There’s a great article in this month’s Dungeon magazine (available to D&D Insider subscribers) that talks about alternate ways of ending combat encounters. It starts off by describing a familiar scene (one I’m pretty familiar with, as both player and game master) where a party is trying to decide whether to stay and fight or run away, and no one can agree what to do.

The article talks about some of the problems faced when one side of the battle attempts to flee, negotiate, or surrender, and introduces some ways to handle those circumstances. It adds an extra step to the combat sequence, after determining surprise, rolling initiative, and taking care of actions during the surprise round, the encounter is given a “check” (not actually a dice roll), where the characters and monsters are given the opportunity to interrupt the battle to do … something.

Since talking is a free action, it’s possible for everyone to agree to a temporary truce to talk things out, decide as a group to exercise the better part of valor, or to demand and/or accept surrender. (Or maybe feign surrender so as to catch the enemy unawares.) This check occurs at the beginning of every round, giving the party (or monsters) a chance to figure out when things have gone bad, and do something about it as a group.