Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beyond Pathfinder: Minions from 4E

With all the fuss about 4E going away and 5E's release, our little Pathfinder campaign keeps chugging along as it has for months without any major changes. I wonder, though, if it might be worth it to incorporate some rules from other systems, and this series will explore some ideas from other RPGs that I have considered using. We'll start with the idea of minions from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Minions from D&D 4E For the Uninitiated
Minions have all the stats of a typical monster of a given challenge rating except for hit points. They only have one hp, but they only die when you actually hit them (none of that "you still deal damage even if you miss" nonsense will knock down a mighty minion!).

I have to be honest here. As a DM, minions were one of my favorite parts of 4th Edition D&D. If you have twenty orcs in your collection of miniatures, why shouldn't you throw them all on the table at the same time? Am I right? Of course I am! Four minions are the equivalent of a single standard monster, so you can pile a lot of them into a regular encounter.

In my Pathfinder campaign, I still incorporate minions - low level monsters that swarm you and get in the way - but mechanically there are two major issues with them.

  1. They have more than one hit point. That might not sound like a big deal at first, but there are times when a not-so-combat-inclined PC whacks one of them but it survives. Then I have ten identical or nearly identical miniatures on the board with different hp totals. It's tough to keep track of... and honestly, I know I get it wrong sometimes. "Are you sure that's the one you hit two turns ago? They've moved since then..."
  2. Their attack bonuses aren't high enough to matter. This is mitigated somewhat by numbers. If you roll enough dice, some of them will come up 20's. Still, sometimes they seem like more of a hassle to keep up with than they're worth.
The minions mechanic solves both of these problems, taking away the need for the DM to keep up with hit points and making their combat statistics high enough to matter. 

Advantages
Aside from breaking the norm as far as mechanics go, I don't think this is one that would be disruptive in a typical Pathfinder game. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's one that can be used as-is, and your players might not even know the difference at low levels. At mid to high levels, it will probably get suspicious, as most monsters don't die to just any hit, and when the rogue rolls a "1" for damage on a turn that he doesn't get an sneak attack bonuses, your players will be sure to catch on. 

Disadvantages
For parties that are unbalanced or for newer players, the minion mechanic might emphasize the need for controller too much. Without a character in the party that can do damage to more than one opponent per round (area effect spells, iterative attacks, etc), minions can be overpowering in the right situation.
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