I Got Your Initiative Right Here, Buddy. #LincolnGreen #Greenwoodnesday

We’ve all been there. The sheriff’s dullard slams the gaol door at the very same moment you’re fleeing from your cell. Neither of you wants to be rude, so who has the right of way? Who yields to whom? This #Greenwoodnesday we examine the importance of etiquette when shit goes down in #LincolnGreen.


A Few Quick Notes for Those Not Caught Up on Reading #LincolnGreen Posts

  • Coins are used instead of dice. For the sake of this posts, heads are good and tails are bad. You throw or toss them, instead of, you know, rolling.
  • The word “point” refers to a point of fact, not a score. “The sheriff’s cook has seen through your disguise,” is a point. “But he’s sweet on you,” is another point. 18/00 is not.
  • Game Warden, or just Warden, is your GM role for this game. The Warden’s duties include looking at all the relevant points in a given situation and deciding the outcome. You do not roll to see if you succeed. The Warden tells you. Except in a few narrow situations, including:
    • Saving Throws are made when your health, life, or liberty are in immediate peril. The throw to save is made with a single coin, giving you only a 50% chance. But if you’re high enough level, you can get up to two more coin tosses in there to allay or avoid the situation altogether.
    • To Hit Throws are made when you’re trying hit someone with something. Usually someone you don’t like with something stout or sharp. But not always on either account. To do this, you throw a handful of coins (around 3) and more heads are better for you. Conversely, when someone tries to hit you, you hoping for tails.

With that, you should be up to speed enough to grok the rest of this.

The Round Begins

When things get sketchy, and it’s important to know who did what when, then you start a round. A round is a vaguely ordered unit of time. Just how long it lasts, depends on who goes first, but generally it is enough time to travel a given distance at a given pace and complete a given task.

IMG_20170728_152347_110At the top of a round, hand out a heads-up coin to everyone who is not suffering under a point that would make them unaware of the situation they are in. These folks are considered At the Ready, which is to say they are prepared to Take a Turn, Seize the Initiative, Call Someone to Action, or Bide Their Time. All the while, they can move At Pace to keep up with the action.

Some folks won’t get a coins at the top of the round, because they are suffering under some point that keeps them from being At the Ready. Perhaps you’re befuddled. Or you’re sleeping. Or you’re wandering the battlefield blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back. I don’t know what your kink is. If the points say you’re unaware or incapable of participating, then you don’t get a coin. Not right now, at least.

The Order Out of Chaos

There is no order to a round. Anyone who is At the Ready may choose to go whenever they feel it is necessary or opportune. Simple push all your heads-up coins forward and tell us you wish to Take Your Turn. When you take your turn, all your heads-up coins are discarded to indicate you are no longer At the Ready. But don’t discard them until you know you’re not going to be interrupted.

If more than one person wants to go at the same time, it’s no big deal. Maybe you and a fellow outlaw want to pull a tapestry from the sheriff’s wall. You both push your heads-up coins forward and do it together.

You don’t even have to be allies with whoever you’re sharing your turn with. You and Guy are clashing swords as you travel from one side of a bridge to the other. As long as neither of you care who reaches the other side first, you can do all this simultaneously. (This is largely thanks to the fact that in the game, you can meet such attacks with a counter-attack, so it really doesn’t matter who is attacked first.)

But what if that bridge is a drawbridge, and it’s closing fast? Things get a little trickier when one person wants to go before another. In general, you’ll follow this procedure.

  1. Push heads-up coins forward and declare you wish to Take a Turn.
    • If someone wants to go before you, compare the distances each of you will have to travel: the shortest distance goes first.
      • If there’s a tie, and those tied do not wish to take their turns together, then compare points: the easiest, swiftest path goes first.
    • If someone usurps your turn this way, it is as if you chose not to go:
      • Do not discard your coins,
      • You are not bound by the distance you declared,
      • And you need not take your turn next.
  2. If it is indeed your turn, now you must declare your intentions.
    • Now if someone wants to go before you, they must declare their intentions and attempt to Seize the Initiative.
    • Whoever has the most heads-up coins will go first, with ties breaking in favor of the character who was otherwise going first.
      1. To get in front of someone with more heads-up coins, you can Throw Yourself In, but this may backfire.
    • Once intentions have been declared, you must follow through if you can.
      1. If the interruption made your intentions impossible, you still lose your heads-up coins and At the Ready from befuddlement.

The round continues like this until no one is At the Ready, or those who are have all opted to merely keep pace this round. When you end the round, ask yourselves if there’s reason to continue in rounds. If not, you no longer have to worry about distributing and collecting heads-up coins. But if you do continue the round, allow those who have Bided Their Time to assess the action and keep their heads-up coins. Everyone else discards all coins in front of them, and start a new round by handing out a heads-up coin to anyone not suffering under a point that might prevent them from collecting one. The cycle continues.

The First & Pacing

The very first person to go in any round sets the pace for that round. It does not matter how they came to be the first, whether it was by volunteering and no one else objecting; by traveling a shorter, swifter path than anyone else; or by Seizing the Initiative from someone else. However it happened, the first sets the pace.

So if the pace of the round matters to you and your schemes, make sure you go first.

When you’re first in the round, the length of the round is roughly how long it takes you to travel your distance and attempt your task. Anyone traveling that far or less, and attempting something that takes that long or less is considered At Pace.

If you aren’t the one who set the pace for the round, and you wish to go a little faster or a little farther than the current pace, you must attempt to Seize the Initiative from someone. This is you trying to beat the pace of the round by moving swifter than someone else. Naturally, that could very well entail moving farther in some amount of time. Just how much farther depends greatly on the points. Like all things that depend on the points, the Warden should decide on a case-by-case basis. But it is important to note that you only need to attempt to Seize the Initiative to go a little further.

If you wish to go a lot farther than this round will let you, you should either try to go first and set your pace or Bide Your Time while moving At Pace so you have a better shot at first next round.

Seizing the Initiative

First the order is determined by volunteer—those who push their heads-up coins forward and say they’re ready to Take Their Turn. If there’s contention between two or more volunteers, we defer to who has the shortest and then swiftest route. If you do not care for these results, than Seize the Initiative!

There are so many reasons why one would want to Seize the Initiative, and they’re all legit:

  • Go first and set the pace for the round;
  • Interrupt someone’s plans;
  • Flee to safety before the swords are drawn;
  • Move farther than anyone else in the round;
  • Beat someone to the largest leg of mutton;
  • Execute a well-timed scheme;
  • Nudge ahead of a foe who you are simultaneously taking turns with;
  • Draw a more capable combatant into a more precarious situation;
  • Or just sick of waiting your turn.

Before you Seize the Initiative, wait for your foe to push their heads-up coins forward and announce what they are about to do. This is important, because they are going to be held to this, even if you get to go before them. Then you push your heads-up coins forward, announce that you are attempting to Seize the Initiative, and declare what you intend to do. This is equally important because you’ll be held to this, even if you fail to Seize the Initiative.

The one with the most heads-up coins goes first. Ties are bad news if you’re trying to shake things up—they maintain the status quo. In the case of a tie, whoever was going first, goes first, and if you were otherwise taking your turn simultaneously, you still do.

All parties involved are committed to their intentions. Seizing the Initiative is a moment of surprise, which is why, unlike when we sort things out using the distances traveled, you have to state your intent before we discover who actually gets to go first. You’re going to follow through with this intent as soon as you can, even if it no longer is possible. This won’t always matter, but it often does.

If you say you want to stab me and then I announce my desire to Seize the Initiative in order to fling myself out a window before you get a chance, well then, we’ve got a contest. If I succeed in going first, you’ll have nothing but the fluttering drapes to stab. But if you go first, I could be leaping out the window with a jagged wound in my side. Neither of us gets to change these most immediate plans based on how it all falls out. We’re committed.

All parties will discard all their heads-up coins regardless of the results. That is, even if the change in situation leaves you with an impossible task, such as stabbing someone who has just fled, you are left stabbing at the air. You lose your heads-up coins, just as I do, and neither of us is At the Ready.

Merely attempting to Seize the Initiative allows you to nose ahead of the pace. That is, you do not have to actually Seize the Initiative and jump ahead of someone in line in order to move faster than pace. As long as you try, we’re good. This nosing ahead of the pace is how you outrun someone who is wishing you harm. But note, however, even though merely attempting is enough to go the extra distance, you still have to Seize the Initiative to dash away before some fate befalls you.

When more than one person is trying to Seize the Initiative, you go in order of most heads-up coins to least, with ties maintaining the status quo. You and an outlaw buddy are hiding in the bushes alongside a well-used forest trail. A mounted knight in fine, shining armor comes trotting along. Both you and your ally wish to wait for the knight to cross your path and then you’ll pull taut a rope hidden in the dirt. You’ll both want to have more heads-up coins than that knight if you want the rope to be drawn on both sides at the same time. But you don’t have to beat each other, since you’re cool with working together.

Throwing In

You may have noted that a lot of this assumes:

  • People will have more than one heads-up coin in front of them,
  • And the exact number is unknown.

Throwing In makes these assumptions possible. By Throwing In, you get 1 to 3 more coins that you toss in the hopes of getting more heads-up.

The person Seizing the Initiative declares how many coins they want first. If you’re Throwing In―and you certainly don’t have to―choose 1, 2, or 3 coins. Do not throw them yet.

Next, their opponent may Throw In as well. If they do, they get to choose 1, 2, or 3 coins to toss. This order is important. If your turn is being usurped, you have the right to know if your usurper is Throwing In and for how much before you make your decision. Also note that you are allowed to Throw In even if your usurper does not.

Throw the coins. Heads join your heads-up pile. If this is enough for you to either Seize the Initiative or protect your spot in the round, well done! If not, oh well, better luck next time.

Tails join your tails-up pile. Throwing In is a desperate gambit. You are pushing yourself and a leaving yourself vulnerable. The number of tails you threw is the measure of this risk. These tails await the very next Saving Throw or To Hit throw you make before the end of this round. For this very next throw, each tail that lies before you should be treated as a tail you just threw. One such tail is dangerous. Two or three could be ruinous. Especially when they’re just hanging out there for all your foes to see.

The tails-up pile is discarded after the next Saving or To Hit Throw, or at the end of the round. Even if you don’t use all your tails on the next throw, all of them are discarded. And they never stick around for very long.

Throwing In is a risky but effective tactic against a superior opponent. If you can get them to Throw In as well, you might be able to create an opening for an ally to exploit. Yay, teamwork!

Throwing In is only done while the initiative is being seized. In case it needs being said, you cannot Throw In on your turn just to try to build up heads-up coins.

Throwing In is the only way to end up with more heads-up coins than your level. In a moment, we will talk about Calling to Action and Biding Your Time, both are ways to increase a pile of heads-up coins. Neither of those allow anyone’s pile to exceed their level. Throwing In is not restricted in this way. It gives you a fighting chance, since nothing is higher than level 7 and most everything is within 1 or 2 levels of level 3.

Calling an Ally to Action

If you can communicate with an ally that trusts you to boost their morale, bark commands, or offer guidance, you may spend one or more of the heads-up coins in front of you to Call Them to Action. Hand them the coins and tell them what to do. “Watch your flank!” “Stop her!” “Fly, you fool!” or even just “Heads-up!” will do.

They must now immediately Take a Turn or attempt to Seize the Initiative to do as you wish, or discard your coins to indicate they’re ignoring you. It’s rude, yeah, but they may have better idea, so maybe trust them.

If they don’t already have a heads-up coin in front of them, you also make them At the Ready, even if they are suffering under a point that prevents them from being At the Ready. They may still suffer from this point, but they can now act to rectify the situation.

Will Stutely’s asleep in a tree as a couple of wealthy priests pass beneath him. Throw a stone at him and pass him a heads-up coin so he can wake himself.

They must immediately attempt to Take Their Turn or Seize the Initiative to do as you recommended. Or they may choose to just discard the coins you offered them. But they cannot bank them or using them to accomplish something else. So keep your Calls to Action useful or vague. Also, you cannot Call Someone to Action just to get them to Call Someone Else to Action. That’s a bit cheaty, even if it would be fun to see a game of merry folk telephone.

You do not have to Take Your Turn or Seize the Initiative to Call Someone to Action. You do not lose all your heads-up coins when you do it, only the ones you hand over to your ally. You do not have to wait your turn to do it—you can do it whenever a fire needs to be lit under an ally’s ass. Because this is not an actual turn, no one can preempt it by attempting to Seize the Initiative from you.

As long as you have one heads-up coin in front of you, you are At the Ready. You can continue to Call Folks to Action, or even Take Your Turn or Seize the Initiative later in the round if you choose. But keep in mind that Taking Your Turn and Seizing the Initiative require that you discard all your heads-up coins. Once you do either of those, you will no longer be At the Ready.

You can call as many allies to action as you have heads-up coins in front of you, but:

  • You must give at least one coin to each ally you call to action;
  • You may only call each ally to action once per round—though several folks may call the same ally to action in a single round;
  • And you may not give an ally so many heads-up coins that they now have more than their level.

Other allies cannot contribute to your Call to Action. That is you cannot all call the same ally to action at the same time in the hopes of pooling all your heads-up coins. Though, if a foe is Calling Someone to Action, you can certainly call a nearby ally to action in the hopes of interrupting them. “Get him!” “Look out!”

Lots of rules here, but the concept is simple: if you’ve got the coin, you can spend it to encourage an ally to do more.

Biding Time

There comes a point in every round where either everyone is out of heads-up coins, or those who still have them have no intentions beyond moving at pace. When this happens, the round ends.

Take a moment now to decide if another round is needed. Do the old reasons to worry about timing still hold true? Has any new reason arisen? If not, discard all the coins in front of everyone. You’re done with rounds for now.

But if there is a reason to continue fretting about who goes when, you can always start a new round. This usually involves discarding all the coins sitting in front of everyone and handing out a new heads-up coin to everyone who has no point preventing them from being At the Ready. But before you do that, some folks may want to hold onto their old heads-up coins. To do this, they must Bide Their Time.

You can Bide Your Time only if you:

  • End the round with no tails-up coins and at least one heads-up coin in front of you,
  • And do not suffer under a point that prevents you from assessing the situation…
    • Like distractions, such as the hit points Rattled, Harried, or Unbalanced,
    • Or obstructions that block your view of the action.

Calling to Action and moving At Pace do not prevent you from Biding Your Time. As long as you end the round under the above conditions, you’re good. So go ahead and wander about the battlefield barking orders until you heart’s content. Just remember to keep at least on heads-up coin for the end.

Those who spent the round Biding Their Time get to ask and answer strategic questions at the end of the round. You were paying close attention to the action, and that’s about to pays off. You can either exchange questions with the Game Warden or a fellow Outlaw who also Bided Their Time.

If you’re exchanging questions with an Outlaw, you each get to ask the other one question from the following list:

  • What concerns you the most about how that round ended?
  • What are you paying attention to next round?
  • What gives you hope right this moment?
  • Who has impressed you this round?
  • Who do you think is in trouble right now?
  • Who do you think is in control here?
  • Where do you think we can flee to?
  • What do you think is most valuable here?

You should answer these questions as truthfully as you know, but the answers should always be considered the Outlaws’ opinions.

If you’re exchanging questions with the Warden, the Warden chooses one from the previous list. You choose one from any of the lists below you have access to based on the number of heads-up coins you have at the end of the round:

1 or more coins:

  • Who is in control here?
  • Where can I flee to?
  • Which of my allies is in the most peril?

2 or more coins:

  • Where should I be most wary?
  • Whose morale is breaking?
  • What is most valuable here?

3 or more coins:

  • How might I make this foe vulnerable?
  • Which foe is most sympathetic to our cause?
  • What is my foe planning?
  • How can we seize control?

If the Warden doesn’t have a proper answer for you, they should tell you and you should ask a different question.

These questions are not actual questions asked in the world of the game. When you ask Little John’s player “Who has impressed you this round?” the player’s answer is something you picked up from observing the action and Little John in particular. It is not something actually spoken or discussed.

After everyone Biding Their Time has asked and answered their questions, start the next round. Those who Bode Their Time get to keep their leftover heads-up coins from the previous round, and will likely get a shiny new one as this round begins. They can keep collecting these heads-up coins, round after round, until they’ve reached a limit of their level.

Ambushes, Surprises, Standoffs, and Biding One’s Time

So check this out: What if you took a secret round and all you did was Bide Your Time? Wait, wait! Why stop at one secret round? Why not as many secret rounds as you have levels?

Absolutely! Let’s call one secret round a surprise and as many secret rounds as you want an ambush.

Do something surprising to get the drop on someone you’ve been studying, you start the very first round with 2 heads-up coins instead of 1 (that is, if you’re at least level 2).

Scheme and plot to get the action to take place exactly where and when you want it, you start the very first round with a number of heads-up coins equal to your level. Not bad.

Catch your foe sleeping and they may not start with any heads-up coins. That may not seem fair, but neither does taxing the poor to stuff the sheriff’s coffers. You’re outlaws, damn it, the masters of the ambush.

And what if everyone Bode Their Time? Often this just means you no longer need to be in rounds, but occasionally there’s good reason to keep going. When that happens, you’re in a Standoff.

If no one Takes a Turn, then the pace for each round is the Warden’s to set. If you don’t like it, you could always make your move and set the pace yourself. I dare you!

Just like every round, you can move At Pace and still Bide Your Time. So everyone can mill about at the pace set by the Warden and then, at the end of the round, ask and answer some questions to keep their heads-up coins.

You keep going, moving about, until someone breaks the Standoff or until it’s clear no one will. Wardens are encouraged to vary the pace from round to round to see if someone’s inching towards some goal and to see if they can shake things up. High level characters are encouraged to wait for their foes to max out their heads-up piles. Low level characters are encouraged to be jumpy.


So the sheriff’s dullard, she throws you into your cell. Your hands are manacled, so you comply, but you’ve been telling the Warden that the whole time she’s marching you into the gaol, you’re planning to rush past her the moment you’re no longer in her grip. The Warden considers the points and says this is enough for a surprise.

It’s round-to-round action! The dullard is standing at the cell door. She gets a single heads-up coin at the start of the round, but you get 2 for your cleverish scheme. The round begins and the guard says she wishes to go first. You, of course, want to go before her. So we look at the distances.

  • Her: 0 paces
  • You: across the cell, probably 2 or 3 paces.

She’s clearly going first, so you wait to hear her intentions, which are to slam the door shut (for she’s not fool enough to also declare she intends to lock it). Time for you to Seize the Initiative. You push forward your 2 coins to her 1 and declare that you’re going to bolt out that door.

Right now, you’re winning, 2 to 1. But here’s your dilemma: do you Throw In and if so, for how much? You have to declare it first, since you’re the one Seizing the Initiative. How badly do you think she wants to slam that door on you?

Also keep in mind that you said you were going to bolt out the door, but you didn’t say you were also going to bolt out of her reach. That was probably prudent! You are both committed to your declarations. If she manages to get the drop on you, your declaration is going to determine the speed at which you hit that door. If you had declared a bolt all the way through the next door, you’d be really hurting. Even in your case, there’s probably going to be Saving Throw involved. And Throwing In can leave you in a bad position for that.

This, by the by, is also why she just declared that she would be slamming the door. She doesn’t want to look the fool locking an empty cell.

So, do you Throw In?

Two outlaws, Meredith the Red and Dale the Fleet, are planning to ambush a knight on the forest road. It’s a simple trap. They will wait on either side of road with a rope between them, hidden in the dirt. When the mounted knight comes along, unaware of the ambush, but not oblivious.

At the top of the round, Meredith gets 3 heads-up coins, because she’s level 3 and executing an ambush. The knight gets but 1 coin, because he’s being ambushed, but he’s not unconscious.

The problem is Dale the Fleet. The problem is always Dale the Fleet. That morning, upon finding a stray dog, he shared some venison with it. Since then, the dog has been following him making a playful nuisance of itself. Dale has just chased it off, lest it give away his position, but he starts the round ill-prepared for the ambush and further away from it than the knight. Dale only gets 1 coin and his distance means the knight, by default, will get to go before him.

Since it takes two to pull the rope taut, Meredith shoots a sharp whistle at Dale, and passes a heads-up coin his way in order to Call Him to Action. Since the plan is known, this is probably enough communication. Dale will try to Seize the Initiative and leap to his side of the rope in time to pull it taut and clothesline that knight. That is if everything else goes to plan.

John, a guard on night duty, watching over an inn currently housing a wealthy abbot who is overseeing the transportation of church funds.

Meredith, an outlaw, sneaking out of said inn, weighed down by a few jangling sacks of coin.

They meet at spear point.

The round begins, they both get 1 heads-up coin each. The guard has his spear; the outlaw, her knife. In this situation, if each seeks to stab the other, John has the advantage. Meredith must travel at least a spear’s length more than John to make it happen. She will have to Seize the Initiative if she wishes to stab him first, and he still goes first if they end up with the same number of heads-up coins.

This is #LincolnGreen, so a counter-attack is a legitimate defense, if you can get to your opponent. If John goes first, he sets the pace for the round―which will probably be just holding ground. So Meredith must at least attempt to Seize the Initiative to cover the ground between them. But attempting and not gaining the initiative may be bad news for her, because John will go first, stabbing her at a distance she cannot counter-attack, and then she’ll close and attack him, at a distance he could still counter-attack by thwacking her instead of stabbing. And if she Threw In, she could end up with some tails to contend. You don’t want those in the middle of a mutual stabbing.

Meredith decides to Bide Her Time, as does John. The Warden sets the pace at a couple steps. Bold Meredith moves a few feet closer to John, but he circles out of her way, keeping her at spear point, asking her to “Drop it, slowly.”

The round ends and Meredith gets to ask and answer questions. The Warden asks her, “Who do you think is in trouble right now?” and she answers, “Me, absolutely.” then, because she has a single coin in front of her, she asks, “Where can I flee to?” The Warden says, “It’s night and the inn is at the edge of the woods. You can easily lose him among the trees.”

Round two begins. The both get another heads-up coin and both choose to maintain the standoff. Tension rises. Meredith, as we know, is level 3. Next round she’ll have her max of heads-up coins. If she’s going to do anything, then would be the moment. But she doesn’t know what level John is. If he’s only level 2, it might make sense for him to make his move now.

He does not. So the Warden sets the pace. This time they’re allowed quick dashes of a few yards. Meredith sprints toward the trees and John keeps pace with her, still maintaining at least a spear’s length between them.

The round ends and Meredith gets more questions. The Warden asks her “What gives you hope right this moment?” and she answers, “The fact that this guard hasn’t called for help yet.” She now has 2 coins and can ask, “Whose morale is breaking?” knowing that the question doesn’t quite fit and the Warden might reject it. But it is answered: “His eyes are more pleading than menacing.”

The third round begins. Only Meredith gets a heads-up coin this time. John has reached his limit. With that, Meredith pushes her coins forward and volunteers to go first. Her distance is far enough to disappear among the trees.

John, being a dutiful guard, asks to go before her, and he only needs to take a few strides to do what must be done. Because he’s traveling the shorter distance, he can Take His Turn first, but the moment he says he’s going to knock Meredith down, she declares her attempt to Seize the Initiative in order to flee into the woods.

Given what she’s learned of John, she’s guessing he’s not going to Throw In. So she chooses not to Throw Herself In. And she’s right, John let’s her take the initiative.

So she winks at him and runs off into the night, leaving John relieved and sparing with the wind.

Hey, it was a meet cute!


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