"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #16

16. The BEST morale system EVER!

James at Grognardia has put up a post showing his houserule for morale for his Dwimmermount campaign. It reminded my that I listed the B/X morale system as one of the reasons why B/X is my favorite.

Morale is an optional rule given on page B27. it is a very simple system of rolling 2d6 and comparing the result to a morale score that is given for each monster in the monster listings. If the result of the roll is higher than the monster's morale score, they try to retreat or use a fighting withdrawal. The rules list two situations for when to check morale: 1. after the side's first death, and 2. when 1/2 of the side has been incapacitated, killed, etc.

I like this system because it is simple, easy to remember, and it is easy to use modifiers based on the circumstances.

Let's think about it in terms of the larger picture though. This system when combined with monster reaction rolls become a very important part of balancing the fragile nature of B/X characters. The power level of B/X characters is such that it is important for players to consider ways to avoid combat (monster reaction rolls) or how to manage resources once in combat - for which the morale system helps a great deal.

For example - A low level party is marching off in the direction of the Caves of Chaos when the come upon a large raiding group of hobgoblins. The hobgoblins outnumber the part by a factor of four. Rightfully fearing the outcome of a battle against the hobgoblins, the party tries to evade the hobgoblins (another great subsystem by the way, found on page X23) but fails. They then try to bribe their way out of their precarious situation but the reaction roll goes against them. Now the party magic-user uses the last charge of a Wand of Sleep that they found in a bandit lair. The leader of the hobgoblin band and a couple of other hobgoblins fall unconscious. Time for a morale check! The result could be modified due to the fact that the hobgoblins are obviously facing magic and their leader has been incapacitated. The party gets lucky and the the remaining hobgoblins flee into the forest. The party narrowly avoided a dire fate!


  1. And yet AD&D (the last edition to have Morale) made the system so damn convoluted as to have many folks ignore it for years to come!

    It’s amazing how fast this can save the PCs bacon. Both encounters of my recent B/X game had the PCs outnumbered by cowardly goblins that broke as soon as one of their members dropped. This allowed the PC party to cut them down from behind AND saved on damage sustained by a prolonged encounter!

    Smart PCs should probably do things to make themselves seem more intimidating. Note to DM Patrick: my character is going to be a head-hunter that prominently displays his grisly trophies (regardless of class!). Ha!

  2. A troll in tonight's game beat-feet once in each encounter with the PCs.
    --I use my own variant, but agree, Resolve/Morale is a great addition to the game.