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Morale Checks - How Would You?

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
In-game: four heroes, well known across the reach but not yet beyond it, sit near a campfire with their Mordenkainen's Instant Carriage parked nearby. There's a rustling in the darkness, and sure enough, those tenacious, infamous, wicked gnomes spring screaming from the trees. They're out for blood, specifically, the blood of whoever started a campfire on Wigglewitz while he slept. Anyway, the party is expecting them (and the half-orc knew damn well where he chose to start the fire), so after a few spells and swings of large, sharp objects, the band of gnomes withers from 18 down to 11, with four bruised, yet fighting, heroes. The gnomes were clearly mistaken, thinking that superior numbers and surprise would enable them to slay the heroes. Now they must consider fleeing.

Out-of-game: you have a few tools at your disposal for resolving uncertainties:
Attributes: the gnomes have three attributes, Physical, Mental, and Metaphysical, that grant bonuses in the 0 to +3 range. Every outcome roll (d20) of theirs is affected by one of these bonuses.
Health: each attribute provides an amount of health ranging from about 8 to 15. Damage of the same attribute type counts against this.
Skills: you can add skill points to the outcome roll if the skill applies, usually from 0 to 3. Some relevant choices might be:
-Persuade, for changing the minds of others.
-Willpower, for persuading yourself.
-Engage, for drawing the attention of others.
-Concentrate, for ignoring distractions.
-Fight, for causing physical damage with weapons.

Is this enough of a system to perform morale checks, deciding whether an individual gnome panics? Would you add more rules for determining morale? Fewer?
I'd like to hear from PCs and GMs, since these might be opposing, but both valid, perspectives.

My initial thought, or maybe a legacy rule floating around in my head, was that each gnome would simply roll for a Mental outcome and add Willpower to it, trying to beat a number based on how dangerous the situation seems, say 15. Roll under: flee. But that now seems over-simplistic because...

Should the players roll with the Persuade skill instead?
Do the numbers of combatants on either side matter?
Do the character levels on either side matter?
Does a leader get to affect the rolls?
Does a character's health affect his roll?
Do the gnomes get a home field advantage?
When should morale checks be made?
Should morale be governed by its own attribute? Or a Morale skill?
Should morale be treated as Mental damage? Metaphysical?
 

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Having to roll 11 separate checks at the end of each round to see if each individual gnome flees is going to take a lot of time. You didn't mention WHEN they are supposed to make these checks. Is it at the end of every round? Is there a chance a gnome would flee before a single blow had been struck?

I typically don't make hard and fast rules for when a moral breaks, (In D&D) and instead try to play realistically and logically, and just use a coin flip to determine if they run if i am not sure.

In the game I developed, each player and Game Master use a deck of cards, and when the GM runs out, that usually represents the morale breaking and causes the fight to end, (In mass surrendering and running away) unless a Leader is present who can let the GM shuffle his deck. (Giving incentives to the players to take out the leaders early) Crowds who are less organized also lose cards every time a character is wounded. I don't know how you could translate that to a d20 game, however. I suppose you could give the entire group its own HP that is also reduced with each attack, and when that runs down to zero they either rally or break.

Something i've been working on is social manipulation, which can be used to let players make enemies run away in combat. Loosely translated to 5e, each character has an Ego score (Equal to their highest ability score). Groups also have an Ego Score which allow you to affect all of them at once (Equal to a base ego plus an important factor, in the gnomes case it would be numbers) A character can make a Social Maneuver against an enemy by removing a number of hitpoints from themselves equal to the enemy's ego score. (Hitpoints representing stamina in this case, not physical health) (Players do not get to know the scores of their enemies and must guess, or make a check to discover it, otherwise it is a Blind Bid) Social maneuvers can be used to make characters run away, or get them angry, etc. Usually to perform the more powerful maneuvers, you require to get your enemy into an emotional state, such as angry or afraid, before you can goad them or make them run away. Groups typically cannot be manipulated while there is a leader present.
This is to say that, a group of 18 gnomes with a high score of 14 would require about 32 hitpoints to make afraid, and then another 32 hitpoints to scare into running away. Similarly, a group of 11 gnomes with four injured would require 42 HP total to make them scared and run away. The main difference being that the second group is unlikely to return, while the first group will likely rally in the distance and attack again, and the players will have spent 64 hitpoints to buy themselves an hour. (And deal zero damage) However, if you're goal is to cross a bridge and destroy it, that is all they needed.

That's just my own meandering experience. I hope it helps.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I just use the old BECMI morale rules myself. And roll for groups for the most part. With 5e I would modify that 2-12 morale score based on skill checks or other elements of the particular situation.
 

aco175

Legend
I typically roll a single d20 when the bad guys are below half their numbers. There may be a lot of variables, but I tend to think on if they would flee and how soon. I could have skeletons that would never flee since they are basically mindless and animals such as bears which may flee sooner if they are just looking for a quick meal. If the bear is with young and one of them die, then maybe the mother stays longer. I tend to make the encounter with orcs and an ogre run where if the ogre dies or the orc leader and half the orcs die, then I roll and if I roll low, they try to flee. I end up just giving a number to the roll and not a save or anything. If I roll low, they all try to flee, but when I roll like a 10 then I just have one or two try to run or begin to pull back.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In-game: four heroes, well known across the reach but not yet beyond it, sit near a campfire with their Mordenkainen's Instant Carriage parked nearby. There's a rustling in the darkness, and sure enough, those tenacious, infamous, wicked gnomes spring screaming from the trees. They're out for blood, specifically, the blood of whoever started a campfire on Wigglewitz while he slept. Anyway, the party is expecting them (and the half-orc knew damn well where he chose to start the fire), so after a few spells and swings of large, sharp objects, the band of gnomes withers from 18 down to 11, with four bruised, yet fighting, heroes. The gnomes were clearly mistaken, thinking that superior numbers and surprise would enable them to slay the heroes. Now they must consider fleeing.

Out-of-game: you have a few tools at your disposal for resolving uncertainties:
Attributes: the gnomes have three attributes, Physical, Mental, and Metaphysical, that grant bonuses in the 0 to +3 range. Every outcome roll (d20) of theirs is affected by one of these bonuses.
Health: each attribute provides an amount of health ranging from about 8 to 15. Damage of the same attribute type counts against this.
Skills: you can add skill points to the outcome roll if the skill applies, usually from 0 to 3. Some relevant choices might be:
-Persuade, for changing the minds of others.
-Willpower, for persuading yourself.
-Engage, for drawing the attention of others.
-Concentrate, for ignoring distractions.
-Fight, for causing physical damage with weapons.

Is this enough of a system to perform morale checks, deciding whether an individual gnome panics? Would you add more rules for determining morale? Fewer?
I'd like to hear from PCs and GMs, since these might be opposing, but both valid, perspectives.

My initial thought, or maybe a legacy rule floating around in my head, was that each gnome would simply roll for a Mental outcome and add Willpower to it, trying to beat a number based on how dangerous the situation seems, say 15. Roll under: flee. But that now seems over-simplistic because...

Should the players roll with the Persuade skill instead?
Do the numbers of combatants on either side matter?
Do the character levels on either side matter?
Does a leader get to affect the rolls?
Does a character's health affect his roll?
Do the gnomes get a home field advantage?
When should morale checks be made?
Should morale be governed by its own attribute? Or a Morale skill?
Should morale be treated as Mental damage? Metaphysical?

Just roll Willpower

my presumption is that “Run Away” is the default choice of anything thats sentient and hurting. Choosing to stay is an act of Willpower or mindlessness (rage).

Leaders can attempt to Rally the others
Give the gnomes advantage if they’ve done really well and they think they can win

Undead might never flee
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
You didn't mention WHEN they are supposed to make these checks. Is it at the end of every round? Is there a chance a gnome would flee before a single blow had been struck?

I typically don't make hard and fast rules for when a moral breaks, (In D&D) and instead try to play realistically and logically, and just use a coin flip to determine if they run if i am not sure.
When would probably be at an initiating event, like first friend down, leader down, or discovering that the enemies have a cave troll.

Better yet, though it's a little meta, is when a PC uses an action to intimidate opponents. That limits the amount of GM-initiated rolls, and puts the morale checks in the hands (initiative) of the PCs.

I wouldn't normally want to use morale rules either, but GMs can get tunnel vision - trying to make opponents deadly before making them realistic.

I typically roll a single d20 when the bad guys are below half their numbers. . . I end up just giving a number to the roll and not a save or anything. If I roll low, they all try to flee, but when I roll like a 10 then I just have one or two try to run or begin to pull back.
So the bad guys' character sheets don't provide a reference point? Interesting...

Just roll Willpower

my presumption is that “Run Away” is the default choice of anything thats sentient and hurting. Choosing to stay is an act of Willpower or mindlessness (rage).

Leaders can attempt to Rally the others
Give the gnomes advantage if they’ve done really well and they think they can win

Undead might never flee
So a leader could use an action, say Persuade, to keep a gnome in a fight?

That's a good point - once you're hurting, if you're a person or a beast, fleeing becomes a really attractive option. Not so much if you're mindless. Also, it takes a friend or a leader to keep you around. No reason to stick around if no one needs you there. But if you're not hurting, you still wouldn't necessarily want to continue a hopeless fight.

What about Willpower versus a PC's Persuade? Should that require a PC action (fewer rolls), or be automatic when a triggering event takes place (more rolls)?
 

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