I is for Initiative!
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
“Once upon a time…”
“Roll for initiative!”
Classic starting lines.
Whether the game has been going for hours, or if you’ve just sat down at the table, the phrase “Role for initiative” means the game is truly afoot!
The heartbeat picks up, dice start rattling. Even if you enjoy the character interaction of non-combat encounters, it’s hard to deny there’s something special about the act of rolling initiative.
There are few games where an upcoming combat doesn’t mean at least a chance of changing the course of an adventure. Even if all the characters survive, combat can drain resources leaving a group weaker, and make them have to play more cautiously. Or if they don’t stop their opponents quickly enough, one could escape informing opponents in later encounters to the characters’ presence.
In addition, the initiative roll is perhaps more important than any single combat roll. It determines the order of actions through the entire combat. A good initiative roll gives a character a slight advantage throughout the encounter. Going first allows a character to position themselves to best advantage before their opponent can move, whether that means driving into the heart of battle, or setting back somewhere and letting the enemy come to you.
Next to Monty Python quotes, “Roll for initiative” may be the most repeated line at the gaming table.