A post on another blog made me think of initiative generally being based on attributes e.g. dexterity or agility. Although that makes sense i think experience would make a difference also so i think simple initiative should go high level first (or level equivalent) and a more complex system would be calculated something like:
In D&D terms it might be:
– Dex Bonus (+1 per point > 12)
– Int Bonus (+1 per two points > 12)
plus other bonuses for supernatural assistance e.g. a warrior ancestor-spirit could whisper in a newbie warrior’s ear for a +2 bonus or a belt of fast reactions (initiative +1) or a spell of foreseeing (initiative+2)
Other games would need an alternative to levels to measure general experience of life-threatening situations. In Cthulhu or pulp it could be number of completed adventures or one point for every life or death combat or start at 0 with a max of 12 and roll 2d6 after each life or death combat and increase by 1 if roll above current score (as there is probably a limit to how experienced you can get).
Actually this could make quite an interesting leveling mechanic – at least for combat characters. After every combat or task where the player’s character could easily have died the player tries to roll their current level +1 on 2d6. So a 1st level needs to roll 2+ to get 2nd level, 2+ to get 3rd etc, 12+ to get 12th etc.
Actually there doesn’t have to be a limit. From level 11+ the roll could simply be a natural 12 each time so it’s possible to get level 18 or even 124 but it would either take a very long time or very lucky dice rolls.