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 decisions.

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