In a recent episode of Nerd's Variety RPG Podcast, the host Jason had called for listeners - on reward of a DriveThru gift card - to call in and speak to their preferred initiative system when playing RPGs. I did not win - congratulations to the winner! - because Jason disqualified everyone of whose rugged and dashing good looks he was envious - but I did call in and I did speak to an initiative system that I used in an old homebrew - one which I called the Second Grid.
While, admittedly, this rule was used for a more action-themed RPG, where combatants in a melee act individually rather than by side, as with most OSR systems: it still may have its place to inspire - see below, an adaptation of the rule from the homebrew that fits within an OSR framework.
See as follows, copied and pasted from that old homebrew, with bits renamed or
mildly rejiggered to reflect B/X attributes and terminology:
Each character has a number of Action Points equal to 2, modified by the character's Dexterity, to a minimum of 1.
Thus, a character with a Dexterity of 16 would have 4 Action Points where a
character with a Dexterity of 5 would instead only have 1.
Order of Action
Order of actions in a Combat are determined by the Second Grid. Each character – on its Initiative – declares an action and spends a number of Action Points proportional to the task being accomplished.
If the AP cost of the action is equal to or less than the Action
Point pool of the acting character, the action is resolved
If the AP cost of the action is greater than the Action Point pool of the
acting character, the action is resolved
at the top of the character's next Initiative.
Note, a character performing an action that requires more AP than in
the pool, thus, may be interrupted or may find their target has moved when
the swing falls!
This concluding the action, the referee marks down the number of Action Points spent. Note, the character’s AP pool is not reduced – instead, a running tally of how many each combatant has spent total is maintained. At this junction, the referee checks to see which combatant has the smallest total – thus, has spent the fewest Action Points. That character takes the Initiative – it is that character's turn to act.
Continue in this fashion until combat is concluded.
Ties in Initiative
At the start of a combat, all characters will have 0 AP spent. To break the tie and start the combat, each character should roll 1d6, modified by Dexterity, and the referee should roll 1d6 for all enemy groups - sorted logically. The winner of the roll goes first, then chooses to whom to pass the Initiative after.
The referee should record names to tally Action Points in this order.
Subsequently, if two characters have the same total actions spent – the
referee is encouraged to go in the same order as had been established at
On Your Initiative
When a character is in the position of having spent the fewest actions (or having been determined as such in the tie-breaker) - they are considered to have the Initiative and may take an action. These actions are, basically, as follow.
A character may move up to their tactical movement; half, if moving over difficult terrain. Moving costs 1 AP.
If moving in a straight line - the character may declare a Charge.
When charging, a character may make an attack as part of the move: combing
the two and spending AP proportional to both - thus, moving alone would cost
1 AP, but charging with a sword strike would cost 3 (per the Attack rule
below). Likewise, generally speaking, a charge should resolve immediately -
not after - representing the momentum of the swing.
A character may make an attack.
- An unarmed strike costs 1 AP.
A one-handed melee weapon strike costs 2 AP.
A quick-reload weapon shot, such as a bow or most thrown weapons, also costs 2 AP.
A two-handed melee weapon strike costs 3 AP.
A slow-reload or wind-up weapon shot, such as a sling or crossbow, also costs 3 AP.
Dropping a weapon - that is, letting it fall to the floor at your feet - is
a free (0 Action Point cost) action.
A character may attempt to access items in their equipment as an action.
- Un-sheathing a weapon costs 1 AP.
- Easy-to-access items, such as belt pouches, cost 2 AP.
Sheathing a weapon costs 3 AP.
Placing an item in an easy-to-access space likewise costs 3 AP.
Stowed items, such as the backpack, cost 4 AP - both to place and
Cast a Spell
A character may cast a spell in combat. The AP cost of the spell is 1 plus the spell level: so, Sleep (a level 1 spell) would cost 2 AP where Cure Disease (a 3rd level spell) would cost 4.
Optionally, all spells - regardless of Action Points - manifest at the top of the casting character's next Initiative, allowing for strategic interruption.
This action list is by necessity not exclusive - as the creativity of a player out-paces the margins of this text. In the event of a player action not falling into the above categories, the referee is encouraged to make a ruling according to what makes sense.
That said, when in doubt: 3 AP.
Why is this called "The Second Grid"?
The reason this is known as the Second Grid – the referee is encouraged to put graph paper down, writing the names of each combatant on lines. Then, for each action point – put an X or a check through a box to the right of the name. This way, it’s very easy for the referee – visually – to determine who has spent the least and thus has the Initiative.
Below, provided, an example of play - combat between a warrior and wizard
ambushed by a squad of kobolds:
Remaining kobolds all fall into deep slumber.
Wizard: Time for some throat-slitting; grateful for that spell yet?
What do you think?
Dynamic and intriguing, lending a tactical aspect to otherwise an formulaic combat experience? Or a bad excuse to justify how much money I spent on miniatures back in the day?
Let me know!
Delve on, readers!
Public domain artwork retrieved from
and adapted for thematic use. Attributions in alt text.