D&D General Hit Points. Did 3.0 Or 3.5 Get it Right?

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The big problem with minionizing is how to properly convey that to the players so they can make intelligent decisions. For'ex, if in one encounter they run into 10 kobold minions that each go down in one hit in the first encounter, but in the next those same 10 kobolds have 35 hp each, how do you effectively relay the difference in those two encounters before the characters jump in and possibly get savaged in the 2nd?
You actually describe the scene - and minions are the people outclassed. 4e, unlike other D&Ds, leant into monsters having different roles in their societies.

At low level this means that minions are basically non-combatants. Orc minions were from memory "orc drudges" and armed with a club while wearing hides. Kobold minions were (again from memory) "kobold tunnellers" armed with their mining picks. As a general rule any unnamed NPCs who are picking up whatever implements they can and are not trained warriors are minions. They don't belong on the battlefield other than because of desperation. (See also: The pitchfork and torch waving mob). And if the DM isn't conveying that then they aren't doing their job. Meanwhile the standard monsters have names like Orc Berserker, Orc Scout, Kobold Slinger, or Kobold Quickblade. They know their way around violence. If the DM isn't making the difference clear then that's on them.

Also NPCs who are clearly out-levelled can also be treated as minions by the DM. Those guards who were a problem for you but not quite the equals of the PCs at level 1? When they come back at level 10? You can now treat them as minions; same XP value if you level them up 8 levels and turn them into minions but simpler to manage. The PCs have gone up nine levels. They're now a speed-bump and the PCs can style on them.

There are exceptions for named NPCs of course. Prince Leoric XVII might be good at posing with a sword and might wear shiny golden armour, but he's never faced someone in training who wouldn't be flogged if he actually hit the Prince. He thinks he's all that - but a real warrior is going to cut of that head he never puts a helmet on because it would mess up his hairdo. Also Dean Alcarde might know everything there is to know about portal magic and be able to block an entire circle of enemy mages from opening portals single handedly. But he's 178 years old, needs a cane to walk, and has never been in a physical brawl in his life. If someone can actually reach him with a sword he too is a minion. Both of those might be surprises for the PCs, but they should be the sort of surprise that make the players say "oh, of course" rather than ones that came out of nowhere.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
In 4e you are unlikely to get a group of 10 non-minions for a fight, while a group of 10 minions in a fight is common supporting a leader or normal monsters. It is sort of the action movie premise of encounters generally either being against a few decent challenge foes, while if there are hordes of bad guys that you actually fight, a bunch are mooks.

You could do a fight in the 4e encounter guidelines where each of the five PCs was up against two non-minion kobolds who were each a couple levels lower than the PCs and the math might work out within suggested encounter design guidelines. Similarly every four minions are generally equal to a levelled monster, so the typical full minion fight for a party of five would be about 20 minion kobolds. If you made the minions higher level the math might still work to be within the target level range and xp budget with only 10 minions for encounter design in 4e. So in 4e you could generally work the math to have the two fights come out as roughly the same challenge by altering different parameters. :)

That said if there were two groups of 10 one being minions and one being tough guys as measured by hp you would pretty much be left identifying them to the PCs the same way you would distinguish between encountering 10 base kobolds in 5e (5 hp) and then 10 thug kobolds (32 hp). Or 10 base kobolds in 3.5 and 10 level 5 warrior kobolds.

Presumably there is some narrative reason that the two groups are different, rank and file warriors versus elite guard roles or different gangs or whatever and distinguishing between them would probably be based on that. Maybe the scrap warriors of base kobolds have a mouse symbol while the elite guard unit has a raven symbol. Maybe the high level minions gang members are the claw gang while the lower level non-minions are the fang gang.
What if you don't see your game as an action movie?

Different tables, different experiences.
  • A 5th level wizard against a party of 3rd level PCs (a hard encounter): A single fireball could easily wipe out 2-3 of them and leave the rest hanging on by a thread.
  • A 5th level wizard against a party of 5th level PCs (an on-level encounter): A single fireball could put down the arcane and bring the rest of the party to 1/2 HP or lower.
  • A 5th level wizard PC against a horde of 12 orcs: Instant death, encounter over
  • A 5th level wizard PC against a pair of ogres: Not optimal, but anywhere between 16 and 35 points of damage for a single action (on average)
Sure, it's not optimal all of the time, but a far cry from a wasted action. In fact, in my current game Fireball has held up surprisingly well into 12th level.
Agreed. I remember that fireball was quite useful when we started playing 3.0. Maybe I remember the later tables more, where over-optimizing showed its ugly head and where I as a DM opted in the arms race and stopped using equal or lower level foes.

So I take back what I said earlier and correct it to: fireball felt very underwhelming compared to AD&D and 5e fireballs due to encounter design that often consisted of party vs small number of high level monsters.


That's because WOTC were cowards who were afraid of making interesting things.

Or maybe it was because DMs complained about being unable to comprehend and deal with unusual PC abilities?? Like how high level was so hard to run??
It was not cowardice - it was the intent of the design. It was intellectual, not emotional.


What if you don't see your game as an action movie?
If you don't see your 4e game as analogous to an action movie in a lot of ways then you are going against the default grain of its design.

It is easy not to use minions for mobs. It just means if you do use lots of non-minions of lower level than the party then they will be hp sponges who cannot really hit the PCs or be a challenge for the PCs to hit and the combat will be similar to such fights in 3e as opposed to the mobs of enemies being appropriate target math that gets resolved quicker. The play experience of such fights becomes more of a drawn out slog with less threat or impact to PCs. It will make the combat slower and the PCs a bit more invulnerable.

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