The question is: how do I balance gameplay when it comes to initiative?
The game is in person, every other week or so. My party is comprised of 7 players, two of whom are noobs. I, myself, and also relatively new to this. I ran a published one shot and used it as a prologue to the homebrew campaign (extra narrative included that involved the characters being summoned by the King of Daudorth for a mission... none of the characters knew others were being summoned, didn't know each other when they finally came together, and don't know yet what the mission is, even though they have begun the campaign). The mistake was pointedly having them come together and not know each other... that is, having that concept be a "thing". During the one shot, because they didn't know each other, they wandered off in their own directions of choice to find the items requested and to deal with some goblins, but didn't really work together much. Hindsight. So, it was like herding cats. Or so I thought.
Now that we're 2 sessions into the campaign, there's a tiny bit more "togetherness", but I asked the players at the end of the one shot if it seemed like it took forever to get back around to them, and it was a unanimous "yes", even though everyone understands that this is a large party.
I attempted a variation of initiative where it was reserved for combat, but when it came to simply moving about, checking for traps, rolling for Investigation, and the like, I gave free reign for "no particular order", and made sure each player had a chance, at will, to "do something".
THAT was herding cats. We use text messaging (player texts the DM) when someone's character wants to do something without the other characters knowing. It got a bit crazy and I was having trouble keeping up with the notes for the campaign notes.
Is there a better solution? I hate for it to take forever, seemingly, to get back around to Player A by using initiative RAW, but letting loose the reigns on non-combat actions is chaos.
Characters are all Level 2: Vedalken Necromancer, Vedalken Blood Hunter, High Elf Rogue, Tabaxi Paladin, Dwarf Barbarian, Goliath Fighter, Tortle Monk. (Goliath and Tortle have low Int... almost dumb as a box of rocks. Goliath thinks everything is a puppy to go hug or soup to drink....Tortle will wander off to the next area without concern if he has nothing to fight or find.)
And before anyone suggests taking some players out of the party, that is simply not an option. I won't add any, no matter how much some coworker or friend wants to join, but I have no options for cutting out players in this group.