About ten months ago, I first published my article on Piecework Creatures as an alternate method of running combats between a party of heroes and a single creature without using Solos. The article has been very well-received, receiving two acknowledgments by Wizards, as well as numerous comments in blogs and discussion boards across the net. I am flattered.
But even more heartening are the wonderful suggestions I have received for ways to add on and improve on Piecework Creatures. In this article, I want to expand on one such idea.
In a blog at The Piazza, dulsi – who has an account on this community under the same moniker – suggested that the pieces of a Piecework Creature need not be standard creatures; they can also be minions. I think this is a great idea.
One use for Piecework Minions can be creatures that should have more than six parts. (Piecework creatures become unwieldy and overwhelming when they get larger than six pieces.) An eleven-armed six-piece kraken, for example can have a head (with two anchoring tentacles), four major tentacles, and five tentacle minions.
A second use for Piecework Minions can be fragile yet deadly elements of a Piecework Creature. A 4-piece beholder, for instance, could be represented by a maw, central eye, and ten minion eyestalks.
Using Piecework Minions can be rewarding, but tricky to design. Following are my guidelines for incorporating minions into a Piecework Creature:
Level: A Piecework Minion should be the same level as the creature.
Experience Points: Each minion added to the creature adds to the experience value of the creature an amount equal to the experience point value of a minion of that level. Thus, adding five Piecework Minions to a creature is the equivalent of adding a single standard Piece.
Initiative: A Piecework Minion rolls it own initiative.
Hit Points and Dying: Piecework Minions do not add hit points to a creature. Instead, whenever a Piecework Minion takes damage, it is stunned until the end of the encounter (no save). Stunned minions do not count towards whether a Piecework Creature is considered bloodied. If a Piecework Creature’s standard Pieces are all stunned until the end of the encounter, the creature dies, even if there are still Piecework Minions alive.
Saves: For each five Piecework Minions added to a creature (rounded down), the creature gains a bonus to saves of +1.
Action Points: Piecework Minions cannot invoke any action points.
Defenses: All attacks against a Piecework Minion are made at a penalty of -2.
Bursts and Blasts: If a Piecework Creature has more than five Piecework Minions who are not stunned until the end of the encounter, no burst or blast may target more than half of the active Piecework Minions.
Designing encounters with Piecework Minions requires some careful consideration. Piecework Minions are particularly vulnerable to burst and blast attacks because they are necessarily grouped close together. However, given that Piecework Creatures, like all Solos, give a battlefield controller so very little to do in general, being able to wipe out all those Piecework Minions in two or three rounds may be appropriate compensation.
On the other hand, in a party without a character with good burst and blast effects, Piecework Minions can be devastating. Piecework Minions give five or more attacks to a creature interspersed throughout the combat. If the Piecework Minions are imposing conditions, it can feasibly lockdown an entire party within a single round.
One more note on Piecework Minions: while their attacks can be minor annoyances if they do not impose status effects, they can work equally well as support for the main Pieces. A good use of a Piecework Minion is to perform a Heal check (DC 15) on a main Piece so as to allow that Piece to make a saving throw against a condition.
I have designed a few sample Piecork Creatures that incorporate Piecework Minions and placed them in the Community Monster Manual. They are:
The Piecework Cinderswarm Crucible, a Four-Piece Five-Minion Skirmisher 25
The Piecework Eye Tyrant Beholder, a Two-Piece Ten-Minion Artillery 19
The Piecework Kraken, a Three-Piece Eight-Minion Soldier 10