A lone soldier is walking through the jungle, suddenly he stumbles upon a patrol of enemy soldiers. He has his sidearm in hand and another revolver holstered. The enemy has assault rifles strung from their shoulders. Conventional RPG wisdom would call for a die roll to see who shoots first. Whoever wins gets the first shot and if it's a hit there is a high probability of taking out the target and not being affected by return fire.
The truth though is that unless the shot severs the spinal cord at the base of the head they will all get return fire regardless of initiative roll. On top of this both parties are in a rush to get their shots off. Conventional RPG wisdom dictates that once the initiative is won the shot is a controlled and aimed one. Not really a hasty shot meant to incapacitate and stop an enemy with a weapon already drawn at oneself.
Let's break down the "initiative phase" into its constituent components.
- Realization the enemy is there, overcoming the surprise and reacting to it.
- Drawing/raising the weapon to a shooting position.
- Discharging the weapon.
Now instead of one initiative roll to see who does all this first lets think for a moment that both parties are startled by the encounter. They quickly recover their wits and respond to this. The real difference isn't in how quickly they respond as they're doing it at practically the same instant. Once again, the response is so close to each other that unless the "first" shot hits the head and stops the brain's signal from reaching the finger, the trigger will fire. So figuring who shoots first is pointless since any hit will be lethal yet not fast enough to stop a response. Aim not initiative is the factor here.
The key is coolness and how well the character can aim when all his instincts are telling him to turn and run. We can apply an initiative roll, but whoever wins gets the difference between his roll and the enemy roll added to the to hit roll. The winner of the "initiative" has better aim. Shots will be fired simultaneously, but there's a higher odd for survival on the part of the "cooler" character.
Thoughts? Have you ever roleplayed a shootout in which the initiative roll took the excitement out of the encounter?