Failing a Morale Check
When a creature or NPC fails a morale check, its first concern is to escape or
avoid whatever situation caused the check in the first place. If it is being
overpowered in combat, it tries to flee. If the party's mage is blasting
lightning bolts about, it tries to get away from him.
If there is no place to go, the NPC or monster, if it is intelligent enough,
falls down and surrenders--provided it thinks the party is likely to spare its
life. A goblin is not about to surrender to a bunch of bloodthirsty dwarves
because it knows how kindly those dwarves treat captured goblins! Now, if there
just happened to be a nice, compassionate-looking human there, the goblin might
give up if the human could promise it safety.
How drastic a panicked creature's flight is depends on the DM's judgment and
how much over the base morale the modified die roll was. If the roll was close
to what was needed, the creature tries to back out of the combat and find safety
nearby. If the morale check was blown badly, the creature just forgets
everything and bugs out, casting aside anything that slows it down.
Lawful creatures normally try to fall back in some sort of organized
manner--keeping together as a group or, at least, all fleeing to the same place. Chaotic
creatures tend to break and run in any direction that promises safety.
Example of Morale: As the player characters slash through thick underbrush, they stumble across a
band of 10 gnolls gnawing on roasted game birds. Neither group is surprised.
An elf in the party shouts in the gnolls' language, "Surrender, you scum of the
forest! You haven't a chance and we'll let you keep your miserable hides."
The DM refuses to roll a morale check, since the gnolls don't know if their
enemies are strong or weak. Besides, the DM sees possibilities for a nice
dramatic fight in this encounter.
Snarling, the gnolls hurl aside their badly cooked birds. The tallest one
grunts out in the local tongue, "I think you wrong, tree-thing. We win fight. We
take hides!" He hefts a great mace in his hands. The two groups attack. A
furious, slashing battle ensues.
Suddenly, the mage of the party cuts loose with a magic missile spell, killing the largest of the gnolls. Now the DM rolls a morale check,
both for the magic and the loss of the leader, applying appropriate modifiers.
The DM decides the gnolls are disorganized troops--a hunting party, not a war
party. This gives them a base morale of 11. The gnolls have a -4 penalty
(chaotic, fighting mages, and more than one check required in the round), giving an
adjusted result of 7.
Two 10-sided dice are rolled, resulting in a 3 and a 2, for a total of 5. They
pass the morale check, since the number rolled is less than their modified
morale, and they decide to keep fighting.
In the next round, an NPC fighter with the party loses 25% of his hit points
in wounds. The DM rolls a check for him as a hireling. His base morale is 12,
but this is modified by -1 (+2 for mages on his side, -2 for his wounds, and -1
since his employer is lawful good and he is neutral), giving him a morale of 11.
He rolls a total of 12--not good enough. He decides he's had enough and gets
out of the fight, although he only goes so far as to hide behind a nearby tree
and watch from safety.
No morale checks are made for the player characters--players make their own
Table of Contents