Game Theory: Weapon Speed

There’s been a discussion about initiative and the roll that it plays. I do believe that initiative is important for structure, and D&D is based on a structured set of rules for a reason. Do I think that players need to ROLL for initiative every turn? No. Rolling for initiative is a bit of nuisance, particularly when you Dungeon Master a group of 8 or more players! So I’m going to steal a concept from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and put  my own spin on it. If I believe that initiative is important but I don’t want to roll for it then there’s really one solution that has proven to work for me personally. Predetermined initiative. Predetermined weapon speeds and initiative order does a few things for the game session.

  1. Quickens play by removing initiative rolls,
  2. Bell curves the traditional rolls by focusing on Dex modifier only and assumes that over time all players will be in this (statistically) fixed order,
  3. Provides a dilemma for characters forcing them to make decisions on how they want to face combat – therefore more strategic and hopefully more collaborative with their team mates,
  4. Give meaning to the lowly long sword (all kidding aside), and,
  5. While still giving players an option to “be faster” if they want to by choosing different weapons.

Basic Principles

Based on speed of character’s weapon.

  1. Subtract character’s Dex bonus (or Initiative)
  2. Character with lowest speed goes first in initiative order.

Determining Weapon Speed

 A weapon’s speed is equal to the maximum damage that it can do. (Therefore players have to decide for example, how they want to wield their bastard sword, or weapons that have the potential to do different levels of damage.)

Calculating a Character’s Speed Example

  •  A Cleric has Dexterity of 16, therefore his Dex bonus is +3.
  • A Rogue has Dexterity of 18, therefore his Dex bonus is +4.
  • The Rogue uses a Short Sword that has a weapon speed of 6 (Short Swords do 1d6 damage, therefore its speed is 6).
  • The Cleric uses a War Hammer that has a weapon speed of 8.
  • When they both use their respective weapons, the Rogue goes first because his speed is 6 – 4 = 2, while the Cleric’s speed is 8 – 3 = 5. The Rogue’s speed is lower therefore he goes first.
  • If the Cleric dropped his War Hammer and fought with his fists, then his speed would be -2 because an unarmed strike’s speed is 1. Therefore the Cleric would actually go before the Rogue in the next round.

Tie Breaking

 Sometimes characters will have the same weapon speed. To determine who goes first check the following tie breakers in order;

  • Lower unmodified weapon speed,
  • Higher Dex bonus,
  • Higher Dexterity score,
  • Dexterity as a proficiency, and
  • Lower Armour Class score.

If all else fails then both characters go at the same time.


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