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Regarding how to set up that reverse-party game, I'm thinking along similar lines regarding one-roll adventure resolution. There are boardgames plenty that do this sort of thing, first one probably having been Talisman.
I don't think that there is such a thing as a code of omerta that would prevent people from bragging about what happens in the game
That being said, I have no idea how this fight got started. Were the disruptive henchmen only there because Bodigon decided to hang out with them and eat his lunch rather than join the others toward the tower of love, or were they always destined to rob the party's supplies and kill anyone in their way once we got out of town? Either way is fine, after all exciting things need to happen to the player characters, but I'd be interested to look into the procedure at work here. This kind of event makes me UTTERY PARANOID about hiring henchmen (without at least knowing their true disposition towards the PCs) despite how essential they are to low-level play. Is this the difference between a henchman and a retainer?
The only issue I see (aside from working out the specifics of just how much of an advantage having the initiative gives you) is that it must be possible to break out of a series. There should be a number of ways to interrupt the series and/or force a new roll before it's over. Eero, you mention a few above, and I think this is a good and important direction to go. A group which is facing 5 rounds of lost initiative against an overwhelming foe must have some good strategic options on hand rather than being forced to weather the 5 rounds. Fighting back is one good option: essentially, accepting the conditions of the fight and engaging in it fully seems right and proper to me. But other options might be worth considering.
The only issue I see (aside from working out the specifics of just how much of an advantage having the initiative gives you) is that it must be possible to break out of a series. There should be a number of ways to interrupt the series and/or force a new roll before it's over. Eero, you mention a few above, and I think this is a good and important direction to go. A group which is facing 5 rounds of lost initiative against an overwhelming foe must have some good strategic options on hand rather than being forced to weather the 5 rounds. Fighting back is one good option: essentially, accepting the conditions of the fight and engaging in it fully seems right and proper to me. But other options might be worth considering. For instance (and, for all I remember, maybe we even did this last night), when Zizek landed a powerful blow against the general (6 hit points of damage to the head has to be a pretty serious hit, as it would kill most men), I feel a good argument could have been made for that triggering a new initiative roll, perhaps allowing Mithryn to escape while the ogre was knocked off-balance momentarily. (Again, maybe this is what happened anyway - I don't particularly remember).
Yes, it's the lack of strategic options apparent that bothers me, truly. I keep putting myself in Mithryn's shoes: if the combat sequence is so engaging that I cannot end it without taking injury, what options do I have? The best option is to weather the attacks and hope your assailant misses, rather than to flee and suffer an auto-hit, and that seems unintuitive.
you spend your action, get a chance to break off the series, and if that fails, you still get a substantial AC bonus.
Of course, if the entire notion of melee being a dangerous pressure cooker doesn't entice, then I understand how this course of thinking doesn't seem appealing. I like having combats be sweaty, dangerous affairs where people can get confused, afraid, and otherwise irrational and murky - friction of war, as I like to misuse Clausewitz
Seems like maybe you'd want an option to attack the opponent's initiative, throwing them into disarray or something, instead of attacking their hitpoint pool.
+1 to Christopher's idea of attacking the opponent's initiative; pulling a maneuver that can disrupt the enemy's attention long enough to force a new init roll. One thing I like in particular about this: it would give tactical benefit to really minor spells and legerdemain. A sparkle of lights or a small sound off the enemy's left flank might be all you need to potentially throw him off his initiative.
I have a strong feeling that 3–5 rounds of initiative is actually enough to swing pretty much any important fight in my game guaranteed.
Also, the initiative system is cool. I'd be interested to hear whether Eero feels like he has different aims for this system, as opposed to the 3E-style one he used previously. Or whether this mechanical flowering is simply an expression of the same goals under different constraints / different inspiration (namely, Moldway initiative as a starting point).What are those goals? One of them seems to be getting at the nature of melee as a pretty relentless thing that's difficult to disengage from. Another seems to be having interesting options generated from initiative, rather than just a first-round strike advantage.
I was considering how many variant builds have been forged more around the DPS, Tank and Support roles than aroung the Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard roles. Even to the point where the later mix as flavor with the former to create these builds. I've seen Dex based tanks, where the character distracts the enemy but keeps avoiding his attacks, I've seen Tank Wizards, who use magical shields and magic armor to withstand greats amount of damage. I know this is probably going too far from D&D roots, but do you think it would be viable to built class options around this instead?
you should note that we are not playing an "Eero is king and tells us poor peasants what to do" game here
My theoretical answer is that D&D needs some way of phrasing the idea that individual characters may have a fictional position that translates into mechanical hooks specific to them; the old way is to have these arrangements be entirely informal (you write in the back of your character sheet that your guy got special training/blessing/whatever and now can do thing X), while the new way is to have some formalistic rules and constraints and processes that encourage and balance these things, perhaps. My homebrew with its "initiations" is an example of the feat-like style, with certain formal processes that both ensure that you get cool stuff, and ensure that you don't get too much of it even if you try for it religiously, and ensures that you can't prebuild your character despite cool stuff existing and being known.
Ya, I get that the game you guys are playing on IRC is not "Eero's game". Is this thread still the right place to ask about Eero's thoughts on OSR D&D? Or is this now just a thread for the the IRC game? For now I'll assume I can ask more about "Eero D&D" - as always, others are welcome to come in with their own thoughts on this.
One thing I wasn't sure about with your Initiations system was the 1/level rough limit. It seems to me that this is too limiting to describe all the different things that characters might be good at. Do you find with this limit that you also have a more informal character traits going on?