Back in the day, when what we now call role playing games were better known as wargames, you had lot of fighting, and a part of the fighting for the most part it started off by the parties involved who if either was surprised, and then who actually got to go first. This last part was called “initiative”.
For the most part surprise and initiative were handled simply, mostly because the participants didn’t really want to bother with the complications that can come up in real life. Let’s face it, it was a game and realism wasn’t really a part of it. On the other hand I’ve decided that having a semblance of realism can be fun as long as you take the time to make it fun.
So why do people get surprised? They weren’t expecting things and it may take some time to catch on to what’s going on. As for who goes when? That’s a matter of what you are doing and what you are doing it with.
Now the man who designed the mechanics for Dangerous Journeys had a mechanism for determining initiative, something he had originally written for use in his old AD&D. This mechanism included speed factors for equipment and actions. Though in DJ the combat round is shortened from one minute to a Critical Turn of 3 seconds. Then later he added an even shorter time form, the “Beat” of 0.1 second. Which meant that now a speed factor of 9 meant it took longer to perform an act than a speed factor of 3. –I’ve used a bow, it takes time to draw it back.–
Of course you do need to remember the role reach plays in all this, so that with a speed factor of –I think– 7 a pike is a slow weapon, but since it is a thrusting weapon with a reach of 12 or so –I’ve got research to do– a lot of the time the pike armed man is going to have initiative on his foe. About the only advice I can give the guide with this is, let yourself have fun with initiative, and make it fun for your players.
Guide to Metron the Sage: Since you weren’t really paying attention that giant with her bardiche has the drop on you, and since her weapon has an effective reach of 15 you stand a good chance of getting punctured before you get a chance to react.
Just remember to let it be fun.