Friday, January 14, 2011

Henchman Morale in OD&D

I'm gearing up to run a stomp through Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Dungeon (c. 1970-71) using the Original D&D whitebox rules. (It will be Monday night in Anaheim at St. Crispin's Hobby Night - it's a weekly public event and you're welcome to join in. See HERE for details.) The Blackmoor Dungeon can be a pretty harsh place, so the players would be well advised to hire some henchmen before they set foot in the place. Usually I just improvise and roleplay the whole henchman NPC thing, but this time I want to try playing henchman NPCs more by the (little brown) book. Of course, one of the key aspects of NPC behavior is morale - will the henchmen freak out and run at the first sight of blood, or will they be loyal to the end?

Morale is one of the things that's very unclear in OD&D. It's discussed briefly on page 13 of the Men & Magic booklet, where it says "Non-player characters and men-at-arms will have to make morale checks (using the above reaction table or "Chainmail") whenever a highly dangerous or un-nerving situation arises." Unfortunately, there isn't an NPC reaction table in the book, so by default Chainmail would have to be the place to look. Unfortunately morale in Chainmail is an arcane algebra that makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, a few weeks ago Christian Lindke at the Cinerati blog made a really great post about the history of morale in D&D. In the post he dissects morale in Chainmail to identify two parallel morale systems: Melee Morale and Casualty Morale. Melee Morale is a very complex set of rules for large-scale combat that would be useless in D&D, but it turns out that Casualty Morale is very similar to the morale rules given in Basic/Expert D&D c.1981. It's very likely that the Chainmail Casualty Morale rules are what's being referred to in OD&D, and in fact they probably served as the precursor for morale rules in Basic/Expert D&D. In a nutshell, NPCs have a morale value between 2-12 where high values mean better morale. In stressful situations the DM rolls 2d6. If the roll is higher than the morale score, the NPC freaks out and flees.

Okay - easy. So how do we apply this to henchmen in OD&D? Luckily, the rules are a little more specific on this...
"When one or more such characters are taken into service a loyalty check is made by rolling three-six-sided dice. Adjustments are made for charisma and initial payments for service, and the loyalty of the character(s) noted by the referee. (The player will not have any knowledge of what it is without some method of reading minds.)"
Loyalty Score              Morale
3 or less                        Will desert at first opportunity
4-6                                 -2 on morale dice
7-8                                 -1 on morale dice
9-12                              Average morale dice
13-14                            +1 on morale dice
15-18                            +2 on morale dice
19 and above                 Need never check morale

So this is what I will do...

1. For each prospective henchman roll 2d6 to generate a secret morale score.
2. When a PC hires a henchman roll 3d6 on the Loyalty table.
3. Adjust the Loyalty Score based on the PC's Charisma modifier and additional monetary incentives.
4. Modify the henchman's morale according to the Loyalty Score.
5. Make secret 2d6 morale checks for each henchman during stressful situation (e.g. first casualty, first wounding, etc.)

I'm sure someone else has worked through this before on some forum or blog somewhere, but I had fun spending a few minutes thinking about it. Filling in the blanks is part of the fun of OD&D. I'll let you know how it goes!

14 comments:

  1. "Unfortunately, there isn't an NPC reaction table in the book"

    Hunh? It's on the bottom of the previous page. 2d6, five possible reactions. I think your procedures are a little more complicated than what the book suggests:

    1. Secretly roll Loyalty for hirelings/henchmen when first hired;
    2. Adjust for Charisma when necessary;
    3. Make secret morale roll during stressful situations, adjusted as indicated by Loyalty.

    I'm not sure why you'd use an extra, secret morale score. If it's for more detail, it might be more interesting to add the command control and delay before following orders rules from the naval combat section in Book III.

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  2. It's on the bottom of the previous page. 2d6, five possible reactions.

    The table you're referring to is for monster reactions to PCs attempting to induce them into service. It is totally useless for determining if a henchman is going to flee combat.

    I'm not sure why you'd use an extra, secret morale score.

    There would be no extra morale score. Only a single number: morale. The Loyalty check would simply be a one-time modification of this number. The book calls Loyalty a check, there is no indication it is a score to be recorded.

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  3. Yes, I dug through the OD&D morale rules a couple of weeks ago, and that's more or less my reading.

    I eventually decided to instead do hiring/loyalty with one roll against one table that incorporates both the Reaction table on page 12 and the Morale table on page 13:

    1. Roll 2d6 and add the hiring character's charisma modifier. That's the potential hireling's morale score.
    2. Consult this table:

    1 or less: potential hireling violently refused offer
    2-4: potential hireling declines offer
    5-7: negotiates for better offer
    8-10: accepts offer
    11 or more: enthusiastically accepts offer

    I make 2d6 morale checks against that score. I wing the results of a failed morale check based on how badly the role goes (desert soon after the batte, freeze-up, immediately run away, or flip-out in a way that actively endangers others).

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  4. The table you're referring to is for monster reactions to PCs attempting to induce them into service. It is totally useless for determining if a henchman is going to flee combat.

    Talysman is correct in so far at the text seems to suggest that the Reaction table on page 12 should somehow also be used for human hirelings:

    "Non-player characters and men-at-arms will have to make morale checks (using the above reaction table or 'Chainmail') whenever a highly dangerous or un-nerving situation arises."

    Morale, loyalty, and hiring reactions are certainly one of murkier areas of the LBB's.

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  5. I eventually decided to instead do hiring/loyalty with one roll against one table that incorporates both the Reaction table on page 12 and the Morale table on page 13:

    Nice work!!

    Just curious: how do you incorporate extra hiring incentives (more GP, etc.) with this approach? I interpret the by-the-book Loyalty check as the point where the PCs can "buy" higher henchman morale by paying more to positively modify the roll outcome.

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  6. Talysman is correct in so far at the text seems to suggest that the Reaction table on page 12 should somehow also be used for human hirelings:

    I agree the text seems to be referring to this table. But, as I said, I don't see how you could possibly use this table for henchman combat morale checks without major modifications. (Which is fine, but I'm trying to play by-the-book on this one.)

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  7. I don't change the scores. With rolls of 5-7, the potential hireling accepts if the PC offers more money, otherwise they walk away.

    The downside to my system is that the players might realize they should never make a better offer, thereby guaranteeing themselves hirelings with a morale score of 8 or better. Despite this weakness, I like the simplicity of the system. Hopefully none of my players read this.

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  8. "I agree the text seems to be referring to this table. But, as I said, I don't see how you could possibly use this table for henchman combat morale checks without major modifications."

    As written, it appears to be broken.

    You have two tables that each offer the possibility of bonuses against the other (Reaction 12 = +3 Loyalty, and Loyalty 13 = +1 morale/Reaction?). The referee is keeping track of a Loyalty score which isn't used for anything except to look up modifiers to morale; you never seem to roll against the Loyalty score itself, so why not just record the morale modifier instead? I don't think it explicitly says anywhere in the LBB's to make morale checks with 2d6, and unless you use the Reaction table ad hoc there's no indication at what threshold a morale check succeeds or fails.

    Hopefully someone who's been playing OD&D for thirty years will chime in to clear this all up, but it looks to me like one of those common 0e situations where its up to the individual referee to fill in the blanks. And that's OK, as long as you realize that the game may not be totally playable by-the-book.

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  9. Well, I' started in the '70s, and yes, I've always used the reaction table for morale. The paragraph immediately before the one about monsters makes it clear that the table is used for any attempt to hire or tempt into service. The way I do it is:
    (1) offer a hireling a job: roll reaction to see if he accepts. Highest roll means Loyalty +3.
    (2) if he accepts, roll Loyalty, adjusting as necesary. This determines *future* adjustments to morale rolls.
    (3) in situations where morale is tested, roll a reaction roll again, exactly as if being offered a job; adjust this roll for loyalty. Low results mean refusal to obey orders or possible desertion; the lowest result probably means betrayal.
    Loyalty is basically another attribute, like Strength or Intelligence, which only NPCs have.

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  10. Oh man, if only the game was on a Sat or Sun. Blackmoor, wow.

    I'll have to study that morale for future White Box. Once you've got 6 players (or more) and 6 PC's, henchmen seem less necessary. Good place to pluck from for new PC if one dies, though.

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  11. @Talysman has it right.

    The confusion is that the Reaction Table has been specialized for reaction to a hiring offer. The Generic Reaction Table (see also U&WA p.12 for another version) is:

    Roll 2d6, adjust for Charisma and other factors (ie. high Loyalty score)

    2 Really negative reaction
    3-5 Negative reaction
    6-8 Neutral reaction
    9-11 Positive reaction
    12 Really positive reaction

    So to the steps are:

    1- Make offer, roll for hiring on reaction table, as per book.
    2- If hired, roll 3d6 to determine Loyalty Score, adjust for Charisma, generosity, Enthusiastic result on hiring.
    3- Note the effects of the Loyalty Score. For example, 13-14 is a +1 to morale checks.

    Now, when you need to check morale, roll 2d6, adjust for charisma and Loyalty score and consult the Generic Reaction table to determine what the hireling does.

    The Loyalty Score should change based on PC treatment, length of service, etc. I'd suggest reviewing it at the end of each adventure or session.

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  12. Blogspot just ate my comment, so this rewrite is going to be relatively brief:

    (1) The table Rob posits is a combination and rewrite of two different tables (one on pg. 12 of Volume 1, the other on pg. 12 on Volume 3). It's a plausible house ruling, but it is a ruling and not a rule.

    (2) Cyclopeatron's interpretation is an equally plausible house ruling.

    (3) Cyclopeatron's interpretation may be closer to the original intent, given that Volume 1 reads, "... make morale checks (using the above reaction table or 'Chainmail')". Chainmail used a system in which units were assigned morale scores which were checked against a 2d6 roll.

    If the OD&D system was meant to be used in a manner similar to Chainmail, then the system was almost certainly:

    (1) Roll reaction to offer.
    (2) Roll on loyalty table.
    (3) Determine NPC's morale.
    (4) Keep track of NPC's loyalty, morale dice adjustment, and morale.
    (5) When you make a morale check, apply the morale dice adjustment to the 2d6 roll. If you roll equal to or above the NPC's morale, the NPC remains in combat.

    Cyclopeatron cleans this up considerably be inverting the math: Since you roll BELOW the morale score, you can just apply the morale adjustments directly to the morale score and keep track of just one number.

    Finaly, there's an interesting crux in the next paragraph: "Periodic re-checks of loyalty should be made. Length of service, rewards, etc. will bring additional plusses. Poor treatment will bring minuses."

    The most plausible interpretation is that you re-check loyalty and then apply the next effects of the loyalty check in place of the old check. But the most literal interpretation is that the effects of each loyalty check is applied iteratively on top of the effects from the previous check.

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  13. thankyou for sharing this informative article. i will soon visit again.

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