Friday, November 9, 2012

Ready Ref Diceless Initiative

Flipping through the Ready Ref Sheets recently, I noticed a really interesting initiative system.

Basically, different factors have assigned numbers, which you add together to determine what you could call an "initiative score," I suppose (the Ready Ref Sheets don't use that, or any, term). The higher your score, the earlier you go in the round.

In the Ready Ref sheets, they present the actual weapons used as the number and then everything else as a modifier, but I'm going to present them in reverse order, since it makes more sense to me to start with the factors that change the least, rather than the factors that change the most.

First off, the character's Dexterity score translates into an initiative number (identical to attribute modifiers in OD&D or some version of Basic, I think):

3-4: -2
5-8: -1
9-12: –
13-16: +1
17-18: +2

Secondly, armor and encumbrance factor in:

(Blank, so either no armor, or just not available to PCs): +3
Light Armor: +2
Heavy Armor: +1
Plate Armor: –
Encumbered: -1

Monsters also get numbers based on their speed:

18" and up: +3
12-17": +2
9-11": +1
4-8": –
3" & less: -1

Finally, the following weapons and attacks are associated with these numbers:

1: Read Scroll
2: Spell of 7-9th level
3: Short Weapon (Dagger, Hand Axe, Mace)
4: Medium Weapon (Sword, Hammer, Battle Axe) or touching
5: Long Weapon (Morning Star, Flail, Spear, Pole Arm, Halberd, Two-Handed Sword)
6: Very Long Weapon (Mounted Lance)
7: Spell of 4-6th level
8: Extreme Weapon (Pike)
9: Missile Fire
10: Spell of 1-3rd level
11: Breath Weapon
12: Glance

Numbers from all three (or two, in the case of monsters) factors should be added up and compared to the numbers of all the other characters involved in the combat; highest score goes first and ties are broken with "actual dexterity ratings."

It's a simple, elegant system, and one I may consider switching to. It's short enough that it could probably fit on a 2-page character sheet without crowding other records too much. Has anyone ever used this system before? Would you ever consider switching to it?


  1. I don't think it's simple or elegant, but it can be complete. In the case of initiative maybe those are the tradeoffs.

    I like d6 per side, high roll goes first, reroll ties.

    I also like the above modified by extreme DEX, because I can keep a short list of PC summaries and a little note of "+1" or "-1" or whatever next to Init. If the PCs roll 2 and I roll 6, I know none of the PCs has a +4 bonus to Init, so I know I go first. If it's PCs 3 and me 4, I give init to the PCs with +2 or more, reroll between me and any with +1, and then the PCs with +0 or less go last.

    It's harder with weapon speed. 1E D&D says weapon speed matters only to break ties, which is nice. Weapon length matters when closing into melee for the first time. So it matters but it's not vital.

    In general I hate individual initiative because I hate the Initiative Countdown or Initiative Polling every round. It's so bad that as a DM I could just let the PCs go first every round rather than deal with it. Such garbage. Effectively, 3E initiative does this by cycling through so most of the time your initiative doesn't matter.

  2. I was thinking about this system a few days ago. Toying with trying it out.

  3. I used a slightly simplified version of the Ready Ref Sheets in my OD&D game for a year or more. It works pretty well. Zak recently convinced me to go back to the Vegas-style thrill of d6 group initiative, though.