Active Initiative System

Version 1.12

The Basic System

1. As part of rolling initiative every character declares a base action.
2. Your declared action may be changed at any point prior to the character’s turn coming up in the order. There is no penalty for changing your declared action. Once your turn starts however, it is too late to change your declaration.
3. When your turn comes up, the action you declared is executed. Alternately you can choose to abort.
4. At some point before your next turn, you must declare again. Go to step 2.

Declaring Actions

Common Declarations

Valid Main Action Declarations

• Weapon attack on [Target Descriptor]
• Delay
• Ready [Trigger] then [Action]
• Cast [Targeted Spell Name] on [One or More Target descriptors]
• Cast [Area spell name] (area is defined when casting)
• Use [Combat Maneuver] on [Target Descriptor]
• Use [Item] on [Target Descriptor]

Valid Target Descriptors

o Choose a specific creature by name
o Nearest enemy
o Easiest Target (The target that has the least penalties to attack from circumstances. Often useful for ranged attackers who have to deal with cover, concealment, etc. In the case of two targets that equally opportune targets, this then defaults to the closest.)
o An unattended object
o An object in the possession of a creature
o A magical effect
o A seemingly unoccupied space (generally used for attacking invisible creatures, you do not need to declare which unoccupied space until your turn comes up)

Target Modifiers
  • Is of an obvious enemy type (Orcs, Trolls, etc)
  • Is not behind cover
  • Is not engaged in melee
  • Is engaged in melee
  • Has clear path to approach in melee
  • Is bloodied
  • Has the least cover
Valid Movement Descriptors
  • Move in a Direction: [One of eight directions, N, S, E, W, SW, NE, etc.]
  • Move away from [Target Descriptor]
  • Move towards [Target Descriptor]
  • Attempt to Flank [Target Descriptor]
  • Scout [Direction]

Other rules to declarations

No branching

Declarations can’t include conditional statements which cause an action declaration effectively branch into two different actions depending on circumstances. Statements like “Attack Regdar if he’s still standing otherwise attack the nearest enemy” is an example of a branching declaration. This sort of thing is not allowed.

There is one exception where a branching declaration is allowed, and that’s if the branch is contingent on some rules or situational question that isn’t obvious from the map. For instance “I’ll try to climb the wall if it looks as though it has a DC of 25 or less, otherwise I’ll run to the ladder and use that.” Is okay (though of course, it’s up to the DM as to what DC your character thinks the wall will have). Other things that might be okay “If I can draw my potion as a move action, I’ll draw it and drink it. Otherwise I’ll run away.”

Conditions must obvious and unambiguous

You cannot state things like “I attack the strongest enemy” or “I attack the enemy with the lowest AC.” All conditions must be something easily observable by your character and not require judgment calls.

Weapon attack

Declaring a weapon attack requires you provide a target. Note that the weapon used does not need to be specified, so you can, assuming you have an action to do so, draw a new weapon and use it. This is specifically useful if you have quick draw.

Multiple Attacks

Your one target is assumed to be the target for all your attacks, unless otherwise specified. You can specify separate targets for each of your attacks if you so choose. For instance “Attack #1 on orc #2”, “Attack #2 on the troll” and “Offhand-attack #1 on orc #2”.

Combat Maneuvers

Using any kind of combat maneuver requires you to specify the maneuver you’re using and any potential target(s). Naming a specific object is generally not required if you’re doing a sunder, though you must specify the creature you’re targeting.

Cast a spell

You must name the spell you wish to cast and if it requires targets, you must name those. You need not specify the target area of an area spell, though you must specify the spell name itself. Similarly spells that target squares, such as summoning a creature into an unoccupied square, are also chosen when you execute the action on your turn, and not declared (since declaring the location would be too difficult).
Assuming you’re able to apply spontaneous metamagic, it must be declared in your spell name. So you must declare you’re casting maximized fireball, you can’t just declare a fireball and maximize it on your turn.
If a spell requires specifics, like a summoning spell that requires you to name a specific creature, you must do so in your declaration. So you can’t simply “Cast summon monster I” you must specify which creature you’re summoning in your declaration.


Movement must be stated in general terms as a goal, such as “towards the orc” or “away from the orc.” You need not be precise as to what specific path of squares you’re taking, and may choose your path on your turn based on obstacles when your turn comes up, but you must try to accomplish your original declared goal. You can state absolute directions such as “move east.” or relative “move towards the orc.”


Scout is a special goal type. The scout goal means that you’ll move in a given direction up to half your movement, and you are allowed to reverse your movement if you don’t like what you see. For instance looking around a corner, you spot 5 trolls and decide that you’d rather return to your original position. You are not forced to move back of course, but it is an option. The main restriction is that you can’t move ahead farther than half your movement on a scout action, nor can you run, use poorly maneuverable flight or use any other movement that is explicitly one-way and won’t give you the option to pull back.

Implied Movement/Actions

You are not required to declare actions that are required to make your main action possible. The most common example includes moving into melee range on a melee attack. You’re always allowed to move towards your target when making a melee attack, even if you didn’t declare it. Similarly, if there’s a door in your way, you can open it. If you must reload your crossbow to fire it, you can do that too. Similarly, you can always stand up from prone as an implied movement.

What isn’t implied: If movement would merely aid an action, such as moving to a position to fire at a creature without cover, that must be specifically stated (generally as something like “Move North” and then you’d choose a good spot).
Area attacks never have an implied movement. If no movement is specified directly, then you are assumed to be casting in place. Ranged attacks will only imply movement if you are targeting a creature that has moved behind total cover, in which case you may move to the closest square in which the creature is targetable.

5 ft Steps

5 ft. steps don’t need to be declared. You can simply take one as part of your action on your turn assuming it’s allowed, and you haven’t done any other movement. However, if you stated a movement goal, you must still follow that goal with your 5 ft step (if you said to move east, your 5 ft step must be east for instance). If you declared no movement goal, you’re free to 5 ft step anywhere, but all you can do is 5ft. step for your move (unless your action allowed implied movement).

Using a magic item

If you opted to use a magic item, it behaves similar to a spell in most respects.

Free/Swift actions

Free and swift actions need not be declared in advance. You can take them when your turn comes up if applicable.

Resolving Actions


Movement must match the stated goal, as best as possible. If you stated that you wanted to go east, most of your movement must be to the east. If you stated that you wanted to move away from orc #2, most of your movement must take you farther away from orc#2.
There are a few exceptions. If you were taking the east exit to a room, and it led to a branching corridor you could simply say go east, and then choose from there.
You can always end your movement early if you so choose. So you can use up to your full movement, but you need not do so.
You are allowed to avoid dangerous terrain, or harmful creatures in the way. So you need not foolishly walk directly east through two hill giants standing guard, you can circle around to avoid danger. So long as your overall goal is getting towards the east.

Running/Charging/Double Move

Runs, Double Moves and charges don’t need to be declared, they can be used on your turn to fulfill any movement (even implied movement). So if you wanted to “move away from the orc” and you had a straight line to run away, you could do that. If you hadn’t declared any actions besides moving, you could also double move. Similarly if you were going to attack the orc with a melee weapon, you could charge him if you wished.

5-ft Step

5 ft steps don’t need to be declared. However, if you’ve declared a movement direction, you can still 5 ft step as your only movement, but it must follow your declared movement direction or goal. Otherwise you’re free to 5 ft step in any direction if you haven’t specified, so long as it doesn’t directly contradict your goal.


Attacking the Nearest Foe

Attacking the nearest foe refers to the closest visible foe at the start of your turn. If a foe would have total cover from you at the start of your turn, it is ignored for purposes of determining your target. If there are no visible foes, you may head in the direction of the foe you last saw until you see a foe. At that point, this first foe you see becomes your target.

Dropping a Foe

If you drop a foe with an attack, what happens next depends on the action you chose. If you attacked a specific creature, then you continue to attack that creature even if it’s down (you do have the option to abort). Brutal? Yes. But hey, maybe it can regenerate. Or maybe you’re just a sadist with too many iterative attacks. It’s also a penalty of deciding to focus fire.

If you elected to attack a group of targets, for instance, the nearest foe, then you can attack the nearest standing foe after your current enemy drops. In the case of equally valid targets, determine randomly.

Follow-up attacks

Sometimes you only get attacks in certain cases, like if a prior attack hits, or if one of your blows kills a foe, etc. Feats like Cleave grant this sort of attack. In cases of these follow-up attacks, if you happen to get one during your turn, you need not declare who you’re attacking in advance, you can choose any valid target at the time you’d make the follow-up attack.

Cast a spell

When you finish casting your area spell, you can place down the area. You also get to select an unoccupied square within range for spells that require you place effects in squares, such as summoning a monster in an unoccupied square or creating a wall.

A character that is threatened will automatically cast defensively unless it was declared specifically that they do not want to defensive cast.


You can always attempt to abort part of your action, the movement, or your entire action. An aborted action becomes a default full defense, assuming such is possible with the remainder of your actions. If you’ve already made an attack for instance, you can at most just not take the rest of your attacks and not move.
In special cases you can also abort to other actions if full defense doesn’t make sense.
Grappled or Restrained: If you are grappled by a foe, trapped in a web, etc. You will make effort to escape instead of full defense.
In a dangerous zone: If you are in a hazard and don’t specify an action, you can be assumed to be trying to move to safety. This doesn’t include threatened spaces, but does include being burned by a wall of fire, standing in a lava pit or stinking cloud. Even if you don’t declare you won’t just stand around and burn to death.
Standing Up: If you’re prone you can abort to an action to stand up.
Recover: If you can use your action to try to recover from a status condition or spell effect, such as trying to escape a maze spell, then you will abort to this.
Group movement: In cases where the entire group is doing the same movement action, for instance, a group retreat by the PCs, The GM can allow a PC to abort to match the rest of the group. This should only be invoked in extreme cases where not following the group movement would be obviously stupid and is an obvious mistake on the PC’s part to not declare it.

Special Circumstances

Targeting a creature that disappeared: Sometimes you may be in the circumstance of targeting a creature that is no longer on the battlefield. When your turn comes up, you have a few choices. You can simply abort. Or you change your action to attack the creature’s last known position or a square adjacent to the creature’s last known position (your choice on your turn).
Choosing Between equally valid targets: In cases of ambiguity, a random target is chosen from those that would be valid. If 3 orcs are “nearest” to you, a random orc would be chosen as your target.
Conflicting Movement/Action: If your movement and action conflict, for instance, you’re moving west to melee attack a creature that’s east of you. You automatically abort and simply execute a default action.
Missing Target: If you do not provide a target in a situation that would obviously require one, your target is considered to be “Nearest visible enemy”.

Immediate Actions/Interrupts

When presented with some kind of interrupt that wasn’t explicitly readied, such as an immediate action, you have 10 seconds to declare it after the triggering action happens.

Active Initiative System

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