Sunday, September 4, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 10: Initiative and Action Systems

A shirt from Penny Arcade
There is this mantra that seems to exist in the RPG community. It is "Move Minor Standard" meaning that on your turn you get a move action, a minor action and a standard action. I've always had a problem with that system, particularly that your move and standard actions can't be mixed. In D&D, you can use your standard action as a move action but you can't substitute a move action for a standard action.

My plan:
My plan for my game (which needs a proper name) is to have two standard actions and a minor action on a turn. A standard action can be either a move or another action. This means that you can take two attacks on a turn, an attack and a move, or two moves. Because of this choice, I don't plan on having a D&D style attack system where you get multiple attacks on a turn as you level up. An attack is 1 attack if you have one weapon, and 2 attacks if you dual wield (but weaker of course).

A problem with this system is that moving feels like a penalty, because in moving you give up an action. And movement doesn't kill monsters. So how do you ameliorate this? I approached this from a class specific viewpoint.

Fixing the problems with this system:
For the warrior, they get the charge ability. If they move at least 10 feet (2 squares) and it is in a straight line, then if their next action is an attack, it is more likely to succeed and will do more damage when it does succeed. For the rogue, there are two different situations. For a dagger rogue (which is a dual wield type), once during any move, if they more past an opponent, they get a single free attack (only one weapon) on that opponent. For a bow-wielding rogue, they can take a running shot, which is a less accurate attack that can be done while moving. I haven't decided what my opinion is on attacks of opportunity yet, I may not have them. For the casters, some of their spell will be cantrips, more simple/less effective/more minor spells that can be cast while they are moving. This opens up the possibility for some of the spell upgrades that can be invested in to change a spell to a cantrip.

As a side note, for casters, some spell will take the full turn, most will take just one action, and some will be cantrips. Cantrips can also be done as a standard action, they don't have to be done while moving.

Another shirt form Penny Arcade
Tying into this is the initiative system. In all the systems that I've seen, initiative breaks down into turn order. What I want is for everybody to have a speed which determines how often they get to have a turn. Essentially, each person has a number for their combat speed.

At the beginning of combat, everybody rolls for an initial initiative. The person with the highest initiative goes first. After each person takes their turn, their initiative is set to zero and everybody adds their speed to their initiative and the highest person is chosen to go again. In the event of a tie for who is highest, both people go in a random order and then only after both have gone are their initiatives set to zero and the speed are added.

How do these tie in together?
In my system, there may be times where you choose not to take one of your actions or you may not use either of your actions. Choosing to not take an action should make your next turn come faster. If you only use one of your actions, your speed in increased by 50% until your next turn, meaning that is should come in about 66% as much time as normal. If you choose to forego both of your actions, your speed in increased by 100% so your next turn only takes 50% as long to happen.

All of this comes from my own dissatisfaction with how standard RPGs function and ways that I think they could improve. One flaw with this initiative system is that it's complicated, there are lots of numbers to keep track of. Perhaps and iPhone/Android app or computer program is in order to help keep track of this. Or DMs can have their players keep track of their own initiative and the DM keeps track of the monsters.

What needs to be decided:

  1. How is initiative speed determined? I kinda want rogues to be slightly faster than other players
  2. How is initial initiative determined?