Speed-Based Initiative

Had a thought: speed rates in Fifth Edition pretend to be in five-feet increments, but they're really in increments of 1 sq. This means that a speed of 30 feet is really one of 6 sq. What if we used this as an initiative bonus instead of dexterity or intelligence?

I'm eager to throw out the vestiges of the original D&D war game, but before then I had the thought of a simple armor table (which already exists in FMC Basic, but which I was also ready to re-employ for my 5e heartbreaker because it's easy to keep track of):

Armor Type DC SP
None 10 6
Leather 12 5
Chain 14 4
Plate 16 3

This means that an unarmored character moves 6 sq. (double in FMC Basic), whereas a character in plate is half as fast. But what if you also want individual initiative while not wanting to introduce ability bonuses? Why not use one's speed, so there's a trade-off between being better protected or being quicker to move?

That sounded intuitive, but I wasn't certain at first if bonuses between [+3, +6] were worthwhile relative to each other. What good could a +1 to initiative be, anyway? I simulated roll-offs in Python to find that out: a relative bonus of +1 is 25% "better", whereas a relative bonus of +3 is 100% "better". This perfectly matches with our range of speed values, since a character with a speed of 6 sq will win initiative twice as often as a character with a speed of 3 sq!

So it's not a bad idea at all. Not sure if I want to include a full-fledged tactics game in my heartbreaker (though I go back and forth on it because of, basically, genre conventions), but if I did then this would be there. Maybe I would rename the attribute "Stamina", especially if I were to have theater-of-the-mind combat. Could also ignore the original movement functionality, and just say everyone moves the same literal rate (if it matters) but some are quicker to it than others. And imagine spending stamina-per-round to increase your DC, or for other special abilities!

Who knows. It's tactical questions like those that I'm not interested in by themselves, yet which could produce interesting situations in the game—and maybe that's the forest that I'm missing for the trees? What I really need to do is play a game where combat is in the service of 'story', since that's the true domain of 5e but lately I've been playing games more focused on intrigue or exploration.


  1. I’m sure you’re already aware, but if you’re looking for a tactics game where combat *is* the story I don’t think you can do better than Gubat Banwa


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