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D&D 5E Handling mobs

I really enjoy the use of minions in 5e, but like the sane, rational person I am, I don't want to deal with each individual minions attack and damage rolls. I also don't like the exactness of the DMG's rules for handling large groups of enemies. So I've stolen some concepts from the Conan 2D20 system where a group of enemies is considered one unit and due to it's size grants a bonuses in combat. I'm sure lots of you have employed such a technique and if so, I'd like your opinion on the ideas I have. If you haven't used something similar I also care for your opinion. Something to take into consideration is that I play with theatre of the mind/zoned combat. No counting squares, no opportunity attacks.

Anyway, the ideas I have are as follows:

  • Mobs are an abstract size: On paper the mob can take 5 hits before it's either destroyed or they run away. But the actual in world size can be whatever I need for the battle. Maybe it is just a dozen goblins, or maybe its 50 skeletal pirates. If it is a literal mob of 50 baddies, every successful attack the players make represents them cutting a swath of bad guys down. Narratively this makes the action far more heroic as the characters cut down handfuls of enemies every time they land a hit, and can also give the sense of being in the thick of a pitched battle.
  • Mobs are dangerous: When you're a 1 HP mook, the thing you can rely on most is strength in numbers. When it comes to the mob attacking and damaging, it starts with a +5 to both. With each successful attack against the mob, the bonus goes down by 1. At lower levels of play mobs are not to be under estimated as they are likely to hit more often and hit harder. Players might think twice about going toe to toe with the mob, which might lead to more creative play. Unless the player is a barbarian. Then they should be jumping straight into the fray with little care for their HP.
  • Mobs are versatile: A mob can protect a stronger commander type enemy by soaking hits. Mobs can block movement between one area of the encounter to another (they all have polearms and keep the characters from advancing or their size is such that there is no room to move). A mob can be friendly allies. Mobs can have an aura type effect. A mob can split itself for a turn to spread the damage (split the bonus to attack and damage). These are just my initial ideas on how to change things up to make mobs more fun to run and play against.
I used two basic mobs during my last session and received some good player feedback, especially how it helped paint a picture of two ship crews fighting to board each others ships. Running them was easy. I put 5 tokens down on the table in front of me and removed one every time the mob got hit. When it was the mobs turn I looked at how many tokens I had and added that number to the attack and damage. Easy. No big numbers to keep track of.

Anyway, that's what I've got. Thoughts? How do you run large groups of bad guys?
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I don't mind running lots of individual opponents, but this would be interesting to use for townsfolk and other normies when they get the torches and pitchforks out - esp. when the PCs want to actively avoid hurting them too badly or killing anyone (no murder hobos in my games ;) )
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I pretty much just use the mob rules from the DMG, except that like you I kind of treat damaging the mob more like a swarm. Sort of. That's worked well enough for my purposes. I also don't get too caught up in mob size and so on.

Different mobs are unique and I customize them as I see appropriate. They may shove people around easily or knock people prone as a bonus action, whatever seems to make sense.

In any case if it worked for you and the group had fun that's what matters.
 

How do you handle area effects?
Face palm How did I not think about this?

The mob would have a bonus against the spell equal to it's current size (+1 to +5). Save for half damage spells always do a minimum of 1 hit, and if the save fails, max of 2. That being said it may depend on the size of the mob and the level of the spell. A platoon of hobgoblins is more likely to shake off a level 3 fireball than say 8-10 street toughs. The hobgoblins would take 1 or 2 hits, whereas the street toughs might be completely obliterated by the fireball if they fail the save. Now if it was a 9th level fireball against a platoon of hobgoblins, then I'd likely rule that if they failed the save it'd be bye bye hobgoblins. There's gotta be some compensation for using a 9th level spell slot amiright? Spells that cause conditions like fear or charm en masse would work the same way.

I'm sure there's spells out there that won't totally jive with this and we'll just have to make an on the spot call that seems fair and reasonable.

Thoughts?
 

NotAYakk

Legend
This is a simulationist approach. The idea is to create something that sort of acts like a pile of individual creatures without having to manage each creature.

Mobs have 2 values: squares and HP/square.

When a mob engages you, its squares engage you. They roll [w] damage per doubling of the number of squares engaged, and get a +1 to attack per square past the first engaged. If you are overrun they attack at advantage, and you have disadvantage.

When you attack them, you kill squares; leftover damage if it passes 50% has a 50% chance to kill a square. If under 50%, the wounded falls back and a fresh troop replaces it.

AOE damage is multiplied by the number of squares, but the mob gets a +1 on the saving throw per square past the first as the front lines give cover to the back. (Note: mobs shouldn't have evasion; replace it with resistsnce to dex-save damage)

---

Zombie mob. 20 HP/square, +3 to hit, 1d6+1 damage, 8 AC
Soldier mob. 10 HP/square, +3 to hit, 1d6+1 damage, 16 AC

Mobs when they hit you can overrun. This provokes an OA as the mob moves into your space. If you fail to kill the square, you are now overrun (they have advantage and you have disadvantage on attacks).

If you are fully overrun and surrounded by 9 squares of guard/zombie, this becomes +11 to hit (advantage) for 4d6+1 damage with advantage.

If you hold a line and fight 3, it is +5 to hit for 2d6+1 damage. If they get a flank of 5 around you, it is +8 to hit for 3d6+1 damage.

---

Mobs have morale. This is a value that scales with squares. Each square killed does 1d10 morale damage, and reduces morale by that much. At the start of its turn, if it has less morale than the damage it took since the start of its last turn, the mob breaks and runs.

A morale of 10/square means you need to nearlycompletely annihilate them in one blow to make them break. 5 means you need to half kill them. Etc.

Leaders can provide bonus morale per square. Killing leaders can thus break the mob easier.

Mob of Soldiers: Base monster is a Guard (for saves)
HP: 10/square
Morale: 3/square
AC: 16
ATK: +3 for 1d6+1

Fighting a 10x10 square mob (100 Guards).

A fireball hits the middle for 27 damage.

20 foot radius is 50 squares; the guards get a +49 (!) save bonus. But the successful save doesn't matter; 13 damage kills each square.

50d10 morale damage comes to 5d10*10 for 230 morale damage. It drops the guards to 70 morale; as the morale damage taken exceeds the remaining morale, the force breaks and runs, half of the guards dead.

Leaders have a leadership of their charisma bonus plus their proficiency bonus. They can lead a number of squares of mobs equal to their HD times their leadership score; this mob gains a morale bonus of half the leader's leadership score. If the leader is missing, incapacitated or killed, the mob takes that amount of morale damage. A leader can rally leaderless troops this way, healing their morale by the leader's bonus.

A knight has a leadership of +4 and can lead 32 squares, granting a +2 morale bonus per square. 3 knights could lead that mob of guards, granting an extra 64*3=192 morale. The guards, led by such heros, wouldn't break under the fireball above; they'd have 492-230=262 morale left.
 
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Good, simple, design! I use them like swarms..... but am looking for more ideas!
This is what I do as well. It's super simple to figure out how to create a swarm based on the existing creatures and swarms. The rules for them are pretty straight forward, and work very well. I'm also not a fan of the mob rule in the DMG, but have used them in the past.
 

aco175

Legend
I always looked at mobs as having a bigger bonus to hit than individuals. A typical zombie may have +3 to hit, but 20 of them in a tight area may have +8 or +10. At least until they are knocked to half HP and then it goes down.
 

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