Usually waiting for initiative is a player problem not a GM one. Seeing as how I wrote last week about players waiting for initiativeI thought it was only fair that I write something up on the way that GMs can spend their time while players make those all important choices. That plus some things that GMs can do to prepare for initiative when it finally happens.
First I want to reestablish my claim that initiative is unavoidable. Unless I’m talking to some alien or human being on another level of consciousness, we are can not interact with multiple people on a personal scale meaningfully. This just means that at any point in a game other players will have to wait while one players performs any actions in their turn. This is what I mean by initiative.
With that established let’s talk about some things that GMs can do before initiative.
- Know your characters: Let’s have a real moment here. It is not your job as the GM to know every character detail. You are not playing a game with yourself while a bunch of people watch and cheer you on so please don’t misunderstand. That being said characters level up and progress and that can add dimensions to the game, including combat. Go through the new spells, abilities, fancy future guns, super powers, or whatever it is that they are getting, and make sure you have at least a broad understanding of those powers before entering combat. That helps you cross examine players who may not get their powers and it also helps you with preparing for any nasty surprises.
- Characterize your baddies: Their stat bars may be the same but that does not mean their voices, face, and clothing need to be. Spice up your baddies and give them some different voices or appearances. You don’t have to tell your players that all the baddies are stat wise the same. Make one bossy and tough looking. Another scared and wimpy. Have fun with it!
- Run through some scenarios: More often than not players will do crazy things. That is kind of what these games are for. So play through your encounters and think “what crazy things can my players do?” This will not save you from their shenanigans but it will help you decide if you are okay with the surroundings you give players.
There are some things that GMs can actively do during initiative too!
- Make sure you have the right dice: Again you are a GM not a babysitter. That being said odds are better that you will know by heart the dice needed in a casual group. Make sure you have a big bag of dice that you can disperse to players. Most people will have a dice set or two and that will not be enough. Veteran players will be prepared but a bag of dice will help keep things flowing quickly.
- Make the initiative known: Having a fun or inventive or just static way of showing or establishing a turn order is important. A coin for narrative call out initiative, or a whiteboard that players can see will make a huge difference.
- Decide your play style: Be consistent with your play style. Players will expect one way of playing so changing that can be either fun, or a total rip off. If you have been fighting Roman centurions or a futuristic tech company then players will expect strategy and for their weakest links to be exploited. On the other hand if they are fighting zombies or another mindless entity they will expect that overwhelming broadly applied force that is not thinking strategically. If you zombies start to play with green beret tactics out of nowhere then they need to exemplify a higher level of intelligence. If you always play with every creature representing your tactical genius then that is good too. Changing in the middle of a game for no reason is not cool.
- Remember to have fun: When the aim of the game is to kill and overcome or otherwise defeat most of the stuff that you have made out can be frustrating. Try to have a good sense of humor and enjoy thinking about that other monster that’s around the corner.
These tips and others will help GMs prepare and play the tougher parts of combat. Following them should help a smooth and fun combat and even minimize the crunch time in a game!
Thank you for reading my article. If you have any tips and tricks for GMs during initiative let us know in the comments below! Feel free to check out our other articles below and you can also check us out on Patreon, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s you liked our articles you can share them with the links below and as always,