Friday, October 31, 2008

Readying Actions

I’m not a big fan of the way that readying an action works in D&D. The trouble is that there seem to be an unlimited number of dirty tricks that can be performed by readying an action. If people start to use these tricks, they have to specify a trigger for the action to go off of. Then the opponents want to try to guess what this trigger is so they can avoid triggering. Then the players want to make the trigger as broad as possible so it can’t be avoided. But there are no rules for how broad the trigger can be, so the GM is on his own making these kinds of value judgments. And if people start to delay to make the ready actions not occur, or start to ready off of each other’s ready actions, then everything really gets extremely complicated. All of this seems much too slow and confusing for me to actually want to play. There are certainly legitimate uses for readying an action, but they don’t seem to come up all that often. It seems like it would be simpler just to remove this rule entirely, and use the delay rule when you don’t want to act immediately.


  1. One way to deal with a problem is to embrace it and make it part of the game. I was reading another post where a guy mentioned that individual turns and initiative results in players being possessive about their turns and worse, being apathetic or taking breaks during other people's turns. I've been thinking about putting all the players in one initiative and all the monsters in another initiative count. People can take their turns in any order they wish, as a group, which has the same effect as "readying" in some ways while making it less complicated, and lets me do the same for the monsters more easily without having to justify monster intelligence. The wonkier tricks used when readying an action that depend on mixed-initiative counts with the enemies might be abused less as well.

    I can't decide the elegant way to do it, though - take the average of all rolls, or the highest roll in the party, or maybe some other solution?

  2. You have a good point here. In Champions, I found that using strict ordering tended to make the characters feel rather constrained - unable to act when they wanted to, forced to act when they didn't. I eventually switched to having all the players move at once in any order they choose, just like you suggest.

    I guess the nice thing is that everyone can immediately look at the situation and decide what to do, and is involved in discussing what to do. And those who know what they want to do can act first while those making tough decisions and still thinking. So things are more parallel and move faster.

    This is a serious rules change, though, not to be taken lightly. A number of abilities won't work properly if you do this. For instance, Rogues can't use First Strike as well, and the power of the Casque of Tactics doesn't mean anything.

    Using the highest roll in the party to choose initiative is nice because it is just like making skill rolls. However, it does change the balance of the game because one person with high initiative can help out the entire party. Averaging is closer to the original game balance, but harder to compute. A cute alternative is to use the median (take the 3rd highest of the 5 rolls). Another option is to pre-average the initiative bonuses and have the party roll once. This is much easier to compute, but requires house rules for how Danger Sense works.

    I haven't yet myself found this to be a serious problem in D&D. Since the game is highly tactical, it seems there are always great things to do, and the players are always trying to work in a team and discuss what everyone should be doing on everyone's turn, as well as what they and others will do in the future. But I've been GM, so I don't really have a player's persepctive.