Combat runs from page 61 to 84 of the DMG — 24 pages of fun and/or charts. Page 61 is the core and key to the whole system and after a half page of rationale we are presented with a list of steps or actions which can occur in combat. There are 6 steps and steps 4 and 5 are broken down into sub-sections labelled A to H. Since step 5 is simply "do step 4 but for the side without initiative", we can ignore it, and similarly step 6 ("continue from step 2") doesn't need any more discussion.
The point that is overlooked by most people is that the text that follows this initiative procedure is laid out in the same order.
Here's the system, but with cross-references added:
- Determine if either or both parties are SURPRISED — p61
- Determine distance, if unknown, between the parties — p62
- If both parties are unsurprised or equally surprised, determine INITIATIVE for the round — p62
- Determine the results of whatever actions are decided upon by the party with initiative:
- Avoid engagement — p63
- Attempt to parley — p63
- Await action by other party — p63
- Discharge missiles (p63); cast spells, magical devices , spell-like powers, turn undead — p65
- Close to striking range, or charge — p66
- Set weapons to receive a charge — p66
- Strike blows with weapons to kill or subdue — p66 (subdual on p67)
- Grapple or Hold — p72
Within these sections there is a certain amount of leeway for bringing in other concerns, so the "strike blows" section from page 66 to 72 includes the rules for morale (p67) which in turn bring in the rules for fleeing combat which run to page 69 where the actual discussion of melee starts.
The end of the combat section includes psionic combat and that means that insanity has to be dealt with in there too, which is why insanity is in the combat section, something that previously seemed strange to me.
Looked at this way, there is a much clearer system to how the rules are presented, although sadly it does not explain the reference to "see Combat Procedure, below" on page 65. Oh, well.