There seem to be as many ways to handle “Encounters” (and actually, even some discrepancies regarding what such a thing entails) as there are Dungeon Masters, and so far I’ve been running it a inconsistently; partly because I’ve been exploring different options together with my players, and partly because I’ve been… well, inconsistent.
Time to formalize things. I’ve been looking at different approaches to surprise, initiative and associated rules and I’ve created this simple 1-page flowchart to show my players. It is heavily influenced by the sequence from d20swsrd found here, and also introduces group initiative and surprise as a slight change to the basic LotFP rules. I love the rules for declaring spells at the onset of combat; it really creates tension around successfully casting them and shows just how important allies and defense is for spellcasters – especially Magic Users.
I also add a couple of rules of my own:
I agree that casters should be in serious trouble if they try to cast spells in melee, and the Concentration skill and “combat casting” and all that it added to 3rd edition D&D isn’t really to my tastes. I do think, however, that you should be allowed to try – I don’t like a rule that says “you cant cast spells if engaged in melee”. Instead, I give each opponent that has not yet attacked and which is engaged with a spellcaster a chance to take his/her attack before the spell goes off; just a single point of damage will disrupt the spell. This is in addition to spell declaration at the start of the turn, and I think this opens up a lot of interesting tactical choices – both for caster PCs and when combatting spellcasting enemies.
Better part of Valor
Disengaging can get messy, and I wanted to keep this as simple as possible; let those who have remaining move follow a person who disengages. This is an uncomplicated simulation of the fact that movement in combat is still more or less simultaneous; if you move 60′ per round and your opponent does the same, then you will remain beside each other – to change this, you need allies, clever tactics or to increase your movement speed somehow (such as by running).