bits, diy

Initiative Trackers

WP_20160109_13_19_45_Rich_LIThere are dozens of ideas floating out there suggesting how best to track initiative at the table. Some DM’s simply jot down a list in their notes. Some prefer to hang folded cards on their screens. There are templates for printing and small whiteboards for marking. Apparently there are dedicated online tools, web sites, programs and apps for this as well.

SlyFlourish writes on the topic as it pertains to his Lazy DM Method and DMDavid wrote one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. Standing on all of these giants, I made some iniative tracking cards for my games that bring a little flair to the table, help me delegate some work at the beginning of an encounter and make it easy to manage shifting iniative places as they happen.

BreeThis approach is very similar to the tent cards hanging on the DM screen, but since I don’t use a screen, I needed something free-standing. I also used the opportunity to embelish the cards with some “found” art (thank you image search) that helps bring the players into the game.

Each iniative card is the size of a Magic card, which means that I can slip them into standard card-sleeves. Both the front and back of each card is printed on one piece of card stock which can be folded at the “top” to make a tent. Two card protectors slide on from the bottom of each side and give me a glossy surface on which I can write with a dry erase marker if necessary. I pinned the tent together with a folded piece of paper that forms a sort of brace to keep the sides from sliding apart and the tent from collapsing.

I put the characters’ (and monsters’) AC on both sides of cards and their spell save DC on the DM side of spellcasters’ cards. When we play, the party rolls initiative and lines up the cards on the table where everyone can see them.  With AC out in the open players can call out their attacks, make their rolls, and immediately describe the hit or miss.

If I’m planning a big battle with some known mobs, I can quickly print off some unique tracking cards to give my players some visual flavor of what they are fighting. But for the most part, I can use generic cards and a dry erase marker to throw a wandering monster or ally into the mix as need be.


View the Microsoft PowerPoint files below:
Initiative Tents Template

One thought on “Initiative Trackers

  1. I just want to say, I think the arrows are so simple and brilliant. I’ve been playing around with the idea of hanging tent initiative cards, just 3×5 index cards, but I couldn’t decide how to make the order of combat obvious for those on both sides of the dungeon master screen.

    I’ve seen pictures of other DMs who have special “end pieces” hanging on both sides, dedicated to pointing the right order, but that not only wastes a lot of space, it adds more cards which makes things more confusing at a glance. And making it less confusing at a glance is why we’re doing all this!

    So, I just wanted to thank you for this article. It’s given me a lot to think about. (Plus those examples with monster art look slick as hell, but I’ve already gone on long enough.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s