How can I handle many different initiative values in a non-standard initiative system?

This is a problem that came up in a recent (Roll20) session of the German RPG "Splittermond". Splittermond uses a time bar as it's initiative system (see below for a short info on this system) and because of this system, every combatant has his own initiative score. With a group of players and, for example, a group of 5 bandits, this results in 9 tokens on the initiative bar at a time. And it is very likely for the pcs to get access to animals or followers fighting with them.

Handling this number of combatants in Roll20 can be a hassle, as there is no fixed initiative order and speeds of various combatants can be hugely different, Actions out of turnorder also adding to the confusion. This ultimately results in a lot of time beeing wasted shuffling around the initiative tokens on the bar and constantly changing if they are in the fore- or background.

How can I streamline fights against groups of enemies in an online environment, where the initiative changes constantly and it takes a long amount to even see who's turn is up next?

Splittermond's Initiative System

Splittermond (which is available for free in german) uses an initiative track for it's combat system. You can see an example of that track in this free pdf. Every time a character does something, he advances a certain number of "ticks" (spaces) on the track. If someone is on that position on the track already, the "newcomer" is put behind the other character to show that he is last on that tick. At the beginning of combat, everyone starts at their initiative Score (determined by attributes) - 1d6.

The turn order is then determined by going along the track, with the characters on the lowest numbers beginning and the game advancing along the track.

As every action (even each weapon) has a different speed and thus takes a different amount of time to complete, each character/token on the board needs it's own initiative score (with bigger monsters even having multiple initiative scores) and is treated separately, which can get pretty crowded. (image by me, from our roll20 game)

Speed of some actions: Moving (5 Ticks); Running (10 Ticks); Attacking with a dagger (6 Ticks); firing a ranged weapon (3 Ticks); reloading a heavy crossbow (24 Ticks)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope my explanation of the initiative system does not add to much clutter to the question but is instead helpful. If it is not, I will remove it. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 11:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be possible for you to draw your own initiative track and just move the player tokens around on it instead of using the built-in initiative system? \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Oct 18 '16 at 11:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, Changing the layout is one of the ideas I have. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is the order determined between two tokens on the same spot? \$\endgroup\$ – IanDrash Oct 18 '16 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are the base initiative scores added to the number of ticks, or so they simply serve as a way to determine the starting turn order? So if a guy with an Init 1 moves (5 ticks), is his second action before the guy with Init 7? \$\endgroup\$ – IanDrash Oct 18 '16 at 14:09

Rather than trying to track this within the Roll20 interface (which it is evidently not designed to handle gracefully,) I would simply track initiatives offline, or in a separate app if I could find one someone had made to handle initiatives in this game system.

Then I would verbally (or textually) tell players what their initiative is on demand. If tracking on paper, I might also angle my webcam so the initiative track is in frame and everyone can see it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good idea, even though it would require the webcam to always be on the initiative tracker, as it is very important for everyone to see it at all times. And sadly, it seems to be the best solution other than trying to add a script to the standard Roll20 initiative tracker that auto-updates ist. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Nov 6 '16 at 16:15

Not sure how easier would it make it, but you could use roll20's fixed basic initiative order and simply change the initiative numbers after somebody did something. So in essence don't use the initiative track, but track the number of ticks somebody has used and let the auto ordering decide who is on top. The problem is that roll20's initiative table can be finnicky, and I'm not sure if players can change it, so it is more work for the GM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sadly that is pretty "complex", too, as I would Need to change the order manually each time (or trigger auto sort via 2 clicks and resolve duplicate People.... \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 12:57

My solution would be to use the image that you linked in your question by adding it to the My Library section in the Assets tab.

Any time combat starts you can simply drag and drop the image onto the map and it will be visible to everyone. You can then use it as intended by using copies of the player tokens to represent their spot on the track.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That is exactly what I am doing now, though ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ My comment from earlier referred to changing how the timeline looks, I.e. having the rows directly under each other or something \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I see. I thought you were asking for a way to use that table with Roll20, but you are asking about changing or removing the Initiative system altogether? \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Oct 18 '16 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Handling it better (as in: making it easier to use) in regards to a big number of combatants \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Oct 18 '16 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. I think to give a satisfactory answer I would have to much more familiar with this system. Hopefully you can find someone on the site that has played it before. \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Oct 18 '16 at 13:42

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