As a reminder for the reader, let me preface this post by saying that I use 12-second combat rounds, I use a scale of 5-foot hexes for movement and that in a combat rounds a normal person moves at a rate of 5 hexes.
That said, those of us who have done our time in wargames have seen tables like this:
However you may happen to measure your combat rounds, or the movement of one character vs. another as they both attack the minotaur or whatever other creature they happen to be fighting, tell me this: why don't we all automatically use tables like this all the time?
I think the answer is obvious. Players don't like them. I don't think DMs are overly fond of them, either. But really, really gritty wargamers love them. Why? Because it really gets down into the meaty, deep, simultaneous mess that is instant to instant uncertainty. The reason why it's uncertainty is because, from the games I used to play that incorporated this sort of table, both sides had to write down their entire movement for the round BEFORE any of it was played out.
That way, both sides can use their weapons, spells, bombs, tanks, etc., at the same time. Goodbye, initiative. Hello major pain in the ass.
This is the answer to turn-based combat. Everyone starts at the first segment and progresses forward, and if both attack at the same instant (demonstrated here in half movements, which will mean more for those following my blog and combat stylings than the majority of the readers), then they do.
This is hard for spellcasters that have to make absolutely sure no one is in their way when they cut loose with a spell. If everyone is sent to the four corners of the room to write out their orders silently before handing them over to the DM (or even better, another party entirely that keeps the DM honest and doesn't play at all), then the spellcaster starts getting nervous. After all, suddenly he or she doesn't know where the fighter is going to be. At the same time, the fighter doesn't have a clue where the spell is going to land, either ... or the thieves' arrow shot, or the grenade missile thrown by the assassin.
Fact is, parties SAY they don't like this turn system because its cumbersome and slow and inconvenient and as many other tension-alternative words they can find in their thesauri ... but suppose we found a way to get rid of all that? Suppose, a player could punch their move into a game system (there's your third administrator, a computer!) in as long as it took to punch a tweet on your cellphone ... and then the map was instantly created for everyone? If we got rid of the 'cumbersome' problem, would players embrace this system?
Hell no. What players like - love, even - is the benefit of 'group mind' that turn-based combat systems offer. The round may be 12 seconds, but everyone seems to have a lot of time to deliberate between what everyone does. They also have time to ask questions that reasonably they wouldn't even have time to think.
For example, in the on-line campaign going on right now, one of the character's asked the harmless question, "Does it look like he can reach out 2 hexes with that axe?" A perfectly normal in-combat sort of question any player would ask. And unhesitatingly, I answered, because that's just understood; player's ask questions like that, and the DM answers. Only ... in this case, the actual axe hasn't been swung yet. So how does the character know?
Now, I'm not saying the character couldn't make a judgement ... but would they really, jumping around and getting into position to throw and attack, really have time to make a judgement? I don't know what the reader knows about cognitive tunneling ... it is really interesting stuff. I've been reading on it because even during mild stress, this can occur - and DM's experience occasionally more than a little stress. Given that this isn't theory, this is fact, it is probable that in no way, with heart rate soaring and potential terror in dealing with a creature 8 feet tall, 425 lbs and holding a giant axe, that the character is going to be thinking all that clearly.
We ignore all that because this is a game. And a convenient game for the players. If the players want to have five minutes to figure out which guy the fighter has to attack so as to be out of the way of the mage's acid arrow, then everyone acquiesces to the irrationality of it all and goes along. After all, the bad guy's have their own group mind, haven't they? The bad guys are all the DM.
Really, the group mind of the players is harder for them than it is for me, because I am already in agreement with myself - most of the time.
I don't have a problem with time in the game being mutable, and I don't feel any requirement to install the turn system shown at the top of this post. I just think it's important to understand WHY we don't want to use it, and what using it would do to the interactivity of the players in the game. Calling it 'cumbersome' is an easy non-answer to those questions. The question deserves more than an answer of, "It's hard."
If we're not going to use it, let's not use it for the right reasons.