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4/27/2019 8:58 pm  #1


Rally Intiative: A Hybrid of Individual Initiative and Side-Based

I have a large group (seven players) in my Honor + Intrigue campaign. One thing I like in Honor + Intrigue (and BoL, old school D&D) is rolling initiative each round-- it adds an element of unpredictability to combat-- but with so many players, having each person roll and doing a countdown each round was starting to take too long. 

Side-Based initiative (each side rolls a die and the winning side goes first) is *fast* but the problem is that it takes away the individualism from the players-- especially because in Honor + Intrigue, Initiative is 1d6+Savvy (in Everywhen 1d6+Initiative)-- and some fighting styles and Boons give a bonus to Initiative, while some things give penalties. This is also why I wouldn't employ the method used by Savage Worlds (it is a great method dealing everyone playing cards that are out on the table for all to see, but this is not as granular as I would like). 

Cyclical initiative (like in D&D 3, 4, and 5e) is slow in the first round, but easy to manage after that-- but a bit too predictable for me, and going first doesn't matter much after Round 1. 

So here is what I call "Rally Initiative" that I ended up using to great success last night: 

The PCs roll 1d6+Savvy as normal. Named villains also get an individual initiative roll (there won't even be one in most scenes). I then roll 1d10 for the other side (adding no bonuses). You can also let Pawns act on their own assigned initiative (Level 3 pawns go on 3, Level 2 pawns go on 2, etc. ) or fold them into the 1d10, up to you. Ties are resolved the way they usually are in Honor + Intrigue (wich whoever has the most ranks in the most relevant career to the scenario win ties, so sailors win ties on the deck of a ship, soldiers win ties in pitched battles out in the open, etc.). 
The result is sometimes it ends up like Side-Based initiative. When the d10 rolls a 1, the players almost entirely go first (I do have one guy weighed down with heavy armor with a tendency to get a "0" on his roll). When Evil rolls "10" it is all but certain they are going first (I don't have any PCs with a +4 Initiative modifier). But most of the time, there is a bit of back-and-forth. 

Say evil rolled a 5. I call out "Did anybody get better than a 6"? Three players raised their hands. I then have all of them go, **not caring what order they go in**. So the person who rolled 8. and the person who rolled 6 can go in any order. Sometimes I did this in "logical" order (who is closest to the door the party is moving towards), other times I went around the table, switching directions each round to make it "fair"). But if the players who "won" initiative wanted to coordinate their actions, that would be fine too. Then on 5, I ask "does anybody have a 5 and ranks in Explorer/Criminal? No, okay then" and I proceed to take the turn for all the bad guys. Then all the PCs who are left go (we called this "cleanup"). 

It seemed like the best of both worlds-- individual and side-based initiative. Each round, you always have the potential to go first or last, without needing to fuss about who goes on 8 vs. who goes on 7. 

I also ran this with 2 major villains and a troop of baddies in tow, and it still worked out great-- and with one Villain going at the top of the round, most of the PCs going next, followed by the second Villain and remaining baddies, followed by the last player. So there was always some dramatic back-and-forth to it. 

One potential hiccup is the way "Dodge" works in Honor + Intrigue is it gives you a bonus to your Defense for an entire initiative phase-- which would be much more powerful if every single enemy had the same initiative number. So I just made it so Dodge applied to the first 2 attacks of the phase. Gunshots I still let be avoided by a single Fortune Point because it is very in-genre for a swashbuckling hero with a sword not get shot by a gun. 

So what do you think? Do any of you have your own special tricks you use for initiative in your own games?

 

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