Initiative: The Order of Play

To avoid a free-for-all, before any character, PC or NPC or even beast, can make any move or take any overt action in pursuing the tactical contest – even within the same party (especially when the party members are not agreed on what needs doing first) – an agreement must be reached as to who gets to effectively act first, and the order in which those that follow get their turns must be determined.

The GM can really only fairly listen to and referee the actions of one player at a time.

The order of play is sorted around by means of an arbitrary variable number called “Initiative“. It is variable because not everyone is equally prepared to the greatest degree of their potential at all times.

Initiative is determined by rolling dice according to the following procedure.

Roll d10 to find the base Initiative for each participant in the contest.

Add the character’s Initiative Modifier (AWA att. mod. + HRT att. mod.). This puts those characters with higher scores, indicating they are inclined to have faster reactions, up in the higher Initiative results so they are regularly among the first to act.

All the creatures and/or beings participating in the contest are then jotted down together on the GM’s Initiative Roster, friend and foe alike, in order from the greatest to the least.

This way no one gets left out.

This provides the order of play for the duration of the CS at hand.

  • IF two or more characters end up with the same number, those characters act in order of AGL score, greatest to least.
  • IF those characters ALSO have the same AGL score, those characters act in order of HRT, greatest to least.
  • Beyond this, flip a coin, take them alphabetically, they are essentially simultaneous (GM’s discretion).

The two (or more) opposing sides do NOT take turns back and forth (Us then Them, Good Guys then Bad Guys), but each acts individually according to Initiative when their turns occur. In this way, the movements and actions of the PC’s and their foes are intermixed as realistically as they can be.

  • IF any of the participants have multiple actions in the CS at hand, those characters always get to take their additional actions first, counting down from those that get 3 (or more, as applicable) down to those that get 2, down to those that get only 1 in the CS at hand, always in order of Initiative as established by the roll for that CS.
  • When two or more characters have the same number of actions in the CS, the order of play in which the players take their turns is handled by comparing Initiative again between them. The entire point being stressed by those multiple actions is the fact that those characters are faster than the rest, so those actions must be made before the others can implement theirs.

When every participant who is eligible has completed his actions/taken his turn(s) for the CS, it is over.

The cycle begins anew for the next CS.

Players and GM return to the dice to roll a new Initiative, so the GM can draw up a new Roster. Dry erase boards are great for this, or magnet boards with tiles or markers the GM can write the PC and NPC names/designations on and rearrange quickly on the fly.


Next we must determine which characters are aware of the situation and their opponents.

  • IF a character is unaware of his opponents when they suddenly spring out upon him, he is considered to be “Surprised” to some degree, or at least momentarily startled. Surprise can continue to affect the actions of the characters operating under its effects for a number of CS’s following the initial determination. The degree of Surprise is determined as follows.