Zombie Murder Mystery

Quick Tips – the combat matrix

Written by Expy - Published on May 23, 2008

Organized chaos

A combat matrix is a grid used to keep track of what’s going on during combat. It’s an easy, graphic way of knowing which player’s or NPC’s turn it is to act, keeping tracks of spell effects, and if your players are the last-minute kind of people, then it could be used to track when the world will be destroyed (in 3 rounds!).

No need to prepare

Since the combat matrix is a very simple (but very useful) tool you don’t need to prepare it in advance. Just draw it on your battle map or a sheet of paper.

Strategic planning

If you keep your matrix hidden you can also use it as a reminder of your monster / NPC tactics.

An example of combat matrix

Just check the box next to each PC / Monster once they’ve taken their action during a round, and write down spell effects and other notes under the grid.


Have fun!

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

GD Star Rating
Quick Tips - the combat matrix, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

14 Responses to “Quick Tips – the combat matrix”

Zombie Murder Mystery
  1. halflingzombierunforyourlife Says:

    I do this too. The combat chart and index cards are my two best friends

  2. RonaldoFan Says:

    Isn’t this a tip from the DMG?

  3. Asmor Says:

    I like it. Only problem is that it doesn’t allow for people to switch up their initiative at all.

    I’m curious, do you think it would be a big deal if you disallowed the actions which allowed people to change initiative order, meaning for PCs and NPCs alike? No more holding your action, readying, etc. I think it would work, as long as everyone knew about it beforehand and it was applied equally.

    Actually, it might even shake things up a bit. Players can get in a rut, maybe forcing them to play in a semi-random order will change their tactics.

  4. Yax Says:

    I first read about the combat matrix in a D&D book but I can’t remember which one. It’s been years and I’ve been using it ever since.

  5. Yax Says:


    I draw my combat matrix on the battle map most of the time so it’s easy to move things around if the initiative changes. It might become a problem if your party is known for switching initiative order all the time.

  6. Master Says:

    PErhaps you can use paperclips instead of whriting your players names? this way you can switch initiative.

  7. OneDMtoRuleThemAll Says:

    I add a column into my combat matrix for initiative. I take action declaration for round 1 highest to lowest, and then reverse the process following round. If someone’s initiative changes, you don’t change the order they appear (I list Alpha) you just change the number in the column. I’ve also taken to using Google docs, so I can archive all my sheets, and share them if anyone wants to number crunch on a session.

  8. Bob Says:

    Outstanding. I do something similar, just listing characters in order of their init, then keeping track of spell effect etc with little circles that I fill in as each round goes by. But the matrix I think looks a lot simpler and easier to read than my chicken scratch version :)

    If you have a computer handy during games, or if you play online, check out RPTools’ “InitTool” program.


  9. Micah Says:


    I don’t think it’s feasible to disallow initiative switching. It makes certain maneuvers very difficult to pull off, and I think it also de-emphasizes teamwork, which is no good.


  10. Yax Says:


    That’s an elegant solutionto the init problem.

  11. Joshua Says:

    I use something somewhat like this, but because I use small pieces close in appearance to Sorry pieces in six colors instead of four, I usually just place a piece corresponding to one creature under a certain initiative spot on a paper with numbers 1-10 on it. This way changing initiative is easy and fast.

  12. zozeer Says:

    I picked up an init tracker from paizo and I have to say it is the sweetest thing ever. and link fu! http://paizo.com/store/gameAids/gameMasteryProducts/accessories/v5748btpy7uvm

  13. Dara Says:

    I think would list the beginning initiative on the matrix and then use the index cards for the actual order of the round.

    This combat matrix sound perfect….I have trouble keeping track of effects….I would try to write them on the card–but writing it on the matrix would be so much faster AND I know immediately when the effect wears off.

  14. Noumenon Says:

    I add a column into my combat matrix for initiative. I take action declaration for round 1 highest to lowest, and then reverse the process following round.

    You reverse the initiative order the second round?

Leave a Reply