Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Action Initiative
Sometimes, actions have a system of which goes first. This is important when certain actions should occur at the same time, as one could have priority over the other.

In the type of turn-based RPGs where every character participates once in every "turn" of combat (which is most tabletop ones, and videogame ones that don't use a Combatant Cooldown System), characters with high "Speed" generally get priority on who goes first. This too can be overridden by which action they choose.

One of the attributes that determines Character Tiers in fighting games is a character's (or his/her attacks') priority over other characters/attacks. Contrast Extrinsic Go-First Rule, where who goes first is determined by something outside of the game itself.


Card Games
  • In Magic The Gathering:
    • Combat damage between creatures normally occurs simultaneously. Some creatures have an ability called First Strike, which means that their damage happens before the other one can retaliate- if the first strike damage is fatal, the victim doesn't get to deal any damage.
    • Those who delve deeply enough into the inner workings of the game's rules will learn about the system of layers that determine how continuous effects interact with one another (just in case you have an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth with Blood Moon, Humility, and Opalescence on the field when somebody casts Rude Awakening and Mirrorweave... hey, you never know).

Tabletop Games
  • 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons had a Weapon Speed Factor, which determined which combatant would hit first when they tied for initiative.
    • And later editions still have it to determine turn order. As you might imagine, acting quickly is important.
  • Champions. When more than one character can act during a segment, they act in order of Dexterity (highest to lowest).
  • Shadowrun. Characters act in order of their Initiative, highest to lowest. If two or more characters have the same initiative, tiebreakers include having the highest adjusted Reaction and the highest natural Reaction, in that order.
  • Dark Conspiracy. When two or more characters have the same Initiative, they act in descending order of adjusted Agility.
  • 1st Edition Cyberpunk 2020. All characters acting within the same phase did so in descending order of their Reflex stats.
  • GURPS 3rd Edition. The combatants acted in descending order of their Move scores. In case of ties they acted in descending order of their Basic Speed scores.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has an initiative stat for all close-combat capable units, as well as various Psychic Powers and electric shocks that influence it, weapons that are unwieldy enough to reduce their wielder's initiative, etc.
    • Warhammer Fantasy as well. In the eight edition, a special rule allows one to always strike first regardless of initiative, and if initiative would have made them strike first anyways, it allows re-rolls instead.
    • The 40k RPGs such as Dark Heresy or Black Crusade specify that the one with the highest initiative roll acts first, but gets to decide what to do last (allowing them to try and prevent an enemy's action).
  • In Chaosium's "Basic Roleplaying System", combatants acted in descending order of their Dexterity.
  • Legend of the Five Rings has an interesting take of this trope. Actions are resolved round-by-round, and are announced from the slowest character to the fastest, so that the faster characters can respond to the action of the slower characters.
  • Deadlands, in-keeping with The Western flavor for which it was known, resolved initiative by drawing from a deck of 54 playing cards—leave the jokers in—with faster characters getting up to five cards per combat round. Rank and suit all played a role in determining who acted when. A simplified version of this system would later be used in the publisher's more generalized rule system, Savage Worlds.
  • Fate-based games typically have two different "primary" initiative skills depending on the kind of conflict that is on the table; for instance, Spirit Of The Century defaults to using Alertness for physical conflicts and Empathy for social ones. Ties are then broken in order of Resolve, and any ties left after that "in favor of the player closest to the GM's right" (SotC p. 57). (The same game covers its bases by also suggesting a fairly simple around-the-table rotation scheme for groups that just don't want to deal with initiative-by-skill at all.)
  • Lupin III: Subverted Trope. Although the rules for the board game comes with a list of who goes first to settle any arguments, it is expected for turns to consist of "Zenigata's turn" (He and his buddies move and act in any order) and "Lupin's turn" (He and his buddies move and act in any order). About half the time, the game will see three initiatives develop as Fujiko inevitably betrays the party.

Video Games
  • Pokémon: there is an abundance of moves related to one of the thirteen priority tiers, such as Quick Attack, Aqua Jet and Mach Punch, in addition to items and abilities. See this guide for the mechanics.
  • Super Smash Bros.: this is what determines a lot of tier rankings as well. One of the reasons why Captain Falcon is severely nerfed in Brawl compared to his previous incarnations is because the priority for many of his attacks was lowered so much.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, healing, defensive, and shielding super moves (as well as two ultimate team moves the player can use later on and a certain move used by the Final Boss) always happen before any other moves, regardless of character speed.
  • Turn order in Shining Force is based on the characters' speed stat.
  • One of the things that determine Character Tiers in the Capcom vs. Whatever fighting games. Dan Hibiki usually ends up being a Lethal Joke Character because his attacks have priority over everything.
  • The Golden Sun series has several Djinn that work this way - any damage-lowering Djinn such as Flash will be the turn's first action, as well as others such as Breath who are coded to "go before anyone else can act". Using two in one turn results in the characters' Agility being used as the tiebreaker. Notably, there are very few enemy moves that have this effect, while at least seven Djinn so far work this way.
  • Penny Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness had a roll for initiative before each fight giving a random number between 1 and 20. A natural 20 started that character off with a full action bar.
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy, like most fighting games, has a system of priority—some attacks are low priority, some are medium, some are high, etc—and is notable for having one attack in the #1 slot, the Emperor's Thunder Crest, which is a rune on the floor that, if the opponent gets close enough to, will drag them in, holding them still and inflicting damage, and there ain't nothing no one can do about it. Stay away from the runes.
  • In Fire Emblem, the attacker always goes first. Unless the defender has the Vantage skill. This helps counter Spiteful A.I. Zerg Rush Death By A Thousand Cuts, but it's annoying when a boss has it and will kill your Squishy Wizard characters before they get a chance.
  • In Advance Wars the attacker always strikes first. This is important because the unit's health determines how much damage they deal, so the defender usually has a weak counter attack. Sonja's ability is that she always attacks first, even when defending.
  • The first two Fallout games as well as Fallout Tactics have the Sequence derived stat for this purpose; characters with higher Sequence go first. It's primarily determined by the player's Agility stat but there are three ways to improve it: doing anything that improves Agility, taking the Earlier Sequence perk or, during character generation, taking the Kamikaze trait which trades in the character's innate Armor Class for a permanent Sequence boost (in gameplay terms, it means that the character moves first but has a significant penalty at dodging attacks; without equipped armor, the character cannot even dodge).

Tabletop RPGTabletop Game TropesCompetitive Balance
Zip ModeVideo Game TropesAbsurdly High Level Cap

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy