Sunday, January 29, 2017

5E old-school multiclassing rules

Old-school Multiclassing in 5E: rule variant

Remarks: with this variation, you gain some potential synergies that in some ways make a fighter/mage more powerful than a fighter and a mage working together. For instance, you can wear heavy armor and cast a Blur spell and Shield when hit, which is more than twice as good as either heavy armor or Shield + Blur spells by itself. But you're more fragile (fewer HP) than a fighter and a thief, you do less damage (get half as many attacks), and your attributes are spread thinner because you're only getting half as many ASIs to boost both your spells (Intelligence) and your fighting (Dexterity or Strength). It remains to be seen whether a party of three multi-classed PCs is stronger or weaker in practice than a party of six single- or dual-classed PCs, but it will certainly be more complicated and therefore potentially interesting! ~Max

Rule 0.) For purposes of this discussion and for historical reasons, 5E PHB-style multiclassing will be referred to as "dual-classing" and this proposal will be referred to as "multi-classing". Where ambiguity exists, this proposal may be referred to as "concurrent multiclassing" or "old-school multiclassing" to resolve the ambiguity.

Rule 1.) Dual-classing and multiclassing are mutually exclusive and must be decided at character creation time. You cannot dual-class and multi-class with the same character. Some DMs may wish to impose additional restrictions, e.g. only humans can dual-class and only demihumans can multi-class, or perhaps only certain multiclass combinations are available (e.g. paladin/warlock/rogue may not be an option). Do what works for your campaign.

Rule 2.) When you multi-class, you may have either two or three classes. You split your experience among them evenly and level them up simultaneously.

Example: John is a 1st level fighter/rogue. He earns 300 XP from adventuring, which gives him 150 XP as a fighter and 150 XP as a rogue. Since he needs 300 XP to reach 2nd level and has only 150, he does not level up until he gains another 150 XP in each class.

Rule 3.) You must meet the same ability score prerequisites as a dual-classed character, using the usual PHB table for multi-classing ability score prerequisites.

Rule 4.) At first level, you may take the best HP, armor and weapon proficiencies of all of your classes. You may select one of your classes from which to gain saving throw proficiencies--you do not gain all saving throws from all of your classes.

Example: Rupert is a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist. Because Battlemasters are proficient in all weapons and armor, Rupert is too. Because Hunters and Battlemasters both have d10 (6), Rupert does too, even though Illusionists have only d6 (4). When he goes up to 11th level, Rupert will gain d10 (6) HP plus his Con bonus. Rupert is proficient in Strength and Constitution saves because he chose at first level to take his saving throws from his Fighter class.

Rule 5.) Class features with the same name may only be gained once. For purposes of this rule, "Nth level ASI" is considered a distinct feature. Spellcasting is an exception (see rule 6).

Example: Rupert is a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist. He has one fighting style (Archery) chosen as a fighter at first level; he has earned 3 ASIs so far at levels 4, 6 (as a fighter), and 8.

Rule 6.) Spellcasting is tracked separately for each class. You cannot mix and match spell slots or spell points between classes unless they are the same type of spellcasting, i.e. come from the same class spell list. (So basically, Arcane Tricksters and Eldritch Knights are cumulative with wizards.)

Example: As a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist, Rupert has 4/3/2 slots for Ranger spells (or 27 spell points by DMG spell point rules) and 4/3/3/3/2 slots for wizard spells (or 64 spell points). Wizard spell points/slots cannot be spent on ranger spells, and vice versa.

Example: Rupert's friend Durk Dursley is a 10th level Eldritch Knight/Abjuror. Durk has 4/2 wizard spell slots (17 spell points) as an Eldritch Knight and 4/3/3/3/2 wizard slots (64 spell points) as an Abjuror, which means he has a total of 6/5/3/3/2 (81 spell points) wizard spell slots (spell points) to spend on any wizard spells he knows as an Eldritch Knight or has prepared as an Abjuror.

Note: when Rupert's single-classed friend Olaf the Stout is a 17th level wizard with 240,000 XP and 107 spell points with access to 9th level wizard spells, Rupert will still be 10th level with 80,000 XP in each class and 91 total spell points with access to 3rd level ranger spells and 5th level wizard spells.

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

5E: Trap Gremlins

IMC, that's why I created Trap Gremlins. Their one purpose in life is to create nasty-but-theoretically-solvable traps exactly like the ones which amuse evil DMs everywhere; more powerful Trap Gremlins create more creative and more deadly traps; various rituals can attract or even summon Trap Gremlins of varying strength, e.g. leaving junk food out after midnight may attract a few weak Trap Gremlins into your kitchen, but leaving a gigantic golden idol unattended in a stone chamber is almost guaranteed to attract a powerful Trap Gremlin, especially if you trace a pentagram around the idol made out of honey mixed with your own blood.

Therefore, a relatively cheap and easy way to create defenses is to perform rituals which summon powerful Trap Gremlins. True, it is less effective than setting a genuine, secure, deadly trap like dozens of Symbol of Death spells layered on top of each other... but it's also cheaper, quicker, and easier. Besides, you can always use both kinds of traps for really important stuff.

A Trap Gremlin can transform into the shape of an inanimate object, and when you fall victim to a trap, you may often hear a high-pitched giggling. However, disarming a gremlin's trap causes the gremlin to explode as if it were a soda can full of ugly green goop being squashed by a giant hammer, no matter what shape the gremlin is currently in, so if you solve a puzzle guarding a door and the barrel next to the door explodes into green slime, you have probably just slain a Trap Gremlin. (This is also why disarming traps often grants kill XP.)

TL;DR I invented a monster to explain why dungeons are full of traps that are amusing (to the DM) instead of lethal.

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If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Extending DNA with new codons?

This is quite interesting. There are some organisms in the wild that interpret DNA differently than humans do (kind of like running Apple IIe software on a PC--the same DNA produces slightly different proteins depending on what organism interprets it) but in this case they've managed to engineer a couple of extra possibilities. It's like going from binary to base three.

How interesting this is depends on how it affects the universe of possible proteins you can code, among other things. I don't know if this is significant. But I do definitely find this interesting.

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

5E equipment cards

[RE: spell cards]

Equipment cards aren't a bad idea either, especially for new players. Have one card that says, "Here's a 50' rope. You can tie it to things to climb down holes, use it to clothesline horsemen, tie up bad guys, etc." 

Another one says, "This is a bad of spiky caltrops, shaped like jumping jacks straight from the pits of Mordor. If you scatter these on the ground, anyone who runs over them without slowing down may wind up injuring his feet. (DC 15 Dexterity check if not moving at half-speed; on a failure, take 1 HP of damage, lose rest of movement for this turn, and speed goes down by 10' until you heal at least 1 HP.) You can use them to run away or set up a trap." 

"This is a torch. It allows you to see well out to 20' (eliminating Perception penalties and combat penalties), and dimly out to 40' (eliminating combat penalties only) and it lasts for an hour; but things in the darkness can see you coming or even smell your torch burning."

"This is a horse. It has trouble squeezing through tight places (needs at least 5' wide corridors to move through at half speed, or 10' wide for full speed) but you can ride it to gain free movement: 60' of movement plus a Disengage or Dash that doesn't cost your own action. The horse has AC 11 and 19 HP and can be killed. It eats twice as much food and drinks three times as much water as a human [AFB so I just made that up -Hemlock]."

"This is a jar of oil. If you spend an action to dump it on the ground and light it on fire, it burns for two rounds in a 5' diameter puddle, dealing 5 points of fire damage to anything that passes through it. It weighs 2 lb. [AFB] and costs 2 sp to refill."

"This is a net. As an action, you can make an attack roll to throw it up to 15' at anto tie it up, preventing it from moving and making it easier to hit, and making it harder for it to hit anyone else. If you are proficient in Martial weapons you gain your proficiency bonus on the net's attack roll; barring special circumstances, the attack roll will always be made at disadvantage; the net cannot be used against a Huge or Gargantuan enemy; it is possible for an enemy to throw off the net with an action or to cut its way through with an slashing weapon. It weighs 1 lb. and costs 1 sp."

"This is a bear trap..." Etc. 

Those can be just as valuable as spell cards for new players.

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If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Oh, look, right on cue: a Democrat is no longer President, and suddenly the NYT notices the deficit again. Because the $9.35 trillion that Obama added in eight years is obviously TOTALLY different than the next ten trillion. Just don't expect them to mention the deficit again when it comes to covering people trying to do something to actually reduce it. No, at that point, the NYT will be back to moaning about all the projects that don't get funding and all the infrastructure that is slowly degrading under not-enough-funding.

Hereby resolved: if you see me talking about politics again any time in the rest of 2017, please kick me in the shins and remind me to instead do something productive or fun with good people. Let the spiritually dead and intellectually bankrupt bury their dead. I cannot save them.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Day

Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again."

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fatherhood and motherhood: a definition

I was talking with K. about my daughter, and about how having daughters is a new experience for me because I've only ever had sisters before. And I feel like explaining my definitions for relationships because you can't understand how I feel about my kids without knowing how I think about fatherhood.

Okay, first thing. Fundamentally, "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be." (D&C 93:29) That is, I don't think fatherhood or motherhood is fundamentally rooted in an act of creation ex nihilo ("the people who made you exist"), because the gospel tells us that there is no creation ex nihilo. This is true for earthly parents ("I lived in Heaven a long time ago, it is true") and even for spiritual parents. So what is a father or a mother?

My working definitions are these:

Parent (father or mother): someone from whom you will inherit traits. Someone you will grow up to resemble. In a spiritual sense, Heavenly Father is and always has been willing to be our Father in every sense, but some people (like Cain) choose Satan for their Father and inherit what Satan has and is (nothing) instead of what the Father has and is (everything). Hence they are called the "sons [and daughters] of Perdition [which means 'loss']."

Siblings (brother or sister): someone who shares one or more parents with you. Can also be used metaphorically for those for whom you feel an inbuilt kinship, a sense that you have similarities, whether or not there is an identifiable parent in common from whom you both inherit those similarities.

Friends: people with whom you get along well, but who aren't necessarily headed to the same metaphorical destination you are. They're growing up to be someone else.

Family Pets: adorable creatures who are to be appreciated for their own sake and treated kindly, but aren't expected to inherit anything.

Children (sons and daughters): someone whom you intend to inherit from you. Someone whom you're trying to help become more like you. From this angle, there is nothing weird about the fact that Jesus Christ, for example, sometimes refers to us as his children even though we usually think of him primarily as an eldest brother. He has a paternal interest in us by virtue of wanting us to follow in his footsteps (which were also his and our Father's footsteps before him). But I think he doesn't mind at all if we think of him as a brother and not our father.

Spouse (husband or wife): this is kind of a special relationship because you're sort of mutually inheriting traits from each other as you jointly develop towards your ultimate metaphorical destination. Your spouse's role is neither to be an influencer (like a parent) nor an influencee (like a child, though of course it's not strictly one-way), but sort of both at the same time. Choose your spouse as carefully as you once chose your parents.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Admitting Ignorance and Asking Questions

From another discussion:

How Admitting Ignorance Might Have Prevented A Nuclear Holocaust.

Excerpt from Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

Most accounts of the missile crisis attempt to answer the central questions by comparing competing hypotheses, examining specific details of the deployment of missiles in Cuba or the blockade for clues to governments' goals and intentions. On the assumption that actors do what they intended, the details of actions taken and comparisons of the costs and benefits of the different options provide evidence about intent. Yet despite the best efforts in analyzing the behavior of the Soviet and American governments in this case, including our Chapter 2, anomalies and inconsistencies abound; "inexplicables" invite attention through the lens of organizational behavior.

As a point of departure consider the troublesome Jupiter IRBM missiles (15 in all) deployed to Turkey under Turkish control, along with their nuclear warheads, which would remain under U.S. control. Originally a highly publicized gesture of reassurance to allies fearful of the Soviet ballistic missiles being fielded in the late 1950s, the crude liquid-fueled Jupiters, along with F-100 fighter-bomber aircraft and their nuclear bombs, were by 1962 part of NATO's plans for defending Europe, specifically the eastern flank—namely Turkey. These pieces on the chessboard greatly complicated the challenge President Kennedy faced in managing a confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba.

Unraveling the more important threads of this story requires entry into the arcane world of military acronyms or, as a colleague has named it, "acronymphomania." The term refers to the practice prevalent in Washington, especially in the Pentagon, of using acronyms that many participants in discussions do not understand but are afraid to ask about lest they expose their ignorance. In the case of Turkey, the most important acronyms were: EDP and QRA. These stand for: Emergency (or European) Defense Plan and Quick Reaction Alert.

A vignette from the tapes of the missile crisis deliberations captures Kennedy as he discovers EDP. On October 21, in one of the few direct presidential orders of those two weeks, he dictates that a special order be sent to Turkey giving commanders explicit instructions. They should not fire their nuclear weapons, even if they were attacked, unless and until they had a direct order from the White House. At the meeting on the morning of October 22, the Deputy Secretary of Defense reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff object to sending out such a special order and thus that none had been sent.

Kennedy repeats his instruction: "We may be attacking the Cubans, and a reprisal might come. We don't want these nuclear warheads firing without our knowing about it." Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze responds, explaining that the Chiefs thought such a special instruction "compromises their standing instructions." Eager to avoid conflict between the President and the Chiefs, Bundy and Taylor attempt to move the conversation along, observing that a reminder to commanders to be sure to check their standing instructions requiring presidential authorization for the use of nuclear weapons should suffice.

But then Nitze let the cat out of the bag. "They [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] did come back with another point, and that is: NATO strategic contact requires the immediate execution of EDP in such events." Many participants undoubtedly wondered: what do "strategic contact" or "EDP" mean? In most discussions, however, that much acronymphomania, especially from authorities who presumably know what they are doing, would strangle questions.

Not with President Kennedy, who persists: "What's EDP?" Nitze replies, "The European Defense Plan, which is nuclear war. So that means . . ." Kennedy interrupts, "Now, that's why we ordered that [special instruction] on that."

Backpedaling, Nitze tried to explain that the standing order did require presidential authorization. Yet Kennedy pushed to the deeper point. "They [in Turkey] don't know . . . what we know," he said. "And therefore they don't realize the chance there will be a spot reprisal. And what we've got to do is make sure these fellows do know, so that they don't fire them off and put the United States under attack. I don't think we ought to accept the Chiefs' word on that one, Paul."

Recognizing that he has dug himself into a hole, Nitze tries to stop and move on: "I've got your point and we're going to get to that." The Cabinet Room erupts in laughter. But sensing the president's skepticism, Bundy says, "Send me the documents, and I will show them to a doubting master." More laughter. In the end, an hour later, the instruction Kennedy wanted was sent. It said unambiguously, "make certain that the Jupiters in Turkey and Italy will not be fired without specific authorization from the President. In the event of an attack, either nuclear or non-nuclear . . . U.S. custodians are to destroy or make inoperable the weapons if any attempt is made to fire them." The instructions were kept secret from the Turks, Italians, and other NATO allies.

Kennedy's caution was well founded. While Nitze and the Chiefs were certainly right that presidential authorization was legally required in order to authorize any use of U.S. nuclear weapons, all—including Kennedy—knew that the president had, by earlier order, delegated some of this authority to NATO entities in the event of attack. There were at least two reasons for such predelegation. The first was that a Soviet nuclear attack might well kill the president and other leaders before they could issue orders for retaliation. So to keep the Soviets from being tempted by this scenario, launch authority was delegated in advance if such a contingency occurred. (Presumably, the Soviets should know about the arrangement, although it is not clear anyone told them.) The second reason for predelegation was that some allied governments, such as Germany, sought proof that all NATO nuclear weapons would be used under certain predetermined conditions, so that Soviet attack would be deterred by a more automatic response that left little to chance or whims of an American president. To address the first concern the Eisenhower administration had predelegated its nuclear use authority "in the event of a nuclear attack upon the United States," authenticated as such if possible. To address the second, Eisenhower had predelegated the authority to use nuclear weapons for the defense of U.S. forces based overseas if there was "grave necessity," subject to required consultation with allies.

Don't ever be afraid to admit that you don't know something. Some day, it could save the entire world from annihilation.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Simultaneous initiative in 5E

Simultaneous initiative

From another thread:

Originally Posted by Hemlock 
I abandoned cyclic initiative almost as soon as I started running my own 5E games; you don't need to roll initiative every round at all. You only need to roll initiative when something happens that puts the order of actions front and center, e.g. when two people have a Readied Action on the same trigger (Nox: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll cast Hold Person on the githyanki!"; Githyanki: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll run over and kill Nox!") or when their actions are mutually exclusive (Neogi Wizard: "I cast Fireball on Nox"; Nox: "I duck behind total cover").

In all other situations, initiative for the round is irrelevant and can be ignored, although some players like to roll it anyway and resolve things in initiative order instead of going around and resolving in table order (e.g. counterclockwise around the table). For large combats (eight or more combatants) I often have players roll initiative to keep it simpler, but for combats with only a few key players like the aforementioned gladiatorial combat against an ogre, you can totally ignore initiative unless there happens to be a round where both the ogre and the PC barbarian get in killing blows (which didn't happen), in which case you need to roll initiative to see who goes first.

Cyclic initiative (each player declares and then acts on his own turn during a fixed initiative cycle) is the wrong solution to the "too much rolling initiative" problem. The right solution is to just roll initiative as-needed instead of constantly.

[Again, the key problem with cyclic initiative is the way it forces 50-80% of the players into inactivity when it's not "their turn," though there are other problems too like how it confuses people when they run scenarios involving surprise or hidden combatants. But the main problem is that cyclic initiative creates a notion of "turn" which is distinct from "round" and then forces players not to participate in other peoples' turns.]

Originally Posted by CapnZapp
Sorry, you've lost me. 

Let's take a quick example. Four heroes on a cart are ambushed by half a dozen goblins hiding behind some bushes up the road. Let's not focus on the ambush rules for this. I just would like you to explain how you run the combat. 

There are four PCs and six monsters. A very commonplace and ordinary combat, wouldn't you say?

I get that each player is asked to declare his action. But where does the time savings come in? Do you have each player resolve his action by himself, once you've determined that there are nothing stopping that action from happening?

And do you always assume a PC acts before the goblin (or goblins) that he's attacking and attacked by?

Or what?

(On second thought, perhaps it would be best if you replied in a new thread, but I leave that decision up to you)
Ambushes don't add much complexity, so let's leave the ambush part in there.

The basic rules I use are pretty simple: declare actions in order of Int (lowest to highest) to represent that quicker thinking gives you a shorter OODA loop; all turns occur simultaneously, but actions within a round/turn sometimes need to roll initiative to find out which one goes first; some actions (like Dodge, or maintaining a held action) are considered whole-round activities instead of events within a round, and so they automatically win initiative contests; you can delay your action until everyone else commits to an action, but that makes you automatically lose all initiative contests. (Essentially, you declare Delay as your action, and then you get to declare a new action after everyone else goes.)

So in this case, four heroes are on a cart, and the goblins have all rolled high stealth and won't be detected. The heroes are alert and won't be "surprised", but they do lose initiative automatically (as if they had all implicitly declared Delay, which is the default action).

DM: as you're riding along past a hill past a narrow spot in the road, six arrows suddenly arc in towards you. [Rolls dice] Vlad, you catch a glimpse of a goblin's grinning face in the bushes here right before his arrow hits you for 8 points of damage.

Vlad: can I Shield? 

DM: it's only a 14, and I think you would have been alert for possible trouble and aren't surprised, so okay, you Shield. Lose 2 spell points instead of 8 HP. Cranduin, you're hit once too for 4 points of damage; two other arrows clang off your armor. Jack, you got lucky--two arrows were aimed at you but they both missed. There's a brief rustling noise and you lose track of the goblins' whereabouts--they're somewhere within the brush but you're not sure where.

Eladriel (Shadow Monk): guys, let me check this out. I'm hopping out of the cart and making a sweep through the bushes.

Vlad: okay, we'll Delay until she checks it. [Cranduin and Jack nod assent]

DM: El, roll your Wisdom (Perception) check to see if you spot the goblins.

El: 9. [wince]

DM: You don't see anything.

Jack: I'm granting her Bardic Inspiration, and then I'm going to duck down too behind cover and Hide. [starts to roll dice--DM sees it and doesn't stop him because it doesn't look like anyone else is going to declare, and besides the goblins have already gone] 25!

Vlad: I'm going to stop the wagon and crouch down for partial cover behind the edge of the wagon, and Ready a Chill Touch for the first goblin that I see.

Cranduin: I'm going to hop out of the wagon too, to give Vlad some extra cover, and put on my shield and draw my longsword.

DM: Okay, you all do that. Next round. The goblins have all made their action decisions, but since you can't see them I'm not going to tell you what they are, though I suspect you can guess.

Vlad: still holding my Eldritch Blast.

El: Delay.

Cranduin: I'm going to Ready myself to charge over and attack the first goblin who shows his face.

DM: Okay, you'll be ready to attack the first goblin who breaks cover, as long as he is within your 30' movement range.

Jack: I'm still hidden for now, so I'll Delay.

DM: [rolls a handful of dice] Vlad! Three arrows aimed at you--does a 17 hit?

Vlad: Yes, but I'll Shield--oh, stink. I can't if I've already spent my reaction, can I?

DM: Nope. [consults dice, including initiative rolls] One arrow arcs in and misses you, and you blast him right back with Chill Touch. Roll please.

Vlad: 10, miss.

DM: Another arrow misses you, and then a third one, that 17, hits you right in the ribs for 6 points of damage.

Vlad: wait, I forgot about partial cover! My AC this round is 18, not 16!

DM: awesome for you! It hits the wagon right below your ribs.

Vlad: whew!

DM: all three of those goblins fade back into the bushes and you can't spot them any more. Cranduin, what's your initiative this round? The slowest of Vlad's three goblins had a 19 initiative and I doubt you can beat them.

Cranduin: [rolls] Uh, 3.

DM: ...well, I guess you're last. Three goblins also shoot arrows at Eladriel. El, there's one crit, which I assume you're going to try to catch [waits for confirming nod from her] for 11 points of damage minus your missile snatch, and then another 20 which also hits you I think, and then a clear miss.

El: [rolls] I block exactly 11 points of damage.

DM: Okay, you're hit once for 8 points of damage by the second arrow. Cranduin moves to intercept that goblin but he's too slow to hit it before it can try to hide again. However! One of the three that shot at you, the one that got the crit, rolls only a 12 on his Stealth check and you're able to see where he still is and point him out to Cranduin. Go for it, Cran!

Cranduin: [rolls] I got... a 9. Total. I miss.

DM: all right, that still leaves El and Jack with actions for this turn.

El: I attack that goblin, three times including Martial Arts. [rolls] One hit with my staff for 10 points of damage.

DM: And he goes down! Jack?

Jack: Can I very quietly grant inspiration to Cranduin without leaving my hiding place?

DM: Sure. You're like, [whispers furtively] "Fight! Fight! Fight! for the right!" [everyone laughs]

Jack: Okay, I do that.

DM: Okay, round three and you're still facing five goblins, as far as you know. They've got their actions ready but you don't know what they are, and... [etc.]

And that's basically how it works. As you can see, initiative is rolled relatively infrequently*, and the players are as fully-engaged with the game and each other as they would be in a social scene or other noncombat activity. Instead of spending 50-80% of their time sitting around doing nothing, not "allowed" to do anything because it's not "their turn," the players have the freedom to interact with each other and declare actions when they're ready to commit to something, or to wait for a better opportunity later by Delaying. You'll notice that one of the players (Jack's player) is apparently even still thinking more in roleplaying terms ("hide from the monsters!") than in terms of "optimal" tactics like readying attacks or making active perception rolls by Searching.

This style of play should be familiar to anyone who ever read the 2nd edition PHB, since it's almost exactly what AD&D used to use. The main difference is that AD&D didn't explicitly spell out the fact that sometimes initiative rolls don't matter and can be skipped, and it also didn't have the concept of Delaying. (I got the idea of Delay from fencing.)


* You can see that nothing would change no matter what order the initiative rolls came out in. The only time in the whole scenario when initiative matters is seeing whether Crandruin Readies an action in time to intercept one of the goblins before it can try to Hide again.

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If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."