Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taking the Initiative

Some notes on Initiative:

Index Cards have been wonderful for tracking initiative.

As a self-admitted Index Card junkie, I have literally thousands of them lying around at any given time. When I discovered that my venerable printer could print on them, I began to print cards with enemy statistics for ease of reference. Once initiative has been determined I can scrawl this on a card and stack them in order to keep track of the order.

Possible ways to improve:

Currently, I only ask for the player’s Armor Class and Initiative score to place them in the pile. Noting Hit Points on the card seems like it would result in too much redundant bookkeeping. Perceptions skills, ranges, and other tactical tidbits could be useful though.

For Monster cards, the borders or backs of the cards could be used to store random numbers. d20 along the top and bottom, maybe damage dice along the sides. If these factored in bonuses as well, that would be snazzy. Even just damage would eliminate some of the rolls and quick math, shaving seconds off of resolution.

Pre-rolling Initiative for enemies has also been great.

I must remember to group enemies together though. This heightens the pace and can be really evocative for conveying the “horde” or “swarm” mentality of minor opponents.

Rolling Initiative at the beginning of the Session works wonders for communicating a sense of anticipation for combat or a tactical encounter during the session, and also makes adjudicating Surprise that much more Surprising. Rolling Initiative for the next encounter at the end of an encounter is also handy.

An idea: with any type of sequential combat tracking system, instead of turning to the player on their turn and asking for an action, solicit this action by narrating a shift in focus. Describe the perceptions or actions directed against the player whose turn it is to indicate their turn.

Example: Krycon Narssisimar and a Lutzel the Low are toe-to-toe at the beginning of Krycon’s turn. Instead of asking Krycon what he wants to do, get in the habit of describing what Lutzel is trying to do to him, turning Krycon’s action into a reaction to the narrative.

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