I was at a meetup game the other week and was watching a new GM struggle to remember the initiative order of the players and the NPCs. After the game ended, I asked if they wanted to hear a cool trick I came up with to remember initiative and track HP at the table with little prep. They said sure, and I outlined the trick that has saved my life in running D&D or action / initiative heavy games over the last few years. I call it DRAWING YOUR INITIATIVE and I can’t believe I haven’t yet written an article on it.

Drawing Your Initiative

This system is super simple, and requires a small paradigm shift in thinking, but helps out incredibly if you are the type of game master who forgets the order or names of characters / npcs often. Here’s the process.

  1. Take your sheet of scrap paper (any size will do, but a bigger one leaves room for more info) and draw the shape of the table somewhere near the top.
  2. Point from left to right and ask for players initiatives, then mark them down based on their approximate positions at the table. Bonus: Write their character names next to the initiative number.
  3. Draw a small table (or just mark it in a space at the bottom) and put in the enemies initiative and any reminders (A, B, Fighter 1, Mage Red Cloak, etc.) to denote the NPC.
  4. Draw a line under the NPC initiative and then write the current HP, marking it off and scratching it off as the NPC gets hit.

This simple visual trick merges the physical space of the table and gives you an easy reminder for the quick information you need. You can expand it by making notes next to the players and NPC names (a C for charmed, a D for disadvantage, etc.) and scratching it off is easy. If you keep the concept to a Top for PCS, Bottom for NPCS and use an 8.5 by 11 piece of paper, you’ll have plenty of expansion or note space.


Hopefully this helps some of the GMs out there who struggle with keeping track of initiative order and HP for the crunchier games. If you’ve got a clever initiative trick, I’d love to hear  about it. I’m always up for new ideas to incorporate into my games.