The old saying, "the best defense is a good offense" is clearly true in the AD&D game. And the best way to avoid suffering damage is to beat the foe so badly he wants to crawl under a rock or, better yet, run away. That's where morale checks come in.

The gnoll in front of Beornhelm smashes a mace against the fighter's shield, just as the searing heat of lightning clips all the hair on the side of his head. Instantly, the heat is followed by the booming thunderclap in his ear. All the while, some vile little creature is trying to gnaw on his shin! It's really enough to ruin an adventurer's day. But, Beornhelm is cool, calm and in control--because the player running him says so. The same can't be said for the monsters.

In almost all situations, players should be the ones who decide what their characters do. A DM should never tell a player, "Your character decides he doesn't want to get hurt and runs from the fight," unless that character is charmed and therefore controlled by the DM.

A suggestion that a character might want to retreat, advance, open a chest, or whatever, is all right, but a DM shouldn't force a player character to do something by simply insisting. Only under the most unusual circumstances--charm, magical fear, or other forced effects--should the DM dictate the actions of a player character.

Monsters and NPCs are an entirely different matter, however. The DM makes their decisions, trying to think like each creature or non-player character, in turn.

In combat, thinking like a creature mainly means deciding what actions it takes and how badly it wants to fight. As a general rule, monsters and NPCs are no more eager to die than player characters. Most withdraw when a fight starts to go badly.

Some panic and flee, even casting their weapons aside. If they think they can get mercy, brighter foes might fall to their knees and surrender. A few bloodthirsty or brainless types might fight to the death--but this doesn't happen too often. These are the things that make up morale, things the DM must decide, either through role-playing or dice rolling.

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