I is for Initiative
From the Dictionary of Fearless Gaming.
“It’s a fire elemental, the salamander kind” the wizard reported back to the adventurers. The players then began a discussion about how best to assault, negotiate, or plea with this creature. No consensus, plenty of rationalizing…
“Roll for initiative” the GM proclaimed after a time.
“I’m not sure we’re looking to attack it yet” the paladin player cried, all the while the sorcerer was running through his readied spells.
“It’s fine. Things are tense, undecided, we’ll play to find out —in initiative order.”
This mostly happened this way, dramatized for a blog. I saw D&D 5E’s initiative mechanics as a way of sequencing everyone’s actions when the players weren’t unified on a course of action and that action was seconds around the corner. Turns and order of actions then mechanized everyone’s intent, in an orderly fashion by rules we are all playing. This encounter became a parley, the highest initiative belonged to a player character that wanted to talk first. If the sorcerer had gone first, it surely would have been a fight. Neither approach is wrong in my games, just different risks, different stories.
In one of my early Twilight 2000 games, three player-characters were scavenging an abandoned farm where a goat and horse were left behind. Soon a jeep full of armed folks pulled up and the player characters quickly hid. They, as players, decided a 3 vs 6 fight wasn’t good…I ran the initiative mechanics anyway, to keep the feels tense, and hoping something shook loose. Fictionally I had planned to play up the drama of the armed folks walking off with the goat, the horse and anything else they found right in plain view of the characters! Two of the three PCs fell back and took cover and hid. But that third PC with a rifle and sniper training had enough “We need that protein” he said to the other two players and had his character take a shot at the armed intruders! Fantastic!
I lean into initiative mechanics when they are present for sequencing actions, especially non-combat actions. I will invoke them when the fictional situation looks messy, or chaotic - I can disclaim responsibility and let the rules do the work. We play the game to find out what happens. And something always does!
P.S. Live right now on Kickstarter is Lifted Vol1. My people with powers RPG primed by Cortex. It’s my love letter to 90s X-Men, StormWatch, The Authority and WildC.A.Ts comics —We’re about half-funded. This is the first product out there right now using the commercial Cortex Prime License and I’m planning to set the bar. Check it out, pledge if you can, share and share and share! I appreciate it! 💪🏾.