Initiative Rolls and Extraordinary Success

While listening to Critical Role (a D&D twitch stream, for those who aren’t familiar with it), I was struck by the fact that the players always seem so excited about natural 20s when rolling initiative. It feels like a waste to me since there’s no added benefit, and most people I’ve played D&D with feel the same.

So, in the spirit of “every roll matters,” how do other people make unusually high initiative rolls feel more meaningful in their Open Legend games? Or do they?

Personally, I’ve done various things in the past, and I can think of a few other options, as well. Here’s my initial list of things I’d be willing to consider including in a house rule (under the right circumstances), in order of increasing power:

  • Grant the high roller extra advantage for the first turn
  • Grant the high roller an extra action
  • Grant the high roller an extra turn

Obviously you would need to have a pretty high roll to justify an extra turn, but tossing someone an extra advantage seems like a reasonable way to make someone feel like their high roll wasn’t “wasted.” Thoughts?

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So I played the stargate RPG once or twice but a neat mechanic in that was that you could take -20 to your initiative to take another turn. so if you had a 25 you would go at that initiative count and then you could take -20 to your initiative and at initiative count 5 you would go again. Your initiative would then be at 5 from now on unless you had some way to make it go up again.


In a case where there is Surprise, I could see a benefit being that you aren’t surprised if you roll really high on Initiative. Usually going first on Initiative has its own benefits, but on a particularly high roll I could see possibly doing something more. I think giving Advantage would be the best, as additional turns or actions are HUGE in OL.

What do you judge a big roll by though, that it is 10 higher than the closest roll? You can’t do it just by an explosion, since it could of just been a d4 that exploded, and you still have a 16 on the roll total.

Basically, what is “unusually high initiative roll”, what defines that?

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Excellent question.

The first time I ever considered this topic for my own use was when I ran a one-shot at a company picnic. Most of the players had never even played a TTRPG before, and none had played Open Legend. When goblins surprised the party, one of the players rolled somewhere in the 40s for initiative, and no one else rolled above the low 20s. I believe I ended up saying everyone else was surprised, but he surprised the goblins. The group enjoyed that.

So far, I’ve never had to really define a cutoff. None of the OL games I’ve run have been more than a couple of sessions, and there has been little to no overlap in players, so I’ve had the freedom to just call it how I feel. Obviously, an initiative roll doesn’t really have a target, and the term “Extraordinary Success” doesn’t really apply since there isn’t exactly a success/failure dichotomy. (I used that term in the title to get people thinking in the same sort of terms I was)

My thought had been that, if I had to give a solid rule, it would be 10 over the second highest initiative roll. The main problem with this is that if you have one person roll a 72, and another rolls a 71, those would both be pretty exceptional rolls, but neither one receives the benefit. If the players are used to a rule based on rolling 10 higher than the second highest, that might feel a lot worse than if there were no rule at all.

I would tend to agree with this. Action economy is really important in OL, since it is used as a main game balancer in place of limited-use abilities. I would possibly consider granting a single extra action on the first turn (though this would probably be more on the order of next highest + 20 instead of 10), but the idea of an entire extra turn was only included as a brainstorming activity.

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It would probably be a very situational thing overall, but the way I would do it is “blocks”. That is, in the example you gave, both players that got the 72 and 71 would be in the “exceptional” block.

Once you have all the initiative, the blocks should be pretty easy to see, and easy to determine if someone got anything exceptional. If it is all an even spread, then clearly nothing, but if there are gaps, those at the highest gap can gain the benefit.

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Yeah I think advantage on first round quite be appropriate and maybe some other situational bonuses that are not game breaking.

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