Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lazy DM'ing Part 2: Miles of Memorable Mooks (oh My!)

Tips and tricks on how to make those minions you're working memorable but not overshadowing.

As discussed in the previous post , our goal in this Lazy DMing discussion is to create a strongly flavorful, well-remembered group of mooks which will put your players and their characters in stitches. The following steps, when applied in moderation, should do just that . . .
In some cases quantity can almost make up for quality.

Step 1: Make the Mook's Initial Appearance Memorable. There's a lot of jokes around the Net and in the gaming community at-large that if a character has a name and talks to the PCs that this character must be important. I find this type of metagame thinking to be untrue in most of the games I've played in because DMs and players followed this bit of advice. Minions are pe... well, they're creatures too, and they deserve to be treated as such. Minions who have good descriptive phrasing in their first reveal will stick in player's minds much more readily than just another orc with axe in chain shirt combination.

Step 2: Make Minions Disposable Wingmen. Minions are the wingmen of the PC/NPC relationship. Minions get the boss introduced to the players, check out their strengths and weaknesses, and see how best to fit their master into the plans of the PCs. Low-grade thugs work to soften up the party, expend resources, and make the villain's life easier.

The other benefit to the Disposable wingmen format is that you are supplied with a group of faces to protect and obfuscate the agenda of your Villain.  Of course you need to watch overstepping their power range and making them too powerful... Rather...

Please +1 This Pony...
Step 3: Minions Are Two-Trick Ponies. A mook should never be limited to one option in battle, but as stated previously . . . these guys are disposable. They'll be in mind for awhile, but their whole purpose is to advance a storyline and provide delicious window dressing for the player's immersion.

In essence, think of minions as interview subjects for a job. Does the minion bring something that is lacking to the company? Does the minion serve a purpose which is in-line with the goals of the company? Does the minion fit in with the general 'culture' of the company?  Does it look good in business casual?

If three out of four of these questions can be answered yes, then you have a perfect minion. That enraged minotaur kept as a 'pet' by the dwarven merchant lord who has sent assassins against the PCs serves a purpose . . .  It is a powerfully strong bully minion, and works great as a counterpart to the cerebral merchant lord. The minotaur provides muscle in-line with the goals of the villain, and fits in with the villain's ideology (evil merchant who treats his minions as chattel).

A crazed, half-starved minotaur which springs from the shadows onto the PCs will be remembered for the sheer shock value, and the high percentage of such a creature, if calmed, being able to tell more about his master's plans and possibly fighting the good fight alongside the PCs cannot be ignored as motivation.

Minions are small highlights to the story. They should never be the main attraction, though their unique quirks should also never be so far in the background as to just be a statblock. Without a well-planned, well-executed series of minions, the villain becomes an obelisk for PC targeting. Every story needs a good support cast, and a well thought out series of minions can serve you for sessions (or even arcs) to come with fodder for stories.

Good Gaming,