I’m afraid I once deterred my younger brother from playing D&D by explaining it as “a game about doing math and waiting your turn.” But I’m not wrong. Taking turns is important in most RPGs, particularly in combat, and there are as many methods of doing so as there are RPGs. Here are some common ones, and a few observations about each.

Roll Once, Set an Order. D&D, Starfinder, and Pathfinder all work like this. Everyone has an initiative modifier. At the start of a fight, every participant rolls to determine a number, and they act from highest to lowest. The same order continues in each subsequent round (earlier iterations had participants rolling to set the order every round, which increases randomness and becomes—I feel—pretty cumbersome).

Consistent Order. Some games have participants act in a set order in every fight, such as from highest Dexterity to lowest Dexterity. This is faster—and, after several sessions with the same players, much faster—but at the expense of some randomness. Another way I’ve seen this is a GM who says “okay, I’m just going to go around the table from my left to my right,” or similar (which can be mixed up with right-to-left in the next combat).

Take 10. One blending of the two that I used—technically illegally—during a previous D&D organized play campaign was this. On the assumption that an average initiative result was fair across a character’s entire play experience, I had a character that simply “took 10” for all initiative rolls. When his initiative modifier was +2, I always reported my initiative “roll” as 12. When he took Improved Initiative and increased his modifier to +6, I always reported my “roll” as 16. Few DMs ever noticed, among the randomness of other combatants’ rolls, and I found myself thinking that this might make a reasonable rule to speed initiative when applied to every combatant, all the time, in D&D, Pathfinder, Starfinder, or similar games. Instead of an initiative modifier, you’d have an initiative score: like Armor Class, a static number of 10 + modifiers.

Popcorn Initiative. Games such as Fate use this. After determining which combatant acts first in a fight, each participant chooses another participant (friend or foe) that hasn’t acted yet to go. The last participant to act in a round chooses the first participant to act in the next round, which could be itself. Note that this means the PCs can all pick each other to go, at the expense of having the enemies act twice in a row (all at the end of one round, then again as they pick themselves to act first at the start of the next round). I’ve tried incorporating this into Pathfinder, but it didn’t quite stick—the initiative mechanics in that game are more hardwired than they appear, with round-duration spell effects, delaying or readying actions, and so on.

There are of course, many others, but my point is this: it’s worth thinking about how both sides--players and enemies--will take their turns!