View Full Version : Tough Minions [4e houserule]

2008-05-29, 01:50 PM
So it appears that there are some pretty effective minion killers -- abilities with large area effects, per-encounter usable, that don't deal that much damage but don't require a to-hit roll to connect.

While I find most of the 4e combat engine to be awesome sauce, this concerns me.

So my attempted fix:

Tough Minions
All minions on one side of an encounter share a HP pool. This HP pool is equal to the sum of the levels of the minions.

When a minion is damaged, if it takes damage equal to or greater than it's level, it dies and removes it's contribution to the HP pool.

Otherwise, the damage is applied to the HP pool. If the current damage in the pool is greater than the minion's level, then the minion dies, and the HP pool loses it's level in damage and total HP.


This was worded a a bit legalisticly -- sorry about that.

When implemented with uniform level minions, the rule is simpler: every MINION LEVEL damage done to minions collectively kills one minion, namely the one who took damage most recently. You cannot do more than MINION LEVEL damage to a single minion -- blows on one minion cannot take out 2. :)

The threshold remains relatively low, but a force of level 20 minions won't be killed en-mass by a single no-save low-level area effect.


Example useage:
Bob the level 4 Fighter is cut off from his party, and is fighting 8 level 4 minions. A hard fight! Bob is in trouble.

He swings and connects, hitting one and doing 8 damage. This is more than the minion level, so a minion dies. His attack, Cleave, gives him an extra attack -- which connects. It only does 3 damage, so the second minion doesn't fall (!).

Just then, Alice arrives and casts a Zone of Ice ability. All enemies who start their turn within the Zone of Ice take 1 ice damage. Under 4e vanilla rules, every minion now dies at the start of their turn.

Under Tough Minions, they take collectively 7 damage -- with the 3 damage they have already taken, that brings it up to 10 damage, or enough to kill 2 minions, leaving 2 damage left over.

The remaining 7 minions attack. One dies when it tries to slip past Bob to attack Alice, and the remainder chip away at our Hero's HP.

Bob then Cleaves again -- a hit for ... crap, 3 damage. 2 existing minion damage + 3 = 5, more than enough to drop a minion however, leaving 1 left over.

The follow-up Cleave also connects, doing 3 damage. 3+1 existing damage = 4, another minion falls, and the minion damage counter is now 0.

Alice lets off a close burst, and hits 3 times. The Players are rolling good. She does 2 3 and 8 damage -- not so good. The 8 damage roll just kills a minion -- 3 left. The 2 and 3 damage add up to 5 -- enough for another minion to drop.

The minion damage counter is now 1, and there are 2 standing. With a grin, Bob finishes the last two off.


Note that under these rules, the damage you do to minions does matter. But an attack that does a reasonable amount of damage for your level will drop a minion.

Instead of granting each minion it's own separate HP pool, under this system the DM only has to keep track of one damage track for all of the minions together. Then whenever a minion takes damage, compare it against that minions level -- if the total damage surpasses that minions level, eat up the damage and scratch one minion.


If this is too complex, you can just use the "LEVEL damage kills a minion" rule when a large number of minions are exposed to no-save damage. Add up the total damage they all take, then kill one minion per MINION LEVEL damage done. Any attack that actually uses an attack role and does at least 1 damage still kills the minion.

That kind of thing leaves large-scale Area attacks (like Hail of Arrows -- level 27 ranger encounter power, attack every enemy in bowshot for [W]+Dex damage (Dex vs AC)) that do extra-low damage as possibly a too-effective way to kill large numbers of minions.

Note that monsters of every level tend to have more than (LEVEL*4) HP. So the rule that "killing a minion is 4 times easier than killing a normal monster" still holds.

Human Paragon 3
2008-05-29, 02:16 PM
Defeats BOTH purposes of minions. This house rule subverts the no-bookkeeping aspect of minions and the "minions always take one hit" rule. I don't see any immediate problem with wizards able to down multiple minions with an area spell. It's the DM's job to plan encounters accordingly. You know they have AoE abilities, so if you don't want the minions to fold up fast, spread them out or use more. Also, it will make the wizard player (or indeed whoever is using the AoE power) feel awesome when they take out all those minions, so what harm does it do?

2008-05-29, 02:18 PM
...At that point why not just use monsters who are not minions and have the hp score you want?

Really though, minions are a book keeping tool, if you like large encounters without a lot of book keeping, use them, otherwise don't.

2008-05-29, 02:32 PM
Because they are supposed to use 1/4 as much effort as a standard monster, not "one action by one player"?

In some cases, we are talking about using level 11 abilities that do a trivial amount of damage to slaughter large areas of level 30 minions. In effect, once a player has such an ability, minions become weaker than they "should" be.

4 minions was supposed to be about as hard to kill as 1 normal monster grunt. With the ability to take out minions using low-damage mass attacks that bypass defenses, you end up with killing many many minions with a single action. If your party lacks this ability, 8 minions contain some added challenge -- they consume ~ 4 to 6 attack actions to take them out.

If your party has these abilities, the 8 minions disappear like soap bubbles.

While the DM can deal with that problem by "if the party has that ability, don't challenge them with minions", that is true of any broken mechanic in any system.

I'm just trying to figure out a mechanic that means that the area spells are still useful against minions, but so they aren't so useful that the DM has to resort to not using minions in any numbers.

The bookkeeping is intended to remain minimal: just keep track of total damage done to minions, and then kill them when the damage passes the threshold. No per-minion bookkeeping (other than status effects, which existed under the vanilla 4e rules).

And in the event that this level of bookkeeping is too much, just apply it only to no-defense damage effects like auras and zones. This results in minions being wiped out reasonably quickly by auras and zones, but they don't all fall over instantly.

Note that at low levels, these mechanics reduce to vanilla 4e. A level 1 minion has 1 HP regardless. :)

2008-05-29, 02:32 PM
I would agree: still a bit of over-complication.

I would argue that killing large swathes of Minions with AoE attacks isn't necessarily going to be a bad thing. It allows you to use cool AoE attacks without "wasting" them against tougher monsters or lower-level 3E mooks that couldn't hit you anyways.

Human Paragon 3
2008-05-29, 02:52 PM
1) You are putting words in the designers mouth by saying that the design intent is to create a monster that is 1/4 as threatening as a standard monster. The real intent was to create enemies that are threatening up to level 30 that the PCs can still one shot, for use in swarm tactics and supplementing larger encounters. The 1/4 as threating thing is just how dangerous they happen to be, and a good power level for them. It is an aproximation of their power for XP and encounter design purposes.

2) The area of effect abilities that you refer to that "bypass defenses" are mythical and made up by you as far as I can tell. A fireball or ice blast must succeed in an attack vs. each of the minions defenses (reflex, fort or what have you), which will be just as good as any regular monster's defenses, so if you have a 50% chance to hit a monster, you will probably kill around 50% of the monsters in the area, not all of them. The only attacks that bypass defense as you say are the ones that deal damage even on a miss, but those cannot harm minions.

Last, have you been playing the system and discovering that your PCs are beating minions too easily? Or is this just a pre-emptive strike based on what you've heard about 4e?

2008-05-29, 03:39 PM
Neither. It is based off of cited examples from accidentally shipped 4e books.

Storm Cage, for example, is a level 11 wizard paragon path per-encounter power that, from descriptions, creates an area like this:


Everything who begins its turn in the W or X region, or moves into the W region, takes 10 damage without a save.

In essence, every single minion in the above region, unless some other NPC uses their power to shift them out before their turn, is dead, unless it has lightning resistance. (There is also a thunder+lightning attack roll involved).

There are other similar abilities. In general, zones that do damage do damage at the start of any creature's turn in the region -- which basically makes them "no-save minion death".

There are other abilities that do allow attack rolls, but they do low damage for their level and hit a huge area. Such as the ranger Hail of Arrows attack, which does 1[W]+Dex damage against every single being in range of the ranger with an attack roll.

Note that basic attacks do 2[W]+Dex damage by this point in progression -- this is basically a half-basic-attack against everyone in range. And it is a per-encounter ability.

This has less of a problem, because the player has to defeat the minion defense to win.

I expect none of this will rise it's head and cause a problem until you reach medium-high levels (20+). At level 11, if a Wizard uses the "kill every minion" ability listed above, that's not so bad. But then by level 30, that same ability remains the best minion-killer, killing level 32 minions...

And it isn't alone -- multiple such "Zone killers" that turn out to be kick-ass minion slaughterers have been cited from the PHB.

I mentioned these powers in general in the first sentence of my post, ie:

So it appears that there are some pretty effective minion killers -- abilities with large area effects, per-encounter usable, that don't deal that much damage but don't require a to-hit roll to connect.