Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Minions & Mobs

Before starting I have to make a confession.  Due to my laziness and vacation the Angry DM technically beat me to the punch on this one last week here. I guess that should mean I come up with something else, but like I said lazy.  Not just that, but as much as I enjoy his articles I don't fully agree with Angry's article on several points, specifically that D&D can't effectively be run without miniatures.  With that out of the way onto the actual article.

As much as I love D&D 5th Edition I do feel like they over sold a bit of what the system would be good at.  Namely being able to throw waves of lesser foes at heroes and epic sized battles.  While yes my now level 16 players can wipe through a dozen or so orcs without even trying they also get almost nothing from it both in terms of challenge and XP.  Now in all fairness I've already talked about how I feel about "kill xp" and 5th Edition's encounter building rules, but some people do like the structure of those kinds of systems.  The challenge issue however is both a blessing and a curse.  I want my higher level players to feel like bad asses against goblins and other weakling enemies, but what if I want a big fight with monsters that could be a bit of a challenge or more importantly what if I don't want to wait till after 10th level to have big fights.  Honestly if 4th Edition got one thing right in it's design it was the concept of minions and being able to throw down a bunch of lesser enemies to fill up a scene along with one or two real threats.

How Many
In 4th Ed the magic number was 4 minions were equal to a single enemy of the same challenge and in some ways that's a nice simple way to factor in the math by just quartering things, but in 5th Ed in all honesty I feel like the magic number is actually 6.  Why six? Because that is the maximum proficiency bonus (this will make even more sense in a minute).  In 5th Edition just about everything is tied one way or another to this proficiency bonus and minions should be the same. Six might seem like an odd number to describe, but honestly for me its easier as each pack is a half dozen so if I say there are two dozen I know that is four packs.

What Makes Them Minions
Next is to look at why a minion isn't just a monster all by itself.  The easiest answer is they have less HP and this is true.  Since 6 minions equal one monster of the same type they should have 1/6th the HP as well, but that isn't enough. They should be less skilled than their "solo" counterparts and also alone they should be less deadly.  The easiest way is to drop all their Ability checks and attack rolls by -3 (why minus 3, again I will break this down in a minute just hold your horses) and they don't add their ability modifier to damage.  I'll be honest the damage rule means some minions will be more deadly in groups that others, but some enemies SHOULD work better is packs than others.

Why Minions
From a GMing standpoint this is easy, we want minions because we want more on the field, but you also need to think about why villains and even the world as a whole would want minions.  By themselves minions are rather useless to another that wants to get things done.  Sure this means you could find a swarm of goblin minions as just a fun weak threat, but that hobgoblin warlord wouldn't but up with such crap unless they served a purpose and that is that they work best in groups. Minions of the same type may share their actions acting in unison to grant a +1 bonus per minion (Maximum +6) to any ability check, attack roll, and damage. Minions acting in this way count as a single creature for the purposes of flanking and advantage(With the exception of Pack Tactics). This also fixes the action economy issue of minions as six of them can share the same number of actions as a single non-minion enemy.

The Math
I said I would explain why I chose 6 and 3 as my "magic numbers" and like I said its all based off of the scaling proficiency bonus system.  We know +6 proficiency is the maximum bonus training (at least as far as classes go not counting expertise) can provide and to me that is what a full "pack" of minions should represent.  Next is why give them all -3, well something to remember is if even 2 minions are on you they have +2 meaning they are only suffering a -1, if a whole pack is on you (+6) that is actually +3 more than a lone monster and probably dealing a point or two more damage.  First of all this actually makes a pack of minions a bigger threat than a lone monster without having to give them five extra turns (one for each minion) to do it.  The other is basically playing with averages.  Remember a FULL pack is +6, but as each minion is picked off (Which should be easy with the low HP that bonus drops making the average (about half a pack) line of with a standard monster.

This extra effectiveness and damage also helps balance out a bit the fact that area damage will basically decimate most packs of minions since they all take the damage equally.  In addition it severely penalizes someone using the numbers of minions to suck up extra actions and screw with the action economy.  Sure you can have each minion act on their own, but they will suck.  Granted acting in groups of 3 will make them just as deadly as standard monsters with half health, but honestly if you're trying to games this "system" to just get more death for your XP buck you aren't wanting minions, you just aren't wanting to reward the XP for full monsters and that my friend is called being a dick.

The Mechanics
So I've listed some of the mechanics for minions already but there's a few extra rules I figured are worth noting.  These are actually optional (on top of the fact that these guys in general aren't official in therefor optional), but I feel like they speed up game play.

1. Minion make saving throws as packs.  Basically let their starting -3 and their group proficiency bonus carry over to saves as well. This means less rolls, makes them SLIGHTLY tougher to take down with area damage (if taking half damage doesn't automatically wipe them out), but also lets those caster feel awesome in other ways such as Dominate Monster allowing them to control a whole pact of enemies.

2. The sweep rules work for minions.  In the DMG there is an optional rule that allows extra damage after killing a monster to carry over into another monster in rage (usually adjacent) if the attack would also hit that monster too.  Honestly since 6 minions are supposed to share the same health as a single non-minion monster I don't see an issue with them sharing damage as well. (This is one of the big things I don't agree with Angry over).  This also lets your players feel awesome at even lower levels by allowing blows to cleave through several enemies at once.  This also fixes the issue of I love the IDEA of cleaving, but feel like it shouldn't apply to everything.

3. Minions share bonus actions. If the standard monster type has an action it can perform as a bonus action all the minions can perform it (as a combined action with their group bonus) as a bonus action.  This means monsters that can hide as a bonus action actually get harder to find in larger groups which might seem odd, but more to me feels like cockroaches scattering making it harder to pin down which went wear and their shear numbers actually functioning as its own distraction.

4. You can choose to remove the "With the exception of Pack Tactics" note to not worry aobut advantage at all, but personally I feel like monsters with this ability are meant to come in groups and more importantly be more dangerous in packs.

For simplicity here is a breakdown on how to turn any monster into a pack of 6 minions

-Divide HP for the monster by 6
-Subtract -3 from all attack bonuses and skill checks (and saving throws if you do group saves)
-Drop all non rolled damage from the monster
-Add the following Ability:
Group Proficiency
 Minions of the same type may share their actions acting in unison to grant a +1 bonus per minion (Maximum +6) to any ability check, attack roll, and damage. Minions acting in this way count as a single creature for the purposes of flanking and advantage(With the exception of Pack Tactics).

There you go.  As far as XP you reward it by the pact and it would be the same as a single non-minion monster. If you really want numbers different than groups of 6 you can just divide the XP by 6 and you have their individual XP.

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