Initiative tracking is one those thinks that DM’s never seem to get tired of tinkering with. I don’t generally fiddle for the sake of fiddling, but if there’s something that I can do to save myself time during a game then I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ve tried a few different methods for tracking initiative over the years but generally go back to just scribbling it down on a piece of paper. If I’m playing away from my home table, that’s still what I’ll do. However, game time is a precious commodity so if there’s anything that I can do to speed along the bookkeeping parts of the game I’m going to try and do them.
When I run D&D 5E games at home, this is what I’ve settled on. Please don’t be too overwhelmed by the spectacular craftsmanship and production value. I originally tried using write-on magnets on my whiteboard so that I could write down the name of each PC and creature involved in the combat. This had a few problems. Mostly, it took too long at the start of combat. The names tended to wipe off when I handled them. They were flexible labels so they were difficult to peel off the board when moving creatures around in the order.
My current system involves some Alea Tools magnetic markers that I purchased during 4E that I don’t have a lot of use for these days. I labeled them with stick-on letters from the home office section of Whatever Big Box Store.
Green = Player Character. The letter is the first initial of the PC’s name.
Red = Enemy or Enemy Group
Blue = Ally, neutral party, or environmental effect that gets its own initiative
When initiative is rolled, I grab tokens at random, call for that character’s initiative count, and place the token in the correct spot in the order. No writing down numbers. No re-sorting the initiative into order after writing everything down the first time. One less piece of paper to keep track of during the fight. Everyone can see exactly when their turn is coming so hopefully they’re ready to act when I call their name.