But there are a few improvements I need to make to keep the good times rolling... d20s! I need to speed up combat while making things more visual/transparent (we have had a couple cases in which PCs were not sure of their positions in relation to their foes during combat).
I am making a two pronged assault. The first prong consists of using roll20. It's a new-ish VTT that offers both free and pay version. The free version offers mapping with free tokens to represent PCs and monsters by Devin Night. Our party mapper (David) will use roll20 to share his maps with our G+ players; it can be launched as a G+ app. See the map below which shows the party and their location in the dungeon. For speeding up play, roll20 offers two neat little tools. The initiative tracker digitizes tracking order of initiative; no more scribbling numbers on my pad. Each token has options for storing/saving information. I can input PC and monster hit point totals and statuses (slowed, poisoned, etc.) on their tokens.
The other prong: making a decision on how I want to handle surprise and initiative. I have been waffling between rolling d20's (a bit of 3x/4e baggage), using weapon speed and going back to d10's (2e style), or going with d6's. Here is what I am rolling with (at least for a while):
1. Roll 1d20 adding or subtracting DEX and Encumbrance modifiers for Initiative.
2. Each individual (PC or monster) or group of similar monsters rolls Initiative separately.
3. Roll initiative only at the start of combat. Once Initiative order is set for an encounter, the only way to "move" up or down in Initiative order is through the use of magic, holding actions, etc.
4. Surprise is handled by rolling Initiative at the start of combat as normal, the only change is that the ambushing party receives a significant modifier to their rolls; in cases where both parties might be surprised roll Initiative as normal. Surprised party members and monsters lose DEX bonuses to AC, do not have shields and weapons readied, etc. These, and other, penalties are suffered by PCs and monsters any time they act late in the first round of combat. i.e. If the enemy acts before you act, you have been surprised.
Expect more posts to follow in the next few days. I have been out of the area for over a week with work and now I have some time to catch up.