Friday, August 20, 2010

The Master's Lackeys

There are several amazing Dungeons & Dragons blogs out there, but one of my favorites has recently run two articles written by one of my favorite authors, Chris Sims (an editor and game designer known for work on Wizards of the Coast’s Duel Masters, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering) about one of my favorite components in 4E: MINIONS!


Minions Are Everywhere!

No matter the story, whether set in a fantasy, science fiction, comedy, or drama, the main bad guy always has lackeys. Darth Vader had the Storm Troopers, Dr. Evil had several nameless thugs and Mini Me, Sauron had the first 1/3 of the Orc army that was attacking Helm's Deep (seriously, they dropped like flies when the arrows started flying).


Minions: By The Book

A few game sessions ago, I decided I did not like using the minions in the same old fashion I had been. They were great as zombies in my campaign's Whispering Willow Cemetery session, wonderful as cheaply hired mercenaries to guard a slave camp in The Slave Pit session, and really interesting as village fishermen the party had to protect as the slavers retaliated in the final encounter of the Gates of Dyadasti session, but I decided to mix things up a bit. I used 2-hit minions in the Longtooth's Labyrinth session but when one of the players landed a high damage roll, he felt cheated that the enemy wasn't killed. I quickly converted my 2-hit minions back to regular minions to keep the level of fun at a maximum for the evening, but decided I wouldn't give up hope on the 2-hit minion.


My Minions Have HP?

For the next session, I had created 2 new flavors of minions. The 2/20 and the 3/30 minions. The 2/20 minion is dead after 2 hits or 20 damage, whichever comes first. Likewise, the 3/30 minion is dead after 3 hits or 30 damage. This may sound fruitless and you may be asking "why not just have the monster with 30 HP??" Well, for our group, this worked very well. Our Ranger misses quite a bit (he obviously hasn't read my article on how dice are made and refuses to switch d20s mid-session), so when he does land a shot, it really counts against these 2/20 and 3/30 minions. On top of this, when the "cheated" player landed a heavy blow on a 3/30 minion with 2 hits left, it was destroyed. Everyone had lots of fun and I was still able to swarm the party with a nice mix of regular minions, 2/20s and 3/30s!


For discussion...

Chris' articles really got me thinking again about other things I can change to keep the players on their toes. I'm going to look for specific creatures with interesting auras and burst that make sense for the setting when creating my minions. The 2/20 and 3/30 minions worked in the one session I used them, but I'm not convinced they're here to stay, time will tell.

  • Have you modified how you use minions?

  • Are there certain powers or considerations you give to them in your games?

  • Do you think my modification was effective or just a waste of time?

Let me know in the comments!


  1. I have actually been thinking about the 2-hit OR ##-damage minion lately. I'm not sure I'd go with 20 as the mark though. I would probably figure out what was near max damage for whatever level the PCs are at and go just a point or two under that. That way, if the player rolls high (or crits) the monster still dies in 1 hit.

    I've used 2-hit minions before, but I always allow a crit to insta-kill. That's the right thing to do. A crit on a weak lackey should sever an artery or a cleave a skull.

    I'm glad to see someone else has thought about the damage as a component too!

  2. I've really wanted to go to a different sort of minion myself. As much as I want them to make a fight interesting and cool, my minions rarely seem to last long enough to have any sort of impact on the battle (aside from one funny case where the PCs left the minions alone to concentrate on "real monsters" for too long and got TPK'd). I keep using them because, well, I think the players get a kick over blasting enemies away. But a 2-hit minion might spice things up a bit.

  3. Ya know, that is a good point...20 HP may have been a bit much, all things considered. I totally agree with the crit meaning insta-kill, minions should never survive max damage of any attack (even a melee basic)!

  4. Minion TPK can be fun to watch! "Who cares about the little guys, I want to kill the boss!"

    Let us know how things go with the 2-hit minions!