Turn Based Combat

Something about traditional turn-based combat has always bugged me.

Here’s the standard: The character with the highest initiative goes first. They move their entire maximum movement (commonly 30 feet) and then make one or two actions, for example drinking a Potion of Might and then attacking the enemy archer with a battle axe. Damage is totalled, effects are distributed.

Then the next person goes.

Why didn’t that archer loose an arrow when he saw the barbarian charging at him from across the room, battle axe raised?

Because his Initiative was one point lower. It wasn’t his turn to act. In this simulated battle, where one entire round is only six seconds of in-game time, and everything is supposed to be happening at the same time…well, nothing is happening at the same time.

Look, I don’t care if you “have the initiative,” if you start running at me from 30 feet away, I’m gonna have time to react. And if it’s real life, I’m probably going to start running in the opposite direction. I ain’t waiting to see if you lower that axe on my skull because I’m polite and waiting my turn.

For Distant Earth I’ve been workshopping some combat options that represent action and reaction slightly better. Since it will more often be focused on ranged combat with powerful guns, things like bum-rushing a turret seems ridiculous. So I’d like to have a system that allows for more reaction to enemy movements and actions, without totally taking the advantage away from the character with the highest initiative. My idea?

Reverse Initiative.

The lowest initiative goes first and makes their intentions known. Then the next person goes and so on, having knowledge of what all characters before them are going to do, but before anything is resolved. I’m hoping it would make actions like taking cover and suppressing fire more common, and that groups would work strategically.

It’s probably a stupid idea. But I’m gonna give it a try. I want to encourage critical and strategic planning. In most pnps players don’t want to “waste” their turn on anything other than making their most powerful attack. If the “turn” becomes more of a round of simultaneous actions by two teams, working together will hopefully make non-attack actions feel like they are important contributions to success.

Thoughts? Experiences? Am I CRAZY?!


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Way into anthropomorphic cats.

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