Narrative Combat

Narrative Combat

What is this?

An alternative initiative and combat resolution system.


This allows players to think in terms of story rather than an action economy. It should allow for more creative decision choices.

How’s it work? What sorts of mechanical changes are there?

Players submit their actions to the Dungeon Master, likely written down or explained verbally.
The Dungeon Master takes this feedback and create a narrative for the round based on the actions of the PCs and NPCs.
Order of resolution is determined by Initiative rolled at the start of each round.

What kind of ramifications?

The Dungeon Master must spend extra time thinking about how to weave the various events together and what sorts of limitations there are for a player’s turn.
It may not function the best in a grid based system, though it should still be useful.

Other Thoughts

I’ve thought about this before and have enjoyed reading other people’s stories of using this kind of a system. At times I have deviated from the normal flow of combat to insert this sort of system on a particular player; what some systems might call giving them the limelight.

This would seek to allow players to not think in terms of Move > Action > Bonus but along the lines of: What am I going to do this turn? while leaving the rules considerations to the DM. The goal isn’t to change the action economy but rather to change the way players interact with the DM during combat. The player would say I use my two attacks from extra attack to attack the ogre in the normal system for their action; in this system, the player might describe how they attack and the DM would call for the appropriate rolls, explaining the results of a player’s desired action.

The alternating initiative is to give the DM something to work with in the midst of the narrative. Perhaps a player whose turn was spent mostly moving receives a bonus to their initiative as they arrive at their goal.

As was discussed the possibility of changing the system to a highly ordered system for dealing with attacks, this system takes a highly unordered approach to achieve the same effect. This may allow for additional roleplaying advantage/disadvantage scenarios. A PC who says “I swing my sword high” might get a damage bonus, but his opponent might get a bonus to hit because he exposed himself, all adjudicated by the Dungeon Master.

The focus would be to remove squabbling over how the rules work during a player’s action and leave those decisions to the Dungeon Master. This helps players to not have to consider how the rules might work and rely on the Dungeon Master to be their assistant in accomplishing their desired outcome. The DM can handle the rules how he sees fit; the player simply says what they are going to try to do.

Overall, the main goal is more interaction, more storytelling, more unique actions. The method is by removing an interface (the rules/action economy) set between the players. The main downside would be possibly DM favoritism and more work for the DM at the table.