Okay, the combat is about to begin, initiative dice are rolled, and the action starts happening... but what happens if your character is not the quickest on the draw and when the ring announcer says Let's Get Ready to Rrrrrummmmblllllllle you just... aren't. Or maybe the combat has started but you decide you want to wait a bit before taking your turn.
Initiative represents when the game switches from a mostly (or purely) narrative mode into one where the normal flow of time shifts into a funny turn-based facsimile, and that creates some funny rule spaces in how the game integrates the two. As part of the ongoing effort of Corefinder to clarify rules as much as possible, we do try to cover some of the main ones (while also offering a few new options you can try at your table).
Flat-footed: At the beginning of an encounter, including any surprise round (see below), you have the flat-footed condition until you have had your first turn. Once your turn occurs, you are no longer flat-footed, even if you choose to Delay taking your actions when your turn comes up.
Ongoing Effects: If you are affected by an ongoing effect, such as taking fire damage from being burned at the stake or poison damage from a snake’s bite each round, those ongoing effects occur each round at the beginning of your turn. This is true even if you are unable to take actions, choose not to take any actions, or if you choose to Delay your turn (see Free Actions, page xx). If you Delay your turn, any ongoing effect takes place immediately on your original initiative position before the Delay action begins. Once you stop delaying and establish your new initiative position, you can take your turn and the ongoing effect does not repeat (since this is still considered your same turn) until the beginning of your next turn at the new initiative number.
Optional Rule: Round-by-round Initiative: If you wish to introduce more unpredictability into combat, then rather than opting for cyclical initiative where the order simply repeats itself each round, you can end each round’s actions completely and reroll for initiative again at the beginning of each round.
Optional Rule: Snake Initiative: Another alternative to determining turn order is to follow the standard initiative rules above for the first round of combat, then reverse them in the second round, so that a character who went last in the opening round then goes first in the next. Odd-numbered rounds then revert to the initial initiative order and so on, reversing again on even-numbered rounds.