I'm planning on rolling initiative only at the start of a combat, unless there are really small numbers involved. Most combats involving the PCs in my game have tens of combatants on both sides, and re-ordering the initiative each time slows things down to an unacceptable degree.
Thus Skirmishing, allowing you to withdraw without declaration before intiative, becomes rather less useful. So I have two alternative ideas for how it should function.
1) Skirmishing allows you to perform a fighting withdrawal up to 3/4 of your movement. Thus someone with Skirmishing could stay perpetually out of range of someone determined to close and melee with them.
2) Skirmishing allows you to perform a full retreat without granting your opponent a +2 to hit or backstab opportunity. They retain their shield bonus. You still forfeit your attack.
Why don’t you split it to several big groups? One roll for PC one roll for henc and 1-3 rolls for monsters, or one roll for monsters one for PCs.
you could potentially group initiatives based on the same type of troop (ie: all slingers act on a single die roll) or even on the same initiative (ie: everyone with a +1 to initiative on this side acts on whatever is rolled for that group including the modifer).
I appreciate the ideas, but none of those change the fact that rolling every round, and adjusting the order every round adds unnecessary handling time to combat.
Furthermore, the "declare before you roll initiative" business with defensive movement undermines the simplicity of initiative where you go on your number.
You could use a tool like this one http://www.ssdc.com/tools/init
Now all you need to do is enter all the names and initiative modifiers, once, then mash the “roll” button at the start of each round (it does the sorting for you). This one only goes up to 10 combatants, so it should work for most purposes, if you’re willing to do some grouping. Sufficient searching (or befriending a programmer) should yield a tool with a higher cap.
If Excel has a macro for random number generation (I’m sure it does, somewhere), I could probably program a spreadsheet to automatically roll initiative for a list and sort it highest to lowest (kind of like that web-tool, only uglier and able to support any number of combatants).
I almost like #1, but “perpetually” out of range is a little unpleasant. Save that for the horse archers. Instead let the opponents close if they Charge, which gives them an AC penalty…
Few things are more pleasant than luring your opponent into chasing after you, then permitting them to run onto the point of your sword.
Actually, if they charge, the skirmisher can't stay out of range without themselves running. It just means they can stay out of normal movement range, which means either their attacker charges, or can't reach them.
If you have to go to a technological solution to the problem, it's already more complicated than it's worth. Furthermore, the combat I'm looking at has about 80 participants, even grouping some of those together there's more than 10 who merit individual treatment.
having played out several combats that ended very differently because someone that “won” initiative last round only to “lose” it the next, any solution that takes out rolling every round is going to change the shape of combat.
Now, maybe that stuff isn’t actually that important when you have nearly 80 combatants, and so you can decide for yourself that the variation produced by rolling each round isn’t worth the extra work since so much will be changing anyway. However, if there is a way to both resolve things more quickly and still have all the possibilities that rolling initiative every round offers, I don’t see it.
My group has henchmen (and sometimes mercs) go on the same round as their controlling PC and enemy monsters are similarly grouped into one or more large sets for simplicity’s sake. This does give an edge to PCs who have high initiatives, but it also means that players only need to note their current initiative (which they can do by placing a single die) as the GM counts backwards from 10. Delaying certain character’s actions can be a slight pain, but it is no more trouble than having an initiative order for everyone.
Alright, I'll consult with the group over rolling every round, or perhaps trial it and see what they think afterwards.
However, I'm totally unconvinced of the merit of declaration - especially when there's no spellcasting in my game. So the only thing it exists for is defensive movement, and to commit a character to a course of action we then have to remember. Adding an unnecessary step into the combat process.
As far as I can see the only impact of ditching it is nerfing Skirmishing, as it's written.
So I'm all for Skirmishing, as the name suggests, making you more mobile. Thus the 3/4 movement on a Fighting Withdrawal. Should it also prevent an opponent getting the +2 bonus or allow you to retain your shield bonus, or would either of those in addition be too much?
I think I've got a fix for declaration, by making the opponent-bonuses from full retreat apply until your initiative comes round again - not just for that round. Thus the incentive to use fighting withdrawal is not to give that advantage away.
If you’re not declaring withdrawals, not re-rolling initiative, and don’t have spell-casting, the easiest thing to do is just drop skirmishing entirely, right? Just like weapon focus ceases to exist if you house rule crits? Or maybe just say “+2 to initiative when moving and not attacking”. I’d personally want to narrow the bookkeeping about application of retreat penalties.
I'm keeping re-rolling initiative for the time being; once I've seen it in action, I'll decide whether to drop it or not.
I don't think remembering whether or not you retreated the previous round is much to remember. Certainly easier than messing about with declarations.
I've rewritten the Defensive movement section thus:
Once two opposing combatants are within 5' of each other, they are engaged in melee. Engaged combatants may not move except to perform defensive movement. These types of defensive movement may be used by both characters and monsters.
A fighting withdrawal allows a combatant to move backwards at 1/2 combat movement. However, there must be a clear path for this movement. If an opponent follows the withdrawing combatant, the withdrawing combatant may attack the opponent on the opponent’s initiative, when he enters reach.
A full retreat occurs when a combatant moves backwards at a faster rate than 1/2 of combat movement. The combatant making the movement forfeits his attack this round, and all his opponent attacks with a +2 bonus until the next time his initiative number comes up. Furthermore, an opponent engaged with you who has not yet acted may act on the retreating combatant’s initiative number and therefore simultaneously with the retreating movement. In addition, if the retreating combatant is carrying a shield, it does not apply to their Armor Class during the retreat. Thieves may backstab retreating opponents.
Skirmishing is rewritten thus:
When performing a fighting withdrawal, you may move backwards up to 3/4 combat move, rather than 1/2. When performing a full retreat, you retain your shield bonus and do not trigger a simultaneous reaction from anyone engaged with you.
Had some trial combats last night, and rolling initiative every round is certainly appreciated for the nuance it adds to combat, but we also noted its potential to cause everything to grind to a halt.
One of the players is going to write something in Excel that will generate numbers for the PCs and their henchmen, so I only have to worry about rolling for the NPCs.