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Thread: Minions effective after level 5?

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    Minions effective after level 5?

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    It seems that the role of minions is diminished after level 5- there are sufficient powers and abilities that automatically damage a target with no to-hit roll that killing minions becomes a minor action for certain characters, with no chance of failure. I think this makes them boring- sure, it's fun to be able to wade through a crowd of foes and drop them by the score, but it essentially becomes free xp for the party, as there's no chance of the minions being effective or surviving more than a round or two.

    Has anyone else experienced this? If so, what do you think is the best solution? Here are a few I can think of:

    --Reduce the XP value for minions, so six or eight of them are worth one standard monster
    --Require that an effect must overcome the minion's defense before they're killed- this means that things like Rod of Reaving or Lightning Weapon can't be used to kill them automatically without a standard action.
    --Stop using them entirely (this is my current plan).
    --Figure out a story reason for there being minions on the party's side, take their xp value into account, and give the foes abilities to take them out without attack rolls.

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    Well, one approach that I have used is to mix the minions with regular opponents, and try to keep it from being too obvious as to which are minions (aka one-hit-wonders) and which are not. It helps a lot if you don't keep the minions clustered together and thus easily hit all at once with some minor AE effect.
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    There is a distinct usefulness shift in the minions as you increase in levels. I have not encountered the issue in the real campaign, but the occasional one shot play-test battle showed that weakness clear as day.

    Give a listen to the new podcast on the Wizards sight as they say some interesting things about epic level play. One of the guys made it clear that minions were much harder to use effectively in the 21 - 30 range. Not sure if thats a design flaw or what, but it certainly perked my interst.

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    Most area attacks (which are the minions' worst nightmare) do require to-hit rolls, and minions aren't affected on a miss, so I believe they can still be effective at any level.

    Just make sure you give them comparable defenses and attacks to other enemies of their level and don't bunch them up.

    Remember, they aren't designed to be there the whole fight, just long enough to distract the heroes from the real threats and allow the main enemies to get a few more attacks in. A BBEG doesn't expect his minions to hold off the heroes forever, just long enough for him to escape or complete his master plan.

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    I haven't looked it up in 4e yet but in SW Saga any opponent that the heroes defeat that is 5 levels lower than the PCs, they only receive 1/10th the xp for.

    So in the case of SW Saga a CL 1 opponent for 4 6th level PCs (xp 200) only nets them 20 xp. And that is for the GROUP! Divide that by 4 and they each get only 5 xp!

    I am sure something similar can be done in 4e.
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    Minions are already only worth 1/4th of the normal experience for a monster of their level. I recently used minions in a level 11 game. While they were not deadly or fight turner by any means, they distracted the party for long enough for the primary bad guys to get into ideal positions. In fact, they were still in the fight three rounds into combat. So, I'd agree that they do a good job of being distractionary.

    For real fun, you should also elude to a particular group of monsters as being minions, when in fact they are not. Just sit back and watch the wizard waste a spell or two trying to take them out.
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    And add diverse encounters, don't have minions in every encounter and watch the player's surprise when that kobold they assumed was a minions doesn't go down in one hit!

    I also noticed that as a GM I have to be much more careful not to spill the beans as to what kind of creature is which. As soon as they find out a creature is a minion their attitude seems to shift to thinking the fight will go easily.

    Oh, and kobolds shifty ability, freaking awesome!
    "I'm afraid it is you who are mistaken. About a great, many things."

    "It is not the rules that make or break a game, it's the GM and the players."


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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    ...For real fun, you should also elude to a particular group of monsters as being minions, when in fact they are not. Just sit back and watch the wizard waste a spell or two trying to take them out.

    Not to mention the reaction when they realize that group is not actually minions, and the spells would have not had to been used then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeathByDM View Post
    Most area attacks (which are the minions' worst nightmare) do require to-hit rolls, and minions aren't affected on a miss, so I believe they can still be effective at any level.
    The trouble is the auto-kill powers that don't require a to-hit roll- some of the ones I've seen so far are:

    Rod of Reaving: Does damage when a Warlock curses a target, no to-hit roll. If a minion is the closest foe, the Warlock can kill it with a minor action.

    Stinking Cloud, Cloud of Daggers: Both do auto-damage.

    Lightning Weapon: Area damage with no to-hit roll

    Rain of Steel: Aura damage with no to-hit roll

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    I believe I've heard this issue referenced elsewhere but I don't recall the details.

    As a GM, I would be inclined to rule that only damaging attacks that successfully overcome at least one of the minion's defenses (AC, Ref, Fort, Will) can "kill" it and that "auto-damage" would not. This goes hand-in-hand with the potential issue of things like "I pick up an apple and throw it at him...it hits? Okay, he's dead!" that don't really make sense. Sure, being hit by an apple hurts, but it's not going to instantly kill a minion...sorry...

    I honestly don't know how that would positively/negatively affect minion play in 4e, but that's my gut instinct.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valdar View Post
    The trouble is the auto-kill powers that don't require a to-hit roll- some of the ones I've seen so far are:

    Rod of Reaving: Does damage when a Warlock curses a target, no to-hit roll. If a minion is the closest foe, the Warlock can kill it with a minor action.

    Stinking Cloud, Cloud of Daggers: Both do auto-damage.

    Lightning Weapon: Area damage with no to-hit roll

    Rain of Steel: Aura damage with no to-hit roll
    And most of these aren't a problem if the minions aren't bunched up. If you give the players opportunities to use these abilities to take out a bunch of mobs, then you shouldn't be upset when they do just that.

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    Minions are decoration pieces. Mainly for me a timely release of minions are there to stretch out the peak portion, make a manageable battle appear crazy, without really increasing the threat level. Minions function as scenery or are there to provide setups for the main monsters ally related abilities, flank or attempt to bull rush a PC into a bad spot, grab them, etc. I don't see their function as a credible damage source or to be around for long, though they occasionally do deal damage.

    If I use them in a combat I generally count all minions as 1 slot, rather than adding up for each individual minion. The minion slot is 1 standard monster of that level, whether I use 4 at once or have 8 coming from the surrounding area at 2 per round for 4 rounds. I usually use the latter, so that the main foes can be reliably assisted by their minions for more than one round.
    Last edited by clint; 10-10-2008 at 12:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by clint View Post

    If I use them in a combat I generally count all minions as 1 slot, rather than adding up for each individual minion. The minion slot is 1 standard monster of that level, whether I use 4 at once or have 8 coming from the surrounding area at 2 per round for 4 rounds. I usually use the latter, so that the main foes can be reliably assisted by their minions for more than one round.
    I like this idea- that there will be 4 minons or so at any one time, so they become a persistent nuisance, but the PCs don't get 1/40 of their level in XP with every flick of a wand...

    Also looking forward to confusing whether or not a target is a minion, which is pretty obvious in my current games- since minions don't track state, I can use identical counters for them, but I have to use differentiatable counters for non-minions... Ah well, I guess it was time I started paining minis again...

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    Minions

    I never cared for this idea in 4th edition. Why do you have to make 1hp creatures? It never made sense to me. You already have 1/4 CR, 1/3 CR and 1/2 CR creatures those can be minions just as well. As a DM I would never use 1hp creatures that have any substance. It's to munchkin. As a few people have stated in the thread there are to many ways to auto-kill them or kill them in mass. You are just wasting resources for the sake of wasting them.

    Why can't the Orc, have a couple Kobold minions that are "regular" kobolds? I never understood the reason to put in 1hp creatures, other then to help make the players feel more "powerful"...

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    JC,

    There are no 1/3 challenge ratings any more in 4th. And, you can have lower level monsters as support instead of or in addition to minions. This thread is about how to or if minions can be used in the higher levels of 4e. It will be more meaningful to those who are truly familiar with 4th edition mechanics and have played or run the game to see those mechanics in action.
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