The initiative system.

The initiative system. Have you seen Star Wars Fantasy Flight system? I think I would adopted that, it’s close to the same feel with a little more set and pitching to open characters. But we are not sitting there having the same people going first all the time just cause they are faster to think of an action to do or more assertive.

I moved this post to the Daggerheart NEXUS forum, but I do want to note that feedback shared here will not automatically go to the Daggerheart team. You can provide feedback on the playtest either in the Feedback tab on your character sheet or at :slight_smile:

That’s something the GM and the group need to practice, I think - it can work, if the party makes an effort, but it can also fall on it’s face.

My one playtest, I was a Goblin Rogue and I was happy to stay out of the fight: So I just kept quiet and handed out the odd assist to the rest of the party - worked for me.

One thing I’m not clear on is how does the GM get to act if no PCs have acted yet? As GM do I have to force an action on a PC to get an action token for me to play? And what would that action have to be if I want to ‘ambush’ the party?
The Action Tracker only comes out once combat has started, so there are no “action tokens” in play prior to that.

OK, reading the ‘Making Moves’ guide has helped me. As GM I "should be making moves anytime you see an opportunity to do that. … always make a GM move when a PC:

Rolls with Fear. / Rolls a Failure.
Takes an action that has consequences.
Gives you a golden opportunity.
Looks to you for what happens next.

So the GM initiates the Ambush any way they like - cool!

As you say, for kicking off a combat and putting the action tracker on the table, whenever/however you want really! However, in terms of acting first in initiative, the guide suggests spending Fear to do so:

If it makes sense in the scene, you may also spend two Fear to cut into the action first and activate adversaries before the players. This is particularly useful if you’re running an ambush or you are using an adversary who is particularly powerful.

Once the action tracker is on the table, the guide states that after four player actions have been taken, the GM can always make the next move (if they want).

You may spend two Fear to interrupt between PCs acting and make a GM move as if they had rolled a failure or with Fear. This is most useful when PCs have been rolling successfully with Hope for a significant number of turns and you want to act in response. As a note, this is a great option when more than four tokens have been placed on the action tracker without you getting to spend them. You can convert four of those tokens into two Fear, spend those two Fear to act immediately, and have one or more tokens left on the action tracker to activate adversaries.

All of this and more can be found under Running an Adventure → Core GM Mechanics → Fear and Using the Action Tracker.

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Y’all know the party can just, you know, agree on who wants to go next right? Like, discuss it? Ask the GM what makes more sense, or just practice sharing the spotlight?

I recommend a good read of Apocalypse World or Blades in the Dark to get a good grasp on how narrative systems handle passing the spotlight around.

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The main issue is see is a group of players simply looking at their characters and agreeing the one with the most chance of success should be allowed to go again and again until failure as a failure means turn is passed to the DM. I really think that the players need a limited amount of action tokens that once used they can’t take a turn again until other players have taken a turn. I mean players that enjoy the combat also are going to cooperate, and will readily see there is only one optimal way…by having this one with the best chance to hit blow the enemy up strategy is part of it. An activation limit of 2-3 or so seems about right…It will also help with the idea of the most dominant or aggressive player taking over and allow other players to always get a chance.

Agreed, this is something DnD Shorts mentioned in his video - oh, I only do physical damage and the enemy is resistant? I can just take zero actions and let the magic users go.

As a GM, I’m planning to insist upon combat ‘rounds’ - even without initiative, everyone else has to take an action before you can go again. It’s more restrictive but solves both the potential issues raised in this thread.

I feel it may be difficult for some seasoned players to break from the “optimal play” mentality when it comes to Daggerheart. The question everyone at the table might consider as a core mechanic, “What is going to enhance the story?” This ensures, before the best numerical choice is made, that the players are in a position to affect the narrative in a way that is less about success and leans more to interesting scenarios. I see the system as fairly reactive, on both player and GM, and I enjoy it so far.

I really like that there is no set initiative. Listening to the developer talk in an interview about why he went this route, he mentions that in TTRPG’s non-combat play tends to be fluid with people doing what they like and jumping in with actions and improvising off each other and so on. Then suddenly, bam, everyone rolls initiative and we now play in a very static way that allows little improvisation and reaction.

Without initiative we can create some really interesting moments, like the fighter criting so the rogue jumps in, shadow jumping behind the enemy and land a sneak attack creating a really exciting moment that couldn’t be achieved if the rogue had to wait for 3 more people to take their turns.

As for players not jumping in, the rules already encourage a DM to shift focus onto players that aren’t doing much. That’s always been the DM’s job anyway; initiative doesn’t solve the wallflower issue. And standing back and using hope to help party members instead of taking your own actions is a completely acceptable way to contribute to a fight. In fact, there are a lot of passive abilities for just that purpose.

A player doesn’t have to take actions in Daggerheart to be effective. A vengeful guardian for example can mitigate a lot of damage to his party while also doing tons of damage without ever actually needing to take an action. By not forcing people into initiative and thus not forcing players to take actions means that this game can carve out niches for those kinds of characters and those kinds of players that other systems are simply not able to do.

I really enjoy playing with no initiative. It feels very fluid and it allows the DM more leeway as to when they would like to jump in. Shall I take this fear roll as an opportunity to strike back now, or shall I bank that fear to really go at them later? I think it will be difficult for some older players or for those stuck in their ways to adjust, but it works very well and feels great. I hope everyone who tries Daggerheart really gives the no initiative system an honest go. The designer is trying to make this game very different from other games, and I hope people support such an effort.

You can also spend a fear for 2 actions tokens so announce the ambush spend a fear take 2 actions. Using minions to the full affect here is a way to put the fear into players. I have found it harder to balance for my players.

I played a lot of games with and without initiative and there are just some pros and cons to it depending on the players:
No initiative pro:

  • enables very fluid play
  • enables creative teamplay
  • fiction first and less “thinking time” when it’s your turn
  • not everyone will be treated equally
  • ressources and strategies will be less “tabletop” like

You all talked about this before, but here is one more thing I find important. It all comes down to preferences. Player who like to “beat the game” may not align too well with the goal of “creating a fascinating story” first. So if your players try to optimize the combat in order to win the game then there might not be as much fun in the combat for them as for some other players. But if your players want to know what happens next and try to “play to find out” then there is no need to worry about “optimizing combat”. If they find it the most awesome action to cooperate on only one player doing their stuff, then that’s great. But if they do it, because “it’s the best way to do it” even though it’s less fun for them, then this gamesystem might just not be the right system for them.

On that noteI have the feeling like daggerheart did tons of things right, but could be less restrictive with the whole calculations and steps for an action in some parts. I loved PbtA games for quite a while, but even though daggerheart seems well designed, at some points I would love to have more freedom and a more clear cut towards the narrative.

I think a nice idea to use if you are worried about action tokens only going to one player is color coding the action tokens. That way you can see who didn’t do too much this round and change the narrative, so that this player gets a reason to act.

Dungeon world had a play guide that illustrated this very well. It went something like:
When your player fails (the phrase fail forward is used here very often) it doesnt necessarily mean that this player needs to feel the failure the most. It can be used to change the spotlight:
(on failure) The troll that you tried to fell with your axe managed to take the eyes off of you for a second to see your cleric friend planning one of your puny human plans. He pushes you aside and throws a boulder at the cleric. Cleric while watching your friend fight, you see this rock coming at you, what do you do?

While it seems to push even more responsibility to the gm in the narrative, you could always ask one of the players with the least action tokens “What would be the biggest risk for you, if this goes wrong?” and most players will give you a golden opportunity to involve their characters. (Disclaimer: This is not true for people who only play to win. It’s a different play style and pbta games are just not that much fun to them in my experience. That’s fine and there is no need to adjust the rules, this is by design.)