Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hitting the limits of continuous initiative

You might recall my continuous initiative (CI) system that I blogged about here and here . If not, here's a quick recap. It's a system designed to simulate how lightly armoured characters with quick weaponry can get more strikes in than a heavily armed and armoured one, in the same space of time.

It has served us well, giving the players interesting tactical choices and allowed them to experiment with some of the lower protective armours (effectively trading defensive for offensive under this system). However, we've hit the limits of it what it can do now.

The system works really well for attacks, but where it falls down is in movement. I would often put fast moving creatures into the gold initiative band, to reflect the fact they could cover lots of ground quickly. This, of course, meant that they attacked frequently too, but this is generally ok as many fast monsters have multiple attacks on their listings anyway to reflect this under the normal D&D rules. So I would simply tweak the number of attacks down when using CI. You can see the start of the problem occurring at this point.

Dwarves and halflings can't move as quickly as humans so we just downed how many hexes they could move per action, in line with their reduced movement rate. This worked fine, but gave us two different ways of handling movement - one in hexes per action and one in the initiative band. Despite this, it worked very well.

If you read the reports from our sessions, you'll see we have quite a few travels across the land and wilderness encounters. Mounts therefore get used to speed up travel. Some mounts could be used in a battle, such as a warhorse, but we don't, because if everyone has a mount then how does it fit into our CI system? If they move a character to the gold band, then he gets additional attacks all of a sudden; and if we put the mounts on the list then we have just doubled up everything we need to track. Also, if mounts are in gold, they are going to be deadlier than the heroes most of the time when they attack. Neither option really works.

I don't want to deny the party the use of mounts in outdoor combats, in fact, I'd rather encourage it. It opens up new options and new tactics for the players. So I've been thinking about ways to allow for this. One idea was to split a round up and have a movement phase, and an attack phase. Mounts and characters would move in the first phase, while fighting would occur in the second. While discussing this briefly with my brother he mentioned that two attack phases might be good, to simulate how you can swing a sword quicker than using a bow.

I've been playing around with how all that might work but now I'm thinking about something completely different. I did enjoy dicing for who goes first ala Labyrinth Lord's default initiative rules. So I'm also considering folding the whole thing up into that because its simple and fast.


DemonIllusionist said...

Why don't you just add to how many hexes someone can move when they're on a horse? They can't attack any faster, but they can move further.

The Recursion King said...

The problem occurs when someone is low down on the initiative chart and on horseback. Adding, say 3 hexes, sounds like a good quick fix until you realise, someone not on horseback but on the fastest initiative band could outrun the horse, because the higher initiative band occurs more often in CI.

Golgotha Kinslayer said...

Have you tried making all movement occur during one phase? You don't need multiple tracks that way, and quicker initiative doesn't increase land speed. This puts everyone on a level playing field for movement, but keeps the pacing of attacks from Continuous Initiative.

You could try making all movement occur at the end of each Steel phase, in the order of attacks. This gives a slight edge at the start of battle to quick combatants who throw a dagger or two, then rush in for melee. Or, they could swallow a potion, cast buffing magic, or something else in preparation. The very slowest combatants have to move (if they are going to do so at all) before they get any preparatory actions or attacks.

Or, you could just do what the Midian DFRPG does. Break up movement into any number of actions, as long as you don't exceed your maximum distance within a cycle. One way to do this with Continuous Initiative is to say that your movement 'pool' refreshes at the start of every Steel phase.

The Recursion King said...

Ooh that's an interesting idea (putting movement in a lower phase) I quite like that!

Our lowest band is copper though, but this suggestion has got some real merit. It could perhaps be ordered from the fastest move rate to the slowest in that phase too, or use dexterity, or be diced for, or whatever. I like it!