Combat isn't a polite state of affairs and monsters don't wait in line to take their turn—the flow of battle is dynamic and unpredictable. Work with your allies to support each other, make plans, chain together powers and tactics, and exploit weak points like a well-oiled fighting machine.
This chapter introduces the Active Initiative system, allowing players to choose who acts next in the round.
The Dynamic Round
With Active Initiative, there is no pre-determined order of initiative. Instead, once a person has finished their turn, they get to choose who goes next—another player, group of monsters, or environmental hazard.
A basic round follows four simple steps:
- Who goes first?: Decide who triggered the scene and acted first. Did you throw the first punch?
- Take turns: Take your turn. Once you've finished your actions, you get to pick who goes next.
- End the round: Once everyone's finished their turn, end the round and clear up any expired effects.
- Start a new round: If there's still conflict, the last person to act gets to decide who starts the new round.
Step 1. Who Goes First?
First, you must decide who (or what) acted first and thereby triggered the scene. Most times it will be obvious who started things—someone throws the first punch, steps on the trap, or casts a spell.
- GM:You're surrounded, Valiant. The hobgoblin sneers at you. "Throw down your weapon, cleric, and maybe we'll only cut off one hand."
- Valiant:Pft, I haven't forgotten our last encounter—never trust a hobgoblin. I raise my shield and charge.
- GM:Sounds like you're triggering the fight with that charge, Valiant—you have the first turn.
If it's not obvious who acted first, you can determine this randomly by rolling for initiative—whoever rolls highest goes first. After the first turn is complete, switch to dynamic turn ordering as described here.
Step 2. Take Turns
Take your turn as normal. Once you've finished your turn, you get to pick who goes next—this can be any other character, creature, hazard, or group of monsters that hasn't acted yet in the current round.
Interrupting: Anyone who took damage during your turn can steal the initiative at the end of your turn (see Interrupting), so be careful who you attack.
You can't pass or delay once your turn begins, but you can ready an action. This doesn't change your turn order—if your readied action is the last act in a turn, you don't get to choose the next person to act.
Step 3. End the Round
Once every person has finished their turn, end the round as normal and clear up any expired or time-sensitive effects—spells, powers, cooldowns, event timers, etc.
Effects that last a specific duration of rounds tick down at the end of each round. Once a duration reaches 0, the effect has ended and can be removed.
Any effects that would expire at the start or end of your turn are unchanged, expiring as normal.
Valiant casts Bless—a concentration spell that lasts for 1 minute (10 rounds). At the end of each round, the remaining duration simply decreases by 1 round.
Clanda, meanwhile, uses Shield to deflect an attack. The spell ends when she takes her next turn.
Step 4. Start a New Round
If there's still conflict to resolve, start a new round. The last person to act in the current round decides who starts the new round—they can't pick themselves.
If you haven't taken your turn yet this round, you have a chance to steal the initiative and take the next turn even if you weren't nominated—this is called an interrupt. There are two main ways you can do this:
- Spend Inspiration: You can spend an inspiration point to interrupt.
- Take Some Damage: If you took damage during the last turn, you can choose to interrupt for free.
If you want to interrupt, you must do so before the next person starts their turn. You can't interrupt if you've already acted this round, and you can't interrupt an ally.
Variant: Interrupt Points
If players are spending their inspiration points often to make interrupts—or you want your monsters to be more reactive in general—consider this Interrupt Points variant.
At the start of each significant scene (such as a combat encounter), the GM gains one free interrupt point per player. The GM may spend one of these points to steal the initiative, but can only use one point per round. Any unspent points expire at the end of the scene.
Example of Play
Here's an example of how to use Active Initiative in a basic round of combat—Chansi, Valiant, and Clanda are fighting a hobgoblin and four goblins. With three players and the Interrupt Points variant in play, the GM has three interrupt points for this scene.
Chansi makes an attack, but draws attention to herself in the process. She then passes over to Valiant.
- GM:The hobgoblin roars an order out to the goblins and they spring forward. Chansi, you've got the highest initiative—what do you do?
- Chansi:I fire an arrow straight at the hobgoblin... (rolls 11) ...oof, that's a bad start.
- GM:Your arrow misses by a wide margin. The hobgoblin shouts a command and three of the goblins turn to look at you, Chansi.
- Chansi:Uh, that doesn't sound good. Hey, Valiant, might need you to draw some attention here...
- Valiant:I'm on it. I move forward and strike at the nearest goblin with my war pick (rolls 16).
- GM:The goblin curses aloud as you strike it. How much damage does it take?
- Valiant:6 points. Then, with my War Priest initiative, I swing around to attack another goblin (rolls 17).
- GM:Another hit—the goblin screeches as it takes...?
- Valiant:7 points of bludgeoning damage. Now that should get their attention.
Having finished his turn, Valiant prepares to pass over to Clanda. The GM, however, chooses to interrupt with one of the monsters.
As the goblins took damage during Valiant's turn, they could interrupt for free. However, the GM spends an Interrupt Point to allow the hobgoblin to act instead.
- Valiant:Ok Clanda, you're up next.
- Clanda:Perfect. I—
- GM:Before you can act, Clanda, the hobgoblin interrupts... (spends an interrupt point) ...and leaps forward towards Valiant. He swings his longsword in a fierce two-handed arc and hits, dealing 6 damage.
- GM:And with the goblins around you, Valiant, the hobgoblin's attack is even more dangerous thanks to Martial Advantage—take another 7 points of damage.
- Valiant:Son of a...
- GM:The hobgoblin laughs coldly, licking the blood from its blade. "You have my attention now, little cleric," he sneers. The goblins begin to move—
- Clanda:I think not... (spends an inspiration point to Interrupt) Now, enough of this nonsense. Don't move, Valiant, unless you want this Fireball in your face...