Representing tougher enemies in a single hit

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So we have Minions, we have our Standard monsters, and we have Elites.
We know that each one takes a little more work to bring down than the one before it.

But how can you communicate this to the players on the first hit?

Consider if this was a video-game: You hit one enemy and see big damage numbers and it dies quickly. The next one you hit with the same attacks but the damage numbers are smaller and, obviously, it takes longer to kill. And then the same for the strongest enemy showing the smallest damage numbers and so on.


Now, I don't mind getting meta-gamey with my players in this respect. I know that monster HP is hidden from players, so what can I use to indiacte to the players that one monster took a lot of damage from an attack while another took little damage from the same attack?  And not in several attacks over time but rather providing all that information in the first successful hit.
Monster HP does not have to be hidden. Just tell the players what monsters are what type. It's plausibly visible or otherwise "knowable" by the characters.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I would try to be descriptive here.  There is nothing from stopping a monster, that can talk common or another language that the PCs understand, from laughing at the PC and saying something like "That didn't even hurt."
Both ideas are good. I am +1 to amethystdragon78 . Another way to do it would be.

Player 1- Hits for 25 Damage on a Solo
DM- "The sword cuts into the monsters flesh spilling red blood into the air, but the  mutant orc seems to bearly notice as it shrugs the blow off"


Another method is to just have them do a Monster Knowledge Check, on success you could tell them whatever you think is appropite in accordance to their roll (Nat 20 maybe tell them how much % down they are from full health, on a 14 Just tell them its a Solo creature)

Honestly though its just another thing for a DM to keep track of, I'd be a little harder on your players by keeping them in the dark on HP (I'v never played a game where we know monster health) and be easier on yourself; your a DM and as such have lots on your plate already.

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HP isn't hidden unless no one at the table makes a knowledge check. The Rules Compendium spells out what a successful knowledge check tends to get about an enemy, so use that as your guide. I've done what I call passive knowledge, in which I take the character with the highest of a given knowledge check, add 10 to it, and compare it to a normal DC appropriate to a given monster's level to see if they know stuff about it. If they do, I let them know that A, B, C, D and E are minions, and F, G and H are not, or whatever needs done. At that point it's free knowledge, since talking to their team members doesn't take much of nothing for a player/character to do.

I hardly ever see anyone talking about monster knowledge checks on the boards ever... They're the easiest way to handwave transparancy without having to be metagamey about it. I wonder why no one even mentions them...

Either way, hope this helps. Happy Gaming

Player 1- Hits for 25 Damage on a Solo
DM- "The sword cuts into the monsters flesh spilling red blood into the air, but the  mutant orc seems to bearly notice as it shrugs the blow off"



This, I think.  Monsters in D&D, barring resistances, don't take less damage than each other.  It's more about what that damage does to them.  A hit for 20 on a minion is described as exploding them, or shattering their skull, or cleaving them in twain, etc.  The same 20 hit is described on a standard as leaving them reeling.  On an elite he flinches but isn't all that phased.  A solo scoffs and/or doesn't even noticed the petty scratch.  Things along those lines.
I guess I forgot the bit about using a Monster Knowledge check to view HP and category, mostly because we've never really used it.

Granted, at other times we would use specific board pieces to represet minions but our current DM is set on obsfucating whether or not a monster is a minion or an elite. I plan I handling it differently next time I'm behind the screen.

I like all these suggestions. They get the job done in communicating to the players which monsters are stronger than others in a single hit. That way they might quickly know how to handle their resources and where to drop their bombs.
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If anyone has any other suggestions, please chime in. 

Why not just ... tell them?  "These guys are minions, this guy's an Elite ..."
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Why not just ... tell them?  "These guys are minions, this guy's an Elite ..."


A valid question. Here's the answer:

I would only expect the PCs to be able to really gauge how strong a monster is once they are in combat.
Sure, in some cases it will be painfully obvious when some creatures are stronger than others, but not all the time. Consider the case where a monster is simply better trained or skilled than the rest. At first glance it might not look tougher, but it can dodge and block more blows, it can roll with the punches better, all things that higher HP does that isn't simply sustaining more damage.

It's in cases like those where I don't want my players wondering why it's taking one monster so much longer to kill when the one before it went down quickly.
I would only expect the PCs to be able to really gauge how strong a monster is once they are in combat.



You can also expect that the characters are capable enough of gauging such things. If you want to.

I'm descriptive when I set the scene, but I most certainly tell the players as an aside whether a monster's a minion, standard, elite, or solo. I choose to imagine their characters as capable enough to know.
Why not just ... tell them?  "These guys are minions, this guy's an Elite ..."


A valid question. Here's the answer:

I would only expect the PCs to be able to really gauge how strong a monster is once they are in combat.

Why? In books I read and shows I watch, the seasoned adventurers can often tell at a glance who is in charge or what kind of training someone has. The way they move, the way they handle equipment, the things they look at, are all indications of someone's combat prowess, at least in this genre, and that's mostly what HP are about.
 
It's in cases like those where I don't want my players wondering why it's taking one monster so much longer to kill when the one before it went down quickly.

Right. So just tell them. You're not gaining very much by not telling them, and it sounds quite inconvenient for them not to know.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 
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The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 

What reason is that?

Transparency is also part of the game, and it's also there for a reason.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 

What reason is that?



To make the knowledge skills useful?  Which are in the game to do knowledge checks.  Hmmmmmmm
The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 

What reason is that?

To make the knowledge skills useful?  Which are in the game to do knowledge checks.  Hmmmmmmm

There are plenty of other ways to make knowledge skills useful, which do not involve obfuscation of plausibly visible facts.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 

What reason is that?

To make the knowledge skills useful?  Which are in the game to do knowledge checks.  Hmmmmmmm

There are plenty of other ways to make knowledge skills useful, which do not involve obfuscation of plausibly visible facts.



I know.  I was (poorly) pointing out the cyclical danger of extremely simplified matter-of-fact arguments.  It just struck me as funny.
The monster knowledge checks are there for a reason... 

What reason is that?

To make the knowledge skills useful?  Which are in the game to do knowledge checks.  Hmmmmmmm

There are plenty of other ways to make knowledge skills useful, which do not involve obfuscation of plausibly visible facts.

I know.  I was (poorly) pointing out the cyclical danger of extremely simplified matter-of-fact arguments.  It just struck me as funny.

Gotcha.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Why not just ... tell them?  "These guys are minions, this guy's an Elite ..."


A valid question. Here's the answer:

I would only expect the PCs to be able to really gauge how strong a monster is once they are in combat.

Why? In books I read and shows I watch, the seasoned adventurers can often tell at a glance who is in charge or what kind of training someone has. The way they move, the way they handle equipment, the things they look at, are all indications of someone's combat prowess, at least in this genre, and that's mostly what HP are about.



Agreed. It makes the players feel like their PCs are experienced adventurers. (For example, telling the difference between 20 minion orcs & 20 standard orcs outside of combat is the difference between a living party & a TPK.)

It also lets you skip them guessing which monster's the elite and cut straight to the Interesting Choice of who they focus on first. Remember, players can't make Interesting Choices unless they have enough knowledge about what they're choosing. If gaining said knowledge isn't an Interesting Choice, then just give it to them.
Agreed. It makes the players feel like their PCs are experienced adventurers. (For example, telling the difference between 20 minion orcs & 20 standard orcs outside of combat is the difference between a living party & a TPK.)

It also lets you skip them guessing which monster's the elite and cut straight to the Interesting Choice of who they focus on first. Remember, players can't make Interesting Choices unless they have enough knowledge about what they're choosing. If gaining said knowledge isn't an Interesting Choice, then just give it to them.



+1!
I agree that there's no reason you can't specify minion/standard/elite/solo when you present monsters.  I tend to give out defenses and running hp totals as well ("You can drop him if you can rustle up 15 hit points of damage").  4E Combat is such a turn-based tactical boardgame that giving players the information they need to make decisions goes a long way towards avoiding analysis paralysis and keeping things running quickly.

At the same time, I find it's always best to present monsters as distinctive in my narration rather than immediately resorting to game terms.  A force of orcs might be comprised of some minions ("reckless warriors; aggressive and potent, but giving no thought to their defenses"), standards ("canny and brutal veterans") and a pair of elites ("a fearsome massive orc wielding his great axe in one hand a jagged hook for his other"  and a "gray-skinned orc wearing a suit of once-shining plate armor cut from a paladin's corpse").

Always create distinctive villains with some personality--they will always be more fun to run (for the DM) and fight (for the players) than generic Orc Elite #2.  Even one or two quick details ("Orc with one-eye" or "Orc with big nose") can help set the scene when everyone is staring at identical tokens and miniatures on a battle grid.
I agree that there's no reason you can't specify minion/standard/elite/solo when you present monsters.  I tend to give out defenses and running hp totals as well ("You can drop him if you can rustle up 15 hit points of damage").  4E Combat is such a turn-based tactical boardgame that giving players the information they need to make decisions goes a long way towards avoiding analysis paralysis and keeping things running quickly.

At the same time, I find it's always best to present monsters as distinctive in my narration rather than immediately resorting to game terms.  A force of orcs might be comprised of some minions ("reckless warriors; aggressive and potent, but giving no thought to their defenses"), standards ("canny and brutal veterans") and a pair of elites ("a fearsome massive orc wielding his great axe in one hand a jagged hook for his other"  and a "gray-skinned orc wearing a suit of once-shining plate armor cut from a paladin's corpse").

Always create distinctive villains with some personality--they will always be more fun to run (for the DM) and fight (for the players) than generic Orc Elite #2.  Even one or two quick details ("Orc with one-eye" or "Orc with big nose") can help set the scene when everyone is staring at identical tokens and miniatures on a battle grid.



Excellent advice.

For those DMs who can see the benefit of the players having information so they can act more readily but are a bit put off by the meta, a good DM principle is to "Being and end with the fiction." Describe the monster in fictional terms first, discuss the metagame information, then end with more fiction.

"The orcs streaming in through the collapsing archway are lightly armed and armored. These are minions. But do not underestimate the Shadow Orcs of Driagor for they have laid low countless heroes before you."
On our table we usually use generic figures for minions and specific for non minions. Economic reasons since minions come in numbers lol. If small encounter, and every figure is same, and we dont know whats what, our adventurers uses tactics to find out who is non minions. Usually start the fight with a aoe blast or range attack just to thin out the minions, and tactically position against nonminions. We never ask whats what. We just figure it on our own.
Why? In books I read and shows I watch, the seasoned adventurers can often tell at a glance who is in charge or what kind of training someone has. The way they move, the way they handle equipment, the things they look at, are all indications of someone's combat prowess, at least in this genre, and that's mostly what HP are about.


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I generally define monster category as a function of skill relative to the PCs. Minions aren't minions because they only have 1 HP; they're Minions because the PCs massively outclass them in a fight, such that any attack the PCs throw at them is going to be crippling or disabling if it connects. Likewise, Standard monsters are less skilled and capable than the PCs, but not by much, while Elites are roughly on par with the PCs and Solos outclass the PCs themselves.

(Since some of you are now looking at me with a "huh? NO! THATSW RONGG!1!!" expression: Past (and future) editions measured "how powerful is it?" purely by the level of the creature. 4e doesn't work that way; because attack and defense scaling work like they do, it's really not viable to throw enemies at the party that are off of their level by more than 4 or 5. If I needed to throw a big, scary boss monster at a 3.5 party, I'd choose something with a LOT more HD than they had. In 4e, I choose an Elite or Solo of about their level instead.)

I don't find that I need to outright tell the players which type a given monster is, because you can communicate that in other ways.

Some of it is mechanical: If the party gets ambushed by a bunch of archers up on a wall, three of them connects with the Fighter, and I simply say "12 damage total" without rolling any dice, that's a good indication those archers are Minions. Likewise, if they see an enemy pop and Action Point, they know they're dealing with at least an Elite. On top of that, some monster types just don't come an all the flavors: if a dragon shows up, changes are overwhelmingly good they're about to get into a fight with a Solo. 

Other ways are descriptive: If the Orc King watches the party casually murder their way through his camp before giving them a slow clap and rising from his throne with an annoyed sigh, as though he's more bothered by the fact that he has to do this himself rather than because he's worried about the outcome, it's reasonable to expect an Elite. If the PCs have fun afoul of a street gang in a fish market and all of the other gangers look at one guy and don't attack until he says "Well, whaddaya waitin' for? Get'em!", they're probably up against a bunch of Minions led by a Standard monster.
I don't find that I need to outright tell the players which type a given monster is, because you can communicate that in other ways.



Are you and your players okay with the PCs blowing valuable encounter and daily powers on minions because they misintepreted your hints or went first and didn't see any action points or non-roll damage yet?
I don't find that I need to outright tell the players which type a given monster is, because you can communicate that in other ways.



Are you and your players okay with the PCs blowing valuable encounter and daily powers on minions because they misintepreted your hints or went first and didn't see any action points or non-roll damage yet?




+1. Our groups uses a standard method of singling minions out - we use the plastic zombie minis from the Zombies! game to represent them, and use D&D minis for specific monsters. The zombie minis come 100 to a bag for ~$10 or so, and they work fine.

I have done a few tricky moves with this, such as placing all zombies and using them AS zombies, and/or marking certain ones ahead of time that are standards "hiding" in the crowd (revealed with a D&D mini and a flourish once they are hit and 'discovered') but in general, we operate under the assumption that the adventurers are seasoned enough to determine the real threats on the field, and so skilled that while a Goblin Carver could take a hit or two from Joe Farmer and his woodcutting axe, Joe Weaponmaster is so much more skilled and powerful that he cleaves the Goblin down in an unstoppable Tide of Iron (see what I did there?!)

Basically, it's just not worth the hassel to "hide" the minions. They are spice to an encounter, and I tend to use 25-50% of my budget on them. If you have six minions, they get smoked in a round and you feel bad. If you have TWENTY six minions, your Controller starts sweating, and you get Burst-Action Point-Burst-OHMYGODTHEYARESTILLCOMING!
So many PCs, so little time...
I recently played with a dm who simply commented on the tougher enemies looking "more intelligent" or wearing heavier armor, which easily hinted to us that they were harder to kill
 we operate under the assumption that the adventurers are seasoned enough to determine the real threats on the field



The funny thing is that my regular players always want to know which ones are the minions so they can take them out fast. They know all the annoying things I like to do with minions. Leave them alone in our games and you'll regret it!

The funny thing is that my regular players always want to know which ones are the minions so they can take them out fast. They know all the annoying things I like to do with minions. Leave them alone in our games and you'll regret it!



Well, "real threat" should have been in quotes to show ironic intent. I love to use minions, but I REALLY like to use ARTILLERY minions, backing up standard to elite brutes/soldiers... even much lower level minions throwing 6 points of damage a round can add up quickly. My players usually burn minions as fast as reasonable, to prevent getting pincushioned by kobold sling peons.

I also like to sometimes Coup De Grace with minion melee, if someone is down. The hit is an automatic critical, but minions just do their set damage no matter what so it's pretty low risk, and fun. I'd never do it to a player that was within a point or two of dying, just to be clear, before we get the "How is that fun for the player" ball of wax going - my group is invested, we like combat to feel danerous and swingy, and when we take our turns in the DM chair, we all do it.
So many PCs, so little time...
Just an anecdote, in my 4E game the heroes came into conflict with the Daggerburg Goblins, a group detailed in Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale. One of the villains is a goblin named Kabo Bomble (I might be spelling that wrong) who is described as "an usually large goblin." They encountered him twice before he actually got into a fight with the party's Tempest Fighter, and both times I mentioned that description and everyone handwaved it away.

The first time Kabo turned and punched the fighter he did really high damage and everyone flipped out. "How the heck did a goblin do that kind of damage?!?!"

Me: "I told you he was unusually large..."

Kabo ended up getting killed the battle, but the Fighter paid for it, and he definitely took more stock of my descriptions after that. It wasn't intended as a "gotcha" moment, but they now tend to say things like "anything unusual about his one?" when they encounter the bad guys and notice when I place emphasis on something. It is an in-game tool they can use to guage their opponents more effectively.
I don't find that I need to outright tell the players which type a given monster is, because you can communicate that in other ways.



Are you and your players okay with the PCs blowing valuable encounter and daily powers on minions because they misintepreted your hints or went first and didn't see any action points or non-roll damage yet?


I generally find my players (and I do it too, when I play) will typically throw a couple of weaker attacks at enemies they suspect are Minions rather than open with a big daily if they're not sure. The only ones who'll pop Dailies against Minions are the guys with big multi-target powers, which is what they should be doing anyway. 

Once you get to grips with the way 4e's encounter structure thinks, you can usually figure out what's a Minion and what's not with a fair degree of reliability. Even if you're not sure, I think it's reasonable both from a game-play perspective as well as an in-character perspective to spend a round or two "feeling out" the encounter to get a sense of what you're up against before the heroes start unleashing the earth-shattering kabooms. 

But, as always, YMMV. My players are mostly wargamers, and tend to treat encounters as tactical exercises, so this kind of thinking comes naturally to them.

Well, "real threat" should have been in quotes to show ironic intent. I love to use minions, but I REALLY like to use ARTILLERY minions, backing up standard to elite brutes/soldiers... even much lower level minions throwing 6 points of damage a round can add up quickly. My players usually burn minions as fast as reasonable, to prevent getting pincushioned by kobold sling peons.



I find that at higher levels, or if you have AoE-happy or multiattacker melee, Artillery minions are the most dangerous type, particularly if they have room to not cluster up and make themselves easy fireball targets. The toughest encounter the game I'm in right now has faced so far was a mere dozen Minions... with bows, in elevated, covered firing positions. It was a textbook ambush, and it very nearly worked.
I absolutely love the discussion taking place in this thread.

I've gathered from this the idea to handle things a bit differently than before.
Since in my next game I plan on using liberal amounts of printed tokens for the monsters, I could just as easily add an icon to each one that represents its monster category.

So quick and easy visual representations on the board pieces, no interruption of narrative, and maybe even going as far as to put an HP value on them. Keep the meta out of dialog but clearly on display for the players to be able to make the types of judgement calls that the PCs with their combat experience would be able to make. 
Your method Primesonic would be very good.