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Author Topic: Gaming designs without initiative order?  (Read 14813 times)
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« on: December 09, 2008, 07:44:43 AM »

Hi guys.

Welcome to my very first message upon The Forge and please accept my apologies if it is misplaced.

I'm currently working upon a Gaming-oriented RPG system which I'm trying to design as a light system. I'm trying to design an initiative-less turn system, to make all the action happen in a simultaneous wink and I've opened a pandora box with this wish.

Let me explain: There's no initiative, right? No player's turn but the single same turn for everyone. The very first trouble I've been meeting is everyone speaking out their actions together. So, I've installed turns of speech instead of turns of action with a result or an effect phase taking place after the turns of speech, but there's still no initiative. It went pretty smooth in my plans until someone decided to... Move its character...

Well, you see, it's not an easy challenge. So here are my questions:

1. Does a pen and paper RPG system exist without initiative count or order of actions? I don't want to consider Narrative designs in which this question is way easier to solve.

2. Can someone come up with something?

Thxs !
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Chronologist
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2008, 09:08:16 AM »

Just have all players announce their actions counter-clockwise from the DM. Have all actions resolve at the same time. If one player decides that he wants to swing at an enemy, and that enemy wants to hit him, their attacks resolve at the same time. This means that they could end up killing each other at the same time.

Another idea is that players could bid points of some kind to make sure that their actions resolve first. A pool that resolves at the end of all actions.

I'd really like to get a better idea of what it is you want.
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jb.teller4
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 09:15:09 AM »

Hi Patrice. 

Um... I'm not sure how any existing, non-narrative games handle it, but I have seen a couple games that roll first and then "spend" the results (something like "I'll put this '8' to attack...").  If you're spending dice to do everything, including moving, defending, attacking, maneuvering, etc., then it can be more free-form without a set initiative order but still be focused on specific actions instead of a narrative approach.

A small variation on that would be to have everyone declare a set action, but then have a system for paying for any the supplementary actions (like movement or defense) with the results (by "spending successes", or giving certain numbers on the dice additional abilities, or sacrificing dice before you roll to keep options--like movement--open, etc.  I'm sure there are many other possibilities).

Another thought about movement in particular is you could always have a "movement phase" and a "combat phase".  Different actions could take place in one or either phase.  It might seem sort of artificial, if your goal is to create the feel of simultaneous action, but it might resolve some of the issues you had.

Those were my first thoughts.  Don't know if any of the above will work for you, but hopefully it sparks something or is helpful.

-John Bogart
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John B.
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2008, 09:43:11 AM »

Well, yes, a spark is what I'm looking for and your answers do help. I plan to create a simultaneous feel indeed. So what I have follows:

Order of Speech. Having all the players, and the game master impersonating foes announce their actions in a given order (bid, random, stat-based, dice-rolled, whatever).

Effect, Result or Spending Phase. All the actions are resolved together during a separate effect phase. They all produce their result simultaneously (yes both swings score, Chronologist).

Initiative Count. An initiative count is ANY game mechanism used to determine a player's order of action. Might be bidden, random, dice-rolled, whatever, it's still an initiative count if it determines who takes the actions first. This is what I want to escape from.

Movement Phase. a separate phase taking place before or/and after actions resolved in Order of Speech or Initiative Count.

Here are the issues: What do you do if a player states that he moves to attack? Resolve the move at the end during the resolution phase? If you don't, what you have is just another initiative count and the whole idea becomes pointless. I could have a movement phase, or even two, but that would break the simultaneousness. I understand that you've caught what the trouble might be with movement, jb.tellier4, moves could thwart announced actions if they are resolved at the same time.
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Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 485


« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2008, 11:53:37 AM »

My game The Rustbelt has no initiative.  Here's how it works:

1.  Everyone describes what their character is trying to do.  People can change their minds about this as many times as necessary before the dice hit the table.
2.  Everyone rolls dice, and we figure out who succeeds and who fails (there's a couple of steps to that, but it's not relevant to the initiative issue)
3.  Someone narrates what happens, taking the previous into account.  That is, everything that was just determined by the dice is true, and you need only think of a way to describe it that makes it true.  If I hit you, and you hit me, then maybe you hit me first and then I hit you, or maybe we hit each other at the same time; it doesn't matter, because it's all the same in terms of mechanical effect.
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dindenver
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Posts: 928

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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2008, 02:20:11 PM »

Patrice,
  Well, saying what you do in certain order, is actually an initiative system, no? If you already know what one player will do, it will, by necessity, inform your decisions about what to do that turn.

  As far as movement and initiative goes, one of two things have to happen:
1)You have to keep initiative to track movement on a map
2) You can lose initiative, but then elements like movement become a matter of fluff and will not inform to hit rolls, map position, etc.

  For instance, in Marshall's example, there is no way to track movement of characters in his game. Since the players can only declare what they intend to do, the movement of the characters will be dependent on if the target of their actions move, and whether or not they succeed. So, in this example, we won't even know if the character's moved until after the roll, no?

  Good luck with your game man.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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J. Scott Timmerman
Member

Posts: 164


« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2008, 02:47:59 PM »

Two options that negate need for initiative but still allow position to inform actions:

1. Allow any action that relies on a position that occurred anywhere within the round.  For instance, you can attack someone at any point along their path of movement, from any point on your path of movement.

2. Disallow any action that relies on a position that has changed within the round.

Between these two, I like the first one better, but it does have its flaws.  There is the possibility of a paradox occurring, but you could just shrug it off.  An escaping character may get annoyed at the need to stay more than a round of movement ahead of a pursuer.

In the second, the players can't create a paradox, but tactical movement could get pretty annoying, and they would be disallowed from actions that should be logically reasonable.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2008, 04:12:16 PM »

Yup, you've clarified my question a lot guys. What I meant by a Gaming design as opposed (in this case) to a Narrative one is made obvious by Marshall's answer. Yes, your system hasn't any initiative count, but it is a Narrative system, and there are plenty options to discard the need for an initiative as long as your game relies upon storytelling or rather in this case, cooperative storytelling.

Alas, this is not what I'm aiming at. Scott, you have expressed quite well what are the pitfalls of this choice in a Gaming system. I don't know if you imagined trying to set tactical paths of movement when everyone is supposed to resolve their own movement in the same phase without order, but I can tell you, this is chaos and it leads to a dead-end very soon. The second options leads to too many paradoxes to be useful imho. In a Gaming system, paradox is cheating, not fun.

I think Dindever's right when he states that initiative is needed to keep track of a movement upon a map, there's no other option really. Not because of a lack in creativity, but because this is simple, raw logics. That implies that a system without initiative would consider movement as fluff. So here I'm in front of another choice: An initiative count and a map or no initiative count as such but all movements being fluff effects without tactical outcome?

When I say systems in which movement is fluff, I don't say everyone teleports around, the BASIC system, for instance, doesn't record movements upon a map, nor does Rolemaster or even, to be honest, the first two editions of D&D. They hardly are Narrative systems. Even though I'm unsure whether they would have sustained a system without any initiative. So I suspect skipping initiative will bend the game towards storytelling.

So, bluntly said, I now understand better my options. 
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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 09:23:28 PM »

So a new round starts, and all four players start shouting at the GM what they want to do. I think the problem is, unless everybody is very cooperative, you'll break out into arguments over "who goes first." There's a game called "Hell" or something like that, where players can start grabbing cards, even each others cards until they get a trick. One of my friends loves this game, he's very argumentative and bossy, and the game always breaks out into pissing matches. Needless to say, nobody else wants to play it with him. 

What does this mean? Well, people need to have turns. I think what you really want is a system where "turns don't matter."  I can take my turn, than bob can take his turn, until everyone takes their turn.  I prefer "round the table" turns, because you always know when you should go, and people rarely get skipped.  People don't spend a lot of time figuring out "just who's turn is it anyways?"

The other option I can think of, is where people bid "dice" on their actions.  Whoever bids the most dice gets to do their thing first.  People then do things until they run out of dice. If I'm not mistaken, they were just talking about this in one of the "Action Point" threads.
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Selene Tan
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Posts: 167


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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2008, 09:34:10 PM »

I think there are some advantages to "Disallow any action that relies on a position that has changed within the round". It incorporates more strategy of the "Figure out what your opponent is about to do so you can block/counter it" type, especially if actions are decided secretly then declared simultaneously. This means that missing an attack because your opponent moved isn't a paradox, it's a result of bad planning on your part.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 01:49:40 AM »

Yes, there's always the secrecy and pre-planning option. A little bit like in Diplomacy, a few tactical wargames I've half-forgotten about and the psionic combat system of D&D's first edition. Then again the mapping question comes in but this is a possible initiative-less fair and square gameplay.

Example: Huruk - Moves 4 / Huruk Strikes wMighty Bash. Opponent declares Move 6. This results in Huruk's move coming short of Opponent's close and Huruk's strike being lost.

Could be a bit tricky and would require quite a lot of afterthougt, especially to design it light but might work. Cheers.
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Lord Skeletor
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2008, 07:41:09 AM »

1. Does a pen and paper RPG system exist without initiative count or order of actions? I don't want to consider Narrative designs in which this question is way easier to solve.

Yes sir.

Usagi Yojimbo RPG, 2nd edition's combat system. There is, certes, a semblance of initiative, but it really reflects the preparedness of the acting characters.

General rule : All characters with the same level of readiness for combat can take the same actions in the round. Usually, for active characters, one attack action, one defense action (counterattack or parry), and as many dodge actions as necessary. For battle-ready characters, they also have the specific quality of "focus".

Combat actions are not resolved in a particular order, though characters may use the "focus" mechanic in order to interrupt the actions of other characters. This mechanism makes the order of combat actions irrelevant.

I suppose the same logic could be extended to embrace out-of-combat situations.
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dindenver
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Posts: 928

Don't Panic!


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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2008, 08:03:09 AM »

Patrice,
  Well, if you want the game to be tactical, you could always go with phased movement like HERO.
  In this system, you move in something like 12 phases and everything is considered simultaneous. So, you declare what speed you are moving at, and that modifies hit probabilities, but also determines what phases you move on. So, maybe if you move at 6, you move every other phase, one square each.
  From a RP perspective, its a little tedious. From a tactical perspective, its pure genius. So, I guess it really depends on your design priorities.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2008, 08:17:17 AM »

Yes, Dindenver, I have nothing against the system being tactical. I want a gamer's system, but since I plan to design it as a light system, HERO and the likes would be a burden. Skeletor, you got me very interested with Usagi Yojimbo 2nd, sounds really close to what I'm planning and I'll sure have a look into it. It's not, from what I'm reading, an initiative-less system, but a system in which interrupts dismiss its relevance and well... It's very close to the conlusion I'm getting at so I'll really have a look. Thank you.
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Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 485


« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2008, 03:11:57 PM »

  For instance, in Marshall's example, there is no way to track movement of characters in his game. Since the players can only declare what they intend to do, the movement of the characters will be dependent on if the target of their actions move, and whether or not they succeed. So, in this example, we won't even know if the character's moved until after the roll, no?

Wha'?  I'm apparently gonna have to cover that well in the next version.  Things like closing to optimal ranges, reaching cover, and fleeing to safety are all incredibly important in that game (moreso than I had anticipated).  But you have to name them as your intent, or else the don't count.
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