I’ve been thinking about eliminating individual player turns in lieu of increasing interrupt support. If you can imagine the players and monsters taking their turns collectively as opposing sides, you can lean on group-based powers and abilities, replacing the individual’s turn with an array of interrupts.

This idea borrows a bit from both Ogre Battle and Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been going back and forth between different concepts for player turn order and I was trying to figure out where I was going to have to settle.

See now, I’m a big fan of Final Fantasy 10’s initiative system, which alters the characters’ order based on their actions. The main problem with that is the bookkeeping involved. While the concept is awesome, the application of such a system is simply more work than it’s worth. Around the game table, anyway.

I’d like to see a tabletop game system take a stab at making the Final Fantasy 10 battle system fun and playable, with minimal bookkeeping.

Now, Ogre Battle includes something very much similar to the initiative order of Dungeons & Dragons, where you have two sides with a variety of characters with differing initiatives. They each attack a couple times, then the battle is over. But individuals take individual turns, attacking and missing, and it’s all automated.

The game engine keeps track of who goes in what order. The player is given the option to play a card every so often with one of their cards, which may or may not have a significant effect on the outcome of the battle itself.

Magic: the Gathering gives each opponent the option of initiating combat on their respective turn, declaring attackers and such, while the defending player declares blockers. Damage is distributed, and any instants or combat-only effects come into play and then combat ends. Not really conducive to a roleplaying game.

The players want more control than that, they want to be able to decide their own character’s actions in the context of the encounter.

But wait! See, the thinking here is that giving players the option to interrupt and react to incoming attacks and effects (choosing whether or not to block, and how) gives them the same amount of control as giving them individual turns, but keeps them more engaged in the game as they watch for opportunities.

“…not yet. Wait for the opportune moment.”
Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

It also reduces a certain amount of the drudgery of “I swing my sword at it, do I hit?” by combining it all into one action. Everyone either attacks or doesn’t attack. Everyone either defends or doesn’t defend. There isn’t a need for every player to state outright whether they are or aren’t going to act on their own turn.

If all the players act as one, it gives them the opportunity to decide their actions together, “let’s gang up on this guy,” and the sting of the individual failure of a character to land an attack is diminished. Each player can then get their individual reactions in, repelling the attackers in their own way.