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I am thinking of implementing Speed Factor Initiative, but I don't really want to use all of it.

Speed Factor Initiative "RAW" would work like this:

  • Everyone must declare an action prior to rolling
  • Initiative is rolled after each round
  • There are additional modifier to be added based on weapon type and size

While I love the unpredictability of this initiative variant, I am not sure that my player are experienced enough to declare their action this early. I am looking at only taking the portion of this variant that causes everyone to re-roll each round.

I don't want them to have to declare their action ahead of time, or make the formula for initiative more complex.

Has anyone else tried this? Did it work? My main purpose is to kind of stop meta-gaming naturally. Because there are some brand new player, I want them to be able to converse with the people who have played before, but I don't want a conversation like this to happen:

PC1: I don't really know what to do here

PC2: Well if I move here and you move there we can flank the goblin. Because we have higher initiative, he won't be able to act before this happens

While this is constructive for PC1 to learn some of these battle tactics, I think by simply mixing up initiative each turn, that will be enough to really thwart the meta-gaming because they don't really know who acts when.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify what kind of actions you consider "meta-gaming about initiative"? I understand what you're proposing, but I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to stop. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Feb 25 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not entirely convinced your current example is really an example of meta-gaming. (Sounds perfectly reasonable for one character to see another hesitate and, from an 'in-universe' perspective, shout "Get that goblin! You flank left!" before charging forward himself). \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Feb 25 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am trying to stop full conversations about what to do next in combat. In previous games I have run, the players spend quite a bit of time conversing about what to do next and talking about scenarios what could happen until eventually, they find the highest combination of skill they can put together. The example maybe wasn't the best. I was just trying to highlight that during combat there will be teaching of new players that could evolve into meta-gaming. I am hoping that by mixing up initiative, they can still talk about it, without having a sure plan that will 100% after the conversation \$\endgroup\$ – SaggingRufus Feb 25 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if people have used Speed Factor variant and what they're thoughts are on it? Or are you asking something else? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 25 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ This may be an X-Y Problem. Why don't you describe the concern you've got and ask for solutions? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 25 at 16:29
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Your problem as described doesn't sound like meta-gaming. It sounds like making tactics, and working together. You should encourage this! If your team can act faster than the goblin, it makes perfect sense to take it out before it can take an action.

From your comment:

I am trying to stop full conversations about what to do next in combat

To me it sounds like you feel your players are spending too much time planning out every single decision in combat, which to be fair can definitely eliminate any sense of dramatic tension.

If you want to up the pace of combat, you can put them on a time limit. Get a timer, an hourglass or something similar and tell your players they have until the sand empties to make your move. 60 seconds is usually plenty of time to make a decision, and once your players get used to it they probably won't even need the timer any more. The problem is that this might put undue pressure on a newer player, since you did mention you have some in your group.

While speed factor is certainly an option, in my experience re-rolling initiative is tedious, and can drag down the pace of the game even more, especially with new players. As pointed out in the comments, messing with initiative order can have other undesired effects. Monsters or players can effectively get two turns in a row, which throws off the balance of a lot of things, such as "until start of your next turn" abilities. Not to mention, re-tracking initiative every round puts even more work on your plate as DM. It also doesn't really solve the root problem of players over-analyzing combat; it just makes things more unpredictable.

As always, talk with your players before you change anything. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what you all want out of the game. If everyone is enjoying the way things are, there may not be a problem and trying to force them to change their ways could cause them to resent you.

Another option is to just up the tactics of your monsters! Make them flank, co-ordinate, ambush, lead players into traps, etc. Let the players feel like their planning pays off when they outsmart an equally intelligent enemy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ May be worth mentioning that re-rolling initiative every round also throws a lot of randomness into abilities and spells that last "until the end of your next turn" (e.g. Monk's Stunning Fist). This adds a lot of unpredictability for players and the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Feb 25 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting that re-rolling initiative will inevitably lead to scenarios where one creature who may have been low on the first round is now high on the second round, effectively giving them two turns in a row, which can lead to some significant imbalance: A > B | B > A \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Feb 25 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ re-rolling does not prevent tactical planning, but slows turns down \$\endgroup\$ – András Feb 25 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anecdotally, I've really enjoyed the time limit approach. I've never seen a hard limit be used (like an hourglass), but as a player, if our party deliberates well beyond what would be reasonable, my DMs have occasionally said "while your party's discussing strategy, the goblin [takes a turn]", or even "upon hearing you say you'll flank the goblin, he takes a 5 foot step backwards." (assuming he can understand you). We assume what's said IRL is said in-game (albeit with lots of latitude) so the DM deciding we've spent our 6 seconds planning never really feels unfair, just a good reminder. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord Farquaad Feb 25 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LordFarquaad Admittedly, the actual time limit chosen is less important than letting your players know that the game needs to keep moving. Using a timer is just an impartial way of enforcing this, so players won't think you have it out for them when you tell them to hurry it up (you can point to the clock). Again, in my experience just knowing that you don't have an infinite amount of time to deliberate is enough to get most players taking their turns much more quickly. \$\endgroup\$ – Stalemate Of Tuning Feb 26 at 14:03
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What you describe is not metagaming

Relevantly, metagaming is "is any approach to a game that transcends or operates outside of the prescribed rules of the game" - there are other definitions that aren't relevant here.

There are the rules of the game. Therefore, it can't be metagaming.

The word that you need to use for this is tactics. Personally, I don't think its a good idea to try and eliminate tactics for the tactical part of the game but that's up to you.

Has anyone else tried this?

Yes. Me. A long time ago.

Rolling initiative each round and declaring actions in advance was the original way that D&D0, D&D Basic and AD&D did this although there was a single die roll for each 'side' not individual initiative.

Did it work? Sure, however, D&D abandoned it (which might tell you something) and my table abandoned the declaration element long before D&D did (which also might tell you something).

The Issues

  • It's slow. The most time-consuming part of combat with little or no payback is rolling initiative. If you are going to do this, I strongly suggest that you drop individual initiative and roll once per side - I believe the DMG has an option for this but I'm too lazy to look.
  • It's possible to cheat. Now I know you are scrupulously honest and would never consciously use your knowledge of the PC's stated actions to inform the monster's actions. However, knowing what they are will unconsciously influence you - because you're human. Notwithstanding, when the monster does something of nerfing the PCs, your players will suspect that you cheated whether such suspicion is justified or not. You can overcome this by having everyone write down their actions but that makes a slow system even slower.
  • It won't do what you want. All you are doing is changing the tactical situation which means your players will develop different tactics to cope. For example, if your enemy can move out of reach of your melee attack expect the players to eschew them for ranged attacks. More specifically, you are making the tactical situation more complex; the natural reaction of your players will be to spend more time considering their tactics, not less time.
  • Its less realistic. Yes, I said less. Small unit combat teams coordinate their actions if they want to survive. If it helps your verisimilitude, don't think of the tactical discussions as happening at the moment; think of them as discussions, training and practice that the party has gone through many, many times so that these are actually near instinctive responses to the tactical situation that presents itself.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could one overcome the slowdown from writing down actions by having a card in front of each player with actions printed on it, along with a token that can be placed on an action and a movable screen that would shield that card from others' view? Everybody could simultaneously moves the token to the desired action and moves their hands away, and once everyone had done that, everyone could lift the screen to show their choice. \$\endgroup\$ – supercat Feb 26 at 0:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @supercat and how do you deal with movement? \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Feb 26 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ One provides certain options on the card, and asks the players to describe their actions in more detail if the card isn't specific enough to fully describe what they're doing. Not a perfect approach, but it should slow the game down much less than writing everything down. \$\endgroup\$ – supercat Feb 26 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ While these are good points about the problems with declaring actions in advance, the OP did say he didn't intend to do that. The system under discussion just has everyone rerolling initiative each round, then taking turns normally. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 26 at 4:02
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Yes, rerolling initiative each round without making action declarations first works, in the sense of being a functional way to play the game. It works well enough that it's the standard approach in many non-D&D RPGs.

No, rerolling initiative each round will not prevent the kind of coordination described in the question. Even if the initiative order changes from one round to the next, the order for the current turn is known (or at least can be known) when each person takes their turn. The players may not know "we both go before the goblin every round", but they still know "we both go before the goblin this round".

If you want to prevent that kind of coordination (which may or may not be appropriate, depending on your characters, preferred style of play, etc.), you need to have the players decide what to do before they know whether they're going to act before or after the goblin this round, which is the purpose of doing action declarations before rolling initiative.


To expand on the "or at least can be known" comment, one way of dealing with dynamic initiative systems is to do an initiative countdown each round. e.g., The GM might say, "Does anyone have initiative 25 or higher? No? 24... 23...", then Alice says, "I have 23" and takes her turn. When she's done, the GM asks, "Anyone else on 23? 22... 21..." and so on. When using this method, it's common for nobody (even the GM) to know the full initiative order at any given time, although you could still announce your initiative position if you want others to know it, or ask them for theirs before the countdown reaches them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You should clarify what you mean by "rerolling initiative each round works", if it doesn't accomplish OP's desired goal (as stated in the next paragraph). Do you simply mean "it's a thing you could do"? Because when OP asks "did it work?", presumably they're asking "did it solve this problem?" \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 26 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast In the body of the question, it asks "Has anyone else tried [rerolling each round without declaring actions first]? Did it work?" before introducing the metagaming issue, so that's what I'm referring to when I say it "works" - it's a functional way to play the game, even though it doesn't solve the issue introduced later in the question. Do you think this revision makes that clearer? \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Feb 27 at 8:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ (While I could remove that part entirely, I want to keep it clear that rerolling each round is a valid and (IMO) fun way to play, even though it doesn't address the OP's specific issue, particularly since both of the other answers are claiming that dynamic initiative is a bad idea in general.) \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Feb 27 at 8:49

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