Combat always works in terms of timing. For this game's combat mechanics, three methods were developed for aiding the Players and Game Master determine which characters or monsters get to act in which order. A combat round comprises of twenty (20) segments. A lot of factors are taken into consideration when calculating initiative. For example: Is the character using a spell or a weapon? Is the character attacking or performing a purely defensive action? If a weapon is used, is it light an small (like a dagger) or heavy and bulky (like a two-handed sword)? Is the character agile (high Dexterity) or clumsy (low Dexterity)? Are there any spells in effect that either speed the characters up or slow them down?
For more experienced players, the Complete Initiative model is the best choice because it factors in the most variables. For those new to role-playing, the Game Maser may opt for the Simplified Initiative model (which tracks only a few variables). Finally, there is the Large Party Initiative system, which is rarely used but comes in handy in special circumstances when each player may also be controlling a sizable number of henchmen and hirelings for wide-area combat (for example, an entire city is under attack and the characters have raised an entire army in its defense).
It should be known that, although a combat round has 20 segments, a modified roll above 20 will still allow the character to act that round. He/she will simply act last. If two or more characters roll above 20, the Game Master simply keeps counting until everyone has had a turn.
While this is the most complicated of the three systems, it does have the advantage of taking into account the characters’ Dexterity modifier, weapon speed, and spell casting delay. This method is recommended for players that are very familiar with the game mechanics.
The initiative value determines when a character may perform his or her basic action. Thus, if a character has an initiative of 12, she will be able to act on the twelfth segment of the combat round. Calculating this value is fairly straightforward, and simply depends on what sort of combat is taking place. But all forms start with the character's basic initiative modifier (listed in the Dexterity table.) To this score, roll a 1d6. The formulae are listed below:
Table: Calculating Initiative using Initiative Method One
1d6 + Base Initiative + Weapon Speed
1d6 + Base Initiative + Weapon Speed [+ Reload Speed]
1d6+3 + Base Initiative
1d6+2 + Base Initiative
1d6 + Base Initiative
1d6 + Base Initiative + Invocation Time
Using an Innate Power
1d6 + Base Initiative
Drinking a potion
1d6+1 + Base Initiative
1d6 + Base Initiative
Using a device
1d6 + Base Initiative
For example, a Warrior with a Dexterity of 12 and fighting with a lance would have the following initiative roll: Init = 3 + 8 + 1d6. In this example, the 3 was the base initiative modifier for having Dex(12). The 8 was the weapon speed of the lance.
It is also possible for the character's initiative to be modified by specific situations. Enchanted weapons often have bonuses to initiative, while damaged weapons have penalties to initiative. Moreover, certain martial arts and supernatural powers can cause a character to react faster, while other powers, drugs, and poisons can slow a character. In the case of an initiative bonus, the final initiative score cannot be reduced below 1. In other words, even the fasted martial artist wielding a well-made enchanted sword would not be able to attack before the round starts. Nobody is that fast.
While not as exacting or accurate as Method One, it does have the advantage of being easier to use by new players and those of limited mathematical skill.
For determining combat sequencing, the basic modifiers are 0 for unarmed attacks, 1 for small weapons (including handguns), 2 for medium sized weapons (including bows/rifles), and 3 for large weapons (generally any heavy, two-handed weapon). Spells, songs, and invocations have a modifier of 1 per level, while innate powers have a modifier of 0. To this, add a 1d6. Thus, the initiative roll for a crossbow would be 1d6+2, while a third level Wishsong would have a modifier of 1d6+3. Miscellaneous actions, such as drinking a potion, etc., have a modifier of 1.
In summary, the Base Initiative score is ignored, and the casting delays found in the Book of Spiritual Powers are ignored in favour of the “1 segment per spell level” delay enforced by the Method Two Initiative System.
The Game Master might find the Large Party format handy when each character has the task of controlling several hirelings or henchmen. A good example is when the adventurers are tasked with defending a city against an Undead horde. Each character may have recruited a dozen hirelings in the city's defense. Rather than rolling dozens of dice, each player would roll a single d20, with no modifiers. the Game Master then counts from 1 to 20 until all of the characters (and their henchmen) have acted.
For even larger combat scenarios, the Game Master may employ the Theater Combat rules.
Holding One’s Action: A person can chose not to take their action immediately and instead delay their action until later in the round. The person holding his action does not need to specify when he wishes to go, although certain rules apply to held actions. The maximum time one can hold one’s action is equal to the initiative result (not just the roll) + 10. So, suppose that Grunk the Barbarian gets a 5 for his initiative and Flametouch the Shaman gets a 9. Grunk’s initiative comes first and he chooses to hold his action, know full well that the Shaman will probably want to blast the bad guys with a spell. So, Grunk holds his action up until 9, Flametouch casts his spell, and then Grunk runs in and attacks on initiative 10. However, if Flametouch had an initiative of 13 or higher, Grunk would not have been able to hold his action until after Flametouch’s that round. If holding one’s action results in multiple combatants going on the same initiative, have them roll off to see who goes first - essentially, another initiative roll using the Dexterity Initiative Modifier. This is also the standard method to resolve tied initiative results. Refocus: One can chose to forgone one’s action for the round in order to refocus for the next round. If a character refocuses, he cannot attack, use items, cast spells, or move more than 5-feet that round. Note that he can still parry attacks and make Saving Throws. The benefit of this is that his next round’s initiative roll is considered a “1” - note that Dexterity Initiative Modifiers still apply, so a character might not go first the next round even after Refocusing, but there’s a good chance that he will. This ability has limited applications, but it can be very useful for skilled parties of adventurers who take care to time their attacks to perfection. It also is useful if one is not sure of friend or foe in the first round of battle.
Things to Remember
Players may find it useful to pre-calculate the initiative modifiers for the weapons/spells they use most often.
When throwing "bulk" enemies at the party (such as zombies or giant rats), the Game Master need not roll Dexterity modifiers for all same-type monsters; just roll once for the Dexterity modifier and apply it to all same-type monsters.
Alcohol and drugs can also affect initiative (and usually not in a positive way). A sneak attack on the adventurers after an evening of carousing might not go so well for the characters.