Morale Fail & Defensive Movement

I'm a bit confused,

If monsters fail their morale check and get a result that they retreat or withdrawal; and the morale rules state that they will use their next action to do so; and given that you have to announce defensive movement before you roll initiative; but, what if the monsters have yet to act in the round that they failed the morale check? Do they simply forgo their action for that round and wait until the next round for initiative in order to announce their "next action" defensive movement?

You make a morale check immediately after the condition is met (triggered) correct? And not at the end of the round, right?


I am not an Autarch, so I can't say for certain what the technically correct answer is, but I will tell you that whichever way you do it, the game won't break (I know because I have run it both ways). Monsters will manage to run away slightly more often if you assume they can run on a round in which they fail the Morale check, but that's not usually any sort of hardship for the PCs. If you force monsters who have failed a Morale check to, effectively, declare a Withdrawal or Retreat (with a -2 penalty to AC until their Initiative comes up) on the following round, then there is no reason for them to forego their attack this round.

Ah. I'm glad I wasn't missing anything obvious.



In my own games, I roll morale checks at the end of a round.  By my estimation, everything within a given round of combat is happening more or less simultaneously, with the various characters' initiative scores just determining the order in which the various actions resolve.

So if conditions to necessitate a morale check affect a gang of goblins during a round of combat, they finish resolving their current round of actions before they "realize" their predicament and the check is made.

Then, if their check indicates a withdrawal or full retreat, they are in a position to "declare" that prior to rolling initiative.

this makes sense, but a counterpoint is that a creature beaten in initiative and then reduced to 0HP specifically doesn't get to attack.  This is in contrast to having simultaneous initiative counts, where everyone gets to attack even if they end up dead.

I agree with him in terms of running it; even if it isn’t exactly simultaneous, it takes some time to take stock and notice what’s going on in the battle.

Battles are confusing, there’s a lot going on, it’s impossible to figure out the state of the battle at the same time as you are blade to blade with someone. The abstracted round division we use is a good marker for a quick breather and look around, I feel.

Not at all.  The idea is that the actions are taking place throughout the round (concurrent, not "simultaneous", that was a poor choice of word), but the order of resolution is still absolutely turn-based.

A creature struck down before its initiative count comes up doesn't get an attack throw.  They were fighting throughout the round, but were felled before they could mount a proper assault on their foe.  In a ten-second round, it isn't that the goblin didn't swing its sword, just that it never got an opportunity to attack effectively.  Death or incapacitation due to hp loss is instantaneous; it interrupts the subsequent resolution of whatever action you were taking.

Morale isn't like that.

Since initiative is rolled every round in ACKS, it stands to reason that a kind of temporal/mental space exists between rounds wherein combatants take an instant to assess their situation (how effectively they do that is part of what sorts their initiative for the coming round).  In my vision of  pitched combat, it isn't the death of your comrade that triggers a morale check, but rather your realization of that fact.  Call it Schrodinger's Comrade: he's simultaneously alive and dead until you observe him.

So a goblin who's actively fighting during the round in which a morale check is triggered is still fighting during that round.  Unlike being struck dead, a morale check can wait until the momentary lull in the fighting wherein you glance around to see that all your friends are already bleeding out.

FWIW, I also always rolled morale at the end of combat rounds, I just wanted to point out that there's a precedent for a combatent's action being negated on a bad enough beat.

I'm not saying you're wrong, and your interpretation is certainly a useable one, but the wording in the book is fairly ambiguous. Earlier versions of Basic D&D were a lot more explicit about the fact that Morale rolls were made at a particular point in the Round (i.e., before actions). But then, they also used per side Initiative, so this was a lot smoother.

I agree that other versions of Basic and Original D&D were more explicit about the precise order of operations in a combat round and that ACKS is a bit less clear in that regard.  I also agree that individual initiative tracking plays a big role in that difference.

I'm not declaring my approach as the "correct" way to handle it, just noting it's what I do and it works well to address the particular issues that Myke had raised.

I can definitely see that, and a 10-second combat round is a long time to go without taking stock of how badly a battle's turned against you.

Morale checks in the middle of a combat round could make perfect sense as well, except that the particular actions prescribed by a failed morale check are impossible to carry out in the middle of the round, based on the particulars of the ACKS rules on disengaging from melee.  So there are only a few possibilities I can see if morale rolls are made in the middle of the round, while some parties making the checks have yet to act.

  • A creature who fails a morale check is an exception to the rule that defensive movement must be declared before initiative is rolled.  This ruling strongly benefits the party who failed the morale check by enabling them to escape melee without the possibility of being struck down from behind.  That seems to run directly counter to the sensibility that led to the creation of the defensive movement rules in the first place, so I don't favor it.
  • A creature who fails a morale check must retreat on their next action, but since they cannot declare retreat after initiative is rolled, they lose any action they still had pending in the current round.  This ruling swings the pendulum all the way to the other side.  In the ur-scenario, a party of PCs are battling a gang of goblins: the first PC beats the goblins on initiative, but the other heroes do not.  The first PC strikes down a goblin or two, and a morale roll is triggered before the goblins act.  They fail miserably and lose their action entirely since they can neither attack when their morale calls for a full retreat nor retreat once they've already rolled initiative.  The other PCs now attack them.  Initiative is rolled for the next round and the goblins roll terribly.  Having already effectively stood frozen for a whole round, they must now endure a second round of free attacks.  Blowing a morale check is already very bad news; this ruling piles on to the point where a failed morale check may as well cause spontaneous combustion.
  • A creature who fails a morale check continues to act as normal until they are able to declare retreat in the next round, but at a penalty of some kind.  This would be a fine solution, but it would need to be mentioned explicitly if it were the intention of the rules.  Nonetheless, this is a solution I might favor if I were making morale checks in the middle of a combat round.
  • A creature who fails a morale check continues to act as normal until they are able to declare retreat in the next round, at no penalty to their actions in the current round.  Functionally, this is mostly identical to waiting until the end of the round to check morale, but it feels very different to me, in that a dissonance is created if the very creatures that just failed a morale check proceed to roll extraordinarily well on their attacks for the round.  That's just a matter of taste, though.

For my part, I'd just as soon let each round resolve as its own thing, then check morale for everyone prior to initiative for the next round.

Yup, I got that. That's why I planted the disclaimer. If we're arguing at this point, it's about agreeing.


This is an area where I fear I don't have a great official answer.

Interpreting the rules as written, I would conclude that morale checks must occur in between rounds, because (a) the timing of morale checks is not made clear and (b) the effect of morale checks is defined in such a way that it must occur before initiative, which is to say, after a round. 

But in my own two house campaigns I rolled morale during the round, and creatures who failed morale were not allowed to take an action until the next round, when they fled. 

Since this is an area of ambiguity, let's continue the discussion as I would love to hear how other Judges are doing it. We can settle on an official ruling after that.




In my many ACKS campaigns (both online and face-to-face) I have always rolled morale checks at whichever point they were triggered and then applied the result as soon as was possible, If the result indicates that they flee, then they do so ASAP, even if it negates their previously declared action; if it indicates a withdrawl then they do so in the next round and spend what's left of this round looking around for the best way out. On the whole I figure that once morale is broken it's pretty much game over for the bad guys so once the roll is failed then no more attacks and it's all about the retreat/surrender.

I can see the argument for making it at the end of a Round, or the beginning (before Inititative), as that allows losing a member and losing half your numbers to stack for the -2 penalty to the roll. It also presents no conflict with the need to declare a Withdrawal or Retreat before Initiaitve.

End of Round is how I have most recently been running it. It's notable that in larger combats a lot can happen between when the initial effect triggering a Morale check occurs and the end of the Round; I've seen enemies more or less wiped out in that time before their Initiative even came up. It's something to keep in mind when going this route.