This is a system I use for initiative tracking in almost all games I play. Buy a small collection of coloured pegs from a hobby supply store, or raid your various board games for the pegs. Think of the coloured pegs that come with Clue, Snakes and Ladders and the like. Assign each colour to each player character and NPCs, so you want a nice collection and variety (and possibly multiple shapes).
When rolling initiative, and in fact most rolls in this system, a couple of things help to speed up the roll & tally process.
- Make people use percentile dice. This means people can roll and just read off the number. It saves a second here and there.
- Encourgae people to roll quick and dirty. This means no elabourate hand shaking, dice blowing, chatting while rattling dice nonsense. In fact, this is a good rule for most RPGs, also known as "R.T.G.D.D." ; Roll The Gosh Darn Dice! While people are doing silly things with the dice in their hands, they aren't tallying up their totals and they are slowing game down for no benefit to themselves or others.
- For people who suck at arithmetic, have calculators on hand to do the math.
- All players should have scratch pads to write down their results. Have them roll, tally and write it down. This way you don't have a table full of people barking numbers between -300 and positive 300 that you have to memorize. It also means when you need to get the info from them again, they have the numbers available ("what was that iniative total again" or "what was that attack tally").
- For blocks of NPCs, have several matching sets of percentile dice so you can grab a handful and roll them all at once.
Roll up and tally your own NPC initiatives, then arrange the NPCs pegs from lowest to highest. Grab the PCs and put them in the order too, and now you have Initiative worked out and easy to read. The pegs are handy because they're visual and can be moved around easily to make the initiative order.
There are four PCs, Paul, John, George and Ringo, with initiatives of 45, 25, 10 and 0 respectively. They are fighting four goons called Davey, Micky, Peter and Michael, with identical intiatives (45, 25, 10 and 0). Paul is a blue peg, John a green, George orange and Ringo red. Davey is black, Micky is pink, Peter is white, and Michael is brown.
The players roll up their initiatives as do the NPCs, ending up like this; Paul 77, John 42, George 133, Ringo 17, Davey 44, Micky 69, Peter 37, and Michael 90. The pegs are set up in this order then; Orange (George), Brown (Michael), Blue (Paul), Pink (Micky), Black (Davey), Green (John), White (Peter) and last Red (Ringo).