I tried out a new way of dealing with initiative in last nights 4e game. I took it from Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
Everyone rolls as normal. The highest goes first, as normal. At the end of their go they pass the play to another combatant, friend or foe. This continues until everyone has had a go and then a new round begins. No new roll, it just keeps getting passed round.
This brings up a new layer of tactical play, and actually a new level of narrative as well. If the players all get greedy and just pass the play to each other, leaving the monsters to go last, then the monsters will pass back to themselves in round 2 and basically get two full rounds of actions. Heh.
Instead, you can set up some cool teamwork. In the source material this is where Colossus and Wolverine team up on the Fastball special. In 4e it’s a battle, with shouted commands and exhortations back and forth.
As DM I enjoyed not having to maintain the initiative list. The players appeared to enjoy the higher level of engagement needed as they could be on deck at any moment. Reservations? There are plenty of feats and abilities that key off the normal initiative system (see Rogues) and they might have to adjust more than others.
Overall? Yeah. I think it worked. I would do it again.