Unsafe Initiatives ⚠️
Unsafe mechanics for ordering when actions happen
I've executed over 100+ TTRPG combat encounters easy.
Roll for initiative, IMHO, is a nice, safe bet. But I like my action, risky, frenetic, and Unsafe.
Here are 5 of my favorite mechanics for resolving when things happen at the table.
1. Sorcerer RPG. Everyone says what they are doing until everyone is happy with their declared action. Dice are rolled and determine the order and the effect. Players have options to abort their declared action for better defense dice or "suck it up." I LOVE IT! Probably my favorite mechanic for ordering actions.
2. GodLike/Wild Talents - Actions get declared. Dice pools are rolled, die matches ( two-of-a-kind, three-of-a-kind, etc.) determine when things happen, and the dice values are for effect. There are some dice trickery mechanics, but this One Roll is read like entrails to settle how and when things happen. Both this and Sorcerer make for a lot of dice rolls if many NPCs are involved -but there are some best practices to manage it.
3. Troika! PC and NPC tokens in a bag, along with an end-of-round token. Pull tokens out and act until the end of the round token appears. Then start again. Wild, right? Love the uncertainty factor, I feel like it encourages decisive actions -you don’t know when or if you’ll go in a round.
4. Cortex’s Elective Action Order. The first person to act says who acts after them. Simple..but there's some nuance. Rookies may choose to let all the PCs act before the enemy NPCs. The lesson is learned when the GM lets those enemies go twice! Nice, easy mechanic -with a little bite to it. GM has options to alter the order using Plot points.
5. And for my OSR games, I prefer an all-sides phased approach like:
It’s brutal, but I’d prefer:
All damage is applied simultaneously at the end of the round. This makes combats tense and more like a tactical puzzle -very unsafe!
Honorable mention is the Apocalypse World - PBTA approach of following the fiction to determine the order. I love it but have seen folks stumble and fall implementing it.
The Twitter link has SEVERAL other great options posted by folks and deserves a review. Notable are:
Dr. Who’s Talkers, Runners, Doers, Fighters method
Feng Shui’s Shot Clock
The One Ring 1e Stances.
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I’ve seen the elective order called Popcorn Initiative and Balsera Initiative in the Fate community. I didn’t realize Cortex used it as well!