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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Morale in OD&D

I've seen the topic of "the absence of morale rules in OD&D" come up on the forums, so I thought I'd talk about it briefly. First, let's look at the morale rules, which are in the LBBs, after all. They are right after the Reaction and Loyalty tables:
Non-player characters and men-at-arms will have to make morale checks (using the above reaction table or "Chainmail") whenever a highly dangerous or un-nerving situation arises. Poor morale will mean that those in question will not perform as expected.
Men & Magic, p. 13
The "reaction table" being referred to is the infamous 2d6 table. So, roll 2d6, add or subtract the loyalty modifier, and look up the reaction.

What's missing is an explanation of this for people who aren't experienced wargamers. I'm not, which may explain why we weren't very diligent about morale back in my high school days. I eventually learned the rules via the AD&D DMG. But what a non-wargamer buying the LBBs back in the '70s would have needed is, first, maybe a better indicator of where the morale rules were, like a bold "Morale Roll" heading; and second, an understanding of what the Reaction table terms would translate into in terms of troop behavior.

The easiest interpretation is:
  • "Hostile" means orderly retreat
  • "Attempts to Attack" means disorderly rout
  • (optional) "Uncertain" means stand ground, but do not advance further or press the attack
There are a couple creatures in Monsters & Treasure with specific morale notes, mostly on unusual morale roll triggers. For example, sunlight triggers a check for goblins and undead, magic triggers a check for cavemen, and berserkers do not check morale (and maybe trigger morale checks for normal men fighting against them.) This is actually fertile ground for creativity; we could redefine behaviors for a new monster, such as:
  • "Rout" or possibly even "Retreat" is replaced with "attack enemies and allies indiscriminately"
  • Instead of fleeing on a rout, monster sits down and ignores the conflict (Hippy Monsters?)
  • Morale check triggered by bad omen for superstitious monsters, or by spilled treasure for greedy monsters.

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