Monday, May 24, 2010


Since I'm at a point where I'm playing solo fights with characters smacking each other into unconsciousness, I realized I need to figure out how to handle initiative. I know I want to allow for speed to account for multiple actions, and not just put you at the top of the round.

Enhanced reflexes is a fundamental part of the Shadowrun game, and it's one that the line has struggled to address throughout its history.

Originally, everyone generated an initiative total, and combat started with the highest roll and progressed down. If your roll -10 gave you a positive number, you went again at that score. The problem was you could have a street samurai with an initiative of 32 acting on rounds 32, 22, 12, and 2, while the mage would act on round 6. If they're on opposite sides of the fight, the sam most likely screamed "Geek the mage!" and pumped about 20 pounds (sorry, kilos) of lead into him long before he could act.

Shadowrun 3 changed the procedure a little. You still generated your initiative total, and you still got to go multiple times if your initiative -10 netted you a positive number. However, everyone got to go once. Then everyone subtracted 10 from their total, and those who still had actions went down the list again.

Shadowrun 4 got rid of the whole -10 thing entirely and instead granted extra actions based on your level of augmentation. In play, it turned out a lot like SR3, with everyone getting their turn in order, and then the faster guys going again (and maybe again).

My group understands the need to balance game reality with playability, but they haven't loved these initiative solutions. I've got a mage in the party, and he's begged me not to make speed the king of combat, but others want to see speed play a significant role.

I've always thought that Feng Shui's initiative system was neat. Your initiative total gives you a number of "shots," which are like action points. Your actions spend these and lower your total. When that lowered number comes up, you can go again. It's very similar to how Shadowrun's older initiative systems work, but makes your actions more important to when you go again. That gives me another way to represent reflex augmentation: reduced shot cost. I like that.

The thing is, I don't like the idea of breaking the action and rolling for initiative every round. Dungeons and Dragons did away with round by round initiative in third edition, and it worked remarkably well.

What I've settled on is a modification of the second edition Exalted initiative system. Exalted has a wheel with 8 segments, and your actions move you a number of wedges forward. When the combat reaches your wedge, you can act again. That lets me still represent augmented reflexes with a reduces action cost, but I can do so without a round by round initiative roll.

In reading reviews of the system, I found a lot of complaints about how it worked, but they seemed to hit the same button most times. In this system, your defensive value drops the more you do in an action, but when it's your turn again your defense resets. The complaint was that fast characters not only went a whole lot, but they remained untouchable.

My hope is that by making defense ablative (remember, you have to spend your yin dice to counter your attacker), I'll avoid this problem. In theory it sounds good, so I'm going to give it a go.

However, instead of an 8 wedge wheel, I'm going 10. It was a suggestion from my wife to expand the wheel a little, and her number's perfect. Since 10 is the max die pool in this system, a character's initiative won't ever have more than 10 dice. Thus, when rolling initiative at the opening of combat, you start on the wedge equal to the number of successes you rolled on your initiative check. No successes? You start on wedge 10 after combat goes one round around the wheel.

For the moment, initiative is its own stat, with its own pool and method. These two, along with a shot cost modification, can all be bettered though augmentation, though obviously I haven't touched that yet.

Off to create shot costs for actions in a round.

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