Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

Initiative: Static or Dynamic?


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I favor initiative right out of the RAW: Static until a new combatant enters the fray or the combat situation changes drastically.

I even bought the dry erase board (shown here: http://www.readyandwaiting.biz/products.htm) by Ready and Waiting, put out in a package with little magnetic tags for players and their ongoing effects. This is, by my own admission, also due to the fact that as a DM, my least developed skill is keeping track of initiative.

However, more DM's than I care to recount, in my experience, love dynamic initiative. It is said that randomness favors the players, so I am curious why DM's seem to prefer it so.

I would like to hear some thoughts on initiative and perhaps some anecdotes on how it is handled in your group. Are there other static-heads out there? Are there creative ways to meld the two? I would like to hear both sides. Thanks in Advance.

"When it comes to dealing with the law of averages, it's best to be an habitual offender"- Walter Slovotsky


I much prefer static initiatives, simply because it makes long battles much easier to handle. Also, the fact of the matter is that more randomness is bad for the PCs. For every roll a PC makes, the DM probably makes 3 or more, which means that random effects become far more likely to impact the PCs unfavorably rather than benefitting them. Dynamic initiative works well for some systems, like L5R and WW, but for D20 there is so much to keep track of that it's just much simpler to keep it static.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Personally, Zero, I am one of the DMs who favors dynamic initiative. The reason for this is that several of my players tend to go for feats like Improved Initiative to help them take tactical control of a battlefield first (tactics are very, VERY important in my games). If you use static initiative, then the elf ranger with a +10 initiative total will occassionally roll a 1 or 2 and get COMPLETELY screwed by a pack of orcs who happened to roll 12 or better. It gives him no chance to win back the flow of the battle and he spends the entire fight on the defensive, not something he wants to do.

With dynamic initiative, it allows the characters with high initiatives to routinely command the battlefield. From a DMing perspective, it also allows your BBEG to occassionally roll a nat 20 for initiative and completely surprise the party in the middle of combat before they can react (often teleporting away or some other plot-twisting getaway type thing).

As far as melding the two, I sometimes incorporate static initiative if the monsters all have abyssmally low initiatives compared to the PCs (zombies, for example). In these instances, I usually forego rolling initiative altogether as I find it highly unlikely (even impossible) for a zombie to 'get the jump' on anyone unless it is attacking from a hidden location (in which case, it is a surprise round and there is no initiative anyway). I will also sometimes use static initiative in battles of little consequence (random encounters, monsters that are intended merely to harrass the PCs and are not a true threat, etc.).

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

ZeroCharisma wrote:


However, more DM's than I care to recount, in my experience, love dynamic initiative. It is said that randomness favors the players, so I am curious why DM's seem to prefer it so.

Randomness harms the players, it doesn't favor them. The players are exposed to a far greater number of dice rolls than the average monster. The more random those outcomes, the more likely the players will be on the receiving end of such outcome. Suppose that on a natural 20, you instantly kill a creature. The players are going to blow a lot of those natural 20's on goblins, creatures that are close to death, or creatures immune to death effects. Monsters on the other hand, will hit those natural 20's on the players 90% of the time. Clearly, randomness favors the monsters, not the players.

I find dynamic initiative to be a huge pain in the butt for very little payoff. Plus it kills a lot of the coordination and team work that static initiative create. With static initiative, players are forced to make interesting tactical decisions - do I hit the monster and hope to kill it, or do I wait to receive the buff from the wizard and take the monster's attack?

ZeroCharisma wrote:


"When it comes to dealing with the law of averages, it's best to be an habitual offender"- Walter Slovotsky

Hakim the thief? Can't remember the series of books that is from...


I prefer static initiative for the simple reason that it reduces the number of die rolls and speeds up combat. Combat is the heart of the game, but when it drags it's a drag, so in my mind keeping combat simple and orderly and reducing the amount of time people spend finding and rolling the right dice is one of the easiest and best ways to keep the game from getting dull.

Dynamic initiative does allow for some interesting things to happen, but aside from the extra time, but creates many headaches. It makes many of the multiple round effects a pain to track, or at least makes it so you can't tell how much use you're going to get out of a particular spell. And sometimes it can completely screw the players. You get dropped to -9 and your initiative is last this round. Next round you roll inish and you beat the party cleric. Whoops, roll to stabilize or die, cause there's no chance the cleric can heal you. Finally, it gives you no effective penalty for readying an action or delaying.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

I favor static reasons for pretty much the same reasons as Sebastian. I know as a player I would dislike dynamic initiative, especially if I built my character to be a tactician. Dynamic initiative makes Improved Initiative less useful of a feat - rolling every round will get you more than a few low rolls, especially if your dice are being mean to you. Dynamic initiative may be more "realistic," but in this case I favor fun over frustration.

TK


I favor Static Initiative just for the fact that it's one more roll you don't have to do for the rest of the fight. The battles are long enough as they are.

Ultradan

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:


ZeroCharisma wrote:


"When it comes to dealing with the law of averages, it's best to be an habitual offender"- Walter Slovotsky
Hakim the thief? Can't remember the series of books that is from...

Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, which is brilliant. His other stuff is very good, too. (Note that Joel Rosenberg and Joel C. Rosenberg are very different authors. It's the one without the middle initial on the cover that is the fantasy/sf writer.)

Andoran

Is static you roll at the beginning of the combat
vs.
dynamic you roll at the beginning of each round?

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Doug Sundseth wrote:


Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, which is brilliant. His other stuff is very good, too. (Note that Joel Rosenberg and Joel C. Rosenberg are very different authors. It's the one without the middle initial on the cover that is the fantasy/sf writer.)

Thanks Doug. I read those books in a compilation. Something along the lines of Guardians of the Flame: the Warriors. They were the second to last step in the chain that lead from my interest in fantasy books to actually gaming.

How many books were in the series? It seems like I only read 5, but that the series wasn't complete at that point...

Edit: HH - Yes.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Heathansson wrote:

Is static you roll at the beginning of the combat

vs.
dynamic you roll at the beginning of each round?

Yes.

I find it interesting that I seem to be the only fan of dynamic initiative thus far. I expected the camp to be a bit more divided on this one. Oh well, if that's what you all enjoy, be my guest.

Honestly, with regards to character making stabilization checks, etc., I consider any character who cannot take an action to be 'out of combat' and thus does not roll initiative. Stabilization rolls happen at the end of each round, after everyone has taken their actions. In all of my years of DMing, I think there have only ever been 3 stabilization rolls made. Either my players survive with HP left or they die suddenly. Very seldom do people end up somewhere between -10 and 0.

Andoran

I always did it dynamic then.
Never even thought about static.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Heathansson wrote:

I always did it dynamic then.

Never even thought about static.

Finally! There's another one!

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:
How many books were in the series? It seems like I only read 5, but that the series wasn't complete at that point...

Well, that's tricky to answer, since they've been re-released in omnibus editions. In their originally released form, there were/are 10 books according to Joel Rosenberg's Wikipedia page.


ZeroCharisma wrote:
However, more DM's than I care to recount, in my experience, love dynamic initiative. It is said that randomness favors the players, so I am curious why DM's seem to prefer it so.

In general, increased randomness works against the players. In the special case of initiative, maybe it's different. I don't know. But I wouldn't even think of using dynamic initiative with D&D's combat system as is.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Doug Sundseth wrote:
Sebastian wrote:
How many books were in the series? It seems like I only read 5, but that the series wasn't complete at that point...
Well, that's tricky to answer, since they've been re-released in omnibus editions. In their originally released form, there were/are 10 books according to Joel Rosenberg's Wikipedia page.

Ah. I tried Wikipedia but didn't pull anything by searching under guardians of the flame. Using google, I see that he sorta dropped the plot from the first few books (i.e., the dude who sent them back had various villany in mind in connection w/Karl's son). Oh well.

Very fond memories of those books though.

Osirion

Fatespinner wrote:

I find it interesting that I seem to be the only fan of dynamic initiative thus far. I expected the camp to be a bit more divided on this one. Oh well, if that's what you all enjoy, be my guest.

Honestly, with regards to character making stabilization checks, etc., I consider any character who cannot take an action to be 'out of combat' and thus does not roll initiative. Stabilization rolls happen at the end of each round, after everyone has taken their actions. In all of my years of DMing, I think there have only ever been 3 stabilization rolls made. Either my players survive with HP left or they die suddenly. Very seldom do people end up somewhere between -10 and 0.

I play with static initiative.

I have thought about doing the dynamic, but I am afraid of combat dragging to even more of a crawl than it does now.

What I would like to see is something more like the Champions system of combat as long as it was simple and quick. If a person has 4 attacks, it seems silly to me that they should get all of their attacks in before the other person has a chance to react. I just don't know how to make it so that spreading out everyone's attacks didn't also make combat unbearably long.


Ultradan wrote:

I favor Static Initiative just for the fact that it's one more roll you don't have to do for the rest of the fight. The battles are long enough as they are.

Ultradan

Exactly-- me too.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Moff Rimmer wrote:


What I would like to see is something more like the Champions system of combat as long as it was simple and quick. If a person has 4 attacks, it seems silly to me that they should get all of their attacks in before the other person has a chance to react. I just don't know how to make it so that spreading out everyone's attacks didn't also make combat unbearably long.

Wait - I thought the Champions system was the opposite of simple and quick. Can you explain?

I remember under 2e, the way we resolved multiple attacks was to add the weapons speed factor for each subsequent attack. So, if you rolled a 5 on initiative and your weapon speed was 7, you would attack on the 5, the 12, the 19, etc (2e init progressed from lowest to highest for those not familiar). I can't remember if this was in an actual book or one of the million house rules we employed.

I suppose you could try something similar under 3.5, but the big problem I foresee would be if your opponent moved between attacks.

I am constantly tempted to expand the iterative attacks concept into an iterative actions concept. I've mentioned this before in the context of iterative spellcasting, but in my ideal world, a high level fighter would be able to sacrifice his lowest BAB attack to take a move equivalent action. Similarly, a high level bard would have an extra action available to do his bard song. Etc.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Moff Rimmer wrote:
What I would like to see is something more like the Champions system of combat as long as it was simple and quick. If a person has 4 attacks, it seems silly to me that they should get all of their attacks in before the other person has a chance to react. I just don't know how to make it so that spreading out everyone's attacks didn't also make combat unbearably long.

We've experimented with an adaptation of the Shadowrun initiative system. If you are making a full attack action, your first attack happens on your initiative, your second at your initiative -5, the third at -10, etc. Going into the negatives is fine. This way, having an initiative that is LOTS better than your opponent's is actually noticably superior to having one that is only marginally better.

Plus, it allows cool things like this scenario:

Archer: I'm using a full attack action and firing 3 arrows at this guy.
DM: Your initiative is 16. His is 12. Your first shot hits. On his initiative, he closes to melee. He barely misses you with his charge attack.
Archer: I have Quick Draw. I drop the bow and bring out the longsword for my remaining attacks.
DM: Excellent.

And it prevents dumb crap like this:

Fighter: I'm all healed up now. This guy is almost dead. My next swing will finish him off!
DM: Okay, he goes on 14, you go on 12. His full-attack action... (rolling) oooo... 3 crits and one regular hit! (more rolling) Ouch, yeah he hammers you up one side and down the other for a total of 96 damage before you can even bat an eye. You're at negative 15... guess you're not going to get that one swing afterall, eh?
Fighter: *groan*

(For those who don't know, in Shadowrun, you take an action on every 6 {or 10, I don't recall exactly} of your initiative total. So, if you roll a 24 initiative and your opponent gets a 16, you act on 24, 18, 12, and 6 while you opponent acts on 16, 10, and 4.)

Osirion

Sebastian wrote:
Wait - I thought the Champions system was the opposite of simple and quick. Can you explain?

LOL

Hence the "as long as it was simple and quick" comment.

It's been so long since 2nd edition. I remember that as well. I also remember 3/2 attacks among other confusing things. I still don't know if I want to risk it. As it is, initiative is a pain to track and combat takes long enough if not too long.

FateSpinner may be on to something, but again, tracking it may be a bit difficult to do at this point for me. And movement puts another wrinkle in the whole initiative thing...

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Fatespinner wrote:


(For those who don't know, in Shadowrun, you take an action on every 6 {or 10, I don't recall exactly} of your initiative total. So, if you roll a 24 initiative and your opponent gets a 16, you act on 24, 18, 12, and 6 while you opponent acts on 16, 10, and 4.)

I think in 2e forward, it's 10. Back in 1e, it was 7, which is hillarious considering that multiplication/subtraction by 7's is the hardest single digit for most people. My buddies that were regular SR players knew their multiples of 7 like nobodies business.

Moff - if you come up with a system as detailed as Champions and as simple as d20, I (and many many other gamers) will buy your product in a second! ;-)

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hero System isn't notably more difficult in play than d20. The real problems come in design, both character and adventure. There are so many knobs to twiddle and levers to pull that much more care is necessary.

To bring this slightly back to the point of the OP, I use static initiative in d20, because it's pretty integral to much of the system, IMO. But I use dynamic initiative in Hero System (a card deck with one card per character per point of Speed, shuffled at the beginning of each round). Held actions are much more of a problem in Hero System, because they don't reset your initiative.


Static here.
1st, it speeds things along.
2nd, the master tactician with a high initiative is more likely to win than lose in most cases. The more rolls they have to make, the more likely they are to blow one.
3rd, once the initiative is set, no matter what the order, things happen. If the evil cleric hoses the party before they can do anything or after they have done a couple of things, it doesn't really matter. The party will have to react to it whenever it happens. If the party goes first, then maybe they can stop t from happening, but a dynamic system doesn't guarantee that, just gives the party a chance to act before the cleric in subsequent rounds, but the cleric could go last then go first as well.


Static. I run a high-level campaign and it slows combat down to molasses in January when you have to reroll every round. I do allow someone to opt and wait til the end of the round to make their actions.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Thanks. It is interesting that in my group 3 of 4 self-described DM's favor the dynamic initiative system, and most of the 5 or 6 players generally grumble because of their choice of improved initiative as a feat. It seems the opposite is true of the gaming community at large, if these boards are representational.

Thanks also for clearing up my conceptual dyslexia with the "randomness favors" part... Randomness favors my players because my die rolling stinks, but in the universe at large... *wry grin*

I think, as Sebastian said, that a player with a hopped up initiative will actually benefit because, while they may get caught flat footed once in a great while, they will go first the vast majority of the time.

Furthermore, in a static situation, you can basically choose to "go first" next and following round by either delaying or readying against the action of the current holder of highest initiave. I think, no matter what, players would prefer the tactical advantages offered by static, but in my group I am stymied. It's clearly not a deal breaker, but I feel like the comments here add some ammo to my argument. Ultimately its the DM's choice and I respect that, but its comforting to know I am not alone.

Yes, the quote is by Walter Slovotsky, aka Hakim Singhe aka Worrel ip Therranj, of "The Guardians of the Flame" series by Joel Rosenberg. A series which I loved the first 5-book cycle of. The later books got a little off base, and I never forgave Walter for his "little indiscretion" (Hey, I know Karl was "dead" by then but I always held out hope), though he remains my cloven-psyched literary alter ego forever, as well as a great source of qoutes.


Absolutely static. I've heard of using dynamic initiative before, and the concept is appalling to me. As has been cited many times before, it would slow combat to a rediculous level, and yes, randomness favors enemies. I also fail to see how it represents reality anymore. There were several other issues about static vs. dynamic that were pointed out above that I've already forgotten, but I agree with them.

As to the story of the enemy being near death and pounding the fighter before he can be finished off, I think of it like movement. If a character moves 50 feet, but only has a speed of 30, they don't really move 30 feet, stop, and then move another 20 six seconds later. Same thing with the fighter and his foe. The fighter and the foe pounded each other, the fighter ran back for healing, and while that was happening, the foe closed and beat the fighter before he could react. Hit the fighter three times? This is where interpretation of the abstract system comes in. The foe hit the fighter and stunned him just long enough to continue with another two attacks, made lethal by the fighter's brief lapse of attention.

THAT SAID, I do like the thought of weapon speeds. Someone with a dagger should be able to hit a great deal more than someone with a great axe. However, I also see how the balance is extremely questionable and the mechanics would be a nightmare to work out, so I'm willing to ignore that for now. Just remember, a "hit" in a round doesn't have to translate into just one blow landed. A "hit" with a dagger could represent a number of minor nicks and cuts, as opposed to the walloping single-impact damage of the greatsword.

A weak excuse? Oh, yeah, but the headaches spawned by that are sooo much less than those that could be generated from any weapon speed rules that I've seen so far. I'm still open to reading whatever someone else comes up with, though!


My group has used both. We started out with dynamic initiative, which made combats crawl even more than they do now. Static makes my job as DM a lot easier, it speeds up combat, and by and large the only complaint that the change got was that Improved Initiative was seen as less valuable (it's still a +4 to your initiative, folks).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Xellan wrote:
Static makes my job as DM a lot easier, it speeds up combat, and by and large the only complaint that the change got was that Improved Initiative was seen as less valuable (it's still a +4 to your initiative, folks).

Interesting. From my perspective, Static initiative makes Improved Initiative MORE valuable. Sure, you might roll really low sometimes, but as has been mentioned, the more times you have to roll in an encounter, the more chance you'll roll low - thus negating the benefit of Improved Initiative. And the more chances to roll, the more chances the enemy will roll high. So the guy with Improved Initiative will alternately move first and near to last in a dynamic initiative environment - and he'll only know which is which at the start of each round, so ambush tactics (the whole point of taking Improved Initiative) are totally unreliable.


I think the general line of thought was that the bonus would come into play less often, and in fact would only really matter in the first round of combat, after which it becomes a round robin of blows. In short, used less often = less useful.

I don't really agree with that theory, due to ambush tactics, and the fact that catching one's opponents flat-footed can mean the difference between a hard won slugfest and a decisive tactical victory.

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Community / Gaming / D&D 3.5/d20/OGL / Initiative: Static or Dynamic? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in D&D 3.5/d20/OGL

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.