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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Game Theory: Shooting Into Melee

One of the most debated “non-rules” in 5th edition is the situation where a ranged attacker wants to shoot at an enemy who is “engaged” with a friendly unit in melee. The simple solution is probably to use the disadvantage rule. However, this is probably quite punitive (especially at lower levels) according to other DMs that are clearly much smarter in math than I am. Please check out their math and results here, here and here.

What am I trying to accomplish with this house rule?

  1. Penalize a character for shooting into melee. I feel that combat in D&D is not like playing a Japanese RPG video game. People do not stand across from each other and take turns bashing each other on the head. There is continuous movement and swipes. A “hit” in my interpretation is when one of these swipes actually connect.
  2. But not penalize a character too much. I want characters to “feel” more powerful as they level up, so that at higher levels shooting into melee is more of an inconvenience than a penalty. (Think Legolas!)
  3. I want my players to think tactically. I want my players to consider the movement and actions of other players in battle. I do not want them to default to certain positions. I want action to be dynamic in both tactics and cooperative movement.

DnDRangeModsAfter noodling it a little the following image I created in Excel demonstrates the situations where penalties can be applied. It takes into account a few existing rules, cover, range attack while engaged, and an overall AC bonus to the enemy. This image assumes that ALL engaged parties are of medium size.

Clearly there will be situations where both parties could be of different sizes and thus different modifiers could apply. I am currently considering a -2/+2 type scale for shooting at either larger or smaller creatures.

Thoughts? … Let me know what you think!