Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Holmes-ish Inititative

I've been using Holmes Basic as the Official Rules of Record for my systemless Holmsmouth Urban Megadungeon Project cuz, well, it's in the name, among other reasons.  But despite having cut my teeth on Blue Book Basic back at the dawn of the 80s, I really haven't played it since.  So I've been brushing up on it lately, and, of course, there are a few things that I've gotta mess with.

Initiative is going to be the first target of my tinkering. (After thief hit dice of course).  For those not in the know, Holmesian initiative is a straight-up comparison of Dexterity scores of the combatants.  This means that Holmian initiative is individual--not team--based.  And, once established, the order remains fixed: no re-rolling each round since there's no rolling to begin with.  And it also means that if you have a high dexterity you are likely to get in the first blow every time.  And, probability being what it is, there are going to be a lot of folks tied-up around the 9-12 range.

But what it also means is that you're going to have to roll up a dex score for every orc, kobold, and displacer beast that decides to take on the party.  And then you'll have to track each one of your uniquely dextertied critters throughout the combats.

That, for me, is a deal breaker in itself. But there's still one more nail in the coffin: the implied assumption that the 3-18 ability range that we use for  humans and their ilk would be applied universally for all creatures from purple worms to pixies, zombies to giant ants.  [Actually, maybe not zombies; isn't their a rule that they always lose initiative? Or is that in AD&D?]  Who ever heard of a cat with a 7 dexterity?  Impossible right?

I want a score that:
  1. Reflects all the various things that go into making you quick on the draw; things like your size and your general quickness, and, most importantly
  2. It has to already exist in the rules; I don't wanna be making up new statistics here.  You figured this out yet? 
Movement.  Think about it, it already takes into consideration things like your size and quickness.  Long legs allow you to cover ground more quickly, but at some point the cumbersomeness of your limbs starts to slow you down.  As illustration of this principle, famous sprinters you have heard of are pretty much all between 5'8" and 6'2" tall; at 6'5", Usain Bolt--the current 100m world record holder--is an outlier.*  Giants have very long legs, but have far surpassed the optimal balance between size and quickness, thus they move at the same rate as humans even though they're twice as tall.

*Hence yesterday's post, in case you were wondering what brought that on. No idea how tall that Tiritelli dude is.

So your move in olde school "inches" will be the baseline.  Actually, Holmesian basic lists movement in feet, e.g. elves move 120', dwarves = 60', etc.  Just drop the trailing zero for the same result.  You're going to get an awful lot of ties though, since every dude in chainmail and every orc are going to have the same initiative value.  So we're going to add a couple of variable to the mix: your dex adjustment (In Holmes it's +1 for dex of 13 or greater, -1 for 8 or less, I believe) and a randomizer, also known as a roll of the dice.  But, in keeping with the Holmesian method, you don't re-roll every round; just once until the combat comes to a meaningful ending.

The Holmesy-Dice Chucker Initiative Formula:  

Initiative = Movement + Dex adjustment + Randomizer (d4,d6, or d8 based on hit dice)

Yes, the initiative die rolled is dependent on your hit dice; MUs roll 4-siders, fighters roll d8, thieves and clerics d6 (thieves only get d4 in Basic D&D,you say?  Then you haven't been paying attention). In fact, I'm thinking of extending HD to also include damage rolls: fighters would do d8 damage with whatever they use as a weapon, thieves (and clerics I suppose) do d6, and MUs will always plop down the pathetic pyramid for combat results.

Anyway, this puts encumbered folks at a serious disadvantage, which I'm ok with.   At least this is a matter of players deciding how to allocate resources rather than a result of a single die roll made during k-jen that will haunt/bless your character for the rest of eternity... or until they die on the 2nd level of Skull Mountain


rorschachhamster said...

I'm pretty sure, my daughter's cat has a dexerity below 7... ;)

Zenopus Archives said...

I like it. I've heard of using (Movement/10) for monsters for Dex, but not the reverse. I like how it makes characters who are armored/encumbered worse in combat.

In B2, Gygax gives most monsters of the same type the same Dex, which simplifies things. See this post: Typical Monster Dexterities

Timrod said...

I knew I stole that idea from someone. Thanks for the reminder.

@rorshachmaster: That cat is just drunk.

Dreamscape Design said...

The trouble with acting simultaneously is that it can get confusing, and some actions may have no effect because someone else's action supersedes it. Taking turns to act makes book keeping easier, and if you're going to do it you may as well use Dexterity as the determining factor. The only simpler method is to go by the order of seating around the table, but then who goes first, the players or the referee?

I use Holmes initiative, except I don't bother to roll 1d6 if there is a tie - instead, participants with the same Dexterity act simultaneously. Holmes initiative does have one important effect in play, in that it gives thieves an advantage because they are most likely to have a high Dexterity score. I admit that may be biased because thieves are my favourite class!

Timrod said...

Who said anything about acting simultaneously?