Over at Hack and Slash Courtney Campbell raises a point oninitiative, simple works best. It’s true it does, nice simple roll 1d6 per side and highest rolling side goes first gets the job done and you get to plow through a number of fights a night if that’s what you are doing. What if you want a little more in your campaign? Here’s how I’ve been doing it in my current campaign:
*At the beginning of each round each side rolls 1d12.
* The initiative roll is modified by the rolling characters initiative modifier (a DEX modifier in my campaign)
*Highest roll goes first.
*If your side’s initiative score is less than the Weapon Speed Factor of your weapon in hand any attack rolls you make with it are at -4.
*If you are drawing a weapon in a round any attacks you are making with it are at -4 or the negative of the weapon speed factor.
Each weapon has a WSF score along with a damage score. Most barehand attacks and most monster attacks have a WSF of 3.
Some longer weapons can be used to fend off foes, if a combatant is standing their ground with a longer weapon they get to attack before you do, if they hit you can’t close this round and can’t make an attack. This isn’t an extra attack, it’s an attack out of order allowed because of the decisions combatants have made. Once a hit has been scored on a foe they can’t fed off your blows in this manner unless they have withdrawn. Yup someone with a longer weapon can keep shoving it in your face and keep poking you with it unless they mess up (just like folks can in reality).
(don’t forget penalties to attack if the initiative roll is less than your WSF)
The dexterity modifier to Initiative is a simple modifier to the D12 roll. The player making the roll applies his initiative modifier to the roll for his side. Fighting together with other folks does depend on their capabilities as well not just your own, having a slow, clumsy, and unlucky guy on your side can and does turn the tide in a fight. We move around the table clockwise from whoever rolled first in the fight, the point man or guy in front usually rolls first (but not always).
Here’s a sample fight using A Fighter with a battleaxe and encumbered by his load vs a Rogue with a dagger and unencumbered by his load. In my campaign encumbered is dangerous it applies a penalty of -4 to some saves and physical attack rolls (it doesn’t modify initiative as initiative also covers mental and magical actions). I’m not going to apply any tactical modifiers into the combat to kepe this an example only initiative. Bear in mind even though I'm only using 2 combatants here(for brevity) they each constitute a side in the fight.
Able the Fighter. 1st level +3 to hit (STR and skill), +1 to initiative (from DEX),HP:10 AC 16. Encumberance penalty is -4. Battle Axe WSF 7, DMG: 1d10+1
Blake the Rogue. 1st level no bonus to hit, +2 to initiative (from DEX), HP:6 AC 12. Unencumbered.
Dagger WSF:3 DMG:1d4
Able has an initiative score of 6 (d12 roll of 5 +1 for DEX).
Blake has an intiative score of 5 (d12 roll of 3 +2 for DEX).
Able attacks first with his Battle axe in hand. He’s got a heap of troubkle here however he’s -4 to hit because he’s encumbered and -4 to hit because his initiative score iss less than the BattleAxes WSF of 7. Able’s to hit score in round 1 is 7 (1d20 roll of 12 +3 -8) he misses blake.
Blake attacks with his dagger. Even losing the initiative for the round his nimble weapon choice allows an attack at no penalty (Dagger WSF is 3). He rolls a 17 , that’s a his for 3 pts (after a d4 roll) of damage.
Able has an initiative score of 8, Blake has a 7.
Able get first attack again. This time Able only has a -4 penalty. He rolls a 16 that with his +3 to hit and -4 penalty is a score of 15 enough to hit Blake who suffers 5 points of damage.
Blake foolishly decides to keep on fighting. He has no penalties to his roll. His hit roll is only a 4 so no damage on able.
Able has an initiative score of 5. Blake has a 11.
Blake gets first attack. He gets an attack roll of 17 and manages to get 4 more points on Able.
Able attacks Blake (who should have ran for it) this round he’s -8 again however. A roll of 13 to hiut results in a total score of 8… not good enough to hit Blake.
Able has an initiative score of 11. Blake has a 3 (as bad as he can get, he actually can’t suffer a penalty to attack for a low roll).
Able attacks Blake rolling a 17… resulting in a total hit roll of 16 strikign Blake for 7 points of damage in the process.. Blake has been defeated.
Having a slow/unbalanced weapon can create difficulties in combat (As can being encumbered).
The above example was simple and quick and really only displays the impact of Weapon Speed Factors and the Initiative score.
Now let's have a different fight. This time by a chain of circumstances Able and Blake in the previous example are fighting a pair of zombies. Able and Blake have the same stats as before except Able isn't encumbered this time, the Zombies are AC 12 Atk: +2 DMG; 1d6, HP:8 each initiaitve -4 (these are slow zombies).
Adventurers roll initiative. Able's player rolls first and the initiative score for the adventuerers this round is a 5. the Zombies got a 3. The adventurers go first.
Able is -4 to hit as his WSF is 7 and initiative this round is a 5. Able strikes at zombie 1 the d20 roll is 12 -4 for initiative related penalty +3 due to abilities resultign in a hit socre of 11... the zombie isn't harmed.
Blake strikes at the zombies. He has no penalty as his WSF is < the adventurer initiative score of 5. He hits Zombie #1 for 3 pts of damage.
The Zombies attack. Able is missed. B;ale is hit for 3 pts of damage.
Adventurers roll initiative. Blake's player rolls initiative this round, he rolls a 10 and adds his +2 initiative mod so group initiative is 12 easily beating the zombies score of 7 (11-4).
Blake stikes at a zombie, hittign for another 3 points of damage on Zombie #1 (it has 2 hp now).
Able strikes at Zombie #1, he gets a +3 bonus with no penalties this round because of the initiative score. He hits on a dies roll of 10 for a total score of 13... inflicitng 7 points on Zombie #1 destroyign it.
Zombie #2 stikes at the impressive muscled fighter cutting zombie #1 in half. It's attack score total is only 14 not enough to harm Able.
Advnetuers roll initiative. Able's player rolls this round gettign a score of 2.... uh oh. The remaing zombie gets a score of 4.
Zombie #2 attacks Able getting an attack score of 17... harmighn able for 5 points of damage...
Able attacks the zombie not caring to retreat, this round he's -4 to hit. He misses on an attack roll of 11 (11+3-4 = 10, not enough to hit).
Blake strikes at the zombie, this round he;s -4 to hi because the initiative score for his side this round is a 2 which is under his dagger WSF of 3t. He rolled a 12 so he misses as his total attack score was 8.
Adventurer's roll initiative. Blakes roll, a die roll of 7 and +2 bonus gives the good guys a score of 9 this round. The zombie can only get an 8 at best, the adventurers go first.
Blake rolls to hit and does so on a 14 hitting the zombie for 3 pts of damage.
Able takes a swipe at the zombie, with no penalties this round he easily hits on a die roll of 11 inflicting another 5 point son the zombie, enough to destroy it.
Again no fancy maneuvers but the ebb and flow of combat can be seen based on individuals choices of weapons and the scores of their allies.
High roll wins and a using Weapon speed Factor as an index to apply or not apply a modifier to the attack roll makes choice of weapons telling.