4e: Minions, mooks, and extras, oh my!
Today’s 4e preview is about minions.
Essentially, a minion in 4e is an opponent that is made to come in a horde. You can wade through them, dropping them left and right, but you can’t ignore them.
In 3.x, this was very hard to accomplish. Someone of sufficiently low level to be dropped with a hit or two was often incapable of actually being a threat. A level 1 goblin warrior, for instance, is unlikely to be able to hit most PCs above fifth level or so with anything less than a natural 20… and, when it does hit, the damage it does will be negligible. The problem, of course, was that hit dice reflected both power level and staying power (hit points).
In 4e, these are decoupled. Monsters have levels that reflect the level of the PCs for whom they are appropriate threats. This level, however, doesn’t determine a monster’s hit points (at least not on its own). For that, you’ll also need to know some other things… notably including the monster’s role.
For instance, if the monster’s role is Minion, then – regardless of its level – it has one hit point.
This is a bit weird. What it means is that you can have a powerful (say, level 20) monster that a level 20 PC will find challenging to hit, and will be worried about getting hit by, but will go down in a single hit.
There’s been some controversy about this… including speculation about such things as what happens when one minion punches another. That sort of thing misses the point, though. Minions are an abstraction, a way to present monsters to PCs so that they will be viable threats without being major encounters. This is a specific instance of the 4e design mentality of using separate rules to create PCs and, well, everyone else.
Minions presuppose a particular play-style. As written, they won’t work at all in a sandbox-style game that imagines a world totally independent of the PCs. Minions don’t really exist as minions except with respect to the PCs. In a sandbox-style game, I suppose it would be easy enough to just say that the level of minions encountered is always scaled to that of the PCs. That what the rules seem to intend. Whether the game would still count as a sandbox game at that point I will leave to others…
I can only see this resulting in some weird fights, depending on how area spells now work. For example, if a Fireball is big enough to hit a real foe and several minions, and you miss, the real foe takes half damage and could die, while the minions are completely unharmed. Yes, they only have 1 hit point, but imagine how much time someone might waste using abilities that cause damage on a miss against minions, that can’t be hurt by misses.
Well everyone knows up front that minions can’t be killed by an attack that normally would do damage on a miss, so to use one against them would be pointless and a waste of an action.
I don’t think it is too weird. The mistake is to think about it as if the minions are unharmed. Remember, the 1hp is an abstraction. Just pretend that they were singed, but that it wasn’t enough to kill them.
Either that, or pretend that all minions have Evasion and Mettle.
The way it was explained to me, was that player’s shouldn’t know which ones are the minions. So maybe I was just misinformed on that.