I have been having trouble keeping control at the table with out an Initiative system.

I have been having trouble keeping control at the table with out an Initiative system.

I have been having trouble keeping control at the table with out an Initiative system.   One player has trouble as he wants to jump in on everything, one player is shy and doesn’t speak much, and many are waiting for me to que them to jump in.  So I am considering an Initiative System to be implemented.

Ok, tested out the Spotlight system I mentioned on another Thread.  Failure as I kept forgetting to collect the tokens or have the players do so.  I believe that I have a new system.  I just had a 6 player game and skipped a person several times.  Unfortunately it was my wife.  Some players noticed and one player said that he was restraining himself from jumping in because he constantly wants to jump in on stuff.  I also had nearly every player wanting to jump in on something and some already had.  Bless Spell, Aid Another, and an action was attempted by someone before anyone else could go.  So, updated suggestion (not tested yet, if anyone wants to test great, I would love to hear it)

Spotlight System 2.0

Each player gets a Card or a Token that can be Flipped over.  On one side is “Spotlight” on the other is “Sharing the Spotlight”

The beginning of the game all Cards are on “Spotlight”.  When the GM goes to a person and asks “What do you do?” they have the spotlight and flip the card over.  Then the action moves on to someone else, they flip it over when they “Have their Spotlight Moment ” or their little mini-scene.  At any time with an Aid Another, Defend or other passive action they may use it in the manner of “Sharing the Spotlight” then they ‘Tap’ or turn the card on it’s side.  If the PC still has their “Spotlight” side up and they wish to aid or defend or what not, they ‘Tap’ the card as well.

By visually looking the GM can tell who has had a “Spotlight Moment” and who hasn’t.  The cards don’t get flipped over to the “Spotlight Moment” until all PCs are on “Sharing Spotlight” is up. (this is for big Player groups)

Optional: If there is a lull, sleep, or otherwise major pause in the conversation then all cards are on “Spotlight Moment” waiting for the first player to jump in. 

What do you think?  Keeping with the feeling of the game, limiting it a little but for the sake of keeping track of people and making sure that the less forceful personalities get equal spotlight or time on camera.  It may need some tweaking.  Let me know what you all think?

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24 thoughts on “I have been having trouble keeping control at the table with out an Initiative system.”

  1. You could add something like needing to defer the spotlight to someone else before refreshing your spotlight time. It would mechanize giving the spotlight to other people.

  2. Hmm, well, I can see that as an option.  I was trying to keep the Mechanics really low and have something visual.  Savage Worlds has Playing cards.  Feng Shui has a chart (20 to 1 markings) and “shots” that are taken.  I am not sure how Fate handles it.

  3. Otherwise it sounds very much like popcorn initiative where whoever goes picks who goes next. The person who goes last in one round picks who goes first in the following round (in this instance they can choose themselves). If you want less mechanics then this is an easy way to keep things organized.

  4. Nicholas Hopkins Remember this is Dungeon World.  It is not about who goes first.  I was simply thinking a way for Me the GM to keep track of who hasn’t had a moment yet.  While the narrative keeps track of it, In some cases I choose the first person by asking “What do you do?” 

    Others can jump in on it to aid or defend but I have them go and flip or “tap” ttheir card to indicate a shared moment, and depending on the action, it will bounce to another person, with others that can narritively jump in.

     If I don’t make a move that bounces it to another person, then another person should step up or if no one does: that’s the players looking to the GM for what to do, I then Jump to someone that has a “Spotlight Moment” Face up, have them turn it over and go.

    Once everyone has had a Spotlight Moment, then I have them flip it over and start on someone else.

    Aaron Griffin Well, Say that I put the pressure on someone, “What do you do?” and someone wants to defend them while they do something else.  Or even aid them on an action.

  5. Sorry! Posting from work. Reading fast! You could just institute Aaron’s simple rule. Another thing you can do is have the person in the “spotlight” initiate who helps them, or ask who is interested in helping/protecting them. The rest of the table does not interrupt other people’s spotlight time. You could have them flip over a spotlight card to keep track of who has done cool stuff. When everyone has acted you can flip them all back over again.

  6. Nicholas Hopkins Yes, that is the idea.  I think that you understand what I am going for.  This way everyone gets equal “Screen Time” for their mini-scene as the camera man and director (GM) don’t forget who is in the scene or the main characters are.

  7. Sorry.  I tend to over explain.  Let’s try again:

    1. Each Player has a card, GM does not.

    2. Start: All cards are on “Spotlight Moment”

    3. When a player has their cool scene or moment of “What do you do?” the player flips the card over to “Sharing Spotlight”, this is if the player is voluntarily going or forced by the narrative to take action.


         3A:Each side will have on the card, tilted one side “Shared” on the other side “Very Busy”-  Jump in Aiding or Defending or otherwise helping the character that IS in the spotlight:  Tilt card to the side. 

         3B: You cannot share or aid someone if you are “Very Busy” on either side of the card.  You are simply “Too Busy with other things.

    4. When All Player’s are on “Sharing Spotlight” everybody flips the card back over.

    5.  The GM is to have everybody turn their cards over if there is a lull or downtime or after a break.  When ever it would be expected that the characters have time to re-orient themselves.  Usually after some roleplaying.

    I hope that helps clarify things.

  8. Matrix Forby  Defending and Aiding are two different things, but both require sort of aborting whatever else they were doing and both need to make sense in the fiction.

    GM: … Thorin, what do you do?

    T: Well I um, I guess I’m gonna uhh….

    Borb: I want to…

    GM: Hold on Borb, I want to see what Thorin is doing with three goblins coming right at him. Thorin if you don’t do something, they’re going to mow you down with that big wheeled device they’re steering!

    T: Can I dodge out of the way? Ugh, my Dex is -1… hmm, what about if i cast magic missle and try to hit the wheel?

    GM: Awesome! Roll your…

    B: I AID HIM!

    GM: How is a barbarian helping a wizard cast a spell?

    B: Uh… can I defend him then?

    GM: Well let’s see, you were on the other side of the store room just a moment ago, how would you get to him?

    B: Uh, there was all that netting holding barrels above us, I grab on to it and slice it away to go swinging over, putting myself between Thorin and the wheel.

    GM: That sounds awesome. Thorin, roll to cast the spell and we’ll see what happens to the wheeled thing and if Borb is gonna be needed. Borb, I think you’re gonna need to Defy Danger, or else you won’t make it in time.

    Cassie: I shoot the netting with my bow when Borb grabs on!

    GM: Badass!. So no roll from you Borb, but lets see if Cass can hit..

    (Edit: Cassie’s shot could be ruled as an Aid on Borb’s Defy Danger roll instead)

    etc etc

  9. Call on your players and don’t wait for them to act. Give them the situation and tell that they have to do something now or bad things could happen to them. They have to be decisive – they are adventurers!

  10. If this helps you and your group feel that everyone is getting equal spotlight time then great! Use whatever works for you.

    Personally though this feels like you’re putting more work on the GM. They now have to track not only what is happening in game but the status of everyone’s cards as well. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with that.

  11. Lots of advice here but I’m going to assume you’ve already tried a lot of the stuff mentioned and that you really want an init system. So just get a deck of cards and go by draw – like Savage Worlds. High number first then alpha by suit clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades. KISS

  12. I have 6 players, well, going to 5 players.  One player was not very active due to a headache and a bit of shyness.  One was almost biting his tongue trying to not override others and keep going all the time, one didn’t know if they should jump in or not on actions.  I came up with an idea that yes does require a little more from the players and a bit of a visual scan on my part that could be a solution, still not yet tested. They don’t quite GET Dungeon World yet and are from the old school of init and more tactical type games with mini’s, maps, and a defined order for combat.    Now some of you have said the equivalent of, “eh, if it works go for it.”  I appreciate the encouragement. 

    I tried to describe it to my wife with out a visual rep and she did not seem to understand what I was going for.  I do have a tendency of complicating things, especially in my explanations.  So,  I think that I will try my idea, modify it a bit and see what my table thinks.  Trying to meet them 1/2 way on things as I feel a good GM should do. 

  13. Some gamers seem to have no instinct for sharing the spotlight and can be helped by a mechanic. (Hopefully something you can grow out if later.) Many would equate sharing spotlight to taking turns but I see the two things as very different. Turns create an all-the-time regular rotataion whereas sharing the spotlight can mean one person going hard in one scene but backing off in another. The goal of sharing spotlight isn’t equal time every round but rather an overall balance of time featuring each player character by session’s end. I prefer sharing the spotlight to turns. If you want a mechanic for that, maybe give them two or three poker chips per scene and let them carry over any unused ones. They spend a chip to jump in and say what their character is doing. A player who has no chips would know it’s time to shut up and a player with a lot of chips should know it’s time to speak up. Others could see who is not getting apotlight and encourage them.

  14. Ray Otus I think you get what I am going for.  Thank you for phrasing it well, “Sharing the Spotlight is not the same thing as taking your turn.”  It is a good way of explaining it.  The Aggressive player that bites his tongue for lack of an initiative is a game designer that actually came to me with concerns that some people were not getting an equal spotlight time and I was skipping people, due to this he wanted an Init system to help have everyone have equal time playing.  He is very concerned about equality at the table and knows himself.  It is fun for him to jump in on the action and likes a high action game.  Him and some others are really focused on politeness at the table and “taking turns”.  I like your poker chip idea but I think that things are going a bit too fast and furious to have the flow broken up by the chips and passing them back to “reset” them or give out more.  I do plan on maybe simplifying the cards a bit more before I try it out.

  15. Chris Stone-Bush Yes, he is willing to do so,  I know that he doesn’t want to run roughshod over my game and wishes to be polite and have harmony at the table.  This is why I am trying to meet him half way and find a bit of a mechanical solution that is mostly for me to scan the table and see who I need to send the next, “What do you do?” to.  A sort of structure to simulate an init system or make it seem that it does.  A gap bridger between the fluidity of DW and the static Init number/card system.  A sort of tell that says, Yes, I have gone and I have helped someone this scene and the GM should not be calling on me and I am too busy to jump in on someone else’s cool moment, even to assist.  And not have it so much that it is disruptive or slows down the game or breaks the flow of bouncing back and forth from mini-scene to mini-scene and eases the players into a more active participation.  That is the goal here.

  16. Hmmm. So. Go back to the cards, but deal out a hand of 4 or 5 to everyone. During a “round” call out the numbers Ace-King-Queen-etc. A player can play a card from hand and “go” on any one of those, then draw to fill up their hand again. If a player hasn’t played a card by the end of the round, they must discard a card and “go.” Don’t worry about suits – players who both drop a King, say, just go simultaneously. (Jeez, Ray Otus, that is BRILLIANT!)

    OR (this is simpler and way more “Dungeon World”) just ask the group whose character is the fastest to act? Who is the slowest? After a discussion, set a default order of initiative. Then, in an encounter, have the fastest player roll Defy Danger Dex to act before the monsters. If they don’t pass, the monster(s) makes a hard move against them, putting everyone on their heels (Defy Dangers all around to keep from being bitten, pinned, netted, grappled, whatever.)

  17. I like Ray Otus’s second suggestion there. If you want something that simulates an initiative system, just have the players make a list. Let them decide who’s character is fastest then always just work down the initiative.

    Having someone in the party Defy Danger to see if they or the monsters act first is a nice element. Of course, if the monsters should be faster or slower than the PCs just have them go whenever appropriate.

  18. We usually just pick whoever seems like the right person to go first, then go around the table clockwise, and I’ll jump in with something to react to if the situation changes. Only really had a problem with larger groups that included overeager players.

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