Steamroller Initiative

Here’s an initiative system I came up with a while back. It basically just breaks away from one action per round and instead counts up segments.

Everything has a Delay, which works like 2E weapon speed. Roll d6, add Delay, that’s the segment you take. After you go, roll d6, add Delay, add to the current segment, that’s when you go.

Example: Dagger has Delay 2. You roll d6, result 4. So 4+2=6 until you next action. You stab on segment 6. On 6 you roll again, and this time you want to just Move (2 Delay). So you roll d6, get 3. 3+2=5, so in 5 segments you can Move (on 11, which is actually 1 of next round).

You can move and act in a segment, but you use the worst Delay. If you want to run away quickly, you’re better off just doing a Move (2 Delay) instead of attack with Longsword (5) and Move (2) because you’ll end up slowed down by your weapon and using Delay 5.

The delays are simple to find: they’re the weapon speed of the weapon or the casting time of the spell according to 2E D&D. Other things have specific delays which match up with the initiative penalty found in 2E D&D (3 segments to activate a wand, so wands have Delay 3). Wearing Semi-Bulky armor gives you +2, Bulky +4. DEX gives the usual modifier. Fighting underwater gives +6, while hip-deep water gives +4, etc.

So on your character sheet you should have a list of weapons, right? Next to each weapon you have your bonus to hit and damage, and the damage roll, right? Next to that write in the weapon speed. Magic weapons take -1 off the speed per plus. Then if you have armor on add the modifier to all your weapons. Now you’re set!

If you have spells, write in the spell’s casting time next to the spell in your list of memorized spells, or maybe the ones in your spellbook. Or, just say M-U spells have a casting time of 1 segment per spell level and Cleric spells are 2 or 3 segments per spell level.

There are a couple important rules regarding modifiers. First, we have two moving parts in this system on your character: the “waiting roll” which is the d6, and the “delay”. Modifiers on a weapon can reduce its delay. Maybe you can find magic gloves that reduce the delay for your spells. Magic armor reduces its weight category to the next place down, so magic Plate (Bulky type) is equivalent in delay to nonmagical Mail (Semi-Bulky). Anyway, your specific items apply to specific delays. Boots of Speed would give you faster Move but would not affect your attacks.

Second, a general speed enhancement like Haste or DEX applies to your ROLL, not all your other delays. This makes Haste very powerful, so I like to give it only a -1 bonus. Remember too we’re dealing with a d6 roll here so a -2 to the init roll would be really powerful.

Finally, the roll can be no lower than 1 and the delay can be no lower than 1. Which means at absolute maximum you can do five things per 10 segment round.

This initiative system is pretty swanky for a bunch of reasons. Some of my favorites are that it takes care of armor encumbrance, running (which is really just making Moves instead of doing other stuff), and includes all the stuff this guy cares about from the Ready Ref document.

Mainly I like that it makes light weapons and lightly-armored characters viable.

What I don’t like about it, and why I don’t use it anymore, is that it’s just really complicated. You can just roll d6 per side, high roll wins, reroll ties. And as for balancing light weapons against heavy ones, just make everything do d6 damage and call it a day. Heavy armor gives 9″ or 6″ movement instead of 12″ unarmored. It’s just not necessary for me. Also it requires the Initiative Countdown, which is where the DM counts out the initiative segments and people jump in when their number comes up.

But it’s fun and hectic and everything is happening all the time and it reaches out into the rest of the game and grabs onto fun pieces like spells and magic items and makes you use them. So maybe someone else will use it or maybe I will again someday.

EDIT:
I downloaded the free Hackmaster thing and it turns out they’ve been doing something similar for a while. Not exactly the same but close enough for horseshoes.

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