The Easiest (and Cheapest!) DIY Initiative Tracker for RPGs - Nerdist

The Easiest (and Cheapest!) DIY Initiative Tracker for RPGs

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When you took a look at the amazing story of the Dungeons & Dragons Club at a Seattle area girls middle school earlier this year, you may have noticed the handmade initiative tracker resting on the table in some of the photos. It caught the eye of more than one curious reader, and Dungeon Master Ethan Schoonover was happy to share the secret of the simple DIY tracker. And now, with his help, we’re sharing it with you!


This ingeniously simple initiative tracker is made with just foam, a wooden dowel, a container, and your stash of dice. And best of all, you can customize it as little or as much as you’d like, whether you have time and money to spare, or just five seconds to jam a stick in a coffee mug before your group arrives.

What You Need

  • A container or coffee mug
  • A thin wooden dowel
  • Floral foam or pool toy foam
  • Craft knife
  • Extra dice or map token pieces
  • Clothespins
  • Black marker

Adventurers Assemble

Begin with a container. You can use a large coffee mug you already have for the cheapest and quickest option, or find something that fits you or the theme of your campaign. Ethan chose a resin skull, which you can likely find at craft stores around Halloween. “The girls in my middle school club and class love [the skull],” he says.


Next, cut a piece of foam to fit snugly inside the container. Ethan uses foam pieces from a pool toy, stacked and glued together for a secure fit, with a hole cut in it with a craft knife. You can also use floral foam if it’s the right size. Simply place it in the container, and push the dowel firmly into the foam.


Place your extra dice on top of the foam, covering it completely. It gives the tracker a nicer look and keeps some spare dice out for your players who might need them.

No foam around the house and your players will be knocking on the door any minute? Throw all the dice you have in a mug and stick the dowel in. The stick may lean to the side or move around, but it will do the trick in a pinch.

Finally, write your players’ character names on both sides of the clothespins, and your tracker is ready to go. You can paint them to make identifying them at a glance even easier. Ethan suggests printing and gluing character or class symbols on the end to make the clothespins even more visible. For other variations, he may experiment with magnets and a metal rod; try the tracker that works best for you.


And that’s it! An initiative tracker is a small tool for Dungeon Masters and players alike that can go a long way when the battle gets intense.

What do you use to track initiative? Tell us about it in the comments.

More D&D Goodness!

Featured Photo: Kelly Knox

Skull Images: Ethan Schoonover

All Other Images: Kelly Knox

Ethan credits his friend Kerri Miller with passing along the idea of the initiative tracker for the D&D Club.

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