[RPG] To what extent would using the initiative system from Edge of the Empire in 5e break the game


I've been checking out Star Wars – Edge of the Empire and I really like the initiative system used in it.

Once all Initiative checks have been
made, the CM notes down the results of each check and
ranks them in order, from highest number of successes
to lowest number of successes.


Once the GM has determined the Initiative order, he
notes which results were generated by Player Characters, and which results were generated by NPCs.
The results generated by Player Characters become
Player Character Initiative slots. The results generated
by NPCs become NPC Initiative slots.


Beginning at the top of the Initiative order, the players and CM fill each Initiative slot one at a time with a
character turn. If the Initiative slot is a Player Character Initiative slot, then the players agree on one Player Character to fill the slot from amongst the Player
Characters who have not acted that round. That Player Character then takes this turn.
If the Initiative slot is an NPC Initiative slot, then the
CM chooses one NPC to fill the slot from amongst the
NPCs who have not acted that round. That NPC then
takes this turn.

In essence, players roll initiative 'slots' that can then be used by any player to take their turns each round.

I'm considering implementing this in my 5e campaign, as I'm not a huge fan of the static initiative rules they currently have. Players would roll for initiative as normal, but then would be able to freely choose their turn order within the rolled slots.

I realize this would be a significant step up in power for the PCs, as they would be able to much more consistently pull off synergies between classes that are highly dependent on turn order (eg. barbarian knocks enemy prone and rogue can get the sneak attack before the enemy stands back up), as well as increasing the potential effects of 'until end of next turn' features (eg. monk going first on round 1, using stunning strike, then going last on turn 2 so the enemy is effectively stunned for 2 rounds). However, I plan to combat this by having enemies able to use the same system to gain similar advantages.

My aim is to enable tactical choices regarding turn order and initiative, beyond those of the base rules.

Considering the above, to what extent would using this initiative system break/unbalance the game? I'm fine with an overall increase in power level, as I can adjust encounters etc. to suit but I'd like to avoid upsetting the class balance if possible.

Best Answer

Wizards go 'boom' (or 'woosh')

Certain classes are really good at ending an encounter in a single move, especially at lower levels. The most obvious problem is the Fireball spell, which will end almost any encounter with Goblins and the like before it has truly even started, blowing every enemy to kingdom come.

Normally, this isn't that big a deal, because the chance that the wizard goes first before anybody else moves isn't that large. If the Goblins get a chance to spread out the encounter is no longer a one-solution-fixes-the-problem situation. Using the Edge of the Star Wars initiative system (which I've DMed for a few games and I love) essentially makes this "will one of the players roll an initiative higher than the goblin group", and that chance is significantly higher.

Players coming up with creative combinations of their powers is great. It'll help them think like a team, it promotes everybody to go "look what we did together!" and it'll lead to an overall better experience for the group.

What the Star Wars initiative system actually encourages however is to let the guy with the biggest AoE go first, who will then end the encounter before it even began. This could very well lead to resentment and arguments between players who are tired of thinking "awesome, a fight with 20 orcs!", only to see the fireball-wizard blow up the entire orc army before they even moved.

It's not as big a deal for encounters that won't be ended in a single spell such as boss-fights, but drastically increasing the chances of the player-side AoE spells going first will make a lot of encounters predictable and boring.

Even if a wizard can't kill everybody in a single spell, being able to consistently go first will mean a lot of encounters will become non-encounters. At higher levels, the wizard could always save a Teleport spell for when things go bad. "Oh woops, we walked into a room with an Ancient Red Dragon and 90 Scarymagjigs, but as long as one of us rolls higher initiative than them, I can teleport everybody away instantly, so no big deal."

Battlefield control spells are already incredibly powerful. A Wizard (or other caster with such abilities) being allowed to the ability to pretty much always go first will make that class seem even stronger than it would otherwise be, even if it's simply something as simple as giving everybody 'Fly' the moment you see the Tarrasque show up.