if the fighter’s party is nearby, the creature’s 240′ leap ensures that no one can easily escape from it. Less martially oriented characters have much less chance against the lower iterations of the creature, and the encounter against this otherwise simple enemy could quickly turn ugly. Divide et impera.
1 Comment »
Posted by LS on Monday, November 25th, 2013 at 6:45 am
Categories: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Tags: LS Monster Manual