How to handle a lot of characters in initiative?


Advice


Probably an easy question, but I had run a game for some friends last night and it ended up with 13 character in initiative and since a good chunk of those characters (7) were identical creatures, I also found it was easy to get confused as to which were going when. Accidentally having a couple go before they were supposed to, forgetting who was next.

I wrote what I could down, but when you have wolf 1, wolf 2, all the way up to wolf 7, it's easy to get them mixed up. Any advice on how to better keep track of so many creatures / characters when running through the initiative chain?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

For me, it all depends on the situation. Generally, I group copies together (ie: All generic guards are one group. All rat swarms form another group). I do this for large groups. If the entire encounter is only three guards and a boss, I may roll each of the guards initiatives separately if there is a hidden reason for it. Maybe one of the guards is an assassin or is the one who has the key that the party needs. For regular groups, I try to mix it up so that some of my less ethical metagamers won't be able to glean any information from the initiative checks. I also use generic initiative cards for my monsters. BG1 for Bad Guy #1, BG2, etc. Until they succeed at a knowledge check, the party doesn't know they are fighting a wolf, a warg, a dog, or a half-fiend vampire puppy. Beware the cute puppy!

I've been at tables where GMs have numbers written on tokens and these link up to the appropriate mob.

As for characters, if they have familiars and/or animal companions, it depends on if they are riding them or if they will actually act in battle. If it is a large party, I will generally have their pet act on their initiative instead of its own.

I play it by ear as I go and try to streamline it to make it go faster.


Carnithia wrote:

For me, it all depends on the situation. Generally, I group copies together (ie: All generic guards are one group. All rat swarms form another group). I do this for large groups. If the entire encounter is only three guards and a boss, I may roll each of the guards initiatives separately if there is a hidden reason for it. Maybe one of the guards is an assassin or is the one who has the key that the party needs. For regular groups, I try to mix it up so that some of my less ethical metagamers won't be able to glean any information from the initiative checks. I also use generic initiative cards for my monsters. BG1 for Bad Guy #1, BG2, etc. Until they succeed at a knowledge check, the party doesn't know they are fighting a wolf, a warg, a dog, or a half-fiend vampire puppy. Beware the cute puppy!

I've been at tables where GMs have numbers written on tokens and these link up to the appropriate mob.

As for characters, if they have familiars and/or animal companions, it depends on if they are riding them or if they will actually act in battle. If it is a large party, I will generally have their pet act on their initiative instead of its own.

I play it by ear as I go and try to streamline it to make it go faster.

Some good ideas. Thanks!

That said... apparently I unintentionally double posted. So if someone could magically fuse the threads together, it'd be much appreciated. Also... sorry for the double post.


For my group we do an initiative board. Let one of the players write down all the players initiatives and then during the first round they write the order in which each creature/player acts. After that it is their duty to call out who is up next. We've found this makes combat run more smoothly and makes life easier for the GM.

As for confusing different wolves this might not be much help but what we try to do is ensure differences in the model. If we have 3 wolves in combat we will try to have their models painted differently. Either like red, blue, and green bases. Or white, black, and brown fur. So the initiative board says blue wolf instead of just wolf 3.


For years I lumped creatures of the same kind into a single initiative. That worked pretty well, and was worth the handwaving to speed things along. Also used an initiative tracker board, with a volunteer player tending it.

I also have numbered labels on my pawn bases - recently in a 16 creature encounter one of my players chortled and said "You had WAY too much fun printing new numbers, didn't you?" He was right...

In my most recent campaign, I've been using Hero Lab. I create a profile for the whole party, then modify it for encounters as needed, then use the Tactical Console to handle encounters. Combined with numbered pawn bases, I usually can keep everything in order. The only downside is that players don't roll their own initiative, but the group has been understanding about the time it saves for me to just click one "Start Combat" button instead of trying to integrate them piecemeal.


I use combat manager. Put all the monsters in (just quick add them, initiative and hp if it's not in there, but a ton are) and then roll. I let the players roll for themselves and put those in then sort.

I'm really not a fan of every monster on the same initiative, it's not fun and it's too easy to make the encounter super one sided.


Maybe group enemies with similar initiative together.

IE- the fighter and cleric with 12 dex and nothing else go on the same roll, and just decide who goes first. Meanwhile, the 20 dex guy with improved initiative and an initiative trait goes on his own roll.

Shouldn't be too hard as the GM, since you usually have at least a pair of copies.

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