Animals & Morale

Our friend Timeshadows, has requested a follow up on the post “Moral Failure“. She wanted to know more about animal intelligence and morale, which could definitely be a huge factor in setting up encounters.

Of course the biggest factor of any encounter is DRAMA! And drama does, and should happen. Animals can, and do, go rogue. Rogue is defined as hunting humans for food or sport, this is only common with top predators (wolves, large cats, bears, etc.), rogue predators still have motivations for why they are doing what they are doing, but for rogues, I would go ahead and run them like average monsters. Rogue behavior usually starts because of a shortage of territory, the rogue animal sees them as intruders and will kill them for the purpose of defending their territory. Disease, starvation, and age can also play a factor in going rogue, a sick animal isn’t capable of hunting correctly, thus it has to change to an easier prey, which is usually vulnerable humans such as children or elderly people. They won’t attack large groups, or people who require much work. This is a desperate act, and they will typically flee if they can, but if they are too sick to even do that, then they’ll fight to the death.

Average animals will hide or run from people on sight, except in unpopulated woodlands, creatures who haven’t ever seen people or monsters will be more likely to investigate these things to see if they are friendly or dangerous, but once the party starts hunting, this behavior will stop and all of the animals will recognize the party for what they are, predators.

Animals have only a few major concerns which govern their behavior. They will only fight for a handful of things: To establish dominance during mating seasons, to protect their young, to protect themselves, and for food. Most animals, especially animals of prey, will only fight to protect their young, and males will attack during mating season, of course once you injure an animal, then it will instantly run unless it has been trained to do otherwise.

Some animals break the rules. Wolves, for instance, are one of the few wild animals which hunt for sport. During the winter, when food is scarce, they will follow large parties, hoping for a straggler, or to steal food. For single travelers, they will follow the traveler for awhile and hope that something better comes along, if it doesn’t then they will attack and kill the traveler and eat him. Of course, domestic animals are another story, they will kill these if given the opportunity, and once they have made a kill, it is very difficult to drive them off. Wolves will also kill for the joy of killing, they may not even be hungry, but attack and kill just for the fun of doing it, leaving the carcass for others to eat.

Bears also break the rules, these guys can be very temperamental, and for some reason, players always attack these poor things. If given the respect that they no doubt have earned, the party should just let the bear look at them, finish whatever if was doing, and then just let it move on. Once you anger these giants (usually with a bolt to the butt) they’ll attack ferociously! It is almost impossible to drive off an angry grizzly! Of course, if the grizzly is starving, then it will stalk and eat you. These creatures often fight until they are hurt very badly, and they heal faster then people do too. Animals with thick hides can usually treat damage caused by humans as 75% temporary, and 25% real, and are handled exactly like AD&D fistfights. Once the bear has been reduced down to 0, it will run away, and you best not follow it.

Snakes are also common monsters, poison and constrictor snakes still require motivation to attack. Poisonous snakes are generally more forgiving then non-poisonous, not wanting to waste their venom on something that they can’t eat, but if they believe that the threat isn’t going to go away, or if it will try and eat them, then they will lash out and defend their ground. If an adventurer slowly walks away, watching them, then they’ll gladly allow the retreat, but if the snake is big enough that it can eat you, well, god help you. A snake will kill for food, it will slay a man, and defend the body until it can eat it. If it is attacked during this time, then it will puke the body up and be right back on defense in the next round.

Study nature, and learn from it. This information can be directly applied to your game! AD&D gives most animals an INT of 1, however this honestly isn’t the case. Many animals do communicate with each other, they develop tactics and teach them to their young, they learn what is safe to eat and what is poison or dangerous, the learn survival skills that not even humans can rival! If you don’t know anything about the animal then go ahead and just assume that its INT is 1, and its alignment is True Neutral. But even INT 1 is capable of using its natural weapons to the very best of their abilities, and developing the tactics that it requires to survive, this could even be lawful tactics which requires a strict military-like order! Of course it will be a 1trick show. If you figure out a defense for a specific animal attack, then this defense will always work against them, unless drama or animal type dictates that they have another tactic.

This 1 INT should form the basis of how you handle intelligence in the game. I think that goblins have 9, this allows them to concoct bizarre and deadly traps, just imagine what a god of 19 INT can do!

Animals & Morale

Peaceful Animals have a diced Moral of 3, a predator who is peaceful at the time of the encounter would also have this moral.

Endangered and aggressive animals have the diced Moral of 7. But we really shouldn’t roll for moral with animals, if they do get any damage at all, then they will typically run. They only care about food, and they can no doubt get an easier meal else where, or fall back and wait for another opportunity. If the creature is defending its lair, then go ahead and roll it if the lair is being threatened, a creature is very protective of its home.

Animals are brilliant strategists. They know where they are all the time (or close to it), a predator is going to stalk, and attempt to lead its prey to where it wants to it to go, but all animals are pretty good about always knowing where an escape route is, this forces predators to attack with speed and strength. For this reason then it is usually safe to assume that a failed morale roll for an animal results in it running, and if it is much faster then the player characters, it may be able to avoid the attack of opportunity created when it does flee, this is completely up to the Dungeon Master.

As a general rule, animals will never fight to the death unless they are protecting their young or defending their lair, and deem the sacrifice of their life as an option. If you do want to randomize a morale check, then give the animal a percentage chance of escaping and running from a seemingly impossible situation; perhaps 75% chance for Small, 50% chance for Medium, and 25% for large. Of course this is just an estimate, and finding this escape means that the creature disappears, of course if it is bleeding or being tracked by a PC, then you’ll need to create new rules for hunting.

Animal Henchmen/Followers

Rangers and some characters may be able to attract animal followers, these are handled by the rules specifically written for them. These animals will fall under the standard moral of either 15 (henchmen), or 12 (monster with animal intelligence). The bond with the ranger or trainer is very close. Domestic animals are equally as loyal as long as they have been trained to be loyal and feel safe around their masters. All modifiers in regards to henchmen and followers still apply, they simply aren’t human.

ART Published for TRUE MEN STORIES (August, 1957) by Will Hulsey


Timeshadows said...

Cool; thanks! :D

Brendan Falconer said...

That is a really good additional piece, very good read.

Noumenon said...

You get the spelling of "morale" right about half the time. I wish it was all the time because "moral failure" is something very very different.

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