The Long Winter Campaign will not use the encounter building rules. Thus, it is entirely possible that a party could find itself in over their heads, with few options for escape or evasion. In general, I’m fine with the players killing themselves off through overconfidence or incaution. However, I still think there needs to be a bit of a safety valve, of sorts, and I believe a simple morale system will fit the bill. Indeed, in old school D&D the morale rules, while an artifact of the wargaming roots of the hobby, more-or-less filled the same role.
To be clear, morale checks apply only to NPCs. Player characters never have to make a morale check (fear-based saves, such as caused by dragons, are a completely different thing), though any NPC retainers or hirelings the PCs bring along might, at the GM’s discretion, have to make a morale check. So, for the most part, these rules apply to monsters.
Check morale for groups of monsters. If you have a group of orcs and a group of goblins fighting together, you might treat them as two separate groups. Solitary “apex” monsters, such as dragons, should check for morale individually.
Good times to check for morale are:
- When monsters take their first casualty (or first hit, in the case of solitary monsters), particularly if the PC party hasn’t taken any casualties/hits yet
- When the monsters’ numbers are reduced to 50% or less (or a solitary monster is reduced to 50% hit points), and the PCs outnumber them, or obviously outclasses them
- When the monsters’ leader is killed, incapacitated or otherwise “defeated”
To make a morale check, use the creature’s Will save. For groups of monsters with a clear leader, use the leader’s Will save. The first time a morale check is made, the DC is 10. If a second morale check is called for, the DC increases to 15. If the monsters pass two morale checks in the same combat, no additional morale checks will be required during that combat. Modifiers for bravery/vs. fear apply to the morale checks. The GM may apply other modifiers deemed appropriate to the circumstances.
Mindless creatures, and fanatics, never make morale checks; they’re always willing to fight to the death.
Creatures that fail a morale check will attempt to flee by the most expeditious route possible. If escape is impossible, intelligent monsters will attempt to surrender. If their surrender is declined, they will fight to the death.
I’m inclined to not award experience points for monsters that flee or surrender due to a failed morale check.