• Justin Handlin

New Dungeons and Dragons 5e Initiative Variant!

I'm gonna be honest. Of the three pillars of play in Dungeons and Dragons, combat has the most obvious transition. When a character turns a corner in a dungeon and begins speaking with an NPC or monster the transition is seamless. This is never the case with combat. When an enemy is encountered and the players are told to roll the initiative, they are often left with the impression that sticking the sharp end of the weapon into the bad guy is the only path forward. To me, it's akin to the JRPG games like Final Fantasy with the fuzzing and breaking of the screen when combat starts. This break is very clear between exploration and roleplay.

Over the years I've experimented with a number of different game mechanics with initiative. Certainly some work way better than others. I've used this to change my approach to the initiative in my Dungeons and Dragons games.

At the beginning of every game and at the end of every combat, I roll initiative by making a Dexterity check. Initiative determines the order of creatures' turns in combat. This varies from the traditional format that is usually at the start of combat. In my games, and now a rule in Capes and Crooks, we wanted to make the transition between social and combat situations to be seamless. Since the roll is placed before combat even takes place, there is a seamless transition. When a character takes an action that instigates combat for the first round they are at the top of the initiative, as their action leads to combat. Every following round they are in their normally rolled initiative position. Now when the opportunity for combat comes up, the Game Master looks at the first person in the initiative and asks, "What do you do?". This removes the "Roll for Initiative, this is combat now." sense of things. Instead leaving the action open to the player and allowing a simple but wider view of the situation.

Additionally, this is a powerful tool for the Game Master to use as a way to jump between characters during non-combat encounters. Ensuring that everyone gets a bit of the spotlight.

What do you think? Do you use the traditional D&D5e Initiative? Have you homebrewed your own? Or do you incorporate the rules from another game?

Keep your blades sharp and spells prepared heroes!

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