Tracking Initiative in Dungeons & Dragons

So, you watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and found lots of really complicated ways to track initiative in Dungeons & Dragons. Many of them require buying some plastic flag pole or printing character mini-sheets to hang on your DM screen. Others methods include writing character names on close-pins and sliding them like beads on an abacus. Ugh. Then there is the method where you write a list of characters/players in their initiative order. My method is so much easier that any of that. 

Normally, I would link to a bunch of products as examples, but I don’t want to give you the idea that I would recommend buying them. Instead, enjoy some DM’s discussing various overly complicated ways to track initiative in these videos.

Super Fast and Easy Initiative Tracking for DM's

I use a small notepad to track monster hit points and initiative. You can either use this method on the same scratchpad, or get a stack of post-it notes.

In the example below, The DM (me) is at the bottom. Seven players are at the table. Each player rolls their initiative and I go around the table asking each player for their initiative. I write the number down on the paper based on where the player is sitting at the table.

So, in this example, the monsters rolled a 14 for the wolves and a 12 for the goblins. The player to my left rolled a 4 and the player on my right rolled a 17.

What Next?

I find the player with the highest initiative and ask them what they are going to do. When there turn is over, I glance at the sheet to remind me what their roll was and find the next highest initiative score. Play continues until that last player, the one with the lowest score, has their turn.

When combat is over, I either erase the scores or throw away that sheet of paper.

DMingDad's Encounter Crib Sheet For Tacking Initiative & Monster Hit Points

Here is a bonus tip. Use a steno pad to track encounters. This will allow you to quickly track both initiative and monster hit points. I like to pre-plan a few “random” encounters this way.  I can typically plan up to three encounters per page. My sessions will rarely have more than five encounters, so a single sheet of paper, front and back will work for the entire day’s combat encounters.

DMing Dad's Encounter crib sheet for tracking monster hit points and initiative order.

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One Response

  1. I really like these simple ideas. I also came up with a simple idea you or others might like to use. I call them long rest cards. I make a table in Word or whatever with a lot of squares. In each I type:
    Spell slots: ooo
    Death saves: ooo
    I can fit like 20 of these on 1 sheet of paper. Print 1 and you can hand them out to players so they don’t have to constantly erase things on their character sheet and use the rest voor your npc’s and enemies. I tend to use new ones for each combat and also write their initiative in the top right corner.
    I make spell cards in the same way, put they require more work because every square needs different info

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