Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Dice-Base Initiative for 'Clobberin' Time'

You know that sometimes you get ideas in your head and they won't go away until you let them run their course? Well, this is one of those times. After having read Nate's reports of his Clobberin' Time games for the Six By Six Challenge I was reminded that I wanted to find a way to change the game so that it didn't use playing cards for initiative. It's not that I have anything against cards, and I think the current system is excellent in many way. But dropping them removes a component from the game, with the only other solution being to switch the whole game to using playing cards (which is worth a thought too).

Anyway I suddenly had an idea to use something based on the initiative system that Peter used in his grid-based 40K games that I tried out last year, with each activation being determined by an opposed D6 roll. Clobberin' Time has a low unit density, so it wouldn't be too arduous or slow the game down any more than the card system does. And I was reminded that during discussion of that system last year I;d considered the idea of using doubles (which are rerolled in the 40K variant) to trigger random events. In Nate's reports I rather enjoyed the way he'd built side-plots into the game, and I thought that there may be a way of building that into Clobberin' Times mechanisms, instead of just making it part of the scenario design.

It all seemed to click together very logically, and what follows is something that I pretty much threw together in a spare hour the other day. I ran a few, very basic, test games just to check that it wasn't too broken, and it seemed OK, but it still needs some work. But I present it for your consideration.


Dice-Based Initiative for 'Clobberin' Time'


Characters are either Ready or Activated. (Strictly this is the case under the card-based system, but it's important here, as you will see).

Both sides roll a D6. The player with the highest score has initiative and must activate a ready figure if one is available. The players then make another opposed D6 roll.

If, before rolling for initiative, all characters in play are Activated, then the turn ends and all characters are automatically returned to Ready.

If you win initiative with a ‘6’ then instead of activating a figure you may return a single Activated character to being Ready.


On a Double 1, the turn ends immediately, all characters become Ready, and the players test for initiative again.

On a Double 6, the player who didn’t win the previous initiative roll decides who wins.

On any other double:

If both players have characters who are ready, then the player with the lowest total levels of Sub-Plots (see below) decides who wins, with the player who didn’t win the previous initiative roll breaking a tie. 

Otherwise the only side with Ready characters wins the initiative.

A score of Double 1 will trigger, and other doubles may trigger, a Sub-Plot against the last character activated.

The first initiative roll of the game cannot be a double. If it is, then reroll it.


These represent events and complications that crop up in the story to distract the characters.

If the initiative score is a double, and the dice score is equal to or less than the level of the last character to activate or be returned to ready, then that character acquires a Sub-Plot.

Sub-Plots remain active until they are resolved. A character may only have one unresolved Sub-Plot; until it is resolved they ignore new ones, unless they are currently affected by a Dark Secret, in which case the new Sub-Plot replaces that one.

Except in the case of a Dark Secret, the level of the Sub-Plot is equal to the dice score. Eg a Level 3 character is activated. The next initiative roll is a Double 2. That character acquires a Level 2 sub-plot.

Roll a D6 to see what the sub-plot is:

1 - Puzzle - Roll 2D6 and add 6. The other player places a puzzle equal to the level of the sub-plot at that distance from the affected character, in any direction. The sub-plot is resolved when the character solves the puzzle. Other characters on the same side cannot attempt to solve the puzzle. Roll a dice to determine the type of puzzle: 1 - Clue, 2 - Science, 3 - Magical, 4-5 - No specific type, 6 - Affected character chooses.

2 - Arch-Enemy - Select an opposing character at random. The level of the Sub-Plot is the number of attacks the affected character must make against that enemy. Attacks must be those that can potentially score damage, and can include those made by other characters if the affected character is either mind-controlling them, or has activated those character via the Leader ability. The sub-plot is resolved when the requisite number of attacks have been made, or if one of the attacks defeats the character. If the arch-enemy is defeated by someone other than the affected character, then remaining attacks are converted to a Puzzle Sub-Plot, placed where the arch-enemy fell.

3 - Great Responsibility - Randomly place the Sub-Plot on a friendly character. Each time the affected character activates, reduce the Sub-Plot level by one. The Sub-Plot is resolved when its level reaches zero. If the friendly character is defeated before the sub-plot is resolved, then it is immediately resolved, but the remaining levels are converted to Self-Doubt on the affected character.

4 - Self-Doubt - This sub-plot is immediately resolved. Place a number of hinder markers on the character equal to the level of the sub-plot.

5 - Loss of Powers - This sub-plot is immediately resolved. Randomly select one of the affected character’s abilities. That ability cannot be used for a number of activations of that character equal to the level of the Sub-Plot.

6 - Dark Secret - The character is marked with a sub-plot equal to their level (not the dice roll). It is not removed or reduced in level, but if the character becomes affected by another sub-plot, then it replaces the Dark Secret. The new sub-plot cannot be lower in level than the Dark Secret. If it is, then its level is increased to that of the Dark Secret it replaces. If the new Sub-Plot is also a Dark Secret, then the level of the Dark Secret is increased by one, and it remains undetermined. Note that this is the only case where a character that has an active sub-plot becomes subject to another.

As descibed above, on an initiative roll that is a Double 2, 3, 4 or 5, total up the remaining unresolved sub-plot levels for both sides. If one side has fewer unresolved sub-plots than the other, then that side automatically chooses who wins the initiative.


Some of the Sub-Plots are simply designed to designed to hamper or annoy a character. Others can, seemingly, be ignored - Puzzle, for example. However unresolved Sub-Plots put your side at a disadvantage when it comes to resolving initiative ties, so it may not always be to your advantage to ignore that problem. This is a side of things I need to test properly, in order to see if the penalty for ignoring Sub-Plots is pitched at about the right level.

Obviously switching to a dice-based initiative system affects a whole range of abilities which rely on the card-based activation, and I am working through redoing them to fit in with it. One new ability worth mentioning, however is one I have called Quick. This allows a character from be returned to Ready from Activated on a roll or 5 or 6, instead of just 6. What this allows is a practical way of pitting one powerful character against a group of slightly less powerful ones - a master villain vs a team, for example. At present a master-villain is rather hampered by the fact that they can be overwhelmed by the number of actions a group of heroes can throw against them. The Quick ability allows the villain to activate more than once per turn on a more frequent basis than their opponents do. This is the theory, anyway; I've yet to properly test it.

I welcome comments and suggestions.


  1. I like the look of this, and I'll have a play around with it in the weekend. I wonder if 'quick'could be related to the level of the player? It was quite frustrating having a single Level 4 character with only one activation in a turn fighting 8 or so supers in one game. As I was thinking Galactus level villain, he should have been getting in a few more hits. Allowing them to return to ready on a 3+ maybe? And Level 3 on a 4+, level 2 on a 5+? I don't think it would be too onerous if you are only fighting with the one master villain or main hero in a game.

    1. I mention in the last paragraph allowing a character who can return to Ready on a 5 or 6, and it was precisely because of your post about the big robot fighting the group that I included it. I think Level 4 with that ability might give three or so heroes a run for their money, if you have the right defences as well. One against Eight is a bit excessive. I'd have puzzles to solve and other on-table missions as well as the baddie if I was doing that :)

      Certainly in the comics the single villain seems to get one action for every one or two the heroes make, so it has a precedent.

  2. Sorry, I realise now I didn't really answer your post properly; kind of misread it on the phone :)

    Having a character returned to Ready is quite useful, but it has to be doled out quite carefully. The numbers you propose for a level-based system seen sensible at first glance, but I don't think they really work in practice. Remember that the number you win initiative on isn't a straight D6 roll, it's an opposed one, so if you *do* win initiative the roll you have will be skewed towards higher numbers. Leaving aside ties, the chance of having a '6' when you win initiative is actually 33%. A 5+ is 60%. A 4+ is 80%. So assigning abilities to anything other than a 5+ or 6+ makes them high probability.

    A single character with a non-level based Quick should, on average, get slightly under one action for every two actions the other side gets. If they are Level 4 and the opponents Level 3, I reckon that should create a reasonable balance, assuming the scenario design keeps everyone busy.

    1. OK, we'll give it a try this weekend and see if Zoltar has any better luck.


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