Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lazy DMing 3: Mooks Modified with Marked Merriment

Blockers, Beaters, and Beaten: Look at three minion templates setup for your exploitation needs.

So, we've defined what minions should and should not be; let us define some of the important essences of minions by archetype. We'll start with three of the more common useful types of minions: Abused, Bruiser, and Defender Minions. To define (in my own words):

Bruiser – A Minion which serves an aggressive battle purpose. Most of these types are going to be found in situations where you need some protection. A hoard of martial bodyguards for a local shah? A couple of minotaurs who are breaking down doors and skulls in the path of their sorcerer liegelord? Yep, we just found bruisers. Good common example: Ogres, Minotaurs, etc. 

Defender – A minion which provides a nice thick shield for the local softies. That group of bodyguards who lay down their life and throw themselves in harm's way for the local shah? A skilled mage-slayer who deflects spells for his Royal Highness? Defender minion. Good Common Example: Shield Guardians, creatures with Shield and similar abilities, members of the Bodyguard Advanced Class in d20 Modern.
Abused – It's really a hate-hate relationship here. Abused minions provide leverage and advantage based not on their skills, but what they provide in dying for the cause. Need cultists who boost spellcasting through sacrifice? How about a corpulent imp who, when brought to his death, explodes in a cloud of confusion and damage? Those are Abused minions. Common Examples: A group of creatures tied to the tyrant's armor listed in The Book of Vile Darkness, creatures with death throes and similar abilities, Thoon Infiltrators.

Now, minions come and go, but the usefulness of their stay is the measure the normal DM goes by. As minions serve to supplement and enhance the Big Bad's abilities, it is important to pick just the right minion for the right situation. Here are some basic 'template' abilities which prove useful rules-wise to give to each of these typical minion types:

Bruiser – High damage output, low threshold for pain. A Bruiser shouldn't become the focus of the party; they're there to wear down a target. Not all bruisers will wear down HP, however; if a villain is using attacks which function on Will Save, then a Bruiser who is equipped with Wisdom-affecting damage is going to be your best bet. In this situation a venomous creature may serve better than any ogre. Do not ignore the benefits of a few good hits, however; those poisons and effects will only be beneficial if the Big Bad can capitalize on it.

Defender – Damage is not as important as a good thick meat shield. Damage Reduction, Shield Other, and similar abilities will keep a Defender there. As stated before, a Defender serves a purpose; slow down PC reactions, and keep the soft Big Bad alive for his plans/spells/effects to 'get off' in the period.  Defenders need to be able to attract and stand against the PC for a period, or be in proximity to protect their master directly for their purpose to be fully served.

Abused – A keen balance of cost-benefit defines the Abused Minion. Do the PCs kill the dangerous cultist knowing that doing so will unleash hellfire and a master whose abilities will increase in power?  Balancing the Abused is a key element; they need to be just enough threat to make them ignore-proof, but not enough to feel like a screwjob when the PCs do eventually lay them to rest. A good rule of thumb is to make the Abused squishy enough to go down in one to two hits, but still dangerous enough to make the PCs want to bring them down quickly (even if their effect will boost their master and make for a harder fight. 

Abused are glass pistols to the Bruiser and Arcane Threat glass cannon; they do enough damage (in ways which are NOT necessarily aids to their master) to make them a danger, but they cannot be on the front line. Abused are great for status-affecting and low-to-mid damage area effects, though it is up to your game whether these effects will stack or (in a case of chain reaction) cause other surrounding Abused minions to 'trigger' and get off their effects early.

In the next installment we will discuss three other types of minions: Aiding, Suicidal, and Arcane Threat minions.

As Always,

Good Gaming,