by Mike Shea on 9 November 2009
We all love minions (or we should) but sometimes, particularly at paragon and above, it can be hard to find a good use for them. We might throw sixteen minions instead of four but the result is the same - a blood bath with hardly a scratch on the PCs.
Today we're going to look at unique ways to use minions for greater effect. These ways go beyond simply swarming your PCs hoping to get that tiny 7 damage hit in. Instead, we look at unique ways for minions to challenge your players. Let us begin.
One often forgotten tactic that offers little for creatures OTHER than minions is the "aid another" action. Say you have a nasty monster that has a particularly powerful attack. He might order his minions to grab the arms of one of the PCs before he attempts it. The minion makes a basic melee attack against AC10 (a pretty easy hit to make) to grant the bigger monster a +2 bonus to hit. These bonuses are untyped and thus stack. So two or three minions might pile onto someone to give that vampire lord a much greater chance at his nasty domination. Use a readied action to make it even more powerful. The minions ready an action that, as soon as the big bad nasty shouts "now",they will allsimultaneouslygrab the PC just as the big nasty inflicts his powerful attack.
This is one I heard about on Radio Free Hommlet's "House Rules" episode. Like "aid another", minions can perform a heal check to help larger creatures. Say you have a powerful solo creature who just got stunned or dazed by your PCs. Instead of keeping it on its back for a round or more, have one of your minions run up and perform a heal check on it to give them a free quick saving throw with a d20+level+wis mod vs. DC15. A few minions might give the monster a few chances in a row since minions generally have many more standard actions overall than any other creature of the same experience budget.
Using Terrain Powers
The DMG2 added in a most excellent feature called the "terrain power". These powers, tied to specific terrain elements, are designed for PCs and creatures to fire off new and interesting effects. While you should generally intend for PCs to use such powers, every so often giving one of your little goblins a chance to throw the big log down on top of the PCs can add quite a bit of dynamic excitement to the encounter. For greater fun, make it clear that, should any minion reach the switch, life will end very badly for the PCs. Now instead of just killing swarms of minions, they are killing them with clear suspenseful purpose.
Use DMG2 Damage
For a final tip, make sure to update all the minions you use with the new minion damage chart on page X of the DMG2. This will make your minions quite a bit more challenging. Also be sure to use six minions at paragon and eight at epic instead of the normal four as also outlined in the DMG2.
With these tips, you might find quite a bit more utility and your PCs will find a bit more of a challenge when facing the hordes that come their way.