[RPG] How does using Speed Factor initiative affect the speed of play


My players tend to carefully plan their actions in combat, leaning heavily on their knowledge of the combat rules. They take into consideration who will act when, and which enemies still have reactions available. In general I'm fine with this, but it makes combat somewhat predictable, and the players' deliberations can sometimes take a fair amount of time.

Does anyone have experience using the optional speed factor rules described in the DMG pp. 270-271? I understand there will be overhead imposed per-round as everyone announces their actions and rolls initiative, but does the unpredictability the system imposes cut down on players over-planning their actions? Any suggestions to manage the additional logistics imposed by this system?

For context, I run my game over Google Hangouts, using shared spreadsheets to coordinate combat maps, character sheets and initiative order; for scheduling reasons we have to play in 60-90 minute sessions, so I'm interested in anything that affects how quickly we can resolve combat.

Best Answer

Speed factor initiative CAN cut down on over-planning, without making play any slower, if you manage the tone and urgency well.

I have played a small number of times with it recently, after reading this article by the AngryGM (Warning: his material is written egotistically with much profanity). I liked it from a thematic perspective, as it would keep combat feeling rushed and uncertain. In practice, it accomplished that quite well. You engage all players at once for their main tactical decision, and then there is a much smaller amount of time per individual player turn. Thus, players are directly involved a larger amount of the play time.

There are some things to think about for this initiative system, though:

  • Effects that last until the next turn can have wildly different efficiency. If you go high in initiative the first round and low the second, it is now a two round effect. If you go low first and high second, it barely exists at all. Possible houserule is to have the effect end on a particular initiative score.
  • This CAN affect spellcasters more than it does martial characters. I had a Sorceror that chose to use Sleep, but the Axebeaks made it into melee before he finished casting. He chose to cast it at his feet rather than waste the spell. That could add cool flavor to your world (choosing the right spell for the job is tricky if you can't react fast enough to the situation at hand), but it could also frustrate your spell casters.

The last point is about your players. If they are very tactical about their combat, that may just be how they enjoy the game. Changing the flow of combat could be an exciting way to liven up the game for them, or it could destroy one of their central pieces of enjoyment from playing. I recommend trying it for a session or two, and then assessing if you will continue to use it.

Related Topic