I’m participating in the #RPGaDAY 2018 challenge, so August is going to be busy with posting. They’ve broken up the challenge into 5 themes, corresponding with the weeks. Week One focuses on the What, Week Two the How, Week Three is Describe, Week Four is Which, and Week Five brings it all home with Share. But for now let’s just settle in and focus on today’s question:
Day Twenty-One: Which Non-Dice Mechanic Appeals To You?
Part of me wanted to skip this question. Seriously, I’m expected to play diceless games now? Why bother collecting all these cubes and icosahedrons? It was only after a moment’s reflection that I realized some of my favorite RPGs are chock full of diceless mechanics. But the one I’ll focus on is playing-card initiative.
I’ve ranted many times about initiative, the minigame where, at least in D&D, you roll dice to see when you get to roll dice to see if you can roll more dice (initiative, to-hit, damage). It’s a lot of bother for little payoff. The minigame in Savage Worlds, however, evokes a very different feel than endless rolls. Everyone draws a card (or more, if you have the right Edges) and the order of the cards, Ace high and suits in alphabetical order, determine who goes when. The Joker is left in the deck, granting a bonus to all rolls that turn for the lucky player or GM, allows the player to take their turn even in the middle of another’s action, and forces the deck to be reshuffled.
Other mechanics, notably Edges, tie into the draw initiative. I had a superhero character with the Monologue flaw. Anytime I drew a spade I needed to make a Will roll to avoid wasting my turn monologue-ing to all within earshot. Other edges let you draw more than one card, or extend the bonuses from a Joker to your party.
Draw initiative is also a common houserule in Battletech games. Units are assigned a card and get to move only when the card is drawn. We’ve used it with both Battletech and Alpha Strike.