Random Wizard Blog

Initiative and Combat Rounds

After answering Brenden's 20 question survey, and talking about initiative in the comments, I started to wonder where my preference for handling initiative and combat rounds came from. I also recently talked about a strategy that Wizard's should take in regards on how to arrive at an all encompassing 5th edition. With those two things in mind, I set about putting together a comparison on how various editions handled combat rounds.

This is a long post, but the majority of it is notes on where to find answers to the questions in the rulebooks.

BECMI- Frank Mentzer's Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal sets
AD&D 1E- Gary Gygax's masterpiece from 1978
AD&D 2E- The 2nd edition, compiled and rewritten by David Cook
CYCLOPEDIA- The compiled Basic Dungeons and Dragons book by Aaron Allston
D&D 3E- The OGL edition by Wizards of the Coast in 2000
D&D 4e- A large revision, breaking from the past, done in 2008
LL- Labyrinth Lord, a retroclone of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons game

If you are not interested in the footnotes, then feel free to stop reading after the chart below.


BECMI AD&D-1E AD&D-2E CYCLOPEDIA D&D-3E D&D-4E LL
Year published 1983 1979 1989 1991 2000 2008 2009








Length of round 10 seconds 60 seconds 60 seconds 10 seconds 6 seconds 6 seconds 10 seconds








What die to roll for initiative? 1d6 1d6 1d10 1d6 1d20 1d20 1d6
High or Low? High High Low High High High High








Is initiative rerolled every round? Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes








Are principal combatants grouped together as DM monsters vs all players? Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Or






Individual initiative? Optional important single combats Optional Optional Yes Yes Optional








For group initiative, Can there be ties on initiative? Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a n/a Yes
Or






For individual initiative, Can there be ties on initiative? Not specified Not specified Not specified No No No Not specified








Is there a set order to combat based upon what kind of action (attacking with bow, casting spell, etc...) Yes No No Yes No No Yes
If yes, then what? Movement, Missile, Spells, Melee n/a n/a Movement, Missile, Spells, Melee n/a n/a Movement, Missile, Spells, Melee








Can you move (a long distance) and attack in the same round? Yes
No* Conflicting Info Yes* Yes Yes



Half move
No (for multiple attacks)









Do all attacks from same entity happen at once on their turn? Yes
No Yes Yes - No Yes Yes


BECMI
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"Game time passes in 'slow motion', as the DM carefully considers the round-by-round action (10 seconds at a time) and announces the results."
Dungeon Masters Rulebook page 3

###What die to roll for initiative
"The DM rolls 1d6 for the monsters, and one of the players rolls 1d6 for the characters."
Players Manual page 58

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"When you begin battle, both sides roll for initiative. This one roll has applied to everyone on each side."
"Paired Combat" (this is what BCEMI calls individual initiative)
"Your DM may choose, for small battles, to determine initiative for each monster or character instead of the whole group."
"When this is done, each player rolls for initiative, adjusting the roll by Dexterity bonuses or penalties..."
Players Manual page 61

###Can there be ties on initiative?
"If each side rolls the same number, then all the action happens at once; the actions are 'simultaneous,' and neither side wins the initiative."
Players Manual page 58

###Misc
"If a monster has more than one attack, it will get all of its attacks before yours if it wins the initiative."
Players Manual page 58

AD&D 1E
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"The 1 minute melee round assumes much activity -- rushes, retreats, feints, parries, checks and so on. Once during this period each combatant has the opportunity to get a real blow in."

###What die to roll for initiative

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"Slowed creatures always strike last. Hasted/speeded creatures strike first."
"Your DM will adjudicate such matters with common sense. When important single combats occur, the dexterities and weapons factors will be used to determine the order and number of strikes in a round."
Players Handbook page 104

###Can there be ties on initiative?

AD&D 2E
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"A round is approximately one minute long. Ten combat rounds equal a turn... But these are just approximations..."
Player's Handbook page 91

###What die to roll for initiative

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"Initiative is normally determined with a a single roll for each side in a conflict."
"Optional rule for individual initiative"
"...it may not seem like too much for each to roll a separate initiative die, but consider the difficulties: Imagine a combat between six player characters ... against 16 hobgoblins and five ogres ... each die roll must be modified according to each individual's actions."
Player's Handbook page 94

###Can there be ties on initiative?

###Misc
"Some examples of the actions a character can accomplish include the following:
Make an attack
Cast one spell
Drink a potion
Light a torch
Use a magical item
Move to the limit of his movement rate
Attempt to open a stuck or secret door
..."
Player's Handbook page 93

###Misc
"using the same weapon more than once-- as in the case of a highly skilled fighter, the attacks are staggered. Everyone involved in the combat completes one action before the second (or subsequent) attack roll is made."
Player's Handbook page 95

CYCLOPEDIA
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"Each combat round is ten seconds or game time."
Rules Cyclopedia page 102

###What die to roll for initiative
"The DM rolls 1d6 for the NPCs; one player rolls 1d6 for the player characters."
Rules Cyclopedia page 102

###Are principal combatants grouped together?

###Can there be ties on initiative?
"In case of a tie, all action this round is simultaneous."
"Individual Initiative (Optional)"
"Every player rolls 1d6 for his character, the DM rolls a separate 1d6 for each monster or NPC."
"In case of a tie, the tied parties roll again, high roll going first, until all ties are resolved."
Dexterity Adjustments (Optional)
"At the DM's option, a character's Dexterity can modify his individual initiative roll..."
Rules Cyclopedia  page 102

###Misc
"A character cannot do two things in a single round, such as run 20 feet and then attack. he would have to run 20 feet in one round, then attack in the next round."
Rules Cyclopedia page 102
"When a character attacks, we assume that he is maneuvering for position. To reflect this limited movement, a character can move up to 5 feet while he is fighting."
Rules Cyclopedia page 102

D&D 3E
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"Combat is broken up into rounds. Each round, each combatant gets to do something. A round represents 6 seconds in the game world."

###What die to roll for initiative

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"At the start of a battle, each combatant makes a single initiative check."
Player's Handbook page 120

###Can there be ties on initiative?
"If two or more combatants have the same initiative check result, the combatants who are tied go in order of Dexterity (highest first). If there is still a tie, flip a coin.
Player's Handbook page 120

###Misc
Each combatant starts flat-footed.
Roll for surprise if applicable.
Roll initiate.
Combatants act in initiative order.
When everyone has had a turn, combatant with highest initiative acts again, and then go back to rolling initiative.

I think that last sentence meant to apply to having multiple actions in a round. If two warriors with two attacks each attacked each other, and warrior rolled a 3 for initiative, and warrior B rolled a 9 for initiative, the order of combat would be

First Round
Warrior A attacks
Warrior B attacks
Warrior A attacks
Warrior B attacks

Second Round
Warriors now reroll their initiative.

###Misc
3E introduces the concept of delaying

D&D 4E
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"In a round, every combatant takes a turn. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world."
Player's Handbook page 266

###What die to roll for initiative
"Roll 1d20 and add the following
One-half your level
Your Dexterity modifier
Any bonuses or penalties that apply
The result is your initiatve for this ecounter."
Player's Handbook page 267

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"In a round, every combatant takes a turn. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world."
Player's Handbook page 266

###Can there be ties on initiative?
"When combatants have the same initiative, the combatant with the higher initiative bonus (the total of one-half your level, your Dexterity modifier, and any bonuses) goes before the other. If their bonuses are the same, they can roll a die or flip a coin to break the tie."
Player's Handbook  page 267

Labyrinth Lord
--------------------------------------------------------------------
###Length of round
"Time commences in units of rounds, which are 10 seconds each. There are 6 rounds to a minute and 60 rounds to a turn."
Labyrinth Lord page 50

###What die to roll for initiative
"..each side of an encounter rolls 1d6 to determine initiative. The side with the highest result on 1d6 acts first for that round.... Initiative is rolled again at the start of each new round. If initiative is a tie, each side in the tie acts at the same time."
Labyrinth Lord page 50

###Are principal combatants grouped together?
"Individual Initiative (Optional Rule)"
"..every character and monster in the encounter will have a separate roll. Characters adjust their roll by applying their DEX bonus..."
Labyrinth Lord page 52

###Can there be ties on initiative?
"..each side of an encounter rolls 1d6 to determine initiative. The side with the highest result on 1d6 acts first for that round.... Initiative is rolled again at the start of each new round. If initiative is a tie, each side in the tie acts at the same time."
Labyrinth Lord page 50

###Misc
"Initiative is rolled again for each side at the start of each round."
Labyrinth Lord page 50

###Misc
1. Players declare character movement or actions.
2. Initiative
3. The winner of initiative acts first. The Labyrinth Lord may check morale for monsters.
4. Movements can be made.
5. Missile attack rolls are made.
6. Spells are cast and applicable saving throws are made.
7. Melee combat occurs.
8. Other sides act through steps 4-7
9. When all sides of a conflict have acted and the combat will continue into the next round, the sequence begins again at step 1.
Labyrinth Lord page 52

###Misc
"A character may move his encounter movement and attack the same round, but any further distance takes his entire action for the round."
Labyrinth Lord page 53