Friday, November 1, 2013

Unnecessarily Complicated: My Initiative System for Delving Deeper

So, since my first session (and possibly only session) of Delving Deeper is this Sunday, and I'm working through all those little issues that you have to work through to get a game system where you want it to be. Yep, I'm a dedicated system tinkerer and cannot resist the opportunity to play with the moving parts of any system. When I was a kid, we'd take apart radios, mechanical toys, lawnmowers, even my old Nintendo to see how it works and if we could get it to work better. Today, I do it with game systems (not the Nintendo kind, the tabletop kind).

The initiative system in Delving Deeper is thankfully very simple. Each side declares what it's going to do, one d6 is rolled per side, then each side goes. That's great! It's short, flexible and easy to remember. But...

Not that kind of initiative
There's nothing wrong with that system. "I go, you go" works out fine, but I feel like, since this session will be for "new-to-old-school" gamers, we should have a slightly more complex system. I don't want to add complexity to make things confusing, but rather to add a level of depth that is common to old school games. I briefly toyed with using the segment system from AD&D, the Dexterity-based Holmes system and even the Dexterity-ranked phases of the Perrin conventions (which are really just a mish-mash between the segments and Holmesian systems of initiative), but decided that I'd rather do something of my own, a sort of old school-ish priority-based initiative system that breaks down something like this:

  • First phase: high initiative goes, low initiative goes
  • Second phase: high init, low init
  • etc.
The reason I'm bothering with this at all is to satisfy a question that I had been asking myself about old school systems that allow multiple missile attacks in a single round. In order to give the "new-to-old-school" gamers (hereafter "the kids") a true-to-old-school experience, I felt the need to attach some arcane and needlessly simulationistic mechanism that accounted for multiple missile attacks in a single round, but that never quite allowed multiple melee attacks in that same amount of time (in DD, only the fighter ever gets multiple attacks, and only when attacking multiple low-HD creatures). Eventually, I had my shit figured out: I would allow one missile attack at the beginning of a round for anyone who had a missile weapon at the ready (so, only if you were ready to rock with the weapon when the round began) and another at the end of the round after everyone had moved and melee had occurred, for everyone in the round who now had a missile weapon at the ready (since you'd had that round to prepare for the shot). And then I read something that made me pause: Delving Deeper uses a one minute round, rather than a six-second one.
Not that kind, either

Here's why that's a problem: in the one minute round, anyone fighting in melee gets just one roll to hit, and that represents one minute's worth of movement, thrusts, parries, feints, swings, misses and hits. That's an awful lot of work for one roll to do and an awful lot riding on that one die roll. In a six-second round, where the die roll represents a far shorter amount of time and where the next die roll is coming up in just a moment in the next round, I think there's less room to interpret that die roll as representing a whole bunch of combat maneuvering and hacking and slashing, so it's totally okay to work in multiple missile attacks. In the one minute round, however, where the roll means so much more, I don't believe I can justify adding a second opportunity for a missile attack roll.

But I just really like that concept of, if you're ready to shoot, you get to shoot at the start of the round before anything's happened. And so, here's my new round phase order:

  • Phase One: Declare Intent - Players announce what their characters will do during the following round, if only roughly. Spellcasting must be declared at this time, but merely stating "I'm casting a spell" is enough, you don't have to explicitly state which one at this time
  • Phase Two: Initiative Roll - A d6 is rolled for each party involved in the fight. You already know how this works. 
  • Phase Three: Ready Fire - Characters with a bow drawn and at the ready may fire at the beginning of the combat round in initiative order. They may also choose not to fire and wait until the secondary fire phase. 
  • Phase Four: Movement - Running, jumping, climbing trees. Stuff like that which you already understand. 
  • Phase Five: Melee & Spells - Players and NPCs act in initiative order. Characters wielding a polearm or other reach weapon gain a +1 to their initiative when using that weapon. 
  • Phase Six: Auxiliary Fire - Anyone who drew a missile weapon during the round may now attack with it in initiative order. Anyone who abstained from missile fire during the Ready Fire phase may now do so. 

Extra Stuff

  • Yes, attacking someone who's casting a spell interrupts the casting, and the caster will lose the "spell slot" unless he or she rolls a 5 or 6 on a 1d6 roll (2-in-6 chance of not losing the spell), so yes, it still makes sense to "lock down" casters. 
  • I really wanted to add a reach weapon phase, but I thought that could end up in some super cheese. Instead, using a reach weapon gives the wielder +1 to initiative. However, if you've been attacked in melee during the combat round, you may not attack with a pole arm and must use a shorter weapon (because you're in too close, see? This could be complicated by the question "But what if you were attacked with a pole arm?" but I'm gonna stick to my guns on this one). 
  • I also wanted two-handed weapons to go last, which makes sense, but since we're using "d6 only" damage rules, that makes 2h weapons pretty pointless (except for pole arms). So, instead, wielding 2h will confer that +1 to damage that so many folks like to give. It just makes sense.
  • While we're on that topic, dual wielding will not allow extra attacks, but rather confer a +1 bonus to hit. Yep, got that one from the same place at the damage one. 
  • Everybody can use crossbows. Why not.