The Role-Playing Solution
The first (and best) way to handle morale is to determine it without rolling
any dice or consulting any tables. This gives the biggest range of choices and
prevents illogical things from happening. To decide what a creature does, think
about its goals and reasons for fighting.
Unintelligent and animal intelligence creatures attack and most often for food or to protect their lair. Few ever attack for
the sheer joy of killing.
Those attacking for food attack the things they normally hunt. A mountain
lion, for example, doesn't hunt humans as a rule, and it doesn't stalk and attack
humans as it would a deer. Such creatures normally allow a party of adventurers
to pass by unhindered. Only when the creature is close to its lair does the
chance of attack come into play. Animals often fight to protect their territory or
When they do become involved in combat, animals and other creatures rarely
fight to the death. When hunting, they certainly try to escape, especially if they
are injured. Their interest is in food. If they can't get it easily, they'll
try again elsewhere. Most often, it is only when pressed, with no avenue of
escape, or perhaps when its young are threatened, that an animal will sacrifice its
Of course, in an AD&D game, a creature can attack and fight to the death when
that will make for the most drama and excitement. For example, say a group of
characters spot a grizzly bear blocking the path ahead of them. Instead of
wisely waiting for it to shamble off, the party foolishly puts some arrows into it.
Enraged, the beast attacks the party with berserk fury, causing serious harm
and teaching them an important lesson before it dies.
Intelligent creatures have more complicated motivations that the need for food and shelter. The DM
decides what the creatures want. Greed hatred, fear, self-defense, and hunger
are all motivations, but they are not worth dying for.
As a guideline for intelligent creature and NPC motivation, consider the
actions of player characters. How often do they fight to the death? Why would they?
At what point do they usually retreat?
Certainly, NPC adventurer parties should behave similarly to player
characters. After all, their concerns are much the same as those of the player
characters--getting cash and improving themselves. They are not very interested in dying.
On the other hand, members of some fanatical sects may willingly sacrifice
themselves for the cause. Even so, a few have been known to reconsider at the last
The morale of NPCs and intelligent creatures should also jibe with known facts
about his, her, or its personality. If an NPC with the party has been
portrayed as cowardly, he probably won't willingly march into the jaws of death. One
noted for his slavish loyalty, on the other hand, might stand his ground, dying
to protect his friends or master. There are many choices, and the AD&D game
works best when a person, not the dice, makes the choice.
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