OD&D loyalty & morale

In OD&D, when a retainer is hired, the referee secretly rolls 3d6 (adjusting for employer charisma) for the loyalty of that specific retainer, and records the result (this is in Men & Magic, page 13). Morale bonuses are then derived from this loyalty score, as follows:

Effects of Loyalty on Morale (OD&D)
Loyalty Morale
3 or less
Will desert at first opportunity
-2 on morale dice
-1 on morale dice
Average morale dice
+1 on morale dice
+2 on morale dice
19 and above
Need never check morale

This mechanic is, in terms of D&D at least, unique to the 3 LBBs as far as I know. Holmes does not seem to include rules for loyalty or morale, though the paragraph on charisma notes that it should affect retainers (just not how). Moldvay breaks this indirect relationship and just derives retainer morale directly from employer charisma.

What advantage might be gained by doing it the OD&D way? Well, being a 3d6 score gives loyalty a nice bell curve distribution. Most retainers are going to have average loyalty most of the time (adjusted for charisma, of course), but all retainers are going to have poor loyalty every once in a while. This doesn’t guarantee that they will seek other work, but it does affect the morale checks that happen until the next loyalty check. Speaking of which, when should loyalty be re-rolled?

Periodic re-checks of loyalty should be made. Length of service, rewards, etc. will bring additional plusses. Poor treatment will bring minuses.

Per adventure seems like a good starting point, but per session might be a bit too frequent. For the kind of game that I am running right now (G+ hangout, 3 hours per session, explore whatever you like), a re-roll per significant event might be more reasonable. Or maybe I’ll just leave the loyalty score as a constant once it is rolled, a sort of reliability and trustworthiness measure for the retainer in question. The actual morale system is also not clearly defined in the 3 LBBs. They suggest either using the negotiation reaction table on page 12 or the morale rules from Chainmail.

The rules in Chainmail don’t look very well suited for use with retainers. For one thing, they are based on the type of unit (heavy horse having the best morale and peasants having the worst). Also, morale checks are triggered by percentages of casualties taken. The 2d6 reaction/negotiation table from Men & Magic looks much more usable (something like: 3-5, flees/refuses; 6-8 follows orders; 9-12 obeys enthusiastically).

To compare, in Moldvay Basic retainer morale is derived directly from the employers charisma score. This would work out to be 7 + charisma modifier (which has a nice elegance to it, given that the expected value of 2d6 is 7), but this nice symmetry is ruined by the fact that the Moldvay charisma modifier only goes up to 2 in either direction! I never noticed that before.

Morale of Retainers (Moldvay)
Charisma Morale of Retainers


According to Moldvay, retainers only need to check morale between adventures “unless the danger is greater than might reasonably be expected” (page B27). The check is done with 2d6, just like monster morale, against the number from that table above, though modified for good or bad treatment. In this system, all retainers have the same inherent loyalty for any given employer.

I’m leaning towards using a system based only on material in Men & Magic. That would be the 3d6 loyalty score as described above, along with a negotiation roll using the morale bonus for situations that require a morale check. I kind of like the individualization the loyalty score gives to NPCs.

8 thoughts on “OD&D loyalty & morale

  1. waywardwayfarer

    That makes things a lot more interesting than the Moldvay rule does. I like the possibility for a high-charisma character to just not “mesh” with a retainer, and for a low-charisma one to make the occasional connection.

  2. Talysman

    My own preference for how often to re-roll Loyalty would be “whenever something significant changes”. Employer ups pay, or cuts it.. Employer plays favorites. Employer mistreats hireling. And any time the hireling roster changes.

  3. Ynas Midgard

    I determine morale by three factors:
    (1) the base morale is 7 (I suppose special retainers would have a different base morale)
    (2) Charisma modifier (+1 for 14+, -1 for 7-, +2 for 18, and -2 for 3)
    (3) random modifier (this and the base morale of 7 give us the same result what the Moldvay table above would)

    So, we have a morale score ranging from 2 to 12, but usually 6-8; which is perfect for our “roll under with 2d6” method.

    1. Ynas Midgard

      A roll of 3d6, where the modifiers match those of the B/X set (as I remember). So:
      3 -3
      4-5 -2
      6-8 -1
      9-12 no modifier
      13-15 +1
      16-17 +2
      18 +3

      I can keep the score I rolled and modify that accordingly (for treatment, rewards, etc.), so that it really is just an initial modifier.

      Or I can just keep the result I rolled and modify morale directly, so that I have fewer stats to put down/remember tinker with.

      I haven’t really settled for either yet.

    2. Brendan

      Interesting. The final mathematical effect is similar to the OD&D loyalty system, though this substitutes the Moldvay roll-under for the target number reaction roll. I like it.

  4. Hedgehobbit

    The Moldvay Charisma modifier for reaction is actually the normal modifier divided by two (round up). You see the same values in the Dex chart. This is done when using a die smaller than a d20 (d6 for initiative and 2d6 for reaction). The normal Charisma modifier isn’t actually listed but implied by the retainer values which go up and down as if adding the regular +/-3 values.

    The Cook Expert rules have morale values listed by unit types on page 22. I always added the leaders charisma modifier to that base value in the few cases my players had mercenaries.

    1. Brendan

      Good observation. Moldvay B/X really is probably the single best designed version of D&D out there, despite my obvious attraction to the vitality and freedom of the 3 LBBs.


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