Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Idle thoughts on monster reaction rolls in GURPS DF

Back in the day when I played D&D and AD&D, we rolled for monster reactions exactly never. Well, maybe someone may have rolled one once, while reading the book or something. In play, never.

Which is odd, because in one of the books we used there was a really remarkable rule about reactions.

Yet looking at the Tom Moldvay Basic Set, it's a really critical roll. You should be rolling reactions, at least by a strict reading of the rules, for every encounter with monsters. Doesn't seem to matter which kinds - slimes, dragons, crab spiders, hobgoblins who don't know who Gary is, etc.

Using the chart from p. B24:

Monster Reactions
Dice Roll / Reaction
2 Immediate Attack
3-5 Hostile, Possible Attack
6-8 Uncertain, monster confused
9-11 No attack, monster leaves or considers offer
12 Enthusiastic friendship

It's a flexible table, since you also use it for determining intensity of pursuit, and to allow re-rolls if the PCs try to establish better relations (you can see an example of that on p. B28). Charisma 13+ gives you a +1 to the roll; Charisma 18 gives a +2. A +1 means nothing is going to just attack you immediately, and a +2 skews your results to where a 10-12 is Enthusiastic friendship and a 7+ is at least "No attack." Nice. Especially in a game where treasure provides so much of the XP, the ability to basically waive off monsters with some nice talk is pretty potent.

(It's also worth considering with wandering monsters - you should be table to talk or bribe or distract your way out of fights about half the time, if you assume 6-8 is going to just force another roll.)

Where is GURPS DF in this?

My idle thoughts are, what if I rolled reactions for monsters every encounter in GURPS? The table split isn't terribly different, ranging from "Disastrous" on a 0 or less to "Excellent" on a 19+. GURPS has more native modifiers to reactions, too, which probably makes sense.

The modifiers on p. B561 range from a +1 to +5 for PC strength, -1 to -5 for NPC strength, -2 for being on the NPC's turf, and -2 for no shared language. Plus the PC's reaction bonuses and penalties, as well - and the NPC's, too. If orcs have Intolerance (Elves) you'll get their -3 on that roll. Foes with Overconfidence might knock your +4 for strength down to +2, or ones with Bad Temper might react well but be ready for any "insult" to set them off.

Appropriate actions would help, too - weapons away and friends words would be a +1 to +2, or use of a social skill roll. Of course it might encourage an aggressive creature who isn't smart enough to recognize "weapons away" as s sign of friendliness not weakness. Weapons out might put an otherwise friendly person on guard - if only because GMs have NPCs react like PCs, who regard any weapons on display as prima facie proof the owner is a violent psychopath who can't be trusted and must be killed.

I'd probably zero out any relative strength bonuses and penalties for unintelligent creatures.

I haven't dug around in Social Engineering yet, but I will. There might be useful material in there. I'm just thinking out loud this morning and I haven't had time to really read up.

It might be fun to roll out any reaction like this, just purely mechanically, and let the results stands and see if you can explain them. That slime isn't hungry, thanks to that 18 you just rolled that drops to 14 for "no common language" and "intruders." It just wanders off somewhere else, and you'll never know exactly why. The orcs might be neutral (say, on an 11) except you look weak compared to them (for a -2) and you blundered into "their" section and try to pass off Broken Goblinese as a way to speak to Orcs, for a total of -6. That's a 5, which is "Bad" and "attack unless outnumbered." Begin combat!

None of this is really "new" for GURPS, it's just me thinking . . . what if I followed the rules-literal reading of D&D Basic Rules and applied that to critters encountered in GURPS? In a way, GURPS is natively a lot closer to OD&D, which has a similar table but it seems to be for NPCs being hired, or monsters being negotiated with and induced into service.

Either way . . .

I'll try this a bit more. I do tend to just decide how the monsters would react and do that. I roll a lot for allied NPCs, of course, because Loyalty is a thing. Which is fine, but it's kind of fun to roll for monsters. Of course, I suspect most of the PCs have stacked up massive reaction penalties because, hey, who cares if the monsters hate you . . .


  1. For AD&D, these go hand in hand with the morale rules, which I have also used to determine if intelligent monsters will pursue after a fight and PC party running away.

    1. GURPS meshes those, too.

      I never used the AD&D ones, though. Basic D&D morale, very occasionally, but AD&D . . . never.

    2. GURPS morale checks are Fright Checks.

    3. Heh. That would be really funny if it was true.

    4. The way of handling morale in Social Engineering is a reaction roll, which doesn't work well as written. You either have to modify the roll by the same modifiers that you'd apply to a Fright Check (Cowardice, Combat Reflexes), or have a second roll wherein someone recognizes the fight is going against him that would relate to propensity to keep your wits about you which would be Will-based. A Fright Check is Will-based. Make it a binary roll instead of the table, but yeah, it's a Fright Check. It spares you a lot of modifiers, and you already have it in the stat block: Will plus Fearlessness (or +2 from Combat Reflexes) less Cowardice/Fearfulness.

      Furthermore, the Fright Check scores map up well the B/X D&D Morale score (and 2nd Edition AD&D's as well, which had a similar mechanic on 2d10). Most Will scores after modifiers come out in the 9-16 range; Morale scores in B/X were in the 6-11 range, which maps nicely to 9-16 (skip 10 and 15 and they match up well), and 12 indicates Unfazeable.

      I don't get how it's funny or untrue; I see it as an obvious extension of the Will stat.

    5. It's not true because GURPS morale rolls are canonically reaction rolls, not Fright Checks, per p. B561.

      And it's funny because if you actually made it a Fright Check, you could have people faint or vomit or get stunned.

      So, untrue, funny.

      I get your argument for basing it on the same numbers as Fright Checks, but if you're going to toss the cap for rolls against Fright Checks and toss the tables, why not just toss the whole thing and make it a new roll entirely? You're not going to want the Rule of 14, the table, you'll want some different modifiers, you'll want different results. So just make it a new roll entirely. Based on Will, sure. Gets the same bonuses and penalties as some advantages and disadvantages, sure. You'll almost certainly want to use the relative strength bonuses and penalties from the reaction roll text I referenced above.

      But it's not really a Fright Check anymore, so don't even use the same name. It's Will with different modifiers. Saying, "it's a Fright Check" is misleading because your target numbers, modifiers, and effects aren't the same.

    6. I don't use the same name. I call 'em "Morale rolls."

      "And it's funny because if you actually made it a Fright Check, you could have people faint or vomit or get stunned."

      I don't take that as funny, actually. I can see how, but you are aware that this actually happens in warfare, right? I realize this is a little off the discussion topic but new soldiers doing this is not uncommon at all (I don't think this would be out of place in Homage to Catalonia, but it's been a decade plus since I read it so I don't remember whether or not the Trotskyist irregulars did this or not), and I can give an example from fiction, which is the sheriff's posse tracking down Rambo in First Blood; Morrell took pains to tell how the deputies were crapping themselves. This is more of a true Fright Check, granted, but this would be our reaction to warfare.

      The reaction table doesn't work, leading to absurd results like wanting to fight to the death because the foe is gorgeous. The canonical results are funny ones.

      I'll take untrue, however. I was going off Social Engineering (whose modifiers on p. 68 replace p. B561), next-to-last graf in the first section of p. 71, which makes it more of a suggestion.

    7. Yeah, people do have those reactions in combat - but they're strange results if they come up only when you'd be rolling morale checks. You should roll them more often, not just when you want to see if one side continues fighting. They should be happening all over the place.

      I agree that you if you apply all the modifiers you can get some odd results. But you shouldn't apply all of the reaction modifiers to the roll. So I don't see that as any more nonsensical than any other conditional modifier applied when it should matter.

      Even so, I think you have your example backwards. A "Good" or higher Morale Check would indicate, per p. B561, flight or surrender. So attractiveness would make them less likely to fight to the death. That's still odd, and the modifier probably doesn't make sense to apply for a Morale Check, but it's a roll made for the NPCs to see how they feel about fighting the PCs as the fight shifts, not a check against a score for the NPCs. It really needs more development than it gets, though, and I think a check against a score makes more sense. I do something similar myself.

      I'll take a look at Social Engineering today if I have time. But ultimately, it was reaction rolls for monsters I was interested in . . .

  2. You know what influenced me with reaction rolls? Dungeon Robber. It was amazing to play a D&D-ish game where Charisma was arguably the best stat. Dungeon Robber likely led me to not roll reactions for mindless monsters like skeletons and ochre jellies as well.

    1. I don't remember reaction rolls coming up in Dungeon Robber, actually.

    2. Never did that, actually. I've died from traps but I just fight what will fight me in that game.

  3. Maybe a bard could play some music before entering a dungeon room and he could gain some reaction bonus. That might make bards more useful in DF.

    1. I don't know that they aren't useful now. We've never had one so I can't legitimately comment on what they need.

  4. I love the idea of this. Especially in Felltower. I was jealous when I read about the hobgoblins who joined the party (briefly) before that shark trap slaughtered them and half the players.

    If we had bribed the trolls, they might not have told Mungo about us... let's face it, reaction rolls won't change much because our party is pretty murderous.
    But I would gladly try to Intimidate the orcs, or bargain with them somehow, to allow us passage. Maybe if we kill the Lord of Spite... we do have a demon slayer sword. One cut and he dies, right? That's what I heard.

    1. Just to be clear - Mungo is one of the trolls, and is either the leader or just their biggest brother. He did spell out exactly what he wanted in return for not killing you guys, too, but the group chose to roll the dice for total victory instead of bribing today to come back ready another day. I get why, but the only wonder with that fight was that it took so long to lose.

  5. Had an awesome moment come up in my LotFP campaign because of Morale checks. PCs caught a bunch of sneaky bandits by surprise (tables turned!) and all but one of them failed their morale. That one went all-in and charged for a kill, nearly taking out one of the PCs (All-Out Attack, basically).

    What I'm getting at is I like morale, too.

    1. Nice anecdote.

      This post has sure taken a Morale Check turn. Especially interesting because I didn't mention them once in it. I'll post about Morale Checks tomorrow. I have some thoughts on "reaction roll" based and "personal stat check" based, and what I think the unintended consequences of them are.

  6. I just had someone make a public speaking roll in order to improve a reaction roll


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