One ideea would be to have two categories of encounters, regular encounters and special encounters.
Regular encounters would be agains looters, bandits, deserters, etc. I know this was sugested, but I would have these encounters be presented in 2d art ( a picture that coresponds to the type of soldiers envolved) and also, narrated in third person, not as a dialogue, something akin to "On this day, your army stumbled across yet another group of ragged man that seem dangerous enough to warrant your attention", do you want to...."
Or even a more radical ideea, have a certain "advisor" 2d or 3d picture, that would talk to you before these engagements. It always seemed weird and unimersive that i get to talk to a certain bandit leader face to face before battle. Instead, a scout or an aide or an advisor should come and inform me "Your Majesty, we encountered a group of armed men that seem to be deserters. How do you want us to proceed ?"
Direct talk should be reserved for lords and kings, it would make these encounters special, and fighting them would be akin to a promotion.