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Monday, September 30, 2013

Monster Morale

One of the problems some people have with the morale system defined in Men & Magic is that, aside from the occasional note in Monsters & Treasure all monsters are treated the same. Ogres will flee about as often as orcs. To some people, this seems absurd. Ogres ought to be made of sterner stuff.

Part of this attitude probably stems from the Basic/Classic line of D&D. Either B/X or BECMI introduced Morale ratings in monster listings. People who started with Classic thus probably feel a little lost when exposed to OD&D, which expects GMs to decide on a case-by-case basis. The trick is that OD&D differentiates most monster morale behaviors not by a general rating, but by what each monster considers a "highly dangerous or un-nerving situation". Goblins, obviously, think sunlight is unnerving; cavemen think magic is unnerving; berserkers and minotaurs don't think much of anything is unnerving.

One thing I propose, to get something with slightly the same feel as Classic morale, is to not count any situation as "dangerous" for a monster unless:

  1. average opponent hit dice is more than their own, and
  2. number of opponents is equal or greater than the number of monsters; or,
  3. number of opponents is more than total hit dice on monster side.

Example 1: Ten orcs facing typical adventuring party. Even if the party is high level, orcs and monsters in general will go by the average hit dice of ordinary men: in other words, 1 hit die, same as the orcs themselves. Orcs will only make a morale roll if they are outnumbered by the party, or the party displays amazing firepower.

Example 2: Five ogres facing typical adventuring party. Ogres will only check morale if there are 20+ people in the party. If there are 17 members of the party, ogres will check morale after one of their number has been slain. If there are 9 members of the party, ogres will check morale after three ogres have died.

Example 3: Five ogres facing six adventurers who have polymorphed into hill giants. Since the party appears to be creatures with more hit dice, and there are more "giants" than ogres, the ogres will check morale.

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