Morale

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MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture
Morale

From a DM's perspective, how do you adjudicate when someone should surrender/turn tail and run/try to drag away fallen comrades/whatever? I assume it would be different depending on any number of factors, including but not limited to the subject's Intelligence score, his or her motivations for being in that place at that time and for engaging the PCs in combat, the realistic chance of survival during (or after) flight versus the likelihood of defeating the heroes, etc.

For players, when do you decide when enough is enough? Is that something you work out separately with each group of characters you're playing with? Something like, "when someone is knocked into negative HP and the cleric can't reach him/her for more than a round," or," as above, and the rest of us are at 50% HP or below," or, "We keep fighting no matter what happens?" If you do have something in mind for getting away, what does the escape plan look like? Is it the kind of contingency you might spend XP and GP on by way of crafting or purchasing magic items to expedite your retreat?

As a DM, it is exceedingly rare for me to see PCs retreat, and even more rare for them to do so successfully or with a majority of their teammates still alive. I try to work out in my notes if/when a creature or NPC is willing to surrender or try to get away, and what that might look like, and what he or she does if it is no longer an option. I would oppose any hard and fast ruleset for adjudicating such a thing because there are just too many variables to account for. It's easier to write, "The bandit leader will continue to fight until more than half of his allies have been killed or knocked unconscious OR he drops below 25% HP. If he doesn't drop below this threshold and in a single round the remainder of his allies have been disabled, he flees instead of surrendering." and leave it at that.

deadDMwalking
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One of my biggest complaints with published adventures is that there is far too little of that type of consideration. Just about everybody will fight to the death no matter what. While it might make it 'neater' not to have to worry about prisoners and/or whether a 'villain' can be redeemed, it makes everything feel like a grind. The game is better when there is a morale rule - and it existed in 2nd edition.

With our homebrew, we have a number of Morale modifiers so we can determine whether an enemy should break and run or remain in the fight, but it isn't easy to use. I've got some ideas about certain actions forcing a 'break check' and then just rolling against the pre-determined morale value. Currently it is a value that is eroded by certain actions - most difficult to consume is ratios of how outnumbered the opponent is (ie, outnumbering the PCs 3-1 is a significant bonus, being outnumbered 3-1 is a significant penalty).

As players, we have run away, but usually not until it was too late to carry everyone to safety. A couple of sessions ago only my character escaped - I thought someone else would run and I was ahead of them in initiative. Once I made my break they decided to surrender and be 'captured' with the rest of the party.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I would very much like to find a morale system that would tie into 3.5 rules in a way that I think is both balanced, and easy to adjudicate. Like DDMW, I am unimpressed with prepared adventures' overwhelming tendency to ignore the possibility that an adversary would try to run away or surrender when a fight goes badly.

Usual practice for me as a DM is that I either define explicit conditions for retreat or surrender, or I have some in the back of my head as I prepare an encounter.

As a player, I have to say that although I am willing to flee, it has never come up anywhere outside of Fixxxer's D20 Modern zombie survival games. Elsewhere, I have found that by the time I realize I should think about running away, my PC is dead or incapacitated. In fairness, my fellow players have tended to win those encounters despite my loss, and to bring me back.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

In our homebrew, most save DCs are based on an opponent's level. Ie, we use the 10 + 1/2 level + relevant modifier for most DCs. This means that CL determines the save of a spell rather than spell level - if an archmage casts a 1st level spell it is just as hard to resist as his 9th level spells. This type of progression could give a fairly simple 3.x style Morale system.

Every time a 'dramatic event' happens such as a leader is slain or more than half the remaining forces are dropped in a single round you make a Will Save. If you succeed, you continue to fight. If you fail, you try to escape. Fail by 5 or more you surrender.

A defined leader could be a real advantage in that the leader gets to make the save. But once you defeat the leader, it's easy to get the troops to retreat or surrender (most troops have a much lower will save than their leader).

I think that would provide a rough sketch of a workable system with three major questions.

1) How do you define the DC?
I'd say 10 + 1/2 level of the highest level party member + CHA modifier.

2) How do you create 'span of control' for enemy leaders?
I'd say that generally a leader can have one lieutenant (within 2 levels of him) and the rest of his troops need to be 1/2 his level or 4 levels lower (whichever is higher). If you have 4 ogres, nobody is 'the leader'. If you have an ogre and 12 goblins, you'd have a leader situation.

3) Any modifiers to the Will save and/or when do you make it?
I think most modifiers are unnecessary in this rough system. If anything, probably go with the +2/-2 for favorable/unfavorable situations. Maybe roll after the first round of combat. If you want some combats to just not happen, roll before they begin. If you want them to fail about 25% instead of 50%, make the DC 5 + instead of 10 +. If you want failure more often, make it 15 + instead of 10 +.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I think it also would be helpful to determine whether morale effects confer a frightened or panicked status, and at which thresholds these things occur, and possibly how long the effects last.

Are we talking about a scenario in which the enemy breaks and runs in a complete panic, losing all cohesion? Are they routing, but possibly able and willing to regroup and return to fight later? Are they making an orderly tactical retreat?

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

In Warhammer: 40,000 (the tabletop mass battle game, not the RPG), units in melee roll for morale if they sustained more casualties than the opposing unit. If they fail, they run, and the other team can attempt to beat them on initiative and run them down.

I think here what would work best is if you roll as a group and fail, each individual in that group would roll a Will save. If they succeed, they still run but aren't frightened; if they fail, they are frightened and must make another Will save next round to avoid being panicked. This could potentially be life-threatening because each step away from being totally calm places more and more restrictions on what a character can perceive as legitimate escape plans.

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

In 2EE I have opted for a simple fear effect approach for each individual creature suffering negative morale. First, you establish some preconditions for making the check: for the Bloodskulls in our current encounter, they would be forced to make a check when either A. 50% of their own squad died (there are multiple squads of five orcs each) or B. Their leaders died. Well, B happened pretty much right away, but the battlefield is so large that a particular squad may not be aware of that fact. For those that are, as with the latest arrivals after I updated the IC thread just now, there is a chance they can fail their saves as soon as they appear on the battlefield and actually begin the encounter already shaken.

After failing a second save, which is rolled as soon as the other precondition comes into effect and will be rolled for every round until they fail, they become frightened and will try to flee. In this particular case, that may not be the best option for them (there is a druid for whom the forest does her bidding, and she has two wolf companions that can easily run them down and devour them), but running for your life and thinking calmly and rationally are sometimes mutually exclusive.