Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Morale Musings

I've been thinking about the Ephemera campaign recently, and about the number of PCs and NPC followers therein. As of our last session, we had four PCs and eight NPCs (mostly charmed humanoids) in the group, for a total of twelve characters. Since that last session, we've added two new players to our gaming group, and I'm hoping they'll want to play in Ephemera too when next we decide to go there. Assuming they do, I'll probably have their characters come in each with a follower, which would make a total of sixteen characters.

Given the size of combats that I can see happening in the near future (sixteen or more PCs and followers vs. ten, twenty, or even thirty monsters at a time), it occurs to me that I should make a point of checking morale more regularly than I've normally done before, so that fights end when a group runs away, rather than dragging on until forty or fifty combatants have been reduced to the last man standing.

The Delving Deeper rules give the GM total discretion as to when to make morale checks for monsters and NPCs. I'll probably do something like this:

  • make an individual morale check for a monster or NPC when it drops to half its maximum HP
  • make a group morale check every time one member of the group is killed 

I'll likely define "group" as "all monsters of a given type" and "all followers of a given PC."

Failing a morale check will have consequences. Charmed NPCs or monsters who fail a morale check make a new saving throw to see if their charm is broken. If the charm breaks, the now un-charmed creature heads for the hills and keeps on running, never to return. Otherwise, fleeing NPCs and monsters, including charmed ones, are affected according to the actual score of the morale throw (a five or less on 2d6 being a morale failure in Delving Deeper):

In addition to normal morale modifiers, each consecutive check in a single combat will be at a cumulative -1 modifier per check previously taken in the fight. And in any case, a natural "2" will always be treated as a 2 regardless of modifiers. 

When monsters flee, their noisy, panicked flight will undoubtedly alert other monsters in the area to the PCs' presence, if they weren't alerted already by the noise of the fight.

Results will be adapted to circumstance; e.g. a group won't run if they have no escape path – they'll obviously cower in place or surrender instead. 


  1. I actually try to use morale as much as possible. Sometimes, I determine ahead of time that an event or condition with trigger a retreat or surrender (or other reaction). Sometimes I just let the dice decide.

    I am looking forward to playing in Ephemera once again. I picked up a print copy of Delving Deeper in anticipation.

    1. Hey, any time you guys are up for another session of Ephemera, I'm ready to run one. Whenever you need or want a break, just say the word.