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winslon
07-14-2009, 04:45 PM
http://www.kelleysweet.com/mods/eliteminions.png

I've seen a few posts that DM's and players complain that minions are too easy. The minions template is one of my favorite things about 4th Edition. It allows you to kill a room, give the players a little hack and slash and make them feel powerful by killing tons of orcs, with one well placed fireball...but...after the 20'th time of doing that, what's the challenge? It seems that the DM is only using minions to make the players burn their best AOE spells.

Try the idea of 'Elite Minions'...

Rather then one hit one kill, Make the players roll damage ( they bought the dice, let them use them ). And, if they don't do damage thats greater then a monsters healing surge ( 1/4 their total hitpoints ), then the monster is still alive.

To really make this challenging, don't keep track of the ongoing damage, and just watch to see if they do 1/4 the total hitpoints on one hit. Might make them wonder if that minion seems to be still standing after taking 10 points of damage over and over.

It also makes it a little more fun, if those magic missles might or might not kill a minion in one shot.

What do yall think?

Farcaster
07-14-2009, 05:13 PM
Another option might be to give them a save against anything that does automatic damage. That way a poison cloud doesn't instantly-kill all minions when they start their turn there, for instance. And if the fighter uses his stance to do weapon damage to everyone in his aura, against a minion he is still required to try to hit. That would help give them a lot more survivability without having to keep track of any more hit points.

Q-man
07-14-2009, 05:15 PM
Its an interesting idea for sure. I have to agree minions are fun for a while, but they get pretty useless quickly. Aside from making the party keep AoE spells handy they haven't had much useful effects in my games.

This idea of merely weaker enemies is interesting though. I'm not sure about needing a single hit thats 1/4 of their total HP, that'd make them pretty tough I'd think. Perhaps health more like the Shaman's spirit guardian, 10 + 1/2 their level, would be a bit more reasonable for a minion style enemy.

korhal23
07-14-2009, 05:57 PM
Spycraft has a system where minions don't have HP. At all. Rather, the damage you do as a player, cut in half, +10 = their Death Save. All the nameless minions have a Death Save Bonus which is added to their roll as they try to roll over this target number, generated by the damage they receive. If they survive, the DS number does not go down.

So, Minion A has a DS Bonus of +4. You shoot him for 15. His DS target is 17. He rolls a 15+4, so he survives, but has been shot. The next time, you shoot him for, say, 12. His new DS is 23. He rolls a 10+4, so he dies.

Special NPCs do not have Death Saves, they have Vitality and Wounds just like a PC does.

Minions have a place... when you WANT them to die in droves. They serve no other purpose. Minions are not legitimate threats, unless they are ignored for extended periods. They may kill a PC through attrition, but that's about it. Perhaps they are to distract your controller from locking down a monster for a few rounds whilst he deals with minions. Perhaps they are there to slow your PCs down by creating overlapping nets of Opportunity Attacks. But a legit threat to your PCs? Not a chance.

Umiushi
07-14-2009, 06:08 PM
At face value, I like this elite minion concept, and will probably use it at some future point.

However, I have to say that I haven't found minions to be too easy for the players in my tabletop games (haven't had a chance to employ them online yet). Indeed, the scariest encounters they've been through were composed of over 50% minions. I'm sure the introduction of these "elite minions" will really give them fits.

winslon
07-14-2009, 07:41 PM
Perhaps health more like the Shaman's spirit guardian, 10 + 1/2 their level, would be a bit more reasonable for a minion style enemy.

I think i like your idea a lot better...It would be a lot easier to figure out, and still give them something that needs a little more power behind a swing to kill.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

Minions have a place... when you WANT them to die in droves. They serve no other purpose. Minions are not legitimate threats, unless they are ignored for extended periods. They may kill a PC through attrition, but that's about it. Perhaps they are to distract your controller from locking down a monster for a few rounds whilst he deals with minions. Perhaps they are there to slow your PCs down by creating overlapping nets of Opportunity Attacks. But a legit threat to your PCs? Not a chance.


I agree with this too. To put it in 300 Sparten terms. The regular Persian Troops would be minions. The 10,000 sons would be elite minions.

You always need the minions that are nothing more then fodder. But i have found that a healthy mix of week and strong minions gives players a little more something to enjoy, without you having to worry about the record keeping too much.

emblasochist
07-14-2009, 08:14 PM
Ok... Here's this then. What if the combat encounter is supposed to be against waves of enemies that are supposed to be able to cause TPK if it goes badly, but individually, they are easy to take out? I tried an encounter where there were 29 minions for a level 1 party to fight. In 3 turns, the encounter was over because the party decimated them... How do you simulate an instance where minion-like monsters can obliterate the party simply in combat? Because the campaign I am running, the party wants it to be rather gritty and they want to fight a monster theme that isn't actually in D&D, but the monsters are and aren't like swarms, and the swarm type doesn't give the party the right feel...

korhal23
07-14-2009, 08:33 PM
I think you'd be better served by tons of weak but not minion enemies instead of minions. Also, something tells me you mobbed the PCs from one direction in a big clump and they got AoE'd to death. Surround the players, and keep the enemies spread out. Minions are never meant to be the main threat, ever. They are just that, minions of someone else.

emblasochist
07-14-2009, 08:53 PM
I think you'd be better served by tons of weak but not minion enemies instead of minions. Also, something tells me you mobbed the PCs from one direction in a big clump and they got AoE'd to death. Surround the players, and keep the enemies spread out. Minions are never meant to be the main threat, ever. They are just that, minions of someone else.

I did surround the players. Problem is, I didn't really have any mob-strength rules where if enough minions surrounded a player, that player was dead...

Anyway, when you say weak but not minion enemies, how do you mean? Say, half or quarter the normal hp of the monster? The reason I ask is mechanically, there are a lot of minion-y types in this theme and while I could, at certain points insert dragons and other dragony types into the encounters, the focus should be on the minions I am making and the masters they serve...

korhal23
07-14-2009, 09:02 PM
Look at it this way: You know what else has 1HP? Normal, plebeian villagers. That's what minions are: normal, plebeian villagers who the Big Bad said "Here's a sword, you guard here" to.

So you probably want, yeah, either half or quarter hp monsters... perhaps half HP for soldier types, quarter for the ranged types. You don't really need any "mob strength" rules. If you really want one, I'd say give them all the ability to sneak attack in modified circumstances... not by virtue of being clever or tricky like a rogue, but by just being too many blows to dream of being able to see them all and deflect... say, any time a PC has 3 or more adjacent mobs, the mobs all get an additional 2d6 damage, and any time they manage to have 6/8 adjacent squares filled their attacks also daze. That should be sufficiently deadly.

emblasochist
07-14-2009, 09:44 PM
Look at it this way: You know what else has 1HP? Normal, plebeian villagers. That's what minions are: normal, plebeian villagers who the Big Bad said "Here's a sword, you guard here" to.

So you probably want, yeah, either half or quarter hp monsters... perhaps half HP for soldier types, quarter for the ranged types. You don't really need any "mob strength" rules. If you really want one, I'd say give them all the ability to sneak attack in modified circumstances... not by virtue of being clever or tricky like a rogue, but by just being too many blows to dream of being able to see them all and deflect... say, any time a PC has 3 or more adjacent mobs, the mobs all get an additional 2d6 damage, and any time they manage to have 6/8 adjacent squares filled their attacks also daze. That should be sufficiently deadly.

That was kind of the point. I wanted something where a mob of guys around you was not necessarily an instant kill, but if you let it get like that, you are pretty ****ed.

Q-man
07-15-2009, 08:56 AM
Ok... Here's this then. What if the combat encounter is supposed to be against waves of enemies that are supposed to be able to cause TPK if it goes badly, but individually, they are easy to take out? I tried an encounter where there were 29 minions for a level 1 party to fight. In 3 turns, the encounter was over because the party decimated them... How do you simulate an instance where minion-like monsters can obliterate the party simply in combat? Because the campaign I am running, the party wants it to be rather gritty and they want to fight a monster theme that isn't actually in D&D, but the monsters are and aren't like swarms, and the swarm type doesn't give the party the right feel...

At that point it becomes more about terrain and tactics. If all the minions attack from the front then AoE will decimate them before they get close. If they stay spaced out as they come in, particularly if you can get them coming in through different doors in a room, then they can't be taken down as fast. Which means more of them get to the party and can take swings. They may not last long individually, but slowly your teeming mass of minions will chip away at the party.

From another thread (I don't recall which one or I'd link it) you can use the minions to harass the party. Put the players in a situation where they have to move quickly, lets say they are being chased by an angry lich or something. Scatter minions down the hallway, they aren't doing much just the odd attack of opportunity and slowing the party down when they have to take out a few. The intention is to allow the lich to close in on them, not to have the minions kill the party.

emblasochist
07-15-2009, 09:27 AM
At that point it becomes more about terrain and tactics. If all the minions attack from the front then AoE will decimate them before they get close. If they stay spaced out as they come in, particularly if you can get them coming in through different doors in a room, then they can't be taken down as fast. Which means more of them get to the party and can take swings. They may not last long individually, but slowly your teeming mass of minions will chip away at the party.

From another thread (I don't recall which one or I'd link it) you can use the minions to harass the party. Put the players in a situation where they have to move quickly, lets say they are being chased by an angry lich or something. Scatter minions down the hallway, they aren't doing much just the odd attack of opportunity and slowing the party down when they have to take out a few. The intention is to allow the lich to close in on them, not to have the minions kill the party.

That does mean that my encounters will be more varied if I do that, but there is the fact that that puts a lot more work into having to build the dungeon, and it means that I have to use more monsters than I was prepared to do. So be it. I think it will end up making a better encounter overall even if it strays from the theme...

The question then is this: if you have the theme of Slivers (from Magic the Gathering) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slivers#Sliver), what other monsters would you have in regular encounters? I think I want to have about 100 actual dragons in the campaign as bosses for the night, or something similar. A lot of chromatic/metallic young and adult dragons. However, the ultimate end of the campaign will be a showdown as a skill challenge of diplomacy with the Sliver Queen (http://www.trollandtoad.com/p88517.html), the Sliver Overlord (http://www.trollandtoad.com/p109156.html) and the Sliver Legion (http://www.trollandtoad.com/p158081.html), which if failed, can become a massive fight to eliminate the entire hive.

Q-man
07-15-2009, 10:27 AM
An option for that would be to make the artillery be minions. Put a few brutes and skirmishers in the faces of the PC's, and put the minions off in the distance firing into the melee.

At a distance you can spread the minions out enough so that AoE can't wipe them out in a few rounds. If they have good ranged attacks they can still present a challenge to the PC's. Try to block in the PC's so that their melee guys can't get to the artillery minions without taking multiple attack of opportunities. Which leaves the parties ranged strikers to but down the minions, with the positioning right it could distract them for a while. With the lack of focused attacks on the brutes in the melee they will last for a while, meaning that the fight should end up being a challenge and taking a toll on the party.

The times I used minions they were always melee, so they ended up right in the face of the party where they were cut down like so much wheat. With them off at a distance it should be much more difficult for the party to take them down as quickly.

emblasochist
07-15-2009, 10:56 AM
I'm going to make different roles for my minions, yes, but flavorwise, what do you think goes well with the flavor of Slivers? I want to avoid having dragons in the run of the mill random encounter; they'll be bosses interspersed in the dungeon enough as it is that it will almost be old having to fight dragons. So, maybe yuan-ti, or kobolds, or dragonborn, or what?

DMMike
07-15-2009, 11:54 AM
The minion concept makes perfect sense to me from a dungeon mastering perspective. But would someone please explain, from an in-game perspective, why minions do what they do? If they get destroyed so easily, shouldn't they be looking for another career?

By the way, 3E's swarm rules, with a little DM imagination, seem ideal for handling massive amounts of pathetic combatants. I think it was Cityscape that actually contained stats for an Angry Mob, and even Throng o' Possessed Children.

Q-man
07-15-2009, 12:26 PM
I'm going to make different roles for my minions, yes, but flavorwise, what do you think goes well with the flavor of Slivers? I want to avoid having dragons in the run of the mill random encounter; they'll be bosses interspersed in the dungeon enough as it is that it will almost be old having to fight dragons. So, maybe yuan-ti, or kobolds, or dragonborn, or what?

I think many man flavors of slivers can work, so long as you describe them differently. Say you have green snake like ones, red ones that have fire puffing out under their carapace, and perhaps the black ones fade into shadows to reappear elsewhere. So long as they each have their own unique abilities and appearance you should need to have any other creature types, they'll all feel different enough that your palyers wont mind.



The minion concept makes perfect sense to me from a dungeon mastering perspective. But would someone please explain, from an in-game perspective, why minions do what they do? If they get destroyed so easily, shouldn't they be looking for another career?

Most of them know they are lowly minions, they are supposed to be skittish and run off when they feel outmatched or their fearless leader is slain in combat. They should be suicidal.

Valdar
07-15-2009, 01:01 PM
It's a new concept and will take some tweaking, to be sure. I thought about ways to keep them from being auto-killed (see Lightning Weapon and Rod of Reaving for weapons that can even auto-kill minions at range...), but ultimately you just need to let the party wade through them. I'm finding that as combats slow down in the mid-Paragon tier as damage doesn't keep up with monster HPs, it's getting impossible to run three combats in a four hour session without putting in lots of minions to speed things up.

For the Stinking Cloud problem, remember that all undead and animates are Poison immune and won't be affected by it- not even minions. So if the party Wizard is bringing out the cloud every time minions appear, try a few of those to shake things up. Then throw the normal minions into the next combat after Stinking Cloud is expended.

Sascha
07-15-2009, 02:15 PM
The minion concept makes perfect sense to me from a dungeon mastering perspective. But would someone please explain, from an in-game perspective, why minions do what they do? If they get destroyed so easily, shouldn't they be looking for another career?
When facing PCs, sure, minions begin to question their life choices (unless they're mindless or fanatical, that is). But most of their minioning doesn't (or shouldn't) involve going up against beings clearly their superiors - basically, anything the Named Threat can't or won't do personally. Also, name recognition provides most of the defense of minions; even if the Named Threat treats them as expendable resources (which they most certainly are), the commonfolk won't willingly or easily cross them for fear of retribution.

Further research into henching: comic books and superhero shows (Batman, especially); original trilogy Star Wars (stormtroopers are totally minion-quality opponents); The Venture Bros. (the Monarch's minions play all the tropes straight, even if #21 and #24 lampshade every single one; Season 2's "Hate Floats" even has a minion recruitment scene~).

kitsune1842
07-15-2009, 04:02 PM
Ok... Here's this then. What if the combat encounter is supposed to be against waves of enemies that are supposed to be able to cause TPK if it goes badly, but individually, they are easy to take out? I tried an encounter where there were 29 minions for a level 1 party to fight. In 3 turns, the encounter was over because the party decimated them... How do you simulate an instance where minion-like monsters can obliterate the party simply in combat? Because the campaign I am running, the party wants it to be rather gritty and they want to fight a monster theme that isn't actually in D&D, but the monsters are and aren't like swarms, and the swarm type doesn't give the party the right feel...


Couple of Quick questions.

Did the minions swarm the party so that AoE attacks have as good a chance of hitting party memebers as well as the minions?

Did they surround them and take advantage of the chance to flank party memebers?

Did the minions put paprty memebers in a place where they are almost but not compleatly surrounded and leave them an avanue of escape just to try and force them to retreat and take oppertunity attacks?


When using minions these are the kinds of tactics that a GM should remember, because these are the kinds of things minions are for. Especially if you have a couple of non-minions that get sneak attack like bonuses from flanked party memebers added in.

kkriegg
07-16-2009, 12:25 AM
The minion concept makes perfect sense to me from a dungeon mastering perspective. But would someone please explain, from an in-game perspective, why minions do what they do? If they get destroyed so easily, shouldn't they be looking for another career?

Short answer: It's DnD. Logic need not apply.

Long answer: I wondered this myself. Ultimately it's up to you and your campaign. As pointed out earlier, most minions are as tough (and stronger) than a commoner, whom they probably raid and murder on a regular basis. Or maybe they just joined the big bad, and they hope to survive minionhood and graduate up to a proper villian, a life filled with gold and slave girls. Or maybe they know how pathetic they really are and hope that if they stick together and hang around more powerful badguys, they can survive.

Valdar
07-16-2009, 09:31 AM
The party wins almost every fight. If the bad guys realized this, it wouldn't just be the minions that would be looking for another career...

fmitchell
07-16-2009, 09:43 AM
As pointed out earlier, most minions are as tough (and stronger) than a commoner, whom they probably raid and murder on a regular basis.

In one 4e campaign I was in, the GM floated the idea that the PCs had rare abilities, perhaps tied to an unusual destiny or favor of the gods. (Even NPC spellcasters had only a few special abilities.) Thus, a minion might be more than tough enough to bully "normal" people, but they die like flies before us "special ones".

As someone pointed out upthread, though, D&D simulates pulp fiction, not reality.

Farcaster
07-16-2009, 10:04 AM
Hmm. The way I have always thought of it was that most heroes were really only one really good sword thrust away from death. Hitpoints simply reflect an ability to avoid or mitigate damage in some way. This feels especially true with 4th edition, since everyone can rest for a few minutes after a fight and be fully healed. That implies that no serious damage was actually taken during the fight - i.e. getting skewered with a sword.

So, for a minion, his reality is really much the same -- he is one good sword thrust away from death. The system just isn't providing him all the mitigating factors (and just plain luck) that tougher monsters and heroes are getting.

Q-man
07-16-2009, 11:39 AM
The "one good sword thrust from death" is how I like to make my players feel. I prefer when every combat feels like a challenge to them and death is around the corner. If a couple of them don't walk away bloodied I know its time to up the difficulty.

Its still true that they win every battle (unless the story requires them to lose and get captured or something, then of course they're going down), but I prefer to keep them guessing about that fact as well. I suppose out of character they know they are reasonably safe, but in character they need to be well aware that they chose a dangerous profession.

From that perspective it makes sense, they only survive because they have mitigating powers to recover quickly after the battle. Its part of what makes them special, and able to do heroic things that normal people and minions only hear about in legends.

Webhead
07-16-2009, 12:08 PM
As others have mentioned, "minion" rules are really only a mechanism to differentiate the "major players" (aka heroes and villains) from the more common riff-raff. It's not that minions are "weaker" characters but rather, they exist to demonstrate how powerful the heroes are. In such a sense, "minions" represent something closer to the "norm".

It was well-stated by another author (whose name escapes me), but minions (in any RPG or genre) are really more "set pieces" than actual "adversaries". Their purpose is ultimately to make the heroes look good and make the players feel cool by allowing them to trounce bad guys off-handedly. Likewise, the villains don't employ minions for their effectiveness (or lack thereof) but rather simply to distract or slow the heroes long enough for them to enact whatever terrible plan they have devised.

I have found that I like the extra level of "durability" that Savage Worlds minions have over D&D 4E minions:

In D&D, minions have only 1 Hit Point so any damaging attack defeats them automatically.

Savage Worlds doesn't use Hit Points, but minions in that game can have two conditions. A "light" or "minor" hit will make them Shaken (which basically means they are stunned and can't act for a round or two) while a "serious" or "major" hit will take them out (dead, knocked out...whatever the GM decides).

If you want your D&D minions to last a little longer in battle, here's a quick idea for how you might do it:

Minions still only have 1 Hit Point. However, any attack against a minion that deals 5 or more points of damage will take them out as normal. Any attack against a minion that deals less than 5 points "stuns" the minion. The minion can take no actions on its turn except move half its speed. Each turn, the minion makes a Saving Throw to remove the "stunned" condition. If a "stunned" minion is hit by another attack that deals even 1 point of damage, it is taken out.

That might appeal to some folks.

jonnyrockshard
07-16-2009, 12:59 PM
The thing is you shouldn't use minions by themselves. They should accompany a leader or surround a brute or something similar. They should be in the PC's face and get in the way of things, making it so that a quick AOE attack would target several of the PCs as well. With other, tougher characters around, this won't be an easy decision, especially because it could open up the brute to take out one of the weaker characters.

korhal23
07-16-2009, 04:22 PM
Web, to avoid confusion (stun being its own status and all), I'd say that the minion is Dazed and Slowed (save ends). Not a bad idea though, I kinda like that. I may try it next time and see how my players respond.

DMMike
07-17-2009, 10:41 AM
I like this explanation:

Minions are about as tough as a commoner, and the reason they stick around is because they haven't had to fight anyone as tough as the PCs before now.

The next problem here is that when the PCs make their first attack, and up to 10 minions die in a fell swoop, anyone with a functioning brain should say "forget this!" This has two implications:

1) PCs above, say, 5th level should always scare away all minions, or at least make them attack from great distance only.

2) Only easily controlled creatures become effective minions after this point. (And this seems to point mostly to undead and hive-minds.)

Now the observation that D&D defies logic becomes particularly relevant, because minions seem to be Mostly Harmless unless they defy logic. So, to try and relate this to the threadhead, yes, minions are too easy, but if your DM is of the logical sort, you won't have to deal with minions beyond the point at which they begin worrying about their own survival.

Side note:
I, for one, happen to prefer a serious, logical D&D game. Such a game features no traps that perpetually reset themselves. Kings have a vested interest in seeing that "magic items" are controlled by the kingdom, and not by wandering adventurers. Ancient dragons that want to rule the world generally do so. And finally, minions that run away when faced with certain death.

emblasochist
07-17-2009, 12:40 PM
Suppose your minions know that a death by the adventurers will be swifter and/or less painful. Seems logical that a minion should choose to face the adventurers rather than the Big Bad if he's especially cruel and bloodthirsty.

Webhead
07-17-2009, 11:31 PM
Web, to avoid confusion (stun being its own status and all), I'd say that the minion is Dazed and Slowed (save ends). Not a bad idea though, I kinda like that. I may try it next time and see how my players respond.

Thank you for the clarification. I'm not up on my 4E terminology. "Dazed and Slowed, save ends both" would probably be a good way to handle it, I think. That way, the minion can either attack or move (slowly) but not both.

winslon
07-20-2009, 11:06 AM
After running a few battles this weekend, it became quickly apparent to me that the greatest use of minions is to slow down the players long enough so that your REALLY bad guys, get a chance to be REALLY bad!

It does seem to be very easy for players to quickly stun lock or disable the main bad guy, if your not paying attention, and then just kill the minions off at their leisure, while the leader sits there and watches everything happen.

Keeping this in mind, you either need to beef up your minions surrounding your leader, or take extra care to ensure that they can't get to your leader, until the minions slow them down first. Otherwise, one surprise round, and your leader is toast.

Some players enjoy this, but in my experiense, most find it boring after a while.

So...

...If your really wanting that BIG BAD GUY to make an impressions, take extra care to ensure there is enough to keep the party away from him, so that he gets at least a few rounds to do something, before he's skull-^&*@ed.

Q-man
07-20-2009, 12:36 PM
If you need to buy time for the Big Bad guy to do his dastardly stuff, you'll want more than minions. Minions would be good if the heroes need to cross his long throne room, or are chasing him down a hallway; since they can harass the party with attacks of opportunity. However, if you have a smaller space to work with, like a mid-sized laboratory, then you want something meatier in there too like a couple of brutes. You could make it work with a hug collection of minions, but then you run into the issue of the party wiping them out with AoE in just a few turns.

To me it comes down to the terrain and how you want the fight to play out. In a chase minions are great, they have good attack rolls so attacks of opportunity are all you need to slow the party. In closed spaces they lose their effectiveness since many will die in each attack. You just have to plan out how you want the fight to go, and choose the right type of lackey to be on guard there.

wbrandel
07-20-2009, 12:49 PM
How I have used minions in the past is as a prelim to the main event. What I will do is hae several minions (played smart) being led by higher ups, then if it is for the climactic battle I will have the BBG's lietenant with him going in behind the minions to directly threaten the PCs so the have to chose between killing the minions or the BBG. Of course you need to watch the AoE powers so it is hard to keep from clumping up the minions (bottlenecked terrain is a witch) when they attack the PCs. There are flaws to this I know but it has been effective in my past games. I have actually had players run from this set up before.