Month: September 2018

Faster 5e Turn Order / Initiative system

For the last three weeks, I have been playing 5e at a local game store. My 8-year old son wanted to try the game, so I joined it for him. Now instead of DM, I play with him.

In the gaming group, there are several other kids. I have to say, I am quite proud of my son’s behavior. He pays attention to the action and story. While he does little role-playing, his focus is the battles.

I feel the current Initiative system bogs down the game.

The more I play 5e, the more I don’t like the Initiative system. Although it does have some positive attributes, overall, it breaks the game flow when going into combat. It feels like the game has shifted from one game to another.

I have also noticed that 5e has made the players’ turns more complex. In general, too much of 5e is waiting around to do something. And since I do not optimize my turn, my turns go fast while others go slow.

It seems to me that since it takes much longer to get to a players’ turn, lots of players working hard just to do stuff. The spotlight in on them and they know it is going to be a while before it returns to them. So they scramble to come up with something to do.

Age of Swords System

In play testing Age of Swords, I have been playing around with simultaneous rounds. With the monsters and the players all attacking at the same time, I have found it really speeds up the game. Often I resolve all the monster actions and then let the players go. But it is all happening at the same time in the game. Turn order is no longer important.

5e System Idea

If I was to make a change to 5e, I would shift it more towards this style of Initiative. Here is what I am thinking. I am interested in what people think of this hybrid-system.

At the start of combat, I would have everyone make an Initiative DC check against the enemies Initiative score. The default being DC 12. In this way, I would never take away from a good roll by a player. The results of the roll would be labeled as either Fast (Success) and Slow (Fail).

While this is almost the same as the current system (everyone stopping to roll) there is no accounting involved. The characters are now grouped into those that go before the monsters and those that go after.

Turn Order

  • Fast
  • Monsters
  • Slow

Then I would add the following, simple mechanic. As an Action, at the start of your turn end your turn. You change your Turn Order group.

It is my hope to play test this simple system in the near future. While I don’t think it would solve all the problems, I think it could help to speed things up a bit. And without the DM having to micro-manager the Turn Order.

With using this system, the people in the different groups then take their turn in whatever order they choose. If there is a conflict, the GM can choose to let those with the faster Initiative bonus go first. One of the first things people have said when they hear of this system is they think the players will always be challenging Turn Order, but in my play-testing it hasn’t happened.

Please let me know your thought or if you even try this system. At my son’s gaming group, I might be DMing soon. If it happens, I will test it out for myself.

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Power Gamers in 5e and Pathfinder! What to Do about them?

The Power Gamer: I read about them all the time. For most of my life, I have been lucky to avoid them. The last two store games I have joined, I have encountered them. Now, it feels like they are everywhere.

In both encounters, they had these insane builds making their characters powerful beyond their level. They both had unique custom magic items that were broken. More importantly, both these two young men had the same air about them.

They played the same way. They wanted to kill everything, never take damage, and argue DM rulings. Their idea of role-playing was to boast how powerful they were. Every role-playing moment was short lived as they started combat almost immediately.

And in both cases, I had the same response.

I turned my characters into a coward. I refused to help in battle. My time was spent trying to make every encounter into a role-playing one.

Even in combat, I would role play. My turns were used by running around trying to talk the monsters into surrendering or retreating. In some cases, I would be apologizing for the attack on the other party members. I would be responding to the horrors that I saw. I never made an attack.

Perhaps my position is the immature one. After all, I am the outsider joining “their” games. In both occasions, the DM found my activities refreshing. The other players started to get involved with my role-playing. And in both cases, the Power Gamer tried hard to turn it back into a wargame.

And I want to point out, with the Power Gamer entirely in charge of the party my lack of participation changed nothing. Every fight was easy for them. My involvement would have meant nothing. Perhaps they would have taken 5 less damage. To me, whatever. But to them, it pissed them off. It feels like 5 HP loss is losing to them.

As an experienced GM, I feel I just put a stop to them right away.

One way is I remove multi-classing and feats from the game. Both of these are the primary source of their power increase. They are looking for micro-imbalances in the game to exploit. In combination, these imbalances can become monstrous. One of them was making the two hand-crossbow attacks. While most of the other characters were +6 to hit with 1 attack, he was +8 with 2 strikes. I am not sure how, but he was rolling 4 dice for damage.

Another way I limited them is to make everyone use a point buy. Both of these Power Gamers had 1 in a million stats. It’s amazing how half of all characters out there are a 1 in a million shot on stats. I have made a few of these characters in my youth. Now it is all point buys.

Lastly, I don’t argue the rules during play. I make my rulings, I will hear a moment of a case against it, and them tell them to talk to me afterward. In one of the games, I played there was at least a 10-minute argument over a ruling. The GM changed his verdict even after more than half the table said he was right (me including). It was clear the Power Gamer wasn’t going to stop until he got his ruling.

One thing I have always done when I GM is to put in the occasional suicidal encounter. I try to make it evident. The purpose is that it forces them to run away or find another way out. In this way, in the back of their minds, they are always looking and judging if they can take a fight.

I had players complain about this idea.

He asked, “Why would you ever have a fight we couldn’t win?”

To which I asked, “Why did you think that was a fight?”

One time, I described basically Godzilla attacking and everyone running away. A 3rd level character ran up and struck it. Godzilla stomped on him, and he was dead. The player was shocked.

This might be a bit off topic, but I notice that in RPG there is little role-playing the epic escape. Almost all action movies, there are times the Hero is trying to flee from overwhelming odds. There is this mentality that every encounter should be a fight, and the Adventurers should win it.

I think removing the Heroic escape from the game is denying another exciting way to interact with the world as a player and GM. And it is a perfect trap for the Power Gamer placed in the story.

As a Player, my goal with Power Gamers is to show the other players at the table that there is another way to play. I doubt anything I do or will change the Power Gamer’s minds. To me, the battle is to reach the rest of the table. If the other players become more interested in playing the full game, and not just combat, then I think the Power Gamer will leave.

What I am not interested in is trying to compete with them. I have no interest in playing the Power Gamer’s game. In my years, I have played some powerful characters. But I never got there by power gaming.

I know I am not alone in how much I find the Power Gamer destructive to playing an RPG. I would really like more input and advice on how to deal with them as both a GM and player. Anyone with some ideas, please commit or email.
I plan to update this in the future!