Hello, and welcome to the first in what will hopefully be a long-running series: The Last Word!
There are some subjects that seem to come up time and time again on these forums. Subjects on which everybody has an opinion, a houserule, and the burning desire to share it with the world. Subjects covered by dozens of independent threads, each of which inevitably gets bogged down and forgotten in mounds of "Sure, but here's how I'd do it!"
The Last Word is a different way of looking at those subjects. We're not interested in hearing all the different ways people patch their game, as interesting as that may be. What we're interested in is finding the best patch for a given situation, and proving it to be so.
To that end, we look at all the houserules that have gone before, weigh them against each other, and through lengthy debate identify both the requirements of the situation and the solutions that best satisfy them. In other words, instead of proposing a rule and asking for ideas, we start with ideas and end up with a new rule.
That doesn't mean we don't want to hear your houserule, mind you. It's probably a pretty good rule, or else you wouldn't be using it. But just telling us your good rule isn't enough; you need to tell us why it's good. Why it's your rule. Why it's better than that other guy's rule.
And in the end we'll have a rule. The best rule. And that, as they say, will be the last word on the matter.
Today's topic is:
I'm willing to bet that every homebrewer here has at one time or another thought that there was something missing from the rules for minions. They're just too easy to kill. Supposedly four of them are worth as much as one standard creature, but that's hard to believe when you're killing all four with a single Scorching Burst-- or even worse, with an autodamage zone.
WotC did address this problem in DMG2 and MM2, giving minions the same roles as other monsters, increasing their damage expressions, and decreasing their XP value to 1/5 that of a standard in paragon tier, and 1/6 in epic.
But was that enough? Some agree, some don't. Minions certainly pose a greater threat now, but they die just as quickly as they always did. What do you think? Do they need to be made tougher? If so, how? Are you sure your fix won't unbalance them?
UPDATE: As of MM3, most minions have some way to avoid damage and/or get in an extra hit before death. There's no single mechanic for this; every minion has its own trick. I'm quite satisfied with this, although there's still the question of what to do with the older, trickless minions.
Note: Making minions worth more XP isn't the same as balancing them. That's for the next part.
Henchmen. Underlings. Two-hit minions. Lackeys. Redshirts. El Pequeno Queso. Whatever you call them, they're all the same thing: minions made big. Specifically, they're a theoretical group role that provides twice the threat of a regular minion, but only slightly more work. As a rule, they take the equivalent of two hits to kill and deal 2/3 the damage of a standard (as opposed to the 1/2 of regular minions).
There is of course some overlap between the concepts of 'minion' and 'elite minion'. Not everybody agrees on how much punishment a regular minion should be able to take. Some say regular minions should take 1.5 hits to kill, and elites should take 3. Some say all minions should be elite minions. With that in mind, when you describe your mechanics please include a note on how many hits your design is intended to take.
There are a lot of things to take into account when designing and discussing a new mechanic.
Balance. A minion is worth 1/5 as many XP as a standard monster, and should provide 1/5 as much threat. An elite minion is the same, except replace the 1/5 with a 1/2. This is the most important thing you need to consider.
Simplicity. Ideally, minions should finish their turns in seconds and require little to no bookkeeping. In practice, a little bookkeeping is to be expected... but the more things you have to track, and the more dice you have to roll, the harder the minion will be to run.
Elegance. A rule might be perfectly balanced, but if it's all exceptions and corner cases it'll be hard to remember and easy to mess up. Simplicity is golden.
Unity. With the rest of 4e, that is. Adapting an existing concept is generally better than creating a new mechanic. That's cool if your patch works fine in your game, but will it work in every other game? Your rule should flow naturally into the existing ruleset, with a minimum of stretching.
How many hits, on average, will it take to kill the minion? How far can the number deviate from that average? Too much variance, and you might end up with a lucky minion that takes ten hits and stays standing.
How many rolls will the minion have to make each round? Classic minions rarely make more than one, so even one more roll will double your time investment. Multiplied by four or more minions, that can get real big real fast.
How much information does each minion need to track, and how quickly can it be accessed and updated? Each box you check or token you place is something to remember when the minion moves; each number you write is a calculation you have to perform.
How does the minion react to autodamage? Does it suffer the full effects? Ignore it entirely? Something between the two? What does this do to the effectiveness of autodamage powers in general?
How does the minion react to "big" attacks, like dailies, crits, or really lucky rolls? Are they just like any other attack? Or are they more effective, as with other creatures? What about "big" attacks that deal low damage over a large area?
How does your rule interact with healing? A minion that doesn't use standard hit points will need some reasonable way to react to a heal.
Do your minions get bloodied? Is this worth the extra bookkeeping?
How does your rule impact the role of minions in the metagame? Do they restrict your choices when you're building encounters? For instance, they might only work in large groups or as waves of reinforcements. Flexiblity is a good thing.
Some listed systems may be followed by optional variants, identified by different-coloured bullets.
Straight-up damage resistance: minions ignore any damage below some threshold (see "Thresholds" below). 0.5-infinity hits, depending on threshold.
Tons of variants.
Saving throw to ignore damage... (all variants are widely endorsed) Igfig's analysisShow
1-hit: Saving throw at-will to negate autodamage. Pros: reduces impact of autodamage, no bookkeeping. Cons: Might not be tough enough. 1.5-hit: Saving throw 1/encounter to negate any damage. Pros: Quite balanced. Cons: Requires bookkeeping, doesn't account for autodamage. 2-hit: Saving throw at-will to negate any damage. Pros: No bookkeeping. Cons: Might be too tough, doesn't account for autodamage.
Imagine two PCs: Sean the Sorcerer, with Cha 20, and Fred the Fighter, with Str 18. They're fighting some minions with resist 4 all. Sean lets loose with a Lightning Strike; with his +5 Cha mod, he's zapping two enemies every round. Fred wades in with Cleave, but alas! His +4 Str mod just isn't enough to get through the resist 4. His damage has been halved because of a single point of difference.
Keep in mind that the average PC deals about 10 + level damage with an at-will attack, and roughly twice that with an encounter power.
Here are some suggested thresholds, with my comments:
Level: stops autodamage at higher levels, not much else.
Level/5 (or whatever fraction): stops low-level autodamage at high levels, not much else.
Con score: stops autodamage, also attacks at low levels.
Fixed number + level: scales well with at-will attacks.
Con + level: scales nearly as well, and a little more elegant (standard monsters have Con + (8 x level) hp, after all)
Con + (2 x level): scales well with encounter powers, very elegant (for an elite minion, at least)
Minion's relevant defense (e.g. Fort defense against a Fort attack): basically it's just 12+level.
fixed number + level / 2: scales with autodamage, but can interfere with low-rolling regular attacks.
1/4 (or whatever fraction) of standard monster's hp: sounds reasonable, but probably too big if you don't min/max.
Minion's base damage: scales well with autodamage, but gets mixed up by artillery and sneak attackers.
Some people like the idea of minions being able to be bloodied. Others don't, citing it as too much bookkeeping. In any case, some proposed bloodiness triggers:
Minions are always bloodied
The minion is missed by an attack
The minion takes damage (in an X-hits system)
The minion ignores damage (in many other systems)
The minion takes autodamage (the damage itself is often ignored)
The minion is missed by an attack that deals damage on a miss
Half of the minions in the encounter are dead
And I'm sure more considerations will be added as the discussion progresses.
All right then!
So, there you have it: a partially complete list of the choices to be made in creating a system for minions. Which idea is the best one? I'll give my analysis and preferences in a bit, but first I want to hear your arguments. Also any ideas I may have missed.
Now council convoke, now wise voices be heard; On matters bespoke, let this be...
Goons have 2 hit points. An at-will or auto-damage normally bloodies a goon on the first hit, and kills on the second.
If you want to kill a goon in one shot you have a few options: Hit it with the striker's shtick (quarry, sneak attack, etc.) Hit it with an attack it's vulnerable to. Hit it with an encounter or daily power. Crit it.
As to the 'minions are too easy to kill' complaint, I don't worry about it. As long as my players are spending resources (actions or limited powers) to kill minions and goons, I consider it a fair trade.
A minion rule I wrote, called Rule of Three, got some attention as a suggestion in one of the threads you mentioned. I made it a thread of its own, but then it go zero attention at that point (ha). Its for standard (but slightly tougher) minions: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...
Locke: [after mugging a merchant for his clothes] It's a little tight, but the price was right.
I run Minions where the Treshold = Minions base damage for simplicity sake. With the DMG2's minion rules, this makes Brute Minions more powerful, which is intentional.
So a Level 1 Soldier minion has a treshold of 4, while a L10 Brute minion has a treshold of 10. The treshold ends at 18 for Brute minions and 15 for the rest. This is the damage that an attacker needs to equal or overcome to drop a minion. Hits and autodamage has effect, but misses still have no damaging effect.
The second you give Hit Points to a minion is when the minion stops being what is was originally designed to be.
I have my own version of Elite Minions, tested already to be quite effective, resilient, and annoying, all without having to track Hit Points.
Simply stated, the Elite Minions have Resist to all damage equal to their Level. For some really tough ones, make the resistance Level +1,23,etc.
This means while a character might hit a minion, they'll need a minimum amount of damage in a single attack to bring it down. This is similar to your threshold but it's more consistent and integrates immediately with the current rules.
At one point, I had elite minions with a leader monster that was giving them temporary hit points. The elite minions were able to take quite the beating while still dishing out pain themselves.
Now you can later increase the damage output or even give your elite minions encounter powers, but all it takes to get them to survive is the resist damage.
I go with the respawn minion method. (Someone already pointed out it is literally the exact thing from gauntlet, TYVM)
Necromancer BBEG? He has a power, move action, recharge when the last minion is dead (Or if there is 1 minion left, and the PCs caugt on and are ignoring it.)This power summons 1d4, 3, 2d4, X skeleton minions into the fight. Kill the necro minions stop.
Fighting some guards in a guard house? Every 1d4 rounds, 1d4 minions come running from "Elsewhere". Only way to stop them is somehow bar the door.
Fighting an elemental lord? He has a bowl of his element. It summons 1d4 minions whenever the last minion is killed. (it might wait a turn or two, or have a die rolled for no reason first) Knock over the bowl, minions stop.
Notes on this method
I don't award XP to players. I use one summoning station as one monster of the level of minions it summons for encounter budgets.
I get to keep the ease of "One hit, no book keeping" minions.
My players love fighting a horde of foes, and this can really pump up the number of foes in a fight. (Usually for a boss fight it is solo, 2 elites, 1-4 normals, and minions, for normal fights take out the solo, and maybe minions)
Ambient damage is so not an issue with this method. "Oh you killed 3 of the minions by standing next to them? Ok well more just came, I hope that power lasts all fight, and even still, now you have to stand where they spawn and camp it taking you out of the fight."
5e comments and thoughts all in one place. Check it out to provide feedback, mock, or steal ideas. http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/28835423/Krusks_5e_Design_Goals?sdb=1
Currently only rule we use is that minions can only be killed with a hit. Basicaly expanding the rules that minions arn't hit on a miss. All this ,means is that if a minion is hit by auto damage then the source of that damage must make a attack roll to effect the minion. If a effect does damage on a miss it gets a second attack roll. this way powers that damage on a miss are not wasted on a minion but also don't auto kill a minion also makes it so auto damage is still effective but not instent death to minions. (the hit roll for auto damage is a free action for the source)
Though I Do like the idea of damage resist elite minions.
I sometimes use Krusk's method of minion spawners, usually ones that can be disabled as a skill challenge. That way they can be rated as traps (4 checks to take it offline, or 6 if it's an elite spawner that makes minions faster or of higher level) and if you fail the challenge the spawner is disabled but not before it spawns either something nasty or a whole last lot of minions.
Epic Dungeon Master
Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!
I've used a minion-spawning method that continues spawning minions for as long as one minion exists. When done right, with several standard monsters and a continuous but not overwhelming number of minions (having a fixed number that spawns minions only when one or more minions die), you can use the minions to set up flanks and add damage into the combat.
The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.