As far as I remember, the Exalted system works on ticks and cool downs:

A "tick" is roughly one second, but is a fuzzy, arbitrary time unit used to demark how long actions take. An "action" is performed on a given "tick," determined by initiative and the speed of actions taken before. Every action has a certain speed, which is a number of ticks of "cooldown" between taking the action and when the character may act again.

~ Someone on the White Wolf Boards

This, and the wiki article on combat were the best explanations I could find on the matter.

  • Are there any other systems that use a similar system? Preferably systems that are not spawned from Exalted.
  • What are the advantages of such a system? Over, for instance the way D&D or mouse guard do it? Does it add suspense or confusion?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Scion has the same system, and is by the same publisher, but it is not "Spawned" by Exalted as you say. \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Dec 22 '11 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since the system designed for Exalted and then reused for Scion, "Spawned" seems to be a reasonable enough term for it. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Dec 22 '11 at 19:54

Are there any other systems that use a similar system?

The closest I can think of is:

Spycraft 2 uses a standard d20 initiative system but allows actions to modify characters initiatives during the combat. For example if an action is used to Aim then the character's initiative increases by 1, while being critically wounded drops it by 5.

Another system that uses an unusual initiative system is:

7th Sea uses a system where an attribute determines how many dice you roll for initiative. Each one represents an action or reaction and may be used on or after the time during the round that matches its result. There is a mechanic for sacrificing a future die to bring another future die forwards to use as a reaction.

What are the advantages of such a system?

It does a reasonable job of modelling the difference between characters who make make lots of weak attacks and characters who make slow but powerful attacks.

It allows for aim actions to be included without costing an entire attack (as is common for other systems) while also letting the aim bonus slowly stack up until just before the enemy gets an action (Wait for it, waaaiiittt for it, FIRE!).

The system makes team-up attacks more interesting then one character making a Charisma+War roll. The players have to time their actions so they attack on the same tick rather then just being a die roll.

It is a twiddly system that requires some reasonably careful tracking … but so is everything else about Exalted combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It also ups the amount of strategy involved in not dying, as Exalted is a very perfect defense or die game. \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Dec 22 '11 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The players have to time their actions so they attack on the same tick rather then just being a die roll." In my experience, players simply continue using the Guard action to sync up their turns for a coordinated attack. (Guard has speed 3, but you can break it at any time before the speed is up and act, essentially being the system's "Hold Action." Aim is used similarly, although it comes with a DV penalty.) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian S Nov 7 '13 at 20:13

Feng Shui, the HK action movie RPG by Robin Laws, uses a somewhat similar system. You roll initiative (Speed +d6 -d6) for the "sequence" and then a shot clock counts down; everyone moves on their shot count and then depending on how many shots it takes, you go again. Most normal actions (hit, shoot) take 3 shots but various powers and stunts take different amounts, you can spend a shot doing things like aiming or dodging, and doing something like "shooting while driving a car" incurs an additional shot of time cost. Once the sequence runs out you reroll initiative.

FS is excellent but not currently in print; you can get PDFs and print copies from various places still however (it had a lot of supplements, too).

It is nice in that it provides granularity of time use beyond the "does it take one round, or two rounds?" simply, without messiness like the multiple attacks hack in D&D to get around that same question (not to mention 'move action, attack action, immediate action, swift action, free action, nonsense action' MtG kind of junk). The downside, though realistic, is that one person can get multiple actions in before someone else gets one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Atlas Games edition of the game is still available directly from them (as well as other retailers, I'm sure): atlas-games.com/product_tables/AG4000.php \$\endgroup\$ – Sixten Otto Aug 22 '12 at 22:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Feng Shui 2 is now in print (still from Atlas Games). \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Dec 16 '15 at 9:03

While it's quite different in many ways, HERO System (I'm thinking of 6th edition in particular) replicates many of the features you describe. To start with, time is broken down into 12-second rounds, broken down into 12 one-second segments. Each character has a SPEED rating between 1 and 12, specifying how many segments the character gets to act in each round (there's a table that specifies which SPEEDs act when). When their turn comes up in a segment, a character gets two actions, move and attack. Additionally, a character may choose to abort their next segment to gain their next move action early, often in response to an attack, at the cost of forgoing the attack action. Since the time system is fairly granular, this allows for special actions which take multiple segments and also nicely distinguishes between high and low SPEED characters.

All in all, though it's complicated for the GM to track, it's quite straightforward for players to understand and follow, but still gives benefits of granular time systems. It's become one of my favorite initiative systems, frankly.


Both Hackmaster (current edition - not HM4) and Aces & Eights (by KenzerCo) use a similar kind of count. Neither is mechanically related to Exalted. D20's and d100's dominate.

I've skimmed, but not played, both.

The fan-written tabletop RPG based upon Final Fantasy Tactics Advance also uses such a system.

The playtest edition of Mongoose Traveller used an individual count-up, then spend down to perform actions, mode, which worked similarly.

The advantage is that it's pretty flexible. The disadvantages include lots of tracking, and often, tracking small increments.

Warhammer FRP 3E uses a recharge count-down - you mark used powers with markers, removing one per turn. Cards with markers can't be used. It's less fiddly, but allows actions of other kinds while given abilities recharge.


Yeah. Mine.

we've used 'continuous initiative' for over 2 decades. It's here.

We did it because it was more fluid and allowed for more of the dreaded 'R' word (realism). It aslo meant that speed can have more of an efect. Faster weapons can go a lot more, but when that battleaxe comes around, you'd best get out of the way or be wearing armor...


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