Today I’m going to take a look at the new system of initiative that was introduced in Eldritch Wizardry. Although in previous posts I have disparaged it for its needless complexity, having read through it again it doesn’t seem too bad.
The melee round is now divided into eight segments: pre-movement, six segments of movement, and post-movement. Characters still move using the same rates established before, but there’s now a big chart that shows how far you move in each segment. All the figures in the combat are moved simultaneously, which could get a bit tedious as the DM sits there going “and you move half an inch, now you move half an inch, now the goblins all move half an inch, and now we go to the next segment and you move half an inch…” And so on. But it does get rid of that weird problem where Joe the Fighter charges out all by himself, while Jim the Fighter patiently waits his turn until his buddy is finished. Melee attacks happen whenever the combatants come within range, and I guess then I’ll revert to the melee ‘who strikes first’ system from Chainmail.
For any actions other than moving and fighting, you’ll need to compute your Adjusted Dexterity. This is simply your regular Dexterity score, plus any adjustments due to magic items and a whole host of other modifiers. Things like armour type, surprise, encumbrance, and whether you have a weapon at the ready are factored in. Even being wounded results in negative modifiers, which is unusual in D&D. Oh, and Elves get a +1 bonus here, an early precursor to their Dexterity modifier in later editions. It should also be noted that spells get slower to cast as they get higher in level. Except for the Power Words, of course.
Once Adjusted Dexterity is computed, the number is compared to a chart that shows what segment you act in during the first round. And for missile fire and spellcasting, characters then act every six segments. So if an archer fires his first arrow in Movement Segment 5, on the next round he will fire on Movement Segment 3. The round after that he will fire on the Pre-Movement Segment as well as Movement Segment 5.
This gets a bit more complex with spellcasters. The rules imply that they can fire off multiple spells per round, so long as their range of Adjusted Dexterity remains unchanged (i.e. they keep their spells cast within a few levels of each other). I’m willing to keep this in – the good old Vancian magic system will balance that right quick.
The only other thing to note is that the Haste spell doubles effectiveness while the Slow spell reduces it by half. I’m taking this to mean the following: first, double or halve all numbers on the movement chart. Second, missile users and spell-casters act every three segments if Hasted, or every twelve segments if Slowed.
It's interesting to note that this is really the first initiative system presented in an official D&D product. The one I'll be using previous to this is cribbed from Chainmail. It seems to work fine, though it has a few steps of extra complexity that I could do without.