Saturday, 10 March 2012

Better Minions Part One: The Two-Hit Minion

Dominic Matte
The purpose of minions is to be able to throw a lot of monsters at your players and make them feel powerful, without adding any extra work for the dungeon master. But as they level up, players are less and less threatened by minions, and there isn't a lot of tactical depth to a one-HP monster with a single basic attack.

I've seen the idea of two-hit minions or tougher minions around the internet, but none of the designs quite worked for me. So here's my approach:
  • Two-hit minions have a damage threshold of 10 + 1/2 level.
  •  If a minion takes damage equal to or greater than the threshold, it dies.
  • If a minion takes less damage than the threshold, it is bloodied.
  • If a bloodied minion takes any damage, it dies.
  • If a minion takes a critical hit, it dies.

Consider mixing two-hit minions with regular minions to keep your players guessing.
If you really want to make things interesting, maybe include a leader of some sort that can un-bloody his two-hit minions.
Important note: you probably shouldn't use two-hit minions exclusively. Mix them up with regular minions in varying numbers to teach your players not to take anything for granted.
Some “tougher minion” models, or even two-hit minion models, require a die roll or save of some sort; for example, when a minion takes damage, it rolls a save. If it succeeds it lives, and if it fails it dies. Other models add a stipulation that minions go down after two at-will hits, but encounter and daily hits take them out. This goes against the whole spirit of minions in the first place, since it adds die rolls and questions to situations that wouldn't normally call for them. This model only requires information the players should already be providing (damage rolls) and the only tracking necessary is to flip the minion token or throw a marker on top.

One problem with standard minions is that they make some players or attacks feel wasted. Rolling a critical hit on a minion feels useless, blowing an encounter or daily on minions seems stupid, and strikers feel that their high damage is meaningless. With this model, crits and high damage powers (strikers or any encounters/dailies) are still meaningful, because they take out minions more efficiently.

The only bit where I'm uncertain is whether or not to call a wounded minion “bloodied”. There are a lot of effects that key off bloodied, and minions normally don't trigger those effects, so there's potential for balance problems. On the other hand, a lot of mechanics simply add more damage against bloodied targets, which really won't change anything if all you have to do is hit.

What do you think of two-hit minions? Do you think using the game term "bloodied" is a problem?

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