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We use a whiteboard.
I find making a player take the roll of initiative keeper helps me keep things moving. The combat pad is okay, but at times I find it not up to par as a product. My largest complaint is also its virtue. It is small and portable, but that makes the name magnets a pain. They are hard to grab with my short finger nails and I just smudge the ink around.
I'd prefer something a little meatier, with handles on the magnets and maybe a place you could insert names so I always have a set of PCs at the ready and I just add monsters. Or better yet, a set of magnets that have slots for the card stock pawns so a pawn can represent a monster of its type.
I use either the battle mat or a white board depending on if I know where my tiny white board is. When we take init I draw a semicircle representing the table. Then I gather the results. I place the monsters in the middle. Sometimes I struggle to find the next guy in line but it allows me to just point to the person who is up. This is especially helpful when I run PFS games as I am bad at names.
check out d20 pro. digital maps, fog of war, automatic combat, HP tracking, spell effect tracking and more. you can import in to it with hero labs and pc gen I think also. Complete Virtual Table top all updates are free also. every version just gets better and better. Supports Pathfinder, 3.X, 4th edition and any other d20 based game. I even used as just a battle map for games that don't use d20. You can also use it to platy over the net, you can give the people on the other end the ability to move there own characters and attack who they want.
I use excel on my laptop. Its quick, and off to the side.
I have a grid with S and 1-30 across the top. The s is for the suprise round. Just a simple x, R, or D in each box as it comes to their turn.
My largest complaint is also its virtue. It is small and portable, but that makes the name magnets a pain. They are hard to grab with my short finger nails and I just smudge the ink around.
One of my GMs is using a homemade combat pad and he too has trouble grasping the small magnets when he needs to move them. I suggested putting a small bit of tape on one end, stuck to the back of the magnet and folded in on itself to make a small tab. He can grab the tabs with ease and is now able to rearrange the magnets as a swift action instead of a full-round action.
Another GM uses a columnar pad. He writes character and creature names next to their corresponding initiative number on the left side and uses the rest to track monster hit points, status effects, pretty much anything else necessary.
I prefer to use index cards.
At the beginning of the game, the GM hand each player a card and has them write down their name (player, character, or both), initiative modifier, perception check modifier, and base saving throw modifiers.
During combat, the GM just arranges the cards in initiative order and flips through the cards as each player takes a turn. When a player readies an action, the GM turns the card sideways, then inserts the card back in the order when the readied action goes off. When a player delays, the GM hands the player the card; when the player decides to act again, he hands the card back to the GM.
Unused business cards are actually the best size for this, but cutting 3x5 cards in half works also.
(Sometimes low tech is effective.) :-)
one of my DMs uses a paper-sized metal board and little white 'nametag magnets'
the dice numbers just determine the order, then are forgotten.
when somebody delays, he slides their magnet to the new position.
Gwen Smith wrote:
We do pretty much that, except the GM just gives a player their card when they're readying or delaying.
If you want a low-tech solution for only tracking initiative, check out the GameMastery Combat Pad. You can hand it off to a player and have them to the tracking and it is still fairly visible to others around the table. I have this and it is great. Downside: $15-$20.
A low-tech, lost-cost solution for tracking initiative and other stuff (like skills, saves, etc) is index cards. You can write much more than initiative on the cards. When initiative comes up, shuffle the cards into the order everyone rolls and then ad your monster initiative. The downside is that you (the GM) will need to manage initiative since there will be monster info the players should not see.
One of the Pathfinder Society GMs we have came up with his own interesting initiative solution. We always use white boards or battlemats during the game. When initiative starts, he draws a circle on a corner of the board. He then writes the initiative for each PC around the circle based on where the player is sitting at the table. He then writes the monster initiative below the circle. The nice part is that even though the GM may not know the name of the player or character (not uncommon in PFS), he knows what their initiative is based on their position of the circle.
However you track it, always roll initiative at the end of the fight.
Someone takes loot, someone (usually) heals, have someone take initiative at the same time.
Next encounter pops up, and you go directly into the action without a cognitive break.
Excuse me sir, but you just wrinkled my brain.
Stretch your description out, creating tension at the table while you draw the room.
Place miniatures as appropriate.
Use vocal tone changes, body posture, and props to pull the players into the "scene"...
Then WHAM! you drop the huge mini on the table, resolve the monster's action, and go, "Fighter, your turn!"
graph paper... or make something on excell, word (tables) that strikes your fancy.
Index cards too - as described with one notable exception.
I use the 3x5 card uncut because it has a lot of extra space which i use for the tiniest post it notes to be stuck too to record any ongoing conditions - it speeds up combat further when you look at the next card and it has a red posty stuck on (bloodied (sometimes we still play 4e), a green one (poisoned), a yellow one (magical condition - written on the post it at time of affixing to the card) and so on.
Thank you all and Anthony Adam I will try a similar thing and see if it will work well for my group.
Also how do you go about doing large groups, such as 25 or more enemies at a time? They all move at once? All enemies of the same type move at once? My group has asked for some larger scale battles and would like to do this but am unsure of where to go on this.
Unless they are all distinctively different in type I run NPC initiative as a group.
If the PCs have NPCS then they either go on an NPCs init or I roll for them all (for instance if they have a group of ten).
I almost never have more than two initiatives for bad guys.
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
...I used index cards which I also wrote key char info on. Then I would just put them in initiative order and work my way through them. I just made quick cards for all the NPCs and monsters. Worked very well.
You can either keep them in a stack and call thru them or fold them and hang them, in order, over your screen so the players know who is coming up...I have also used a magnetic white board with names of players on flat magnets and monsters listed as Monster 1, monster 2, trap 1, NPC 1, etc...
Stop tracking initiative.
Our PCs roll initiative. Those who beat the enemies initiative score +11 get to go in the first phase. Then the enemies go, then all the people who rolled lower. We don't track the difference between people in the same phases, because it doesn't really matter.
Especially if the GM rolls once for the whole enemy side, the combat just turns into:
All the PCs go
Using this method, players take their turn as soon as they know what they're going to do. We still go one at a time though. If someone doesn't pay attention, they miss their turn. People also pay more attention to others. Melee chargers learn to wait for haste or other buff spells, casters get time to look up spells if they need and people spend a lot less time looking at something else and occasionally asking "Is it my turn yet?" and then go back to being distracted.
My group has a Google Spreadsheet with rows for each PC and major monster/enemy. It includes major PC info like Perception modifiers, saving throws, active spell effects etc. It is shared between the GM and players and each player is responsible for ensuring that his currently active effects are listed. The spreadsheet automatically rolls init each round (yes, we do every round since we like it that way) and the sheet re-sorts the rows based on Init order. Things flow fast and not entirely predictable.
We don't track the difference between people in the same phases, because it doesn't really matter.
To me, that actually looks like a terrible way to do things - players can go up and down in initiative as they need to, to get the most out of each other. . And there is already the delay option to allow players to coordinate their actions.
This.Knowing when you are up next allows you to plan for your next round. You know who is about to go and can communicate with them as to your plans etc...
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