In keeping with the check as the unified mechanic, I'm thinking about having a check for initiative and surprise all in one roll... here are the options for what will happen:
- If you get a 20 or better on your initiative check, you surprise your foe; take +2 to your attack in the first round because you caught your opponent somewhat unprepared.
- If you get a 1 or lower on your initiative check, you botch initiative; take -2 to your attack in the first round because you were relatively unprepared to attack your foe this round.
- If both sides gain surprise, they cancel each other.
- If you use sneak against your foe, you automatically gain surprise over your foe, regardless of his initiative result.
- Depending on the situation, the GM may automatically award surprise to one side without rolling initiative. For example, if you listen to a door and hear a group of creatures talking, you can kick in the door and take automatic surprise.
Once you determine the sequence of initiative, that remains the sequence for the rest of the turn. If combat goes to a second turn (quite unlikely), then re-roll initiative.
I like these rules for a few reasons:
- They conflate surprise and initiative.
- They align with the check system I'm using elsewhere.
- They cut a number of rolls from the sequence of combat, keeping things moving more quickly.
I am not sure what modifier is added to your initiative roll. I'm thinking that it should be your DEX modifier (since that makes sense, and has been used in varieties of these rules). I'm thinking that if the group is making a representative check, they take the DEX bonus of the caller... that will tend to get people to want to push for the Thief being the caller, so that may not be the best way to go... the other option is to have the group default to the lowest bonus among the group, but that also doesn't make a ton of sense. I could just say that group initiative (if you use that instead of individual initiative) grants a default bonus of +2 to the roll (since I'm using a default +2 elsewhere in the rules - like when searching for secret doors).