So, this is just a musing I’ve had for an alternative initiative system. This system would probably work best using OD&D or Swords & Wizardry:
Roll 1d6 for initiative, without DEX modifiers. Players roll separately for their characters; the GM rolls for monsters/NPCs in groups.
High result goes first. Ties default to the PCs; ties amongst the PCs are resolved as desired between players. Note that a character’s actions are never resolved simultaneously with another character’s actions.
The result of the initiative roll is also the number of Action Points a character has to spend for the round. Action Points must be spent the round they’re generated; they cannot be carried over to the next combat round. Also, a character must use all their AP when it is their turn to act in the initiative sequence; they cannot, for example, spend an AP, wait for another PC to spend an AP, and then spend another AP.
Under certain circumstances, the GM may apply a -1 penalty to the initiative roll, typically when a group is caught unawares (such as the first round of an ambush, though could also be applied to characters who are stunned or dazed). If this results in an initiative score of 0, the character is too surprised or dazed to act that round. This is the only modifier that should ever be applied to an initiative roll.
Every action costs 1 Action Point:
- Move – Fast characters move 10′ (2 spaces), slow characters (heavily armored) move 5′ (1 space) per move action
- Attack – A quick, unmodified attack; character does not apply their Attack or Ability bonuses to the roll (though penalties may still apply); I’m inclined to not place a limit on attack actions each round
- Aim – Each sequential Aim action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to one attack roll; aim bonus is lost if the character takes another action before taking an attack action; not yet decided if there should be an aim bonus cap or not
- Defense – Each sequential Defense action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to AC until you act again on the following combat round
- Draw – Draw a weapon or item from inventory
- Use – Using a device or item drawn from inventory; pushing a button, pulling a level, quaffing a potion
- Cast – Casting a spell requires a number of sequential casting actions equal to the spell’s level (i.e. Magic Missile only requires 1 casting action; Fireball requires 3 casting actions)
- Hold – Hold an action until a specified trigger event occurs; holding effectively ends a character’s actions for the round
The idea is that most actions should only require 1 AP, so as to avoid creating a long laundry list of actions and associated AP costs. Also, avoid adding lots of initiative modifiers, to keep the numbers of AP per round manageable.
So, this system provides greater granularity, and allows players to do some interesting things. For example, they could opt to make several swift, unmodified attacks, or opt to aim for a few seconds and make one well-timed attack. They can also opt to go full defensive for a round, granting a nice bonus to their AC until the next time they act.
I haven’t quite figured out how to handle a few details yet. For example, is attacking with a bow 1 attack action, or would drawing an arrow to fire the bow again also count as an action? In which case, how long should it take to reload a crossbow in this system?
Also, how do each class’ inherent Attack Bonus tie in? Maybe change Attack Bonus to an Aim Bonus: All classes start with a +1 Aim Bonus for each aim action, but maybe as Fighter’s progress their Aim Bonus improves to +2, then +3, and so on?
Finally, this system roughly doubles the average number of actions monsters can take each round. Even the lowliest goblin could potentially get 6 basic, unmodified attack rolls per combat round; that would be absolutely devastating to a poorly defended low-level character (such as a magic-user). A couple of options: the GM can cheese things a bit and just assume monsters use the bulk of their AP on aim or defense actions; alternatively, the GM can halve the number of monsters encountered to account for each monster taking, on average, twice as many actions.
Thoughts, ideas and suggestions are appreciated. Cheers.