Semi-Static Initiative System

I’d like to know how you came up with the idea of a semi-static initiative system. It seems to fit quite well into the concept of a very constrained society, but I wonder if there is more to it than just aesthetics. What does such a system accomplish in M&M that a moldvay-ish initiative system couldn’t? I believe it has to to with standardized military combat in the 17th century, but I’d like to have confirmation if that’s true.

Looking forward to hear from you!

There were a number of factors. I need to represent the culture of the age, but also its technology. Firearms were becoming increasingly prominent, accurate and deadly. Swords and breastplates were still important in duels, pikes were still used to fight wars, but soldiers were casting aside all of those trappings for the musket.

But even as they picked up these long arms and trained in them, the culture of battle was rooted in this Roman classicism of mass formations maneuvering on the field. The pace was measured, range tracked, span between each soldier in a line hotly debated. The best strategists were mathematicians.

So, how best to present this all in Moldvay style combat? Making a musket equivalent to a bow didn’t work. The musket has a very different quality to it. I-go-you-go didn’t work. Soldiers often shot each other dead at the same time. Random initiative didn’t work because it caused too much chaos and reduced affairs to luck and bonuses.

While those decisions were rooted in a historial perspective, I also needed to make a clear statement to the modern player. I needed to teach them about how combat was conducted in 1648—or as approximate as I could get it.

Weapon-based initiative—with firearms getting primacy—was the first step, but not the only one. In order to fully form the system, I needed separate target numbers for firearms and melee weapons. I needed set ranges and a variable movement rate (to have those occasional failed charges). Different damage codes. Different skill bonuses. And, most important I think, special critical hit rules.

Weapon-based initiative was the start, but it was just a piece of the puzzle!


Can you maybe elaborate on the Iniatiative System? I’m particularly interested in how you decided what weapon acts when. I’m working on my M&M-hack right now though I have a rough idea about the initiative system I’m still not sure how to balance certain weapons.
My approach would be to roughly divide the initiative table into ranged weapons/polearms/martial weapons/simple or mass weapons/miscellaneous(opening doors, commanding, spell casting) for a fantasy setting. Then I factor in things like weapon reach and damage, to get a balanced and fair result. Maybe I have an easier time deciding what to do, when you explain your idea behind that mechanic a bit more.

Much easier to do it in the concrete than the abstract. Weapons are technology and technology is setting. So you need to either build your setting first or back into your setting from your weapons technology.

But the rubric is simple: all things being equal between one weapon and the next, who strikes first?

Frex: Why does the harquebus discharge before the musket? Because harquebuses used flint-lock mechanisms and French muskets were matchlock (which is a very slow device).

Or: Why a pike above all other hand to hand weapons? Because the pike was the prince of the battlefield and in combat you have to get past that long shaft before you can land a blow on its wielder. So pike strikes first. Then you go.


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