You know, I thought I was done with the whole initiative discussion (or, at least ready to move on to other combat issues using it as a context)…but then I was reading through my copy of Holmes Basic and realized – holy moly! – Holmes completely drops initiative from his edition of D&D.
I mean, he has SOME order of combat…when opponents come into melee range (within 10’ of each other) melee attacks are resolved in descending order of dexterity (with monsters’ dexterity being randomly determined). A six-sided die is rolled for “first strike” (I don’t believe the term initiative is used at all) only when the two combatants have the same dexterity scores.
Otherwise, things would appear to occur in their order as determined by action…a character with a readied arrow can shoot it before the opponent can engage the archer (though would do archers attack each other simultaneously? So it would appear…).
Now looking through my copy of OD&D I find…nothing? No initiative rules at all?
Okay...so I went through my LBBs. And there's NO initiative. Greyhawk? Nothing. Blackmoor? Nothing.
Finally, we get to Eldritch Wizardry where there are notes very similar to Holmes basic (order of the round being determined by actions - missile, magic, melee - followed by DEX sequence)...but the dexterity determination is crazy complex, including modification for armor worn and...
I read through Chainmail, just to see what the "original" version of man-to-man combat was and wow, here's where the size of one's weapon really DOES matter, since Lo and Behold first strike is solely determined by length of one's pole (*ahem*) or strategic location (defending from cover or elevated). Oh, wow...once again we see the original concepts were far more realistic, even in the abstract, than the later evolutions of the game rules.
Wow...I'm going to have to digest my thoughts and reflections on the issue before I say anything more. Initiative. Apparently an ugly, bandaid add-on.