Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 800 Pound Bugbear of Inish

In comments of my most recent session report JJ of MORE&BIGGER LOOT! asks "The 800 lb bugbear in the room: how are you handling initiative?"  JJ asks this because the Holmes edit of D&D has an idiosyncratic initiative system not seen before or afterward in pretty much any game.  Here's Holmes inish as I understand it:

  • Actions are in order of Dexterity
  • EXCEPT when any 2 Dex scores are within 2 points of each other, then roll d6
  • The DM is supposed to roll 3d6 to determine the Dex scores for all monsters
We tried to implement something close to this, but not quite exactly the rules as written.  What I did was roll 3d6 once for the entire group of monsters.  Everybody with three or more points of Dex above the badguys all acted immediately.  Then the baddies and everyone within +2 to -2 of their Dex rolled d6 to break the quasi-tie, everyone beating the monsters d6 going as a group, everyone with the same roll acting simultaneous with them, everyone lower going after that.  Finally, everyone with 3 points of Dex less than the baddies acted.

Everybody rolling the d6 every round proved to be a bigger pain in the ass than I expected, so it was eventually proposed by one of my players that we roll once at the beginning of the fight and cycle through the same order every round.  The went a lot smoother.  Still not as braindead easy as my usual reliance on d6 group initiative, but better.

The fact that the system considers an 11 Dex and a 13 Dex effectively a tie is interesting to me.  From it you could easily extrapolate a general stat vs. stat subsystem.  Say two characters are playing chess.  We'll call that an Int vs. Int test.  If one of the players has 3 more points of Int than the other then there's no real contest.  If they are within 2 points of each other, they basically have equal chances of prevailing as determined by the d6 roll-off.  You could similarly compare Con scores to determine who holds their breath longer or use Str vs. Str for an arm-wrestling contest.

Extrapolating one step further, let's look at a petpeeve I have about dungeon doors.  Hurgolf the Mighty (Str 14) fails to open the door to room 23.  Should Fimbar the Puny (Str 7) really have a chance of opening the door?  I'm not so sure.  Maybe only someone with a Str of at least 12 should have a chance to open that same door.