Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Traps and Minions Revisited

So this last week's adventures pitted heroes against some mechanics that aren't actually IN standard D&D 5e with Minions and monsters that also function like Traps.  Long time readers shouldn't be surprised as I've discussed my ideas on both of these in the past, but it seems like there's a fair bit of new readers with Ashen Grey Adventures now streaming and I refresher never hurts anyways. So with that Im going to break down how I handle mobs of minions as well as making traps that function like monsters (including XP so it's not as much in a grey area as 5e normally puts it).

Minions & Mobs
First and foremost, I already wrote a much more in depth article on how I handle these guys as well as my inspirations that lead me there right here.

Wit the preliminary reading out of the way let's now look at a minion that appeared last week, The Shambler"

There are four main features to notice here:

  1. The XP - Minions are designed to act in packs of 6 and with that their XP is for 6 minions rather than individually.  This is mainly because 6 minions should be the same challenge as a single non minion creature of the same challenge.
  2. The Minion Ability - Probably the most obvious as it's literally labeled minion, but this is the linch pin that makes all the other changes work. The bonus to attacks and damage allows minions in full packs to be far more dangerous than alone at the cost of extra actions.  Behind the curtain what this does is gives the DM a reason to roll less dice and allow for large battles to flow much faster wile giving a solid reason for doing it.
  3. The Cleavable Ability - I personally put this on jsut about all my minions and its taken right out of the DGM as an optional rule for more cannon fodder enemies.  It's separate from the minion ability because adding it would make that ability a massive wall of text, but also because this way some of the weaker non minions (like competent goblins) can have it slapped on them as well.
  4. The Proficiency Bonus - It isn't uncommon for the actual bonus to not be labeled seperately on stat blocks, but some simple math will always reveal it. If you do that math here you'll notice that the bonus is 3 lower than a normal creature of this challenge. This is again because of the idea that minions travel in packs of 6 and the effects of the minion ability. By dropping the bonus and damage by 3 this means a single minon is much weaker and a full pack is that much stronger, but more importantly it means that when a pack is half defeated (meaning only 3 of the original 6 are standing) it is the exact same challenge as a normal threat.  With that we know that as these bonuses shift throughout a fight the average threat should be right about on par with a normal threat.

Again, I already wrote a much more in depth article on how I handle these guys as well as my inspirations that lead me there, but in this case there's two. One about scaling DCs HERE and one about taking the rules for creating monsters from the DMG and putting them on traps HERE.

Just like the articles there were actually two examples of these trap type threats this week.  The Gnomish turret being unable to move from its location comes off feeling more like a standard trap while the Royal Auto Guard being able to move, interact, and fight comes off more like a standard monsters that happens to be a construct, but they both used the mechanics I employ for my more monster like traps.

Since it would involve repeating myself if done in the other order we're going to start with the more monster like Auto Guard.

Really there are only two things to note about the auto guard:
  1. Damage & Condition Immunities: If you notice the guard has the same immunities as most constructs.  Given that this is a mechanical trap that acts like a monster it makes sense.  technically you could use these ideas for something like a daemon that could be banished with arcana or religeon rolls that would be a fringe chase.  Since the bulk of these concept is around mechanisms it's always worth remember what doesn't effect non living things.
  2. Hackable Brain: So this is where the "trap-like" part of the guard comes in.  Now normally people think of traps as something that gets shut off (look to the turret for an example) sometimes it's worth noting that a trap can also turn into a tool by a clever party.  You'll notice that performing this requires two checks.  There are a couple reasons for this.  First I always want being able to switch the sides of a threat to be harder than a single random dice roll unless caused by magic. Second this is a case that really lets a rogue shine.  Thanks to cunning action they can use thieve's tools as a bonus action and thus could perform both checks in a single round.  Since just about anyone can end up with this tool proficiency now I like to find ways to make specific character choices feel special.
Special Note: As I said, being able to simply shut down a trap is typically a hallmark of traps and it isn't included here.  There are a couple reasons for this, but the biggest is that these guards were able to be bypassed with a password. This isn't included in the stat block because that password wont work for any auto guard ever built, but also because something like that could be applied to any threat for story reasons (the Sphinx being a prime example) and is more of a potential puzzle than a trap.

As for a more traditional trap our heroes also encountered a gnomish turret.

There's really only one thing to note one this stat block other than what we already covered with the guard and that's the Shut Down ability.  This s the more typical "disable the trap" mechanic.  You'll also notice that this trap requires 3 checks. This isn't a typo.  I wanted the turret to be a threat that sticks around for a bit if activated before the players could get to it.  This also lets you know that this is a more complex mechanism.  Since these traps act in combat I wanted to think in terms of 6 second intervals and how many of those would be needed to shut off the trap.

Personally I still wouldn't go past 2 checks unless they are either on some kind of console or other feature that doesn't move around the battlefield or a unit that is large enough for the character to more or less ride.  With these continuous checks on a man sized trap that is running around you might end up with a heroes literally chasing your trap with it's tools.  Granted if that's the image you want to conjure or better yet require the trap to be caught and restrained first then go for it.

So that's it. You've now been brushed up on adding large numbers on threats for a fight without it taking an hour per turn and blurring the lines between traps and monsters.  Granted this didn't cover the classic "Trap room" idea, but they haven't come up in our adventures just yet. Plus I did LINK you my thoughts on those already anyways. 

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