White Hawk Initiative
White Hawk is a fork from the UA Greyhawk Initiative system. The intent is to provide a dynamic, shifting initiative structure that will allow players to react to changing battlefield conditions, without mixing things up so much that it’s unrecognizable.
The key differences in White Hawk from RAW are, in a nutshell:
Initiative is rolled at the beginning of each round, rather than beginning of combat.
The d20 + Dex roll is replaced with a pool of differently sized dice, based on which actions the player wants to take. Players taking fewer actions, or ‘lighter’ actions, will go before others.
Monsters, with exceptions based on DM discretion, fall into a flat initiative pool, to ease the numbers strain on the DM.
All damage is dealt simultaneously, at the end of the combat round.
How It Works
At the beginning of combat, assign each enemy and NPC a flat initiative score of either 3, 5, 7, or 9. You can mix these up as you see fit; a well-organized militant group may all go on the same or similar initiatives, while a chaotic rabble might be all over the place.
At your discretion, some enemies or NPCs may roll as the PCs do; this is advised for notable or set piece encounters. Use this sparingly; in my experience, this places a lot of strain on the DM to keep track of even more changing numbers than usual.
Once combat has begun, initiative is rolled each round according to the following steps:
Players discuss, as a group, what they would like to do. Allow them a few minutes to talk it over; though their PCs only have seconds to make decisions, those same PCs are actually in the moment, and have better and more clear decisions. Only if your players are dragging or slowing the game down considerably should you put them on a time limit.
Each player rolls their appropriate dice based on their planned actions (Moving, Attacking, Casting a Spell, etc), according to the table below, then totals up those results.
Apply any relevant modifiers, according to the table below.
Split initiative into multiple Dice Groups; PCs who rolled only 1 die are in the first group, those who rolled 2 are in the second, etc. This provides the basic framework for the final initiative scores. Enemies and NPCs, though they do not actually roll, are split up similarly according to which actions you plan on taking with them.
Within each dice group, arrange PCs, NPCs, and enemies from lowest total initiative to highest.
Once these steps are complete, the round is ready to begin! With initiative determined, the round otherwise proceeds as it normally would in RAW 5e, with one exception; all damage, to PCs, NPCs, and enemies, is applied at the end of the round. I’ve found that this helps to maximize the feel of ‘everything happening at once,’ and encourages more player engagement. I generally assign one (willing) player to keep track of damage to enemies, and give me the totals at the end of the round.