Has anyone ever tried group initiative/turns, either in DW or another game?

Has anyone ever tried group initiative/turns, either in DW or another game?

Has anyone ever tried group initiative/turns, either in DW or another game? 

The classic method of initiative in combat goes like this:

– It’s Player 1’s turn

– Player 1 says what they are going to do.

– Player 1 makes a move if triggered to do so.

– The results of Player 1’s move are declared by the GM.

– It’s Player 2’s turn.


Group initiative allows all of the characters to act nearly simultaneously, like so.

– Everyone declares their actions.

– Any moves that are triggered are rolled for.

– The results happen for everyone all at once.

I think that this approach may more realistically simulate a chaotic environment. It prevents “PC octopus” and keeps everyone’s attention when it isn’t their turn.

Does this sound workable?

8 thoughts on “Has anyone ever tried group initiative/turns, either in DW or another game?”

  1. I don’t really think that approach suits Dungeon World, but the “traditional initiative” approach shouldn’t be how Dungeon World runs, either. Remember that core idea of Dungeon World: “moves snowball”. That’s why you can’t declare a bunch of moves and then resolve them all at once–moves lead to one another. That’s also why you can’t handle moves in an initiative carousel, because the logical result of a move doesn’t always run to the next player.

    The best course of action is to look at the player who does something, look at their move, and then figure out who makes the most sense to turn to.

  2. I use that all the time in Dungeon World. It’s kind of my default, actually. It works great!

    At the start of a combat situation, I’ll describe what’s going on in general. Who’s where, what they see the baddies doing, etc.

    I’ll then go around and ask each player what they do. At that point, I might also give that player more specific details, making a soft move before actually asking “What do you do?”  We’ll decide whether they’re triggering a move and which one, and I might tell them consequences or requirements. Then I tell them to hold their roll.  Go on to next player and repeat.  At any point before we all roll, anyone can change their mind.

    I’ll do a last summary, like “Okay, Hawke is defying danger with STR to plow through those animated saplings and get to the treant. Odios is defying danger with DEX to wriggle free of the sapling that’s grabbing him. And Guyver’s volleying against the sapling that’s got Odios. Yeah? Cool, roll ’em!”

    Then they roll all at once, we look at the outcomes, and I narrate the outcome in whatever order makes the most sense. Sometimes, pretty often actually, one resolution might lead naturally into a follow-up move for one character. We’ll resolve them as appropriate until the fictional state gets back to a natural “pause.” Then repeat.

    You’re right, Peter J, in that it gives a feel of chaotic simultaneity. It also allows for one player’s move (or miss) to interact with another player’s moves, and to allow the situation to develop much more fluidly. Like, maybe Guyver gets a 10+ to volley and is sitting pretty, but Hawke’s 7-9 to plow through his sapplings sends a bunch of them at Guyver and now he’s in danger.

    This approach is super useful for “boss” fights, where the whole party is trying to take on a single bad guy (dragon, beholder, etc). Getting each PC to declare their actions and resolving them all at once gives you more opportunity for misses, and that’s more opportunity for the Big Bad to make hard moves.

    Another time it’s awesome is what when all the PCs roll a miss at the same time and you can be like “well, crap, the goblin horde overruns you all and bears you down with numbers. Next thing you know you’re disarmed and tied up and getting dragged through the woods towards their cooking fires. What do you do?”

  3. There was Sherlock Holmes game at GenCon that used an interesting initiative system. The players collectively decided who went first (between each character and the enemy GMPCs). That person goes, then picks the next person to go and so on and so on until everyone (including the GMPCs) have gone. The last person for that round picks who starts the next round. Repeat until combat is ended. 

  4. I have to agree with Andy Hauge​ here. Declaring a bunch of moves at once, then rolling for them one at a time doesn’t seem to let them snowball. What happens if the situation has changed so much that someone’s declared action doesn’t make sense any more?

  5. Chris, it turns out to not be a problem and actual generates plenty of snowballs. The declaration part is free-and-clear, with everyone having the chance to clarify and change their minds. That means folks are generally not doing things that directly overlap or contradict each other. And if they do take actions that interact with each other, you use the results of their rolls and GM principles to figure out what happens.

    I pretty often end up “zooming in” on specific characters after the initial declaration-and-roll, resolving a course of action that triggers multiple moves, forces an immediate reaction from the PC, or just wouldn’t take as long as what the others are doing. So it’s not like “everyone declare, everyone make one move, repeat.” It’s more like, initiate the scrum, resolve follow out individually, huddle up again and start another scrum.

    Obviously it’s a personal preference, your mileage may vary, it’s not for everyone, etc. But I use this technique and it works pretty brilliantly for me. I recommend trying it out before dismissing it off-hand.

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