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Updated: 3 hours 12 min ago

Rethinking Initiative

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 01:04

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. Roll for initiative.”

Another player looks up from his phone… “Wait, what??”

A twitter conversation caught my eye the other day:

@skinnyghost I hate it and wanted to pull it from D&D. Such a drag. A dragon swoops in and… Let's do a bunch of bookkeeping.

— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) January 26, 2015

“A disruptive smash cut”, to use an film editing term, is a great way to describe the effect of calling for initiative. Usually, in my home game, the call for initiative wakes up one or two players from their cell phone induced trance. That’s a topic for another day, sure, but it ties into this. The initiative roll tells my players that story time is over, now we get into a fight. It’s attention grabbing, it makes people pick up their dice, it’s part of D&D, it’s a call to action. But I think i might get rid of it entirely. Precisely for those very same reasons. I want flow, I want focus, and I want smooth transitions, not smash cuts.

Here’s a thing… I thought about writing this article without having read the section on initiative variants in the DMG (which I picked up to read 5 minutes before writing this post at 1 AM).

I threw this on twitter today:

Wonder if dex score alone, favoring PCs, are a good enough way to determine init and getting rid if roll altogether….

— NewbieDM (@newbiedm) January 27, 2015

And I got a ton of responses. How would that play? Here’s what I’m hoping to get. I’ll use the same example from the top there…

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. They are walking towards you, their claws pointed in your direction. They are coming closer, 15 feet, 10 feet, if you’re going to act, now would be a good time.”

“I’m rushing towards them, and slashing the leader with my sword. 15″

“Good, the sword strikes its side, the creature coils in pain, it’s going to attack you. The other two are going to move toward Larry…”

Not the most evocative description, fine, but you get the idea. Everything just kind of flowed. Page 270 of the 5e DMG has a section on initiative variants, and one calls for Passive Dexterity as the way to determine initiative order (10 + Dex Modifier). I was thinking more of Dexterity score as the way to determine initiative order, with ties with NPCs going to the PC’s, and allowing the PCs to determine who acts when in case of ties amongst themselves.

So if Jack, Jill and Larry are fighting a trio of Orcs (12 Dexterity). Their dexterities are Jack 16, Larry 15, Orcs 12, Jill 10, I can already have an order of how things should progress during the encounter, and I’ll give Jack a verbal cue that he can act first.

And how about adding the alternate plot point mechanic found in page 269 of the DMG to this? So Jack goes, but the DM wants to have his orcs jump ahead of Larry for tactical reasons… he rewards Larry with a plot point in exchange for taking over his initiative slot. Now Larry can alter the game a bit on his turn, maybe finding a weak spot on the orcs, or a vial of poison in his belt pouch…

I know for many of you I’m probably trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, but that smash cut analogy really resonated with me. Marvel Heroic and Dungeon World both have non-traditional initiative systems, with the former having a great system where players themselves pick who goes next. Read about it here.

I’m still formulating my thoughts about this, and perhaps this post isn’t very clear, but I think I want to move in this direction. Maybe just taking Marvel’s approach completely, (although it may may things wonky) or simply going with the one I describe above.

How about you guys? Anyone using alternate initiative systems in their 5e games? What? Is it working well? Let me know in the comments… and check out Ameron’s article about it over at Dungeon’s Master too. He was one of the people I was talking with this about on twitter…


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 14

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:48
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-14.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this, the final episode of the original run of  the Minicast, released in February of 2011, I was joined by Dave “The Game” Chalker, Editor-in-Chief of the Critical Hits website. Together we attempted to help a DM with a question about a problem player at the table. You can reach the minicast via voicemail at 305-349-3026, or by email at newbiedm@newbiedm.com


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 13

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:45
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-13.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this episode of the minicast, I was joined by Tracy, author of the SarahDarkmagic.com blog, and together we answered a question regarding whether a new DM is better served by using published materials versus homebrew material. This episode was released on December 2010. You can reach the minicast via voicemail at 305-349-3026, or by email at newbiedm@newbiedm.com


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 12

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:39
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-12.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this episode of the Minicast,  I was joined by Mark Meredith,  writer of the Dice Monkey blog. Together we offered advice to a DM whose players are rolling a lot worse than he was at the table.

This episode was released on October 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026 or emailing a recorded question to newbiedm@newbiedm.com


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 11

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:36
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-11.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this episode of the Minicast, I was joined by Jeff Greiner, host of The Tome Show, a long running D&D podcast. Togethered we offer advice to a video game player looking to get his friends off the TV, and unto the D&D table.

This episode was released on June 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026 or sending a recorded question to newbiedm@newbiedm.com


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 10

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:31
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-10.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this, the 10th episode of the NewbieDM.com Minicast, I was joined by Quinn Murphy.  Together, we attempted to help out a DM who had a problem with over aggressive PC’s in his game. You can call into the NewbieDM.com Minicast at 305-349-3026 and email the show at newbiedm@newbiedm.com.


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 9

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:29
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-9.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this ninth episode of the minicast, I was joined by Mike Shea of the Sly Flourish blog.  Together we attempted to answer a listener’s question about monsters and how they would respond to a PC’s mark. You can reach the minicast via voicemail at 305-349-3026, or by email at newbiedm@newbiedm.com


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 8

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 22:27
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-8.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This episode featured Dustin Snyder walking us through 4e’s organized play website for DM rewards, etc. This material is probably obsolete and outdated.

I am making the episode available for posterity. I will devote a 5e episode exclusively to 5e organized play.

 


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 7

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 06:56
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-7.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

In this episode I was joined by game designer and Editor-In-Chief of Critical Hits, Dave “The Game” Chalker, and a listener called in asking how to encourage players to learn the rules of the game.

This episode was released on May 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 6

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 00:13
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-6.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

Mike Shea from the Sly Flourish blog joined me in the minicast, and we tried to answer a listener’s voicemail about interesting houserules that can enhance the game.  Both of us provided a couple of houserules, with Mike providing one of the neatest uses for music yet at a D&D table.

This episode was released on May 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 5

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 23:53
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-5.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This was the fifth episode of the original run of the Minicast, where I was joined by Chris Sims, a D&D game designer for Wizards of the Coast.  Together, we attempted to help a listener who asked about how to best incorporate published adventures into his campaign world, along with how to bring in pre-published npc’s and location names.

This episode was released on April 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 4

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 23:06
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-4.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This was the fourth episode of the original run of the Minicast, where I was joined by Quinn Murphy from Thoughtcrime Games, with advice for a listener on how to scale up encounters for more than 5 players.

This episode was released on March 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 3

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 22:39
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-3.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This was the third episode of the original run of the Minicast, where I was joined by Mike Shea from the SlyFlourish blog, and together we try to help a DM with a question about what to do when an over equipped NPC unexpectedly dies, the PC’s grab his magical items, and a treasure parcel becomes somewhat unbalanced.

This episode was released on March 2010. You can participate in the minicast by calling 305-349-3026


Update on the minicast’s return, and old episodes available again

Sat, 11/08/2014 - 14:46

I’ve been swamped lately with work and a lot of other stuff which has cut into my free time, but progress on the return of the ENnie nominated NewbieDM.com Minicast is moving along.  I was looking for (and found) a way to host it on the cheap, and through a wordpress.com/feedburner combo, I’m doing just that… I spent $20 for extra storage and that was it.

So the feed is ready to go, now I really just need to generate content….

Having said that… I am making all the older minicast episodes available again, via the same feed which will house the new episodes once they start rolling out. My plan is to make all 14 older episodes available, and launch the 5e version of the podcast with Episode 15. Here’s the feed, put it in Itunes, or your favorite podcast delivery app… http://feeds.feedburner.com/Newbiedmminicast

And speaking of itunes, I’ve already submitted the podcast to the itunes store, so I should be hearing back from them soon.

newbiedmpodcast

Please, if you want to participate in the minicast, the number to call is 305-349-3026. It’s a voicemail line where you can leave your 5e DMing questions and I’l feature them on the show. There’s no show without the community’s participation. :)

So again, subscribe to this feed enjoy all the older episodes which centered on 4e, and be on the lookout for the new 5e episodes coming soon..

http://feeds.feedburner.com/Newbiedmminicast

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 2

Sat, 11/08/2014 - 14:12
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-2.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This was the second episode of the original run of the Minicast, where I was joined by Wolfgang Baur, of Kobold Press, who helped answer a voice-mail from a listener asking for tips on how to encourage role-playing from players. Wolfgang wrote the 5e adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

This was originally released on March 2010.


NewbieDM Minicast Episode 1

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 23:52
https://newbiedm.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/newbiedm-com-minicast-ep-1.mp3

As I prepare to relaunch the NewbieDM Minicast, this time focused on 5e, I am making the 14 original 4e episodes available as originally produced.

This is the first episode of the original run of the Minicast, where I was joined by my friend Phil, the Chatty DM to discuss a DM’s question about the use of perception. This was originally released on March 2010.