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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Initiative, Arduin-style

The concept of figuring out who goes first and when took a turn away from using a d6 real early in Arduin's history. The roots of that turnabout are seen from the very beginning in 1977 when Arduin Grimoire I (AG 1) hit the streets. Even before that, though, it was obvious that the machinery in David Hargrave's (DH) mind were spinning. While Arduin took into account and was linked tightly with existing game literature out at the time, it was already moving a different direction. You can see it in the addition of Agility (Agil) and Ego to the attributes section. Only Agility is important to the discussion today so I'll save Ego for another day. Here is where you see DH veer away from a pure dice roll for initiative generation.

Now anyone familiar with Arduin knows about CF or Coordination Factor. That came later. Officially it came out in 1984. Here, however, we are in the 1970's and the when I want to introduce you to is the early 1970's – 1971 to 1974. It didn't take DH long to discard using the d6 for resoluton. Or any other dice for that matter. While the d10 provide a more satisfactory range it just didn't make the grade. He wanted something better, something more reflective of his Vietnam experiences and those of other veterans he knew and talked with about the topic. Here is where the split from Dexterity (Dex) happened. Like strength (STR) it was a crucial stat. Not only did it provide a provide a defensive bonus, but it gave an aim bonus with missiles (and some melee weapons), and a bump to initiative. It was part of the troika (STR, DEX, and CON) and was on his radar to bust up.

Agility was his answer. Dividing the gains across two stats reduced its impact and distributed the benefits more equitably. Agility gained the defensive bonus, Dex kept the aim bonus. It also kept the bump to initiative but in a different way. Here is where you see begin to see the use of Dex as a means of deciding who went first.

It wasn't perfect. First he used it as a means of deciding who went first, i.e. highest Dex got to go followed by the next and the next and so on. That worked, especially when modified by a strike rank (from your weapon) but had its own problems. What about creatures with more than one attack? Not to mention he had players who found ways to get multiple attacks. And brawling/unarmed combat? That needed some tweaking as well. Dex needed a broadening on the topic and he quickly added the concept of actions occurring on a sequence of Dex. The shiny beginning of CF that would come later. In the first incarnation, and the one that would be in effect in 1977 when AG 1 hit the streets was to divide Dex  to determine the number of actions you could use. I'll let him give to you in his own words from AG 1:

In combat it is the person with the fastest dexterity that attacks first if the weaponry is close to equal. It is possible to get more than one attak in a melee turn, but it also depends on superiod speed or dexterity. For example, an Orc with a dexterity 7 and an Elf dexterity 17. The Elf attacks first at 17 and ordinarily the Orc would attack next at 7, but because the Elf is more than twice as fast, his second attack comes in at 8.5 (half of 17), so in effect he attacks twice before the poor Orc can even can even attack once. Another examplek, an Amazon with Dex 18 and carrying a rapier enages a pirate carrying spear with Dex 9. The pirate by virtue of having a longer weapon will attack first but the Amazon by virtue of a faster dexterity can elect to parry instead of using her “first” attack, and then counter attack with her “second” attack. You will note the pattern of these combats. If a person has at least twice the dexterity of his opponent, then he will get two or more attacks in a turn if you are that much faster than your opponent. The timing of those attacks is ascertained by dividing the number of attacks into the dexterity.

Creatures were not forgotten either. DH layed out how to figure multiple monster attacks here too. He roughly divided the number of attacks a creature had and separated them accordingly by the division, i.e., a creature of Dex 16 with three attacks, struck at 16, 11 and 6; every 5 Dex as broken out by dividing 16 by 3 to get 5 (rounded down of course).

Weapons played a part of course. In AG 1, DH clearly spelled out his thought longer weapons always struck first, regardless of opposing Dex, at least in the initial engagement. After that, in close combat, the benefit was lost.

Some races got ito the mix as well. Full Elves, as noted in AG I, gained the abilty to attack twice regardless of Dex differences. Not that it helped them go first, just that they got the double attack if they wanted. They weren't alone – Throons benefited from the same ability as did Deodanths, Khai Shang, and Phraints.

Before I go into talking about CF let me make a couple of comments. A lot of variation also occurred that's worth discussing. Anther variation of the Dex based initiative was just to divide Dex by 10 without regard to the opponent you faced to figure out your actions.  In the D10 days, it was played up and down, meaning a high roll was considered first, with a 0 – 9 range and Dex providing a bonus. Then it went the other way, 0 – 9 but the aim was to get low and the Dex bonus subtracted. Both worked but not to satisfaction and the movement was starting to move away from descending into negative values. A phases system was debated and played a short time though I know little about it outside of discussion and rumor. It sounded interesting but didn't stand the test of game play.

In getting back on topic, coming out of this earlier experimentation is the beginning of CF as we know it. Come 1984 – bam! CF comes tromping through the door at DunDraCon in California. Here CF is officially presented for the first time to fans. Its different: no dice rolls for initiative but streamlined to make game play smoother and sensible – to an Arduin fan, that is! CF put the cycle of battle in a melee round on a 30 step count, where you took actions based your score. Your CF was derived from adding your Dex and Agility together and then averaging. Your actions occurred on a descending cycle: at 30, the max, you acted on 30, 24, 18 ,12, and 6, a nice even declension. It got uglier after that. DH used fractions in the initial CF release so if you had a 23.5 CF, you would go on 23.5, 18.8, 14.1, 9.4 and 4.7. A lot of resistance existed against the fractions and things were smoothed out a little later to even numbers. Depending on the GM, you just rounded up or down. Tha made things a little nicer and the system presented in the Compleat Arduin (CA) reflected that nicely. 30 saw no change but 23 rounded out nicely to 23, 19, 14, 9 and 5, a little easier to work with. I can do more on CF and its charts and how it works with movement and so on if interested. Just leave a comment at the end so I know.

That system stayed in play until Arduin Eternal (AE). The structure of the system didn't change much – it governed the same things – but the range was alter to run from 40 to 1 to reflect attribute and melee combat changes and declined on an even every 7 rule. 40, for instance, would run from 40, 33, 26, 19, 12, and 5. Smaller values, like 23, ran 23, 16, 9 and 2. It formed a nice cube which was represented on the AE character sheet and easier to reference.

As far as Arduin OSR may be concerned, its safe to say CF is likely to stay. Dex-based initiative may be presented as an alternative. We'll have to wait and see together.

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