Wednesday, April 15, 2015

D&D 5e: Holding Actions (Delay) in 5th Edition

In order to better control the action economy during combat and speed things up, D&D 5th Edition streamlined actions that could be taken during combat. For the most part, this is a Really Good Thing because it eliminates much of the analysis paralysis that came with having a multitude of action types. However, one of the actions that was eliminated was the Delay which I believe could be re-introduced without the issues that accompanied it in older editions.

Previously, the Delay action allowed one to "wait" in order to move one's initiative lower in the order. The difficulty that was introduced is that it was prone to meta-abuse, because it allowed the PCs to group their actions to gang up on an enemy.

However, from a simulation standpoint, it made sense. There are times when you might want to wait for an allay to act (such as casting a spell) before rushing into combat. Currently, only the Ready Action allows that kind of delay, but you are then limited to an attack or movement only, but not both. I wanted a way to delay an action but still prevent the potential abuse present in prior editions.

Here are the mechanics as I envision them:


When you Delay, you may not move or attack or take a bonus action in this round as you hesitating to assess the situation before acting. You may take an opportunity reaction if circumstances allow. When you Delay, you re-roll your initiative check and your PC will be able to act in the following round at the new initiative count. The result may move your action higher or lower in the initiative order in the next round, but you may not act in this round other than reactions.

Optional mechanics:
1) PCs may use their Intelligence or Insight (Wis) bonus instead of their Dexterity bonus for the new initiative check.
2a) PCs may re-roll initiative with Advantage to make it more likely they will get to act early in the following round.
2b) or PCs automatically go to the top of the initiative count (no re-roll) of the next round. If more than one PC delays, they roll to see who gets to go first. (Thanks +Mark Van Vlack)

The reason for the new initiative roll is thus: In prior editions, the PC could drop back in to the initiative order at any time, even jumping in prior to an opponent's turn. This was the primary key that led to its abuse in prior editions.

With the chaos of combat, any hesitation may be a a few seconds or many seconds as the PC assesses the situation and decides when to act. The new initiative roll models this uncertainty and remove the potential for abuse at the same time. With the optional mechanic, a DM could give the PC a better chance to act on a higher count in the following round, but it still prevents the "gang up on an enemy" meta-abuse because the initiative order is still semi-random.

What do you think?

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