The secret of monsters..

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I am a DM of a campaign that has now run for 4 years, and the characters have now reached lvl 18.

2 years ago or so when they were about level 12 they asked me: "why havn't we seen any orcs.. have they dissappered from the earth?", no they had dissapeared into the low levels of monster manual, a horde of orcs is really not that dangerous to level 12 characters. And 2 orc barbarians level 12 is not as fun either..

I missed the orcs as well. And by bending the rules, orcs came back with a fury. I have since used the idea on all other encounters.


The most important change is that I made a minions class. Minions are made so that a character can take down one or more in a round, in my group that would give them 20-30 hit point each.
Secondly they only have one attack and the best balance is to give them about a 25% hitchance, in my group that would give them about +17 to their attack.
And lastly I give them a low damage like 1d8+4.

These simple guidelines makes all minions cool. Because there can be unlimited minions on the battle field, and they pose a threat without beeing able to destroy the characters too quickly.
Also I find it much easier to control combat this way, as I can a just how many minions should attack each character. While I don't have to note how many hitpoints each minion have.

Mostly I put in some lieutenants and of cause a boss or two in these encounters, just to make it unpredictable.

The downside is, that I have no clue how to calculate experience points out of it. But as my campaign is story based and not hack n' slash based it really doesn't matter.
Why would you have to bend the rules to bring orcs in at advanced levels? They can be advanced through class.

It's similar to making goblins challenging. As a base creature they're absolutely useless unless you throw them in large groups at your PCs or use advanced tactics. But a 14th level goblin shaman, with four 12th level goblin warriors as bodyguards is a challenge that requires your players to actually recognize the little bastards as an actual opponent without overwhelming spell fodder clogging up the dungeon.
Why would you have to bend the rules to bring orcs in at advanced levels? They can be advanced through class.

It's similar to making goblins challenging. As a base creature they're absolutely useless unless you throw them in large groups at your PCs or use advanced tactics. But a 14th level goblin shaman, with four 12th level goblin warriors as bodyguards is a challenge that requires your players to actually recognize the little bastards as an actual opponent without overwhelming spell fodder clogging up the dungeon.

If he had simply added class levels to the orcs normally, they would have gotten too many HP to be easily killable. He wanted minion orcs that would fulfil the role he expected out of them while still being cannon fodder.

I haven't heard any indications that Wizards of the Coast is doing the same thing exactly, but it's a similar approach. They're building monsters to be able to do XYZ task against PCs of power level ABC, whether or not there is a codified rules structure to get them there.

Set goals. Make monsters that meet goals, no matter how much you have to bend the numbers.

We'll see how it works in practice.
Interesting. It makes me think of Diablo II and Final Fantasy and how it handles monsters. I guess MMOs too. The final bosses always have a ridiculous amount of hit points, but their damage does not match up to those hit points.
If he had simply added class levels to the orcs normally, they would have gotten too many HP to be easily killable. He wanted minion orcs that would fulfil the role he expected out of them while still being cannon fodder.

So in other words, instead of making the creatures challenging he just wanted them there to take up space?

It seems like such a lot of work for cannon fodder.
So in other words, instead of making the creatures challenging he just wanted them there to take up space?

It seems like such a lot of work for cannon fodder.

I think you missed his points.
- They were easy to create,
- capable of inflicting at least minor damage if ignored,
- easily killed allowing the PCs to still have that feeling of great power (which can seem irrelevant sometimes when the power of all encounters scale up with them),
- provide a distraction that the BBEG can take advantage of by giving him some time to use abilities, etc.

The Piazza A renaissance of the Old Worlds. Where any setting can be explored, any rules system discussed, and any combination of the two brought to life.

The devs have indicated that one of the design goals for 4E is to extend the 'sweet spot', which in 3x was roughly PC levels 5-12. This was considered the 'sweet spot' because it lacked the extreme swings of low-level play, and avoided the broken-ness of high-level play. In the sweet spot you could take a few hits before dropping and you tended to hit more than you missed, but hitting wasn't automatic.

I think this will indirectly (or directly) apply to monsters. Perhaps orcs will 'feel' more like your minion-rule orcs for a certain level range, like maybe 1-10. I would hate for a monster like orcs to 'auto-level' up to 30 with the PC's. It would start to feel like the "Oblivion" video game for those who have played it will know what I mean.
I like this idea.
I might prefer to have orcs with level, but this approach definitely have its merit.

One idea I have been using in my games is that of positive levels. Positive levels work just like negative levels (without the possiblity of remaining as actual level gain), except reversed. You gain three temporary hit points, a +1 moral bonus to all attack roles, saving throws, skill and ability checks. I also add in a +1 dodge bonus to AC.

Now in my games, these were specific spell effects (I also toyed with the notion that gaining enough XP to level up during a game resulted in a positive level that is later converted into an actual level after the game session ends).

With a little conversion, you can use them as a way to quickly scale a monster to be a challenge to a higher level PC party. I did this in a recent session where the PCs ran into Nashrous(from MM4), where everytime they killed one, two more would pop up in their place. Each with a single positive level. If one of those criters were killed, two more with two positive levels each would pop up. And so on until the PCs ran away.

Basically what you do is this. Look up the monster's challenge rating first. Then determine what you want the CR to be. Give the monster as many positive levels as required to bring it up to that point.

For example, a Nashrou has a CR of 2. A CR 11 Nashrou would have +9 to attack, AC, saving throws, skill and ability checks. Additionally, that is enough advancement to increase their size to Huge, which advances their natural attacks one size, and gives them an increase to Strenth and so on.

This system is mainly used whenever the PCs do something unexpected or if you just dont have enough prep time.
The most important change is that I made a minions class. Minions are made so that a character can take down one or more in a round, in my group that would give them 20-30 hit point each.
Secondly they only have one attack and the best balance is to give them about a 25% hitchance, in my group that would give them about +17 to their attack.
And lastly I give them a low damage like 1d8+4.

That sounds a lot like the NPC class from Star Wars Saga. It has been said that Saga is somewhat of a prelude of things to come.
That sounds a lot like the NPC class from Star Wars Saga. It has been said that Saga is somewhat of a prelude of things to come.

Ya I was thinking the same thing. After listening to how quickly they mowed through those vampire spawn in the playtest session I felt almost sure that they did something like this. I mean they have stated they wanted fights to involve more monsters, with players killing more thing and feeling more heroic. Even the 4th edition preview video shows PC's just wading through an army of bladefodder. NPC/minion style baddies certainly fill that bill.