As your group is sneaking around, exploring, or wandering through the dungeon, there are time when they are not currently threatened. During this time is most convenient and easy for the player to move without worrying about spending Action Points or who's turn is next. So, this is considered your safe move time (you can tell we are still working on the exact game term!). During this time, you can give orders to characters and they will execute as if the game was running on a turn. No one is counting Action Points. Characters can run around uncontested.
For example, right after I have survived a nasty fight with some Ratkin (above), my turns return to safe mode immediately. This gives me time to heal, regroup, use items, consider retreat (yah right!) and plan my next move. In the current build I am playing, that means my Thief character is headed out front to scout out the next challenges.
However ... then comes the moment upon which you open a door, turn a corner too fast, or just run face-first into an ambush. As soon as enemies start appearing on the map, you've triggered the combat turn structure. At this point, the game the turn switches over to an Action Point driven round, in which each of your characters get a number of points to spend (currently, testing at 7). Then, when you're spent, the enemies get their turn and burn their own individual pool of actions points slashing, firing arrows, closing in on you and very soon, slinging spells!
So, here you can see the Action Point counter appearing as soon trouble arrives. This time, trouble arrive in the form of a giant rat who ambushed my group from behind while I was trying to take care of some other enemies! Seen here biting my Thief!
This focused development on the turn has allowed us to achieve (1) smooth and easy group control when you are not in the nitty gritty of a combat, (2) the sudden and exciting shift of pace when a threat arrives, (3) fine grained turn control when you are fighting enemies.
Hope you like it!