Could I play Pathfinder with a combat system that is fast-paced and lacks initiative like the one present in Dungeon World?

The reason why I ask is because I'm trying to build a Dark Souls based campaign and I feel that having all the PCs wait for their turn isn't exactly the type of combat fitting for a Dark Souls-esque campaign. The interaction of all the PCs at the same time in combat and the requirement of having them be quick on their feet is the type of combat I need to run this campaign successfully.

I want to stick with Pathfinder as the core due to how it handles character creation, experience/leveling, magic and skills, and my comfort level with it.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Pertinent question: what's your motivator for using Pathfinder, instead of actually just outright playing Dungeon World itself, or another game with a combat system you enjoy? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2015 at 1:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel that Pathfinder better handles character creation, experience/leveling, and I'm overall more comfortable with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mboone
    Feb 19, 2015 at 1:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also dislike the way magic is handled and the lack of skills. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mboone
    Feb 19, 2015 at 1:56
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ A reminder that answerers should have experience with Dungeon World, so as to ensure they understand what the asker is requesting and that their recommendations will meet the asker's desires. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2015 at 3:40

3 Answers 3


You possibly could, but you'd almost certainly be better off with a different system.

Pathfinder is designed very heavily around the assumption that rolling initiative and taking turns is how combat progresses and is constrained. Dungeon World is designed around the assumption that combat is driven forward and constrained by player decisions. If you were to change Pathfinder to use Dungeon World's system of initiative, you would need to re-design, re-write and re-balance a huge number of character abilities, spells and effects (including, but not limited to, everything with a duration). To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever tried to do this. You could conceivably do it yourself, but by the time you were done the game you'd have would only superficially resemble the Pathfinder it was based on; The rules content and game experience would be immensely changed.

Given the scale of work involved, it might be a lot easier to modify Dungeon World (or some other game that features apocalypse-style initiative) to include more of the language and flavour of Pathfinder, or just to use a different system that has apocalypse-style initiative built in.


Dungeon World relies on the fiction to determine who gets to answer "What do you do?" next. While this enables quicker combat and puts the focus more on the fiction than the rules, it also removes the concept of turns and rounds, which would mess up spells and abilities in Pathfinder. Fixing that to play just like Dungeon World would take enough work that it would probably outweigh the benefit. However, I think you do have a few options to achieve a compromise between the two:

  1. Use the fiction and common sense to determine who gets to act when, like in Dungeon World, but keep any duration-based effects in mind. You would need to remember "Oh yeah, it's about time for that spell to wear off," and incorporate that into your narration. With this method the GM has more to keep track of, and the players have to be comfortable with GM fiat determining the duration of effects. However there are a few accounts of this working well.

  2. Have all the players go at once or in any order they like, then the monsters get their turn, and then the players go again. This speeds it up somewhat and removes initiative bookkeeping but retains the concept of rounds, so spells and effects with durations would still work. You could either let the players' turn always be first unless they are ambushed, or just roll once for initiative at the beginning of combat - one roll for all the players collectively, and one roll for all the monsters. You could even just compare the highest Dexterity scores on either side to speed it up more. You can find discussions of how this works here, here, and here.


I haven't played in Dungeon World, so I don't know how its initiative system works; that said...

The Pathfinder combat system assumes, fundamentally, that there is something initiative-like in play. That said, there are several alternative initiative systems out in the world. The alternative system I've seen that looks the most interesting is Popcorn Initiative: basically, roll initiative as normal; whoever "wins" goes first. After that, each player nominates the next person who goes (be it PC or NPC). Of course, you can't choose a player who has already gone in this round, and if you let the NPCs all go at the end of the round, they can all act twice before the PCs get to go.


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