Thursday, June 3, 2010

Minions, not just for minioning any more

Minions are awesome. I love minions. There is nothing better than slaughtering a handful of minions at a time and not even sweating it. Don't get me wrong, minions are a threat. They provide combat advantage, they aid in attacks. They serve a valuable purpose. However, how would you run a level appropriate fight with all minions? Here's a story of how I did it, entitled, Sewers are Bullshit.

The fight took place in the sewers of Sigil. The room was filled with armor, scraps of metal, weapons, torn papers, bits of cloth, coins, you name it. Essentially it was a vent room for the storm drain pipes of the city. This particular room had four large bore pipes that came into it, and two sets of four valves on either side of the room corresponding, you guessed it, to the pipes overhead.

The encounter started with the players entering on one side of the room and them seeing a lone, lowly imp spin all four of the valves and then turn invisible. As the room was filled with sludge and magical gunk from up above, the armor on the ground became animated with an unholy presence. The room was suddenly filled with Infernal Armor Animus (animated armor powered by devil souls)!

Here's the breakdown of the mechanics.
1) Each player has an option to stand in the same square or adjacent to a valve. They may spend a minor action to turn one or two valves either preemptively or as a held minor action that occurs simultaneously with the imp.
2) A standard action let them spin up to four valves. They were allowed to turn, move, turn if they spent their standard action to turn valves.
3) The imp did nothing but turn invisible and then turn valves while moving. The imp only required a minor action to turn all four valves. Turning invisible is a standard action.
4) For every valve turned by the imp, 1d6-1 minions spawned.
5) Anyone, including the minions, caught in the dumping sewage took one of the following random effects determined by a d6.
a) 1d8 points of poison-fire damage. (the magically imbue sludge is noxious and burning)
b) Bolstered! +1 to attack and damage rolls (the magical aura speeds your arm and mind) (until the end of the encounter or hit by Hinder)
c) Hindered! -1 to attack and damage rolls (the magical aura slows your arm and mind) (until the end of the encounter or hit by Bolster)
d) Vulnerable 5 fire (save ends) (the residue clinging to you smokes slightly and appears ready to burn at the slighting spark)
e) Vulnerable 5 poison (save ends) (a gooey film covers you, acting as a catalytic enhancer for poisons)
f) Resist 5 fire and poison (end of the encounter or until hit by a vulnerability)
6) Perception and Insight checks (DC against his stealth with invisibility penalties (each round accumulates a +1 to the next check until a success occurs by the players)) revealed the imp's position and gave the players a chance to counteract the pipes.
7) Each valve and series of valves turned different pipes. You can make this as easy or as complicated as you want. I made it middling difficulty, so the players had to watch a few rounds and learn what pipes did what.
8) The far door was magically sealed with a puzzle. Two players had the necessary text objects to solve the puzzle themselves, or aid the other party members. They got this information during the course of the game through text props and bad guy notes they intercepted.
9) If the players blocked a pipe, a cloud of the above random effects lingered in the area under the pipes as defined by the circle. No saves are required, just entering or leaving the area was enough to gain or lose the effects.

So that was the challenge. The players in question defeated 27 minions, several players were knocked unconscious, one player was knocked unconscious several times, and they eventually killed the imp. The look on their face when they realized the armors healed the imp when they died was priceless.

As one player said, "maybe we should have tried arcana or religion to learn more about those guys!". So true, skills are knowledge, and knowledge is power. Especially in a world of integrated fights and skill challenges.

That's the basic set up of the encounter I ran. All minions and one little imp lurker. They players had a great time, and loved the integrated skill challenge as part of the fight. Now, I have to think of more interesting fight scenarios.


  1. 27 freakin' minions!? I completely lost count after hriar.

  2. 27 minions is, give or take, roughly 6-7 appropriate to the party level creatures of non-minion status. So it ended up being pretty even overall, which tells me that minions actually serve their purpose.