From Ironsworn:

From Ironsworn:

From Ironsworn:


Initiative is a special mechanic in combat. It reflects who is in control. When you have initiative, you make proactive moves and have more options. When your foe has initiative, they are forcing you to react.

To determine whether you have initiative, follow these guidelines (unless a move tells you otherwise):

• When you score a strong hit, you take or retain initiative.

• When you score a weak hit or miss, you lose initiative.

NPCs do not make moves. When an NPC has initiative, they take actions in the fiction of the scene which force you to react. When you have initiative, you are in control and taking proactive actions to achieve your objectives.

This is just brilliant. I’m so going to use that in my DW games.

I’ve been struggling lately with combat as I felt the monsters/enemies were too passive. I don’t take much spotlight as I pass it around players so the opposition was waiting for a 9- move from a player for me to make a GM move and thus making monsters actually do something.

If I implement a similar initiative mechanic, it codifies in the game that a character can’t take offensive actions until they gain initiative, which narratively allows me, as the GM, to take actions with my monsters.

I’d have each player track if he has initiative or not. If one doesn’t have initiative, I’d consider any monster that is interacting directly with this character has having initiative.

7 thoughts on “From Ironsworn:”

  1. Even after a success, the fiction is still back in your hands. You can make moves after a 10+ because everyone is looking yo you to see what happens. You just also need to respect the outcome of the roll.

    Without this, enemies feel passive in combat.

  2. How in your model would your players gain/lose initiative? Assuming PbtA, would you map this initiative system’s descriptors of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ hits to 7+ and 6-, respectively? So that when the players roll a 7 or more they gain the initiative, but on a Miss, they lose it? Would that even be any different than you ‘waiting for a 9- move from a player’ to implement your antagonist’s activeness? Would it also detract from being reactive to the fiction? Just wondering out loud here…

  3. If they kept a long string of 7+ results going (as the math should bear out being on the bell curve and all), would your antagonists rarely get the initiative? Would they still be able to get ‘partial’ initiative for consequences like inflicting Harm on a 7-9 result?

  4. Isn’t this already handled by the Hard/Soft Moves? I know the system says the NPC does not make Moves (I’m assuming ‘as the player does’), but the GM still has Moves that they are funneling through the NPC’s fictional outcomes, so the GM, while yes being reactionary, can play with the severity of those fictional outcomes (their Soft/Hard Moves). If you are concerned about not enough ‘spotlight’ time for your antagonists, can’t you just have the pressure they bring be greater and the GM’s reactive Moves more pressing and greater in scope? To have more ‘balls in the air, so to speak? Also, the GM can make a move whenever the players hand them a golden opportunity, so you don’t have to be quite so reactionary. Bring it, and let them deal with the consequences.

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