Building Better Minions

`When 4th Edition first came out, Minions were one of my favorite innovations- the mook monster that only takes one hit, meaning you can throw tons of them at the players, and keep easy bookkeeping. Players seem to respond well to them too, especially when they can come up with tricks to mow them down (Flaming Sphere seems to be a favorite at 1st level). However, experienced players may have noticed that minions don’t always pack the full punch of their XP value, and with the need for a simpler design block, too often a minion is simply a static damage number, and not much differs one minion from another. So here are some of my ground rules for minions:

*Use more than you think you’ll need.
Minions are overcosted. Throw in a couple of extra to spice things up. It allows characters with area attacks to get a little more mileage. Try intentionally have them loosely clump, so your party wizard can take out two or three at a time, but not the whole bunch.

*Pair them with Leaders, Soldiers, or Skirmishers.
Any Leader in general that grants attack bonuses to your minions allows you to get a few extra hits out of them before their inevitable demise. More minions means more combatants, which means more flanking opportunities, which is good for Skirmishers and melee Soldiers. Some soliders also have mark effects, which can keep your Minions alive a little longer.

*Give them abilities that are simple but strategically interesting.
Minions should never have recharge abilities, and should rarely have encounter abilities (you can use a marker or token to represent that it has used its encounter ability.) A minion that does +2 damage on a flank gives more tactical opportunities than a minion that does 1d8 extra damage on a critical hit. (An with the later, you have no guarantee the ability will ever come into play.)

*Do something cool when killed.
Because let’s face it, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

Heroic Threats contains 20 minions. They are:

The Rodens Squeaker (level 1 skirmisher) has the Rodens racial abilities of Rodens Tactics and Scuttle into Darkness, which already lets it have an easier time of gaining combat advantage and flee from missed attacks, but its Scatter! Ability lets it shift out of the way of an incoming area attack, as long as one creature remains to get hit by the attack.

The adorable Lap Drake (level 1 lurker) is immune to close and area attacks while in another creature’s space, and its attacks can force you to grant combat advantage as it nips at your heels.

The Shadow Figment (level 2 lurker) has all the stealthiness of other Shadows, and its Not Really There ability gives it a bonus to defenses against close and area attacks, making it harder to take them out in clumps.

The Halfling Lookout (level 2 artillery) has the Sound the Alarm encounter power, which lets it make an attack and then a move as a single standard action, which it can then follow up with another move, clearing plenty of ground in one turn.

The Cultist Initiate (level 3 controller), as already seen, inflicts ongoing poison damage. However, if the target is already taking such damage, it instead deals bonus damage. Spread out the damage, or clump on one person- it’s your call. Their Dance of Knives ability also gives them some shifty mobility to set up flanks.
The Mudman Slime (level 3 brute) creates Muddy Terrain when it dies, which will slow down your players, and benefit other Mudmen in the encounter.

The Zombie Runner (level 4 skirmisher) gets an additional bonus to hit and damage with charge attacks. But more important, if it’s reduced to 0 hp during its own turn (such as by an opportunity attack), it doesn’t die until the end of its turn, allowing it to finish its charge.

The Dwarven Miner (level 4 controller) can Mine Out solid barriers and walls from the encounter, opening up new passages for attack.

The Shifter Sellsword (level 5 soldier) and Shifter Fangshot (level 5 artillery) both get a twist on the Shifting racial power. Packheart Shifting gives them +2 to speed and +2 to damage if another minion with the same name has been reduced to 0 hp.

The Doom Shroom (level 6 controller) is slow, but deals poison damage in a Close Burst 1. Worse, when killed, it releases poisonous spores in a close burst 2!

The Satyr Reveler (level 6 skirmisher) has a minor action Kick that pushes the target 1 square. Multiple Revelers can set up a dangerous chain reaction.

The Elven Archery Adept (level 7 artillery) has the Rapid Volley attack, which allows it to repeat its ranged attack at another target at -2 if it hits, then -4 at a third target, -6 at a fourth, and so on. With good rolls, it might hit your whole party for 5 each turn.

The Eladrin Blade Student (level 7 skrirmisher) has an at-will teleport speed of 2, allowing it to be very maneuverable in a tight melee.

The Razor Vine (level 8 brute) thirsts for blood- it gains combat advantage against bloodied enemies. In addition to doing brute damage, its attacks add just a touch of ongoing damage.

The Living Storm Wisp (level 8 artillery) has a Ranged attack that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, and deals Thunder damage to everyone next to the primary target.

The Iceman Frost Legionnaire (level 9 solider) chills its foes to slow them down and keep them within range. In addition, the Iceman Chill Lord leader can inflict cold vulnerability, which makes a Legion of Icemen very dangerous.

The Tiefling Longknives (level 9 lurker) can attack twice when hidden from a foe, but also gets to deal some Infernal Wrath damage when reduced to 0 hp.

The Shadow Dire Reflection (level 10 controller) will attach itself to your players, becoming their shadows, and pulling them across the battlefield.

Finally, the Dragonborn Praetorian Guard (level 10 soldier) can redirect your attacks to itself, and force a penalty. And of course, as Dragonborn, they have an encounter breath weapon attack.

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