Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When danger reared its ugly head. He bravely turned his tail and fled. Bravely taking to his feet, He beat a very brave retreat

Today I'd like to talk about morale. I've seen some other people posting about morale lately and thought..hey..I like to jump on bandwagons!

(seriously, go read the Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, its a very different style of game than I would run in most cases but there is a lot of interesting things there)

In Piecemeal, its not feasible for most individuals to fight bravely on until the death, especially not as henchmen who don't even get a descent dental plan (ever wonder why the orcs have such bad teeth?).

Thus the effects of morale come into play. NPC's will have a morale score, this will be a highly variable score and can be pretty much anything. It can be increased by a PC with a high social score, a bard with skill-points in leadership, bearing a standard or flag, being outnumbered by or outnumbering the opponent.

If modifiers are not abundant, how do we get situations where people will almost certainly flee? The trick is to cause multiple morale checks on a turn.

Why have multiple morale checks instead of abundant modifiers and one morale check? Part of that is due to the way morale checks are rolled, and how it breaks down numerically. With individuals or small bands (4 or 5) you would roll a d20 per NPC with epic failures and successes on 1's and 20's as normal. With larger groups you would roll 3d6 per group. This makes a nicer bell curve on if people run or not.

Why do I want a bell curve? People are more likely to run away if other people are too. People are also less likely to run away if everyone else is standing their ground with courage and bravery. This makes modifiers a big deal in group situations, where additional checks might not. +4 to a morale check (up to a 16) and needing to make two rolls on 3d6 is far more likely to succeed than even a +3 (up to a 15) and needing to make one roll on 3d6.

What causes a morale roll? To lose more body points in a round than the opponents, to have more individuals on your side fall than the opposing side, to have gunpowder or magic used against you if you have not previously been exposed to it, or to have your leader fall.

What happens when a morale roll is failed? Well for most individuals they run or surrender. If an individual or unit has say the "Zealous" trait (such as fanatics or berserkers) they instead automatically move into "Wild Attacks" in a panic/rage.

Without getting into the niceties of Piecemeal round to round combat options, a wild attack in D&D terms would be getting an additional attack , having all attacks be at -5, and being hit on a 2+ automatically. As you can guess, not a long life expectancy for a berserker who loses it.

Why is this good?

It creates another aspect of being "good" at combat, making people run away or surrender. Given that people are worth more XP if they surrender than need to be slain, this brings more avenues for players to pursue without being mandatory.

Why is this bad?

It does cause a handful of extra quick rolls per turn to be rolled (should the opposing side wish, see main rule). But as these rolls have the option of making the entire combat finish up in one roll, I believe they actually reduce the "drag" of combat.

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