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Monday, February 12, 2018

Pathfinder: Morale in Combat

I remember back in the day (Get off my lawn, etc etc) when monsters in D&D had a Morale stat that the DM would check to see if they fled combat past a certain point. 3rd edition did away with that, which means that Pathfinder did as well.

Now some people might say "That moves whether or not the monsters retreat into the ream of the GM where it belongs", but I say "Fer cryin' out loud I'm dealing with running an entire world and trying to mangle six PCs, maybe I just want a quick and dirty way of deciding if a critter runs away that is a little more developed than flipping a coin but less brain-intensive than a case-by-case judgement call."

So I present to you my quick and dirty morale rules for Pathfinder.

NPC Morale Rules
Undead, constructs, oozes and the like do not make morale checks.

When the following occurs:
  • A leader/ champion/ cleric/ pack alpha is killed
  • One of their number is brutally killed by PCs (such as being one-shotted)
  • Several of their number are badly hurt (reduced to 1/2 hitpoints or less)
  • Several of their number are killed by flashy magic (like Fireball)
  • They are clearly outnumbered (2:1 odds or more)

Then have the next creature in the Initiative order make a Will save against DC 15.
  • If it succeeds, it continues to act as the GM feels appropriate. 
  • If it fails, it runs away (withdrawing if possible) and the next creature on its side to act has a cumulative -1 morale penalty to its Will save.
Does this mean that the more wise opponents are, the less likely they are to run away when clearly outmatched?  No. A successful save doesn't mean it will act suicidally; it means that it won't panic and rout. A fighting withdrawal is still possible, as is surrender.


A leader can try to rally its troops with an Intimidate check, DC of 10 + number of creatures which have already run away. Regular success stops the need for further Will saves; each 5 over the DC returns 1 fleeing creature to combat.


As a rule of thumb: If the PCs reduce a creature to half its hit points or less, or actively try to make it run away through demoralizing tactics and good roleplaying, it counts as a defeat and grants XP. But if PCs are steamrolling through everything in sight and sensible monsters would think 'I would rather run away than be slaughtered' then the PCs get no XP, probably because it wasn't enough of a challenge.

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