Dicing for Morale

Sometimes there are just too many things going on to keep track of all the motivations and reactions of the participants. For these times, use the following system to determine the morale of the creature or NPC. Never use this system for a player character!

First, do not check morale every round of a combat. Aside from the fact that this slows everything down, it also crates unbalanced and unrealistic battles. Everyone going into a fight expects a little danger. Only when the danger becomes too great should a morale check be rolled. Just when the DM rolls morale checks is a matter of judgment, but the following guidelines should prove useful.

Check Monster and NPC Morale When:

The foes have been surprised, but only on the first round after surprise

Faced by an obviously superior force

An ally is slain by magic

25% of their group has fallen

50% of their group has fallen

A companion is slain after more than 50% of the group has fallen

Their leader deserts or is slain

Fighting a creature they cannot harm due to magical protections

Ordered to attempt a heroically dangerous task

Offered temptation (bribe, chance to steal, etc.)*

Told to act as a rear guard, such as covering a fighting withdrawal

Directed to use up or use a charge from a personal powerful magical item*

Given a chance to surrender (and have met the conditions for one other morale check)

Completely surrounded

* In this case, the morale check can be used to see if they agree or refuse.

Obviously, following the guidelines above too strictly can lead to illogical situations. Players, once they've learned the conditions calling for morale checks, may try to abuse the rules. For example, they might think to offer surrender terms to every monster they meet, figuring the odds of the morale check might work out their way.

Don't let players get away with this, and don't let the dice overrule logical or drama. When 1st-level player characters offer surrender terms to an ancient red dragon (obviously hoping for a lucky break on the dice), remember what common sense is saying: "There ain't no way!"

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