[RPG] Need way to physically track initiative in face-to-face D&D game


Just DM'd my first ever non-online game. We had an absolute blast, 10/10 would play again, but keeping track of initiative in combat was terrible. I had chosen to just list their character names (and enemies) in order on a single index card but they couldn't see it easily and I kept forgetting who went next. Plus, I had to rewrite it for each new combat bit and it felt like it took too long.

I'm used to roll20's turn order feature where you can easily advance the order and have a nice highlight on who's supposed to go next. I like that it's visible to all players, and how easy it is to remove monsters when they die.

I'd like to find a way to simulate that feature at the table for easier combat. I want to limit the technology at the table, since I want to keep the focus on the roleplay and would rather they weren't all on computers.

Based on your personal experience playing, what (preferably low-tech) method of tracking turn order can be used to streamline the initiative process?

Best Answer

Our group writes the names on pieces of colored paper, about half the size of 3x5 index cards. These are folded in half and the names of each combatant written twice upon the card, so that it forms a little tent, with the name readable from either side. When initiative is rolled, the cards are placed in order straddling atop the DM screen, shoved over to one side. As each person or monster takes their turn their card is slid across to the middle, and after that to the far end. At the end of the round, all cards are slid back.

With this system, everyone can see whose turn it is and who is next up.

If the DM is feeling fancy, he will use a different color for PCs vs NPCs.

This method could be adapted by using a long narrow piece of paper with all names written evenly across it and a marker such as a poker chip moved along it, but the card method is much more visual and easily adaptable on the fly. If more monsters show up in the middle of the fight, they can be inserted in initiative order.