Optional rules for D&D 4th edition Morale, and Starvation.

3 Oct

So the cause of this I guess was I was planning encounters for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign when it suddenly dawned upon me that there were simply no explanation or thoughts about certain things which could affect an encounter i.e. motives of combat and of course the old classic “run away” situation. Being a DM I scoured through the Dungeon Masters Guide first to check for anything to my dismay nothing. In a similar vein to other DM’s on the internet I found several grey areas with no explanation or insight for in a bid to attempt to correct this. I came up with two optional rules for any DM to look at, I must hasten to add that these may not necessarily work with your campaign or you may not agree with them I just chucked the idea into the air really heck if you have a suggestion for me as a DM I’d welcome it, and hell if nothing else you can laugh at my crappy diagrams depicting combat encounters lol.


This rule came about when I was planning an encounter using a large quantity of minions or red shirts as I refer to them as thanks to another DM when a rule of warhammer came about, the morale check, reading that certain types of minions particularly goblins, kobolds etc are quite cowardly creatures I began to consider the invention of a morale check rule similar to warhammer for the minions to undertake. In an encounter it could look like this. Please note I am using as the model the characters in my campaign, as well as nine kobold minions and a kobold wyrmpriest acting as the controller.

The kobold minions went first and decided they would pelt the war wizard Leshanna with their javelins. Seven of the 9 kobold minions hit the eladrin doing 28 points of damage, thus severely harming and to be quite honest nearly killing the level 3 war wizard, incensed by this Leshanna eagerly awaits her turn to strike back.

Leshanna: Ok I am going to fire off a scorching burst attack centred on the kobold in the middle of the group (does so rolls d20’s to represent attack potency) rolls 18, 23,23,20(cue critical hit song)1 (cue critical fail song) 10, 21,19,8. Yippie Ki-Ay sings the war wizard excitedly as the DM removes six of the kobold minions off the board.

It is at this point the morale rule could come into play as the DM reads

Blasting off your burning hands into the mass of kobolds you can only watch in amazement as six of them fall instantly barbecued by the heat”, the remaining kobolds look nervously at you”.

To compliment or show this rule off in an encounter the kobold who survive look panicked by the loss of several of their allies, they rely mainly on numbers for strength and so they make a morale check, basically the modifier of this is the number of minions originally in the encounter (in this case 9) minus the number of minions slain (in this case 6), which gives us a total of 3. This would be the modifier used to determine whether the kobold minions fail to stand their ground against the heroes. Effectively you should roll a D20 and add the modifier to it if it beats the targets will then you have broken its morale and so the DM would read (presuming he or she was using this rule), generally I wouldnt make the minion forces roll a morale check until at least two thirds of their forces had been destroyed and or when the controller dies the modifier I’d use to represent the death of a controller would be the experience value of the controller divided by the experience value of a single minion. (In this case a +6).

“Watching the demise of their comrades the surviving kobolds realise they too may share this fate desperately eager to avoid this  for themselves they throw down their weapons and run for their very lives”.

I wish to make it clear that I am not trying to reinvent the wheel or combine Dungeons and Dragons with Warhammer in any shape or form what I am hoping to achieve however is an increase in the role-playing particularly for the monsters to make encounters a bit more exciting than the standard “yeah you hit the monster for 5 or scratch another one”. As with a large amount of occasions in Dungeons and Dragons there will be inevitably times where this may or may not fit for example in the case of undead who well are also not blessed imo with enough intelligence to run away.


In a fantasy world dominated with monsters such as dragons and bulettes it would be arrogant and preposterous to presume that humanoids would be always at the top of the food chain (this is not often the case as I have never seen as a player anyone tucking into a tarrasque burger). I’m not saying humanoids are never going to be at the top of the food chain in the fantasy ecological systems but sometimes along the sides paired with hungry animals and monsters. To implement this rule I imagined a simple yet fairly common problem in a fantasy world where a dragon recently moved into the forest thus disrupting the standard food chain and putting them on the top this made the other creatures and inhabitants of the forest who were previously at the top food for the dragon etc and generally muddled up the food chain for example kobolds being a staple diet for many of the inhabitants soon rise above there usual predators due to them siding with a dragon. This would make in my opinion the other inhabitants such as wolves and other forest dwelling creatures hungry trying to survive on the meagre scraps and leftovers that the dragon and kobolds may not want. In this example I am going to use two forces as well as the PC’s to show you how this example of being classed as hungry works, but before I do I want to explain the rules I would use for starvation;

  • All creatures effected by the starvation rule gain a +1 to attack rolls due to them starving.
  • Starving creatures are classed as weakened for the purpose of damage rolls due to starved creatures arent as strong.
  • Starving creatures dont appear until someone is bloodied
  • As soon as someone drops down dead or becomes classed as dying the wolves encircle that person/creature to feast whilst this happens the starving creatures spend a full round action (each) consuming the dead person/creature after this they are no longer starving, whilst consuming they grant combat advantage to anyone.

A great possible way to present this style is delay the appearance of the starving creatures until someone is bloodied again I have a brief description depicting where the adventurers are and once again used the adventurers from my campaign.

“It is approaching dusk and blocking an ideal site to camp are two kobold creatures they appear to be fairly heavily armoured”.

Obviously attacking them would be a viable option for the PC’s and presuming they did I would follow combat as standard until somebody was bloodied as soon as that happened this is where the surprise element would happen

“Sensing blood in the air a loud howling noise can be heard from the forests it is quickly followed by several excited growls as you spot two groups of wolves heading into the battle eager to feast on the losers of the fight as they approach you see they are salivating at the prospect of a decent meal and appear to be somewhat malnourished”.

This sort of description denotes to the PC’s that there is something a little bit special about these wolves. Obviously the main source of attack would be the bloodied creature or even one of the heroes.

Once again I would like to add that I am not trying to reinvent the wheel or change the core rules for this game merely trying to find a suggestion to some of those grey areas that seem to be found sometimes when playing Dungeons and Dragons.

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2 Responses to “Optional rules for D&D 4th edition Morale, and Starvation.”

  1. vobeskhan October 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    I like the morale idea, makes me think of the old russian commissar’s (also used in W40K), where if the troops under his command began to falter in the face of the enemy he would shoot one to re-assert morale and get the peons moving in the right direction again.

    In the case of a large bunch of minions facing a hardened party of PC’s, once over half of them are bloodied you could make them roll equal/under their Will to see if they panic and flee. If they are led by a more powerful ally – use his WIll score. If they stand firm, try again at 75%.

    As to the starvation, there may be something in the Dark Sun sourcebook that could be used for this. But I like the idea of the wolves shadowig the kobolds hoping to pick off tidbits at opportune moments.

  2. dnddad October 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I didnt think about the dark sun series for information 🙂

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