Friday, July 17, 2009

Morale in Dwimmermount

Morale is one of those aspects of D&D combat whose absence, I think, adversely affects its feel. The Holmes rules with which I began playing did not have any morale rules that I recall, but my friend's older brother, who initiated us into the hobby, used a simple percentile morale system based on the hit dice of the monster, with a few situational modifiers. My friends and I adopted that system for ourselves and, once the Moldvay rules were released, we swiped some ideas from it to use to our by-then familiar system.

In my Dwimmermount campaign, morale is important -- when I remember to use it. I confess that I often forget to do so, partly because combats move so quickly, even with large numbers of opponents, that the moments when I should check morale pass by without a second thought. But, as a general rule, I do make morale checks, for both monsters and hirelings. When I do so, I use a system that's based on my reminscences of the rules I used as a kid and it works as follows:

Base Morale: 30% + 5% per Hit Dice/Level
Humans, Dwarves: +5%
Elves: +10%
"Elite" Characters/Monsters: +5%
Undisciplined Characters/Monsters: -10%
Mounted: +5%
Subterranean/Nocturanl Characters/Monsters Fighting in Sunlight: -10%

In the case of hirelings, I use modifiers based on the Charisma of their employer:

Charisma 3-5: -10%
Charisma 6-8: -5%
Charisma 9-12: +0%
Charisma 13-15: +5%
Charisma 16-18: +10%

I make a morale check under each of the following conditions:
  • First death on a side
  • The death of a leader
  • The loss of 50% or more of a side
  • Being attacked from behind for the first time in a combat
  • Being attacked by mounted opponents for the first time in a combat
And that pretty well covers it beyond some occasional extemporaneous modifiers.

38 comments:

  1. I'm totally going to try this in my AD&D game. It looks like a system that one can use on the fly.

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  2. I also check morale for an individual creature if it takes half of its starting HP or more damage in one round (which always seemed reasonable to me because at that moment the creature probably realized that sticking around for one more round might very well mean its death).

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  3. I'm going to use it, too, but plan to convert the percentile to d20 (i.e. every 5% = 1 on the d20).

    You know, I never considered myself tied to a d20 like this, but I really dislike percentile dice in my OD&D.

    Weird, huh?

    MJB

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  4. Heh...I hear what you're saying about combat moving to quickly. In my B/X game (the first I've started in 20+ years), I forgot to check morale until AFTER the second round of fighting with a half dozen goblins...and by then all but two were dead!

    Combat moves VERY fast in OS D&D!

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  5. I always use morale, both in D&D and AD&D. As a DM I like to be surprised by the results. And it's one fundamental bit which I miss from all recent editions of D&D, and from old-school-like games like C&C and the recent HackMaster Basic.

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  6. >>I confess that I often forget to do so, partly because combats move so quickly, even with large numbers of opponents, that the moments when I should check morale pass by without a second thought.

    This feels familiar!

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  7. I always use the simple Moldvay rules in my 3e, 4e etc games - roll 2d6, if it exceeds Morale score, they run away. Most foes have morale in the 6-8 range, assigned ad hoc. I roll whenever it seems right, eg the foes appear to be losing.

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  8. Moldvay morale rules, yes.

    So why are elves so tough, anyway? We all know dwarves are the real badasses. :)

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  9. I know ad&d 2e had some morale rules (where alignment came into play)

    I myself am a big fan of morale rules, might be my warhammer roots showing though.

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  10. What? A morale system with percentile dice! Heretic! Everthing should be using d6 in OD&D, right? :)

    Seriously.

    That looks like a really neat system, which I might borrow outright and use in my next game.

    The existence of a game mechanic which tell you that the wanton murder and mayhem don't have to be a massacre is one reason I feel less comfortable with modern editions of D&D.

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  11. Very nice. I think I'll stick to the LL morale rules myself though. "Mmmmmm bell curve..."

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  12. This is pretty similar to 1E DMG p. 67.

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  13. Elves get a better bonus than dwarves for the same reason the system is vaguely similar to to that in the DMG: I borrowed a lot from Swords & Spells, the "grandchild" of Chainmail and written by Gygax.

    In the context of my campaign, though, elves are both incredibly arrogant and have no fear of death. They have a hard time imagining dying, since, barring accidents, they're immortal. Likewise, they look down on all other races and don't see them as genuine threats, certainly not dangerous enough to kill them.

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  14. Very nice James, Neat and clean. I'll be adding this to the Big Book of Plundered House Rules.

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  15. "This is pretty similar to 1E DMG p. 67."

    With many fewer modifiers to track, though.

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  16. A morale system is one of the big missing pieces in 3E for me. (Tipping me ever closer to using something more oldskool like Labrynth Lord)

    In my sandbox game, I've been using an ad hoc method inspired by some of Delta's OD&D number crunching, where if the critter can beat a DC20 on a d20+it's HD or CR (depending on what number I'm looking at in the MM)it'll stay, otherwise they scamper. I usually roll when strength in numbers or hp is reduced by half.

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  17. Surely Lawful creatures should have a higher morale than Chaotic one, yes? At least when there are multiple members of their party. Oh, maybe that's where the "Undisciplined" comes in.

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  18. Nice, simple rules. The ebst part is, they can be remembered during play, as opposed to hunting through the book or pouring over a chart for each modifier.

    On a related note, how many people here have their NPCs try to surrender and offer ransom? Have any PCs tried to save themselves by offering ransom? In all the years I ran games, I don't think I ever had that happen.

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  19. For me, the fact that most monsters don’t want to die anymore than the PCs do is an important element of the game. It’s one of those things that makes the hobby more than just another game. (I hesitate to use the words “simulation” or “story”, but they’re both hinting at what I mean.)

    To touch on another recent topic, it’s one of the reasons resurrection isn’t common or missed in the games I run.

    Even without morale rules, I’ll be considering the monsters’ situation each round. Would this monster flee in this situation? Would these monsters enact their retreat plan now? Would they surrender?

    I really enjoyed the morale rules, though, when I ran my last B/X campaign. Along a similar vein are the monster reaction rules. With both reaction and morale, I always try to consider those things when I don’t have rules for them, but the rules made it more...I dunno...concrete. They probably also occasionally nudged me in a direction I might not have ruled if left on my own. And it was nice to have a morale stat right there in the monster’s info.

    I think the rules also help make a player whose PC has a high (or low) Charisma feel like that actually means something. (In B/X, morale rolls are made for hirelings after an adventure—modified by the employer’s Charimsa—to see if they quit or stay on for the next adventure.)

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  20. Morale! Yes!

    Much like yourself, I all too often forget to use it... but even in the AD&D games I run, combat tends to run just that fast, too.

    Call me old fashion, but I prefer to use the Moldvay system, as I like the bell curve effect of the 2d6 rolls. I even use it in my AD&D game, prefering it to the far more complex system in the DMG.

    Probably also because I started play with Moldvay...

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  21. I stopped using morale for PC's sometime around 8th grade. Even then I felt like putting that to a roll took a lot of the characterization out of a players hands. It's their character, let them decide if they want to run away or not. Sure, it looks funny in old school cartoon panels - henchmen and wizards and what-not running like hell from a dragon in a cloud of smoke. All the geeks shout "run away!" in a british accent!

    But to me it's just another way to punish players for playing. I'll do some kind of morale for NPC's, but let the PC's be heroic as the wanna be. You have fear spells and such to get a laugh at badasses running for the hills.

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  22. @Don Tucker
    As others have said, I think self preservation is a pretty universal urge, regardless of Lawful or Chaotic. It could be argued that a Chaotic creature would have as little regard for it's own life as it did for the lives of others (or at least, be dumb enough not to consider the consequences of it's actions), and that a Lawful creature would have the prudence to flee to fight another day at better advantage.

    Whereas a Neutral might stick around the longest 'cos they can't decide whether to fish or cut bait.

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  23. OT: curious to see Jack Vance being discussed on Crooked Timber:
    http://crookedtimber.org/2009/07/17/vance-in-the-nyt/

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  24. I like the idea of morale, but I never really used it. This is due in part to the fact that my combats rarely ever lasted more than a round or two.
    I am beginning to suspect that the reason I have grown to hate 3.5 is less to do with that system's specific faults and more because of my players' exploitation of these same faults.

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  25. "I am beginning to suspect that the reason I have grown to hate 3.5 is less to do with that system's specific faults and more because of my players' exploitation of these same faults."

    The more rules and regulations there are, the bigger the risk is that someone will figure out how to "game the system."

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  26. "But to me it's just another way to punish players for playing. I'll do some kind of morale for NPC's, but let the PC's be heroic as the wanna be."

    No version of D&D has ever had morale applicable to PCs.

    In other news, I do like a morale bonus to Lawfuls and a penalty to Chaotics.

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  27. As best I could tell, the reference in Men & Magic was to the simple morale dice in Chainmail (not the complex "post-melee morale"). The Moldvay rule uses the same 2d6 basis, with low rather than high rolls passing.

    I stuck with that, and a not very systematic assessment of probabilities, because it worked for me and became familiar. I have nothing against percentile ratings.

    I agree that morale is an essential consideration! There's a rule in "4E" to use Intimidation checks, but I think its inadequacy contributes to the much-remarked problem of "combat grind" in that game.

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  28. I think its inadequacy contributes to the much-remarked problem of "combat grind" in that game.

    I agree. As a 4e DM, I have the monsters cut and run when the going starts to get tough. I don't use any hard-and-fast morale rules, but when something happens that might make the bad guys run away, I think about having them do it. Often, the deciding factor for me is: "will this encounter be more fun for everyone if it just ends here?"

    Curious question - In OD&D, do undead and construct type creatures suffer from morale?

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  29. I flipped though the original booklets and Chainmail, but I wasn’t sure how to interpret it.

    In B/X some monsters have a morale rating of 12, which means their morale will never break. Skeletons and zombies have a 12, but ghouls have a 9.

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  30. As far as the undead having morale issue, I'd probably base it on their intelligence/lack therof and decide if they have any sense of self-preservation. Do they enjoy the unlife? Dracula has run like hell on several occasions. 1st level non-intelligent skellys probably don't know any better, but somewhat higher level ones that have some human brain power imbued in them (like the ones from Army of Darkness, who comically ran like hell at the end), then they might jam.

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  31. ...and I played way too much Runequest and Call of Cthulhu to not involve percents in my D&D here and there...

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  32. I stopped using morale for PC's sometime around 8th grade.

    Morale doesn't apply to PCs -- never has so far as I recall.

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  33. In OD&D, do undead and construct type creatures suffer from morale?

    In the LBBs, there's no indication one way or the other, although common sense dictates (to me anyway) that unintelligent "mechanical" creatures, whether golems or skeletons/zombies would continue to attack until destroyed. More intelligent undead, especially highly intelligent ones like vampires and liches, would probably be subject to morale rules.

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  34. Why do eleves have 10% bonus and dwarves 5%?

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  35. I answered the dwarf/elf thing in an earlier comment.

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  36. Morale doesn't apply to PCs<

    Heh heh, right you are JM. For some reason, I just thought that's something you would do in the game.

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