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Oldschool D&D has rules for morale, such as these from Labyrinth Lord:

Monsters have a listing for morale, which represents how likely they are to fight or flee when in an aencounter. Morale is rated from 2-12, and while a score of 2 indicates that the monster never fights (unless absolutely cornered), a score of 12 indicates that the monster will fight until killed, with no morale roll necessary in either case.

The Labyrinth Lord usually makes a morale check under two conditions, when one side of an encounter has lost a member due to death, or when half the group on one side is either killed or otherwise incapacitated. The Labyrinth Lord will roll 2d6, and if the roll is higher than the morale of the monster, the check is a failure and the monster will either attempt a full retreat or a fighting retreat. If the result is equal to or lower than the morale score, a monster will continue to fight. If this roll is made successfully two times in one encounter, the monster will fight until killed.

Is there an equivalent variant rule in D&D 3e / D20?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

No, nothing official. You can make Intimidate checks but that's a poor substitute. I made a quick cut at a 3e morale system with two factors, aggression and morale, on my blog. There's not a lot of reason not to just use the old school morale system straight, though, it's not like you threw away all your d6's with the d20 system.

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The stumbling block is the lack of a Morale stat for creatures. If a DM has the old books that fills in a lot of them (at the expense of extra page-flipping), but the rest add extra prep or on-the-fly judgement burdens. – SevenSidedDie Sep 20 '12 at 16:18
Well sure, and there's plenty of retroclone Monster Manuals out there to pull values from. Best thing to use till Paizo pulls their heads out and adds it back in in PF 2.0! – mxyzplk Sep 21 '12 at 0:32
Going to crib your morale system for my own game. :] – tex Apr 3 '13 at 19:49

Actually, there is something official out there; Page 72 of Heroes of Battle. The rules are specifically for large scale battles, but the book has the following to say about using the rules in any fight;

You can also take these rules beyond the battlefield if you wish, using them in dungeon-based adventures, urban settings, or elsewhere. In most cases, using the morale rules means that monsters run away more often than they do in a typical D&D adventure. That situation is common in organized warfare, but rare in a dungeon because the monsters are found in their lair and have nowhere else to go. In contrast, a smart commander encourages her units to retreat (or at least make a strategic withdrawal) when they’re over matched or needed elsewhere. If you use these morale rules in a traditional D&D adventure, make sure you account for the greater likelihood of NPCs retreating.

It is, at its essence, simply a DC 20 Will save to avoid the effects of fear. The check is modified by certain conditions, like overwhelming force or some such. This is not exactly what you're looking for, but in my experience it is almost always best to make new rules use similar mechanics to those already in the game. Tacking on new rules is troublesome enough, we don't need to redefine the mechanics each time.

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Yeah, but this is a pretty bad system because it means fighters are the most likely to give up in battle (low Will saves). Don't think it gives the results one would expect. – mxyzplk Oct 5 '12 at 23:18
That is true. I guess that's why having a leader who can bolster them against fear effects is so important. – Robobot Oct 5 '12 at 23:47


Giving orders: (use diplomacy rules)

Starting Attitude Diplomacy DC

Hostile       25 + creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  
Unfriendly    20 + creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  
Indifferent   15 + creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  
Friendly      10 + creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  
Helpful        0 + creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  
Loyal          5 − creature's Cha modifier − 1/2 your morale modifier  

Cohort’s morale rating is your diplomacy roll. Every event that occurs reduces the morale rating by the following chart. The resulting morale rating remains until either the problem is resolved or another attempt to manage leadership is made. Once morale rating hits zero, the cohort will not follow orders and may abandon the leadership, if they are persuaded to stay but the attitude level is not improved (normal diplomacy rules) they may work to undermine the leadership and mutiny or double-cross.

Starting Attitude Diplomacy DC

Bad weather       −5   
Bad info          −5   
Bad equipment     −10 and one attitude level  
Low rations       −15 and one attitude level  
Friendly          −20 and two attitude levels  
Not enough men    −25 and two attitude levels  
Powerful foe      −25 and three attitude levels    (ex: dragon, ect.)  
Low HP            −30 and three attitude levels  
Heavy losses      −30 and four attitude levels  

Of course this requires that there be a leader that builds the morale in the first place but that's pretty accurate since most groups accomplishing tasks have a leader or driver.

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We don't like unattributed rules pasted into answers without explanation. (For copyright reasons, among others.) Please indicate where these rules come from, and in what way they may be legally reproduced here. In addition, please include some of your own commentary explaining how well they worked for you in practice (for example, you might discuss what you discovered the pros and cons were when you last used them during a campaign). Generally, we'd like to see you sell us on why this is the best answer! – SevenSidedDie Jun 15 '15 at 17:50

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