Two-Hit Minions

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 13, 2011

The two-hit minion isn’t new. We first suggested the idea over two years ago in one of our very first articles, More Than Just Minions. It was a reaction to DMs who felt that the normal minions were lacking something. I’ve felt that way for a while now and a few months ago I decided it was time to start using two-hit minions on a regular basis. The results were fantastic.

During this season of D&D Encounters we’ve been running tables with very large parties. The more heroes there are in the party, the more monsters I’ve placed on the map. However, week after week of just adding more monsters was starting to get a little bit boring, not to mention that it led to combat encounters that were taking a very long time to complete. I knew that I needed to shake things up and my solution was two-hit minions.

When I was using regular minions I found that the players, upon learning which opponents had only 1 hit point, treated the minions differently than other monsters. A lot of the PCs ignored them. The PCs with powers that could target multiple creatures (usually the controllers) would often eliminate all the minions in one round. It was very unsatisfying for the players and for me as the DM. Enter two-hit minions.

The players had no idea what was happening. They saw 12 monsters on the board and assumed (correctly) that at least some were minions. In this case eight were minions, four were not. But when the first PC attacked a minion and it didn’t die the PCs had to quickly reassess the situation. It took the players a couple of rounds before they realized that these were indeed minions, but they weren’t minions as they understood them. The result was unprecedented teamwork.

Mechanics

As the name implies it takes two hits to destroy a two-hit minion. However, I’ve added a couple of other quarks to the two-hit minions as I’ve refined them through play-testing. After the first hit the minion is bloodied. This serves two purposes. First it lets the players know which minions will fall with a single hit and which ones still need two hits. The second is that some PCs can do different things against bloodied opponents than they can against non-bloodied opponents. So one hit: bloodied, two hits: dead.

The only exception is on a natural 20. In those rare instances when a PC crits a two-hit minions I’ve counted it as two hits and that minions is destroyed. Now players don’t feel like a crit on a minion is a wasted 20.

As an additional reward to PCs that bloody two-hit minions, I started having the creatures fall prone when they got hit the first time, but not automatically or all the time. The attack score had to exceed the defense the PC was targeting by 5 or more. Originally I had them falling prone all the time on any hit, but it didn’t really make them seem that much better than regular minions. By rewarding a high attack roll in this way the PCs made more effort to work together to flank and get combat advantage on that first hit. It also reinforces the idea that you should always do the math and call out the total attack roll and not just say “I rolled a 17.” Sure a 17 will hit, but if the total isn’t above 21 than the minion is still on his feet.

The whole purpose of using two-hit minions was to add danger and excitement to the encounter. I wasn’t trying to make the minions uber-powerful. I just wanted a way to make them more menacing and to keep them around a little bit longer. I felt that having them fall prone on the first hit (assuming the attack score exceeded the target number by 5 or more) gave players a sense of satisfaction even though they didn’t kill the minion outright. It was also a way to reward the PCs because now that minion was granting combat advantage to melee attackers. If the minion was still alive on its turn it now had to use its move action standing up.

Increased Teamwork and Tactics

When the players learned that two-hit minions were now a mainstay in my encounters, it gave them a real incentive to work together. They actually talked about a coordinated attack pattern to take out the minions and didn’t just leave them for the controllers to handle. Sometimes the controllers worked to bloody all the minions early, that way any PC could kill a minion with one shot. Knowing that there was a good chance of knocking a fresh two-hit minion prone allowed PCs to help allies in distress. Threatened PCs could now move far enough away from a prone minion that they didn’t have to worry about getting attacked on the monster’s next turn.

The other tactic that quickly caught on at the table was for two PCs to delay until they were on the same number in the initiative and then engage the minions together. One PC (usually a defender) went first and attacked the nearest minion. As part of the attack the defender would mark it. The second PC would then attack the same one. If they both hit, then the minions was dead. If either missed then at least the minion was marked and would engage the defender. If the defender wasn’t available then the Ranger usually took point knowing that he had a good chance of killing a two-hit minion himself.

Players also began to see the importance of Wizards and Rangers when fighting two-hit minions. When facing a bunch of typical minions, a Wizard and Ranger can easily take down two a piece on their turn. But with two-hit minions the Wizard can’t kill any by himself. He can bloody many, but they’re all going to be alive and dangerous on their turn (although possibly prone). The Ranger on the other hand is capable of making multiple attacks on the same creature – an important distinction. So he can actually destroy a two-hit minion by himself on his turn. Now there’s one less to threaten the party.

A battlefield littered with bloodied two-hit minions becomes a shooting gallery for a Wizard with Magic Missile. Since Magic Missile always hits (even if the minion is prone), this becomes the fastest and easiest way to get rid of any bloodied two-hit minions.

The strikers more than any other class seem to hate the two-hit minions. Players running strikers often feel that their incredible damage should count for something else against a two-hit minion. After all, even the lowliest PC can destroy a two-hit minion with two successful attacks that each deal 1 point of damage. Meanwhile a striker is likely to dole out significantly more damage on his turn but still need to hit the minion twice. In a game just this week a level 1 Warlock inflicted over 20 points of damage on two consecutive rounds against a two-hit minion (both with at-will attacks). It still killed the monster, but the player really felt that all of that extra damage was wasted.

The lesson the party learned from this was to let the strikers focus on the non-minions and have everyone else take care of the two-hit minions so that the extra damage was put to its best use. I suppose is a valid argument even when fighting normal minions. The exception being Rangers, as we’ve already noted above.

Building Better Minions

Over the past few months I’ve used a lot of two-hit minions with a lot of different gaming groups (most notably at D&D Encounters). After each session I asked the players for feedback and refined the concept based on their comments. All in all the players have embraced the two-hit minions. They really liked the idea that they were knocked prone when first hit and didn’t have any issues with needing a really high attack roll to do it.

The only feedback that I’ve received that I haven’t been able to decide on how to handle is with regards to daily and encounter powers. Some players felt that if they used an encounter or daily power that it should count as two hits and destroy the minions. In a way I understand that argument, after all it’s a more powerful ability so using it and not killing a minions is likely to frustrate many players.

For now I’m still demanding that PCs score two hits, regardless of what kind of power is used and I have a few good reasons for doing so. Many D&D Essentials builds do not have encounter or daily powers in the same way as non-Essentials builds. This means that some PCs would have an edge when battling two-hit minions that other do not and I don’t think that’s fair. Having two-hit minions react differently to at-will, encounter and daily powers means that the DM would have to keep track of one more thing during combat, and that’s not something I’m willing to do as a DM.

Finally I look at how powers are used against minions today. Most PCs, once they realize that they’re facing minions, won’t use anything more powerful than an at-will attack. My though is that if you’re using a bigger power against your opponents then you obviously feel that the situation calls for it. If the target happens to be a minion and you use an encounter of daily power against it then that’s just too bad. In fact just last week my level 20 Warlord used a daily power on a minion. The party was in desperate need of healing and the power would only grant it on a successful hit. The 3[W] damage was absolutely wasted, but the healing it provided was not.

What are you thoughts on two-hit minions? Have you ever used them? Are you likely to use them moving forward? What feedback or criticism do you have on the mechanics as I’ve described them above? My goal is to make the two-hit minions as good as they can be while still being a balanced part of the encounter so please let me know what you think.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JR July 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

I love these little two-hit guys. I will occasionally add other ‘spice’ to my two-hit minions, like a “vulnerable” flavor that dies on a single hit with their least favorite damage type. I also like to add a power to Leader non-minions that can amplify the threat from two-hitters:
– minions near their leader get to roll saves at the beginning of their turn
– minions get a bonus to attack & damage vs the target of their leader’s ire (quarry, mark, etc.)
– bloodied minions do higher damage

2 Kilsek July 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

I’ve always like them, as they still remain easy to manage, easy to eliminate, and add a new choice of monster type and challenge to the table.

I do have one particular player, a power gamer mostly, who doesn’t like two-hit minions for whatever reason. I do bump up (double) the XP value of two-hit minions, so all should be fair and love and war here, right?

3 Geek Fu July 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

Genius! I’ve been rather disappointed with minions over the past few levels, and this idea will work wonderfully. My players have treated them exactly as the players you’ve observed: not a threat/let the controller take them. Oh how the group will freak out when they see the creatures aren’t dying in one hit. Lately, I’ve had to use very synergistic minions just to make them any threat at all.

4 Liack July 13, 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m also a fan of two-hits minions…I feel it is a way to share the spotlight a little better. A thing I tend to do is put an imaginary damage treshold (maybe 2 x the damage a minion does, not quite fixed yet), to consider it an instant kill. I didn’t think about the critical hits yet (since they haven’t happened in my minions combat), and I’ll add the falling prone on high atk rolls next time I run a game. :)

5 Arbanax July 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

Whilst I love the ‘surprise’ that keeps you guessing of two hit minions, they often still do static damage, I’d love to see some examples of other things minions could do, and when they do, do damage that something else be used so that it doesn’t seem so ‘set’ which is often another give away, that hey all these guys are minions but just two hit ones?

Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’d love to see more on this, as we all know combat can drag, minions are great, but if you’ve decked out an area with mainly minions you want to add something to them to make them more than static damage pawns as well.

I’d be interested in your thoughts, agree, disagree etc.

6 Sentack July 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

I was actually thinking of something vaguely similar to this recently after my frustration over Minions in general as well. Two things I didn’t think of were Crits and Knocking them prone, that’s actually pretty ingenious.

I think this is a great idea partly because Minions are fun for the players but not so fun for the DM, of course you need to balance this out with what PC’s are playing with at your table. No controllers and players might have a hard time.

That being said, this is a great idea, I might use this in my next session.

7 obryn July 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I sometimes use two-hit minions, but instead of auto-killing them on a crit, I set a damage threshhold, beyond which the minion automatically dies. This makes it so a Controller could, for example, toss a Fireball in the midst of a bunch of minions, and actually see them fall.

The threshhold is usually the Minion’s Level +5. Any damage below that, and the minion is just Bloodied.

Sometimes instead of, or in addition to the above, I’ll set a minimum damage level of around half the minion’s level. Below that, and the minion isn’t even bloodied.

8 iserith July 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I’ve used the two-hit minions before. They were “just okay.” I actually found them more trouble to track than they were worth, but that’s just me. There are tons of great ways to make minions more interesting without going the two-hit route:

1. Make your minions 5 levels higher than your PCs, even if that means they are higher level than the non-minion enemies. Having 1 hp doesn’t matter if the PCs can’t hit them every single time. This also increases the minion’s attack rolls and damage and makes them an actual threat because they will hit – a lot. When the controller’s burst attack takes out 1 and misses 4, then those four minions proceed to bloody the controller, watch your players scramble around and redeploy their resources to deal with them!

2. Tie waves of minions to events on the battlefield. “When Monster A is bloodied, six minions enter the fight” or “When the PCs are halfway through the skill challenge, six minions show up and engage.” Elites or solos that “generate” minions are also cool – an undead behemoth is destroyed and spewing from its corpse comes half a dozen skeletons of previously digested victims… that sort of thing. By adding minions to the fight after the party is engaged (and having already picked their ideal combat position), it changes the dynamic a lot.

3. Have your minions do Aid Another instead of attacking. A high damage brute with four minions aiding its attack (+8 to hit!) makes that creature especially dangerous and forces the players to focus on minions first before anything else. Alternately, have them aid a nasty controller’s defense (+8 to defenses against the next attack!). For added cruelty, make those minions something like cute little street urchins or hapless peasants under mind control so that the PCs cringe when they have to take them out.

4. Halfling minions. They’re just plain awesome because of Second Chance. It forces a reroll on the part of the player, even on crits, but still gives them a chance to take out the minion in one go. Reskin the halflings and that power in particular for anything that works in your story, e.g. cultists of a chaotic deity, a cool James Bond-esque fight in a casino, etc.

The two-hit minion is a quality addition to a game, but mix it up even more to keep your PCs on their toes. I just designed (what I think) is a very cool little minion/skill challenge for an upcoming game that involves the “minions” being “disturbing memories” of people the PCs have killed previously. While they don’t do any damage, as long as you can see them, you take a penalty. Skills as minor actions can allow PCs to ignore or destroy them. Since I feel like I’m already taking up half a page with this post, I’ll post it if you want to take look – let me know.

9 Keith Davies July 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I don’t play 4e, but increasing minions from one-hit to two-hit (and making them bloodied) looks to me like a wonderful improvement. I’ve long (since 2e days) had minor monsters be one- or two-hit kills because I couldn’t be bothered to keep track of individual hit points.

Lacking figures, we would typically use d4s to mark monsters on our map. ‘1’ meant uninjured, ‘2’ meant injured, ‘3’ was incapacitated or otherwise limited, ‘4’ was dead. It made keeping track during play much, much easier.

Mounts were usually d6s — partly because they are larger than their riders, but mostly because it’s a cube and easy to balance the ‘rider’ on.

10 froth July 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

i reaaaly dont like two hit minions bc once you know they are minions, you have to spam your at wills or players will bc nobody wants to use a powerful power on minions

11 Fronch July 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I like the two-hit minions. I’m also a fan of *dangerous* minions. Minions that melee for 4 aren’t a big deal, but minions that apply status effects, hit really hard, have aura, explode when they die, etc. can really make PC’s think twice about strategy.

How do you feel about auto-damage and minions? Like, if a player puts up an effect that does damage to a minion without requiring an attack roll? This is the most common way I see PC’s deal with minions, and it can be frustrating as a DM when one power just wipes all the minions off the map.

12 Ameron July 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm

@JR
In cases where minions are modeled after real monsters and those real monsters have vulnerabilities (say skeletons with radiant vulnerability for example) any attack of that type will kill a two-hit minion outright. It doesn’t happen often so I like to reward the PCs that think to exploit their monster knowledge. I like the idea that a bloodied minion does more damage. It really emphasizes the importance of taking them out as quickly as possible and not just leaving the bloodied ones alive.

@Kilsek
You’ve hit the nail on the head. No matter what change a DM makes to the way he runs his gaming table, in this case two-hit minions, those changes shouldn’t slow things down or create extra work.

I do treat two-hit minions as double XP, so ½ rather than ¼ XP of similar monsters of the same level.

@Geek Fu
I hear you. I’ve played in many games where the DMs stopped using minions because the PCs ignored them. I’ll bet if you use two-hit minions once, the players will start taking all minions more seriously, even if you go back to using normal minions. Changing it up once and a while will keep them on their toes.

@Liack
I thought about setting a damage threshold over which any strike would outright kill a two-hit minion, but it seemed like more work for me to have to keep track of. The simplicity of needing two hits keeps things moving quickly. We use bloodied markers that slide under the minis so it’s easy to tell which ones are fresh and which ones are bloodied.

@Arbanax
I absolutely agree. I sometimes give minions secondary effects that are triggered on a successful hit, like dazing or knocking a PC prone. As soon as they do more than straight up damage, the players take notice and adjust their tactics.

I’ll continue refining my minions and post what works and what doesn’t. I’ve already got some great ideas just from the few comments here already. Keep them coming, everybody. We’re all in this together. Let’s try to make minions even more awesome.

@Sentack
Glad you like two-hit minions. Let me know how they work in your game. In my home game the controllers are the least represent class. Sometimes we go months at a time without one. Without a controller in the party, minions can easily change the outcome of the battle in favour of the monsters. So I agree that you have to keep your party makeup in mind when using minions.

@obryn
It sounds like setting a damage threshold is a common and practical compromise. I like that idea but my only concern is that it adds another level of bookkeeping for the DM. However, if all minions in your encounter have the same threshold I guess it wouldn’t be too bad. This would certainly make strikers happier not to mention controllers that roll max damage.

@iserith
First of all… wow. Excellent comments.

1) Using minions that are higher level than the party as you suggest is a really good idea. I usually go the other way and make them lower level than the party so I can get more of them. But if I’m going to make them two-hit minions then maybe this is a better idea. I think that if I were to go this route I’d use fewer minions just to keep things fair.

2) I’m a BIG fan of monsters in waves. I like the idea of tying the waves to triggers in the battle. That’s something I haven’t used before. I usually just wait until the PCs reach a certain point on the map or until a set number of rounds goes by. Having more minions appear when the monster is bloodied or destroyed will certainly add a new element to my encounters. Thanks.

3) I always have minions aid another. It’s one of those obscure rules that no one remembers. I also let intelligent minions make heal checks on big bosses to grant them a save. This really angers the players, but it’s 100% legal.

4) I never thought of giving minions encounter powers, not even racial powers. No, that’s not true. I usually give Dragonborn minions dragon breath. But it never occurred to me to give the other races their racial encounter power. Second Chance, Elven Accuracy, Fey Step. Now we’re on to something cool. :)

If you’ve got more to say about minions I welcome your comments. Just give me time to reply between essays.

13 iserith July 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

@Ameron
Thanks for the response. Man, Heal checks by minions to grant saves. That is pure evil genius. I never thought of that.

Here’s the quasi-skill challenge/minion thing I’m trying out at tomorrow’s game. The basic concept is that the PCs will be getting into some kind of conflict while a crowd of onlookers watches. I’m setting it up to be like those creepy scenes in the movies where the main character sees someone who’s supposed to be dead slow-mo walking through the crowd and making eye contact with him. Each PC (in this case, 2) has 4 “unnerving shades” haunting him. They can use skill checks to ignore or dispel them. There are no set conditions for failing this skill challenge as it’s not “really” a skill challenge, rather a hybrid between having minions on the board and using skills to defeat them. So really, it’s a straight-up fight with some different options and cinematic dynamics (if that makes sense).

———————————–
UNNERVING SHADES
Out of the corners of your eyes, barely in your field of vision, you catch sight of someone moving through the crowd of spectators. You turn your head to look and lock eyes with a familiar and unnerving face from the past. You can see your friend looking around in the same way, a worrisome look on his face.

As long as you can see a shade that haunts you, you have a -2 penalty to defenses and saving throws.

You Can’t Be Real (DC 24): You try to ignore unnerving shades, bracing your will to shut them out of your mind or using your memories to defeat them with reason. Make an Endurance, History or Streetwise check as a minor action. The shades do not affect you until the end of your next turn.

Snap Out of It (DC 24): Your friend suffers from a similar effect and needs help to see the truth. Make a Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Religion check as a minor action. The shades do not affect an ally of your choice until the end of your next turn.

Attempt to Disbelieve (DC 29): You try to pierce through the unnerving shades with a weapon or with keen observation. Make a basic attack, Insight, or Perception check as a minor action. The shade haunting you is dispelled.

Special: When the gnomes of the Harlequinade Mortificatio are defeated or routed, this effect ends. There are no penalties for failing skill checks.
———————————–

My feeling is that once you understand how minions affect the game, you can really play around with how they are implemented as you have done with the two-hit minion concept. You can distill them down to simple effects as I’ve done here or use them purely as support. In addition, I would argue, depending upon your party composition, that the XP value of minions varies as related to your XP budget for an encounter. You can get away with adding a lot of minions (over budget) and still have it be a fair fight, especially if you set additional conditions that the PCs can use to bail themselves out if it gets too rough (e.g., all minions die if the three urns on the altar are destroyed).

Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking article. Minions – and the various new concepts you can come up with to expand upon them – are just great.

14 Francois B. July 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

The minions i had most fun to play was the ones that had Action Points (dungeon 155, Heathen, Banite Converts)

Also, Aid Another is a staple of minion activity
but minions can also Heal others since they can help other monsters use their Healing Surge
(all monsters have a HS, in heroic they have 1 (paragon 2, epic 3) )

15 Dungeon Maestro July 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm

To be honest, While I’ve toyed with two hit minions, and even used the bloodied effect, I never liked them for the exact reason you mentioned. Encounter and Daily powers.

My solution to this was to look at my players At-will attacks. Figure out the Average, Maximum Damage of their most used At-will attacks; and set the Minion HP to that number. This way, it was “unlikely” they woudl drop a minion with an at-will attack, but it was “highly likely” they would bloody it. Secondly, it became “highly likely” that encounter powers would drop them, AND strikers didn’t feel like their damage was getting wasted either.

So far it’s worked well.

16 Paik the Kenku Monk July 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I like it. I will be using this idea in my up coming sessions. I agree that it provides teamwork aspect to adventure and the need to think strategically instead of a straight out destruction game.

I agree about the controller killing all the minions in one stroke. Magic missile is the biggest culprit at lower levels. One missile one minion killed. No fun at all.

Keep up the great work!

17 Rabbit is wise July 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I agree with Dungeon Maestro, if your party is doing 20 damage regulary with at will attacks set their HP at 20-25, that way at-wills will usually take two hits to kill and encounters and daily’s 1… down side, bad rolls may make pc’s take 3 hits to kill the two hit minion thus defeating the purpose…
Never thought of minions using aid another… why? idk… but these kind of techniques would make a great article… also settings for maximum minion use would also be a great topic…

Side note as a DM when players are exploring a dungeon sometimes I’ll put one minion out in the middle of a room all by itself, let the pc’s kill it, and then watch them get nervous when no other monsters appear, it will increase the drama in the exploration

18 Andrew July 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I haven’t read all the comments, so someone may have said this. When I use two-hit minions, I still have the players roll damage. If a damage die comes up at its max, the minion is destroyed. That way encounter and daily powers become more potent against minions because you’re 3x more likely to roll max on a damage die with your longsword with Brute Strike – 3[W] – rather than your basic attack.

19 Jim S. July 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I haven’t tried two hit minions, but I love minions with get-out-of-jail-free cards like the kobold tunnelers, who have been the bane of the party’s wizard’s existence. If I want to add a vulnerability to these kinds of minions, I just make the triggering condition include a “without the X keyword” clause. So, if the kobold tunnelers were vulnerable to fire, it would read:

Trigger: A close or an area attack without the fire keyword hits or misses the kobold.

I’m about to introduce a new type of minion to my players that’s related to the “wave” theory of adding minions. These minions are invulnerable (and harmless) until a condition is met. In this case, it will be a player dropping to 0 or fewer hit points. At that time, the minions become active and dangerous for a round, before regaining their invulnerability and losing their attacks. Not 2-hit, but the narrow window of opportunity and instant threat forces the minions into the spotlight, especially as this allows the minions to enter combat in the middle of the party, past their established defenses.

However, now I’m wondering how a battle featuring minions that needed to be hit twice in a given round before they fall would work.

20 OnlineDM July 14, 2011 at 12:43 am

I discovered and loved two-hit minions at one point. Then I later decided that I preferred massive numbers of one-hit minions.

I might throw in the occasional two-hit minion now, but when I did it all the time it got old.

I love interesting minion powers. One minion in D&D Encounters this season dealt damage on a miss – now that was a nasty surprise for the players! Dragon breath, as you said, is another cool one. And something nasty when they die (explosions, for instance) can be fun, too.

I’ve concluded that the point of minions is to have massive hordes of bad guys that can be mowed down pretty easily. Just up their numbers – let the players feel even more awesome for blasting more of them. Four minions are dull. Twelve minions are much more interesting.

21 Erik July 14, 2011 at 12:59 am

I’ve liked this idea ever since it was first suggested. I will definitely implement it the next time I run a 4E campaign.

I do agree with the strikers that gripe about wasting their extra damage. I could see a workable system where damage greater than an arbitrarily high number counts as two hits instead of one. Something along the lines of 2xLevel +20, maybe?

Barring such a system, fighting two-hit minions (and minions in general, really) favors abilities that grant +Attack over +Damage, but it’s a rather small gripe.

22 Rico July 14, 2011 at 2:24 am

I think this is a fantasitc idea. I’ve always had a problem with minions in general because, it seems to me, it encourages metagame thinking. It’s one thing to describe a minion as being lightly or unarmored (same with being armed) and maybe not really sure about what it’s doing compared to the guy in armor with the long sword who obviously is a seasoned warrior. This let’s the party know what they’re up against. But as soon as you say “minion” players often go into the type of thinking and behavior that you describe above.

23 barbiomalefico July 14, 2011 at 5:13 am

This post is really interesting and i will write something about it (in Italian my own language) on my blog. I’ll use them in my next game session for a first test.

24 Ameron July 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

@Keith Davies
Although there was never a 2e D&D mechanic for minions I think a lot of people just made something up on their own. I like your idea of using d4s and having each number signify something different. Creative thinking.

@froth
I’ve found the opposite to be true. Players are more likely to use encounter powers on a fresh two-hit minions if the effect is something cool. Previously they wouldn’t “waste” a good power on something as insignificant as a minion. But if the power will immobilize, for example, suddenly the still-living minions is fair game for those better powers. Perhaps this is not typical but that’s what I’m seeing.

@Fronch
One thing I’ve been doing to speed up my game is to pre-roll ALL monster damage ahead of time. No matter which monster hits you, there is no damage roll because I’ve done it before the game began. This is one way that I’ve been able to disguise minions, at least for a round or two.

I also like to have minions do more than just weapon damage. If I can get away with an effect that will immobilize, slow, daze or whatever, then I have no problem using it. Just remember that if you add those powers to minions then they become considerably more powerful and should count for more of the XP budget.

I have no objection or issues whatsoever with players that use powers to inflict automatic damage to minions or other creatures. A PC that can create a zone that will deal auto damage is fair game. After all, if my two-hit minion will take damage at the beginning of his turn and he’s fresh then the zone won’t destroy him on its own. He’ll still get to attack or at the very least move out of the zone.

@iserith
This is great. Thanks for sharing it. I’m absolutely going to “borrow” this for an upcoming adventure.

@Francois B.
I’ve never given minions action points. I have given regular minions temporary hit points. This really messes with a player’s perception of what a minion is supposed to be. I’m not sure if I’d let a minion use Heal to trigger a bigger monster’s second wind (and in effect let that monster heal) since most monsters, even ones with healing surges, don’t generally have second wind stated as a power. Of course you could argue that ALL creatures can use second wind if they have a healing surge which would make this a legal move.

@Dungeon Maestro
You suggestion to give the minions actual hit points in the average damage range will certainly work. My concern is that it adds more record keeping to the encounter. Part of what I like about minions is that normally, one hit kills. For two-hit minions I still don’t need to track a number, I just mark it as bloodied when it’s hit the first time. I like your idea and think it would make a lot of players happier to use powers beyond just their at-wills on minions, but for my game I don’t think I’d take this route.

@Paik the Kenku Monk
I’ve found that Magic Missile is now being used regularly to finish off the bloodied minions. It’s all about teamwork. The melee combatants wade in and if they don’t kill the minions then the Wizards finish things off before the minions can attack. The Wizards at my table are actually enjoying the two-hit minions a lot and feel like they’re really adding something to the battle.

@Rabbit is wise
Oh man, I think the idea of putting one minion in a room by himself is priceless. I’m totally using that idea. My players will go nuts trying to find the rest of the monsters. Awesome!

@Andrew
Now this is a great idea. I’m going to incorporate it moving forward. If your damage dice comes up with the max value it destroys a two-hit minion. You’re absolutely right that it will encourage players to use powers that have more [W]s. I’d clarify that in the case where a weapon’s base damage is 2d4 or 2d6 that you’d have to roll the maximum on both dice combined. Rolling a 4 and a 1 with 2d4 wouldn’t cut it. I’d also rule that extra damage from strikers (like sneak dice, hunter’s quarry, and Warlock’s curse) wouldn’t count towards this “exception” to the two-hit rule.

@Jim S.
I like the idea of minions that can only be harmed for very short and specific windows of opportunity. I guarantee that the PCs won’t keep ignoring them if round after round they keep getting in the way yet can’t be destroyed. I think you might find that the big boss is killed first and the minions are handled afterwards. Now that’s something you rarely see in D&D. In fact, a really frustrated party might even end up fleeing from the minions if they can’t figure things out.

@OnlineDM
You’re right that the same thing over and over again will get boring. I intend to use the two-hit minions more sparingly once I’ve reached a sense that I’ve refined them enough. I really like exploding minions too. My party will often use powers that don’t deal damage but just move the minions around the board. Then they kill them where they’ll explode for the best effect. A minion that deals damage on a miss makes for a nasty surprise too. I’m going to use that one down the line.

@Erik
You’re absolutely right that a two-hit minions reward accuracy more than output. I find that too many players seem too focused on just dealing the most possible damage. These are the same players that complain the most about two-hit minions. I thought about allowing damage over a certain number count as two-hits but I felt that it defeated the real purpose of the two-hit minions. That’s not to say that some DM can’t or won’t adopt that idea.

@Rico
The devil is in the details. Check out our original article More Than Minions in which Sterling suggests way to use the description of monsters to throw off the players and their meta knowledge. But you’re absolutely correct that as soon as players realize they’re facing minions everything changes. By switching between two-hit and one-hit minions from fight to fight the players will never know which kind of minions they’re facing at first and that should help keep the meta knowledge curbed for a little while.

@barbiomalefico
I’m glad we could inspire you. Please let us know how they worked in your game.

25 Francois B. July 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

@ameron – let me just be more precise, no “Second Wind” unless the creature has an ability to trigger it, but just to heal with a Healing Surge is possible for any monster (heroic monsters have 1 HS, paragon 2, epic 3 as per the Monster Manual). It can’t auto trigger it unless it has an ability, but another (minion) can make a heal check to let it use it..

26 Paradox July 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I like the Two-Hit Minion idea, especially that critical hits or hits with damage types the minions have vulnerability (thanks Kilsek :) will outright kill them.
The idea is way less radical then the concept of Diceless-Minions I am currently experimenting with. And probably more balanced.
Diceless-Minions automatically hit but their damage is adjusted by the attack modifier (therefor no dices are involved during resolving a minions attack). With an automatic hit I hope to speed-up combat since no attack and damage roles have to be resolved. This can be time saving especially if a large number of minions is involved. And the problem that players tend to ignore minions has been addressed because the really dish out damage. The damage adjustment by attack modifier (e.g. -2 damage for concealment but +2 damage if the minion is flanking) reintroduces a bit of an tactical element. The tactical element could be increased by multiplying the attack modifier with a certain factor before it is added to the damage.

27 mbeacom July 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I love 2 hit minions and have used them to great success. One of the best things I do ( and you do) is that a crit always kills a 2 hit minion.

Another tweak I’ve made in some cases to keep combat faster is that if the minion scores a hit against the party, that will bloody it so that it becomes a one hit minion. Basically, my thought is that if a minion hit at least one guy then he has done his job and can become a normal minion. The biggest reason I introduced 2 hit minions is simply to keep fast dying combatants on the field long enough to do at least one thing. once that thing is done, I revoke their 2 hit status.

Lastly if I’m feeling exceptionally diabolical, I’ll add one caveat onto the crit kill. Yes, you can kill a 2 hit minion in one hit (or perhaps with a daily) but the result is that the minion explodes in a burst of flesh and gore creating a zone of slippery blood and guts (difficult terrain) or perhaps a burst 1 attack vs reflex or be blinded. So that way the players can opt to user their dailies to overcome the 2 hit but there will be ramifacations to using such an overpowering attack against such a puny enemy. YOU HIT THEM SO HARD THEY EXPLODE!

The players love this and when I describe them slipping and sliding in the blood of their enemies, it’s worth it.

28 Sunyaku July 15, 2011 at 12:43 am

In lieu of minions I’ve also used creature with very low hit points. For example, 10 hit points per every 4 levels or so, depending on party makeup. That way, a high damage roll will drop the creature, but they could feasibly take 2 or 3 low damage rolls.

I subbed in as a DM this week, and happened to use a rather menacing orc skeleton as a minion… and I let the 8:30 DM use my figs as well (I was playing). At both time slots, I was a little surprised that players assumed the creature was NOT a minion, just because it looked more intimidating than the other skeletons.

29 iserith July 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

@Ameron
Regarding the Unnerving Shades minion/skill challenge, I introduced that at last night’s game.

As tensions started to rise in roleplaying with some evil gnomes, I started having the shades appear and disappear in the crowd (online interface using pogs of enemies vanquished in the past). The players got so creeped out they broke off talking to the gnomes and got the hell out of there. They didn’t make skill check one as related to the skill challenge, prefering to avoid combat altogether.

Ah well, still a great scene!

30 Sentack July 18, 2011 at 10:40 am

Just a quick update, I introduced this concept to my players recently and here’s the general responce my players had.

Leader – Fine with it
Defender – Fine with it
Controller – Somewhat disappointed but generally okay
Ranger striker – Fine with it
Rogue Striker – HATED it

The Rogue commented there needs to be a threashold that he can kill the minion, else it diminishes his specific role. I will admit that it seems odd that he shouldn’t be able to take one out easily while the ranger has a good chance of it, but I’m still debating on a threashold. His arguement is that he would ignore Minions but my counter is that, he does that already.

I do like the idea someone put out about the auto-hit minions. I have too many players with insane AC and I would need to use Lvl+3 minions just to come ‘close’ to hitting. Of course, auto-hit minions would have to do 1/2 the Damage of regular minions, to properly represent the 50% chance to hit they should have.

I also think that Minions need to do things that irritate all players equally. Currently the only player that litterally worries about Minions is the Controller and he seems to do so as a role of obligation that they are his thing to destroy. The Rogue is a Artful Dodger so he can’t even be TOUCHED by them and ignores any damage they might do if one is lucky enough to crit.

I’m still debating on how I want to go forward with my minions.

31 Sentack July 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

One last thing that wasn’t mentioned. Wizards stated at one point that 1 regular mob should count as 4 minions in Heroic, 1 to 6 in Paragon and 1 to 8 in Epic.

Now this change is across all tiers but it seems a bit much to increase the minion count AND convert them to two-hit. What do others think here?

32 Naz July 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I know that this thread is getting a bit old, but I wanted to relate a story of my resent foray into 2-hit minions. In last weeks game, I had the party face an encounter where in there were 2 packs of minions. The first smaller pack were all 2 hit minions. The second, larger group contained minions that didn’t actually have any powers until they were “activated” by the death of one of the minions from the first group.

I happy with the effect it had on the party. They learned and then quickly adapted their tactics, actually sparing the 2 hitters until it was adventageous for the party to kill one. This actually made it all the more fun when they realized almost to late that the minions had basically “kited” them into a trap. It was the most fun that I, and for that matter, the party, had had with minions in a long time. And, the next time they see a number of minions in a room, or encounter, I’m sure it will atleast give them pause.

33 Jacob Zimmerman August 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I had an idea that can make your strikers not feel so bad: a damage threshold. When a player deals more damage than the threshold, then the minion will die in one hit, instead of two. I know some zombies have this built in and I thought it was the perfect mechanic for 2-hit minions.

34 Jeff August 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I used two hit minions in my last session, and it really confused some of the players. Granted the player it confused the most had run the mobs in question in his campaign. I think, even though they were all dead before they got used, that I did like they effect they would have had. I also rolled for a random number that would be not as well and therefor be either normal or bloodied to start the battle.

I didn’t get a chance to try out my other idea of disguising minions more and rolling there damage and having it be d3+2 for 4 damage minions, ect. Everything popped anyway before the minions got to swing. I am trying to go that route rather than rolling everything ahead because I do not think my players would appreciated me not rolling. Though I may offer it as an idea for them to think over.

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