Dungeons. Dragons. Graph paper. Funny dice.

Initiative by weapon priority

I’ve been looking for an initiative system for my nascent OD&D game, and came across the weapon priority charts on page 17 of the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets. I’m not positive that those charts were originally intended as an initiative system per se, but they could do the job. This violates my general principle that any house rule should be expressible as a simple sentence, but something about it appeals to me—perhaps that it solves the initiative problem while giving players significant tactical options with low rules overhead. The original charts assign a weapon priority based on the type of attack, the armor class or monster speed, and the dexterity of each combatant. Three variable is a little too crunchy for my tastes. I don’t think much would be lost by dropping the armor/speed and dexterity variables, and assuming that all actions of a particular type take effect simultaneously. This list is a slightly modified form of the Judges Guild chart:

  1. Gaze attacks
  2. Breath weapons
  3. Spells level 1-3
  4. Missile weapons
  5. Long weapons (polearms, spears)
  6. Spells level 4-6
  7. Medium weapons (swords, maces)
  8. Short weapons (daggers, saps)
  9. Spells level 7-9
  10. Read scrolls, other actions

Of course, you could still roll initiative to see who goes first at each of the stages—if that’s your thing—or let those wearing no/light armor or with high dexterity act one step sooner.


JDJarvis September 15, 2010 at 5:25 PM

For a while we rolled initiative against the ready ref-sheets weapon priority table. If your initiative roll wasn’t good enough you couldn’t manage a specific action that round. You could spend the whole round doing it and get it done in the following round if you wished.

Paul September 15, 2010 at 6:39 PM

So, wait…. how did that work? Did you add the weapon score, armor/move, and dexterity modifier, and then try to roll under that total on a d20?!

A Paladin In Citadel September 15, 2010 at 10:41 PM

One of my favorite games, Avalon Hill’s Magic Realm, uses weapon length as the deciding factor in the first round of combat. In subsequent rounds, it is player/weapon speed that determines attack order.

No initiative rolls. No dex modifiers.

JDJarvis September 16, 2010 at 10:19 AM

@Paul. I think we flipped the table and rolled a d12. It was about 20 years ago some I’m not 100% on it.

Skydyr November 3, 2010 at 3:27 PM

From my interpretation of Chainmail and OD&D, there was a weapon class as well, though it’s not really called such. Basically, larger longer weapons are higher up on the scale. If your weapon class is higher than your opponents, you strike first in melee. However, if their weapon class is 4 lower that yours, they get two attacks, and if it is 8 lower, they get three attacks. There is a chart with this somewhere in chainmail, if I recall correctly, but I don’t have it handy to look at right now.

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