Seizing the Initiative
Seizing the Initiative is all about tactical surprise: doing something so unexpected that it sets the enemy back on their heels, it inflicts shock and surprise in sufficient quantity as to break their momentum.
There are guidelines given for this, but the basic idea is this: the enemy’s confidence must be shaken, their feeling of control disrupted, and their tactics interrupted.
As a basic rule, Seizing the Initiative requires:
Successful attacks — combat, spell, miracle, or CI — against a majority of the opponents in the same round, or any attack that scores a Superior Success (11+ Result Rating) against a significant opponent (leader, named character, influential or important character, or Lead character).
Despite the given guidelines, there are innumerable gambits, events, and surprises that can occur which don’t fall neatly under the Seizing the Initiative and Pressing the Advantage rules.
Any time one side or another succeeds in pulling off an unexpected attack or gambit, the GM can rule that one side or the other has effectively Seized the Initiative, or that no one has the Initiative.
Example 1: The Heroes are being badly beaten, and decide to set up an ambush. Half the party retreats and prepares an ambush. The rest fall back, and when the enemy chases after, they launch an unexpected attack. If successful, they have Seized the Initiative.
Example 2: A group of Knights is fighting a band of Elves in a courtyard. The Elves have been building up their Advantage, and the Knights are being worn down.
Suddenly, a warband of orcs comes screaming into the courtyard and attacks both sides. The orcs have Seized the Initiative (by succeeding in an ambush). It’s up to the Knights and Elves whether they want to continue fighting each other and the orcs, or whether they want to join forces.
Example 3: The players are in the base of a supervillain, in the caldera of an ancient volcano. They are being beaten, badly.
One player runs over and hits a switch that releases the lava from the geopower conduits. The lava flows into the room.
Everyone is shocked by the move, and the GM rules that no one has Initiative.
Similar results can come from unexpected reinforcements, the use of innovative tactics, an overwhelming counter-attack, an attack from an unexpected direction, a sudden flanking maneuver, the destruction of a key piece of equipment, setting up an ambush, killing a leader (particularly a Lead character), or any other gambit the gamemaster feels qualifies as shocking, surprising, or dispiriting.
This isn’t a situation easily amenable to rigid rules, clearly delineating what qualifies as a Counter-Attack and what allows one side to Seize the Initiative.
The gamemaster will have to use their judgement. The most important question is this:
Is this attack unexpected, shocking, or demoralizing?
Did the enemy expect an ambush (and how many people did the ambush kill or incapacitate)?
Was something or someone important to them (their great general or invincible tank) killed or destroyed?
Did their opponents use or deploy wholly unexpected weapons or resources in a successful attack?
In general, the more successful a Counter-Attack, the more likely it is the characters Seized the Initiative.
When in doubt, the gamemaster should err on the side of the faction that has made a sound tactical plan, is cooperating on implementing the plan, and is succeeding at their plan. Even if no single attack qualifies under the given guidelines, this is evidence of the faction taking aggressive and coordinated action, and thus Seizing the Initiative.
[Note: This is a multi-part post. Keep track of the previous posts here.]