Friday, February 13, 2015

Morale and the Old School Magic-User

Since I've been reading up on some old school AD&D lately (and perhaps reading the first edition DMG for the first time?!?) I've noticed that the morale system (which I like) interacts oddly with magic use.

Basically, magic use has a couple ways to force morale checks, sometimes at a penalty. Using 2nd edition morale, the goblins fighting the party will have a -2 penalty to their morale if the PCs have an obvious magic user and the goblins do not. Furthermore, if "an ally is slain by magic" that forces a morale check. Given that morale rolls are done by adding 2d10, that -2 penalty adds up. Furthermore, each time an ally is slain by magic that could force a morale check.

That gives a bit of a different perspective on the low-level mage: that magic missile spell not only will automatically hit the kobold, but has a reasonable chance to scare the group off it it kills it. If it doesn't kill the kobold, the magic user can still attempt to force morale checks again by offering a chance to surrender. If you can kill the leader with magic, so much the better.

This might seem like min-maxing the morale rules, and maybe it is. But its a very different take from later editions, where wizards suddenly have a small pool of cantrips it not outright at-will spells they can constantly blast. And now 5e where every single class can select an option to get spells of some sort, even if only in a very limited way.

[Edit: I should note that the D&D Rules Cyclopedia isn't quite as generous as AD&D 2nd, but the magic effects on morale are there. First edition is such a mess I'm either not seeing magic effecting morale, or its not there. Hard to tell with that DMG.]

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