I have been experimenting with different rules for initiative over the past six months to move away from the role once everyone acts setup. I wanted something that was faster and more engaging. I initially used speed-factor initiative. This worked well but though it was faster it added too much ambguity to the combat system that people were constantly just working on their gut which ended up making for less interesting combat. I also didnt like the fact that characters with high-dex AND fast weapons always ALWAYS went first. Spellcasters were always ALWAYS last.
I decided to experiment with a card based system and it worked well. Everyone liked it. One of the two players who took Alert said they felt two cards wasn’t enough trade-off for taking a feat BUT she said she likes this system much better. My quick take-away:
- I didn’t have to remind the players to take their turn. They were eager to flip the cards. So it removed the whole “initiative warden” from the mix.
- Initiative is totally outsourced to the characters. They tell me when it’s my go. This reduces me, as the DM, being a bottleneck. I also am happy to outsource things to the players wherever I can (to a point of course)
- It allows initiative being rolled every turn without slowing the game down or adding layers of tracking mechanisms. The cards themselves do all this in one go.
- It adds ambiguity to the combat/tactical situation but still allows tactical co-operation. But prevents the “planning for the perfect move” every turn (speed factor init does this as well).
- The combats were so fast I ended up using 1 card per monster by the end of the night just to make the deck a bit thicker. This does add time but not enough that you lose the time you have already gained from the above listed benefits. I’ll play this one by ear. Will use 1 card per creature if I think that would work better.
- I used cards from Faerun Dice Masters for the monsters and characters. These work well – nice rounded cards meant to be shuffled with relevant imagery.
- I used 1 card per character unless they had the Alert feat. In this case they got 2 cards.
- I used 1 card per monster. This isn’t mandatory of course, 1 card per group works well too.
- Shuffled every combat round and drew a card.
- If your card came up you it was your turn. Characters with multiple cards just had a bigger chance of going first.