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In the chat playtest my players have decided that they are members of an army squadron. What is the best way to present the feel of working in a squad alongside other soldiers?

Nominally, I'd like the rest of the squad to be present at encounters, as minions that players can somehow order around. Normal 4e doesn't have mechanics for this. Have you had any experiences with player controlled minions? What actions should be necessary from players to control these minions? How easily should they be revived, and should their revival require healing surges from the players?


Here are the sample rules I'm considering. Answers on how to improve them are very welcome:

At present, I plan to use a variation summoning rules to evoke the sense of a larger group when necessary. Comments very welcome. Answers with better implementations even more welcome.

First, some math: 1) A minion will absorb exactly one hit. However, the hit it absorbs is a function of level, due to the scaling nature of damage. therefore, a minion /effectively/ has level+8 HP. 2) A healing surge provides 6+level*1.5 HP for defenders and 5+level HP for everyone else. Give or take.

Therefore, 1 minion is effectively worth 1 healing surge, though it's only worth one surge when it goes down.

However, given that it's taking hits, blocking terrain, and able to perform OAs, it's worth a surge to "summon."

Attacking and movement is far more tricky.

Movement, at root can be compared to the Shaman's rulings of "if you move, your spirit companion can also move your speed." Generous, but without that, they'd never get used.

Attacking should be roughly comparable to an at-will. Minion default damage at level 1 is 4. PC default damage is, roughly, 1d8+4 (give or take). Therefore the minion does around half damage to what an at-will would do. This suggests that the minion attack should be a minor action. This ups damage slightly (but not as much as a minor with all of the PCs damage bonuses would, due to no application of the static modifier.)

Summon Reinforcements - Level 2 Utility
"What do you think you're waiting for, you maggots, an invitation to dance?" 
Encounter Power - Standard Action

Spend a healing surge, and one "Army Soldier" joins you until the end 
of the encounter. Place the minion on the edge of the battlefield. The 
soldier has your defenses and has 1 HP. 

The Army Soldier may move up to your speed whenever you spend a move action.

When summoned, the soldier can make a Soldier's Attack as a free action.

Minor Action: 1/round The Army Soldier may make a Soldier's Attack.

Soldier's Attack - At-Will Minor Action - Melee 1 Special: This power may be used once per round Effect: The soldier may make a charge as part of this attack. Primary target: One creature Attack: Level +5 vs. AC Hit: Level+3 Damage
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When I wrote the theme I wrote in the "unorthodox, small-unit" (i.e. party-sized) tactics as part of the deal. We got picked by lottery to get thrown into the grinder without backup, to see if we could live through it. We might occasionally get support from other units in exceptional circumstances. Maybe we would get reinforcements if it's clear we're about to die? Or we find an actual, important target? But part of the exercise was to see if we can avoid TPK, so we probably shouldn't have backup for the initial playtest =) Up to you though, obviously –  RMorrisey Oct 21 '10 at 13:17
    
Oh, we're certainly not going to have backup for the first few encounters, but it's something that I need to think about now. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 21 '10 at 23:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You could try just adding extra companion minions to the PCs' party (say, one each). They'd behave like normal minions of the PCs level, and would have a move/standard/minor so they could be used for aiding attacks, providing flanking, covering fire, lowering bridge, etc.

To balance this somewhat, a PC could spend a surge to bring a fallen minion back up (I'd say that ordinary healing probably shouldn't work, otherwise they'd just send the minions in to die and then bring them back up while they rest ;))

You could then add an equivalent number of minions (or equivalent monster/trap/environmental hazard with same XP value) to each encounter.

The party would have to be very careful of area attacks however, and auras or large enemy damaging zones could be... problematic.

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Army Platoon/Squad are sometimes a problem in RPGs. In real life there is a strong command structure or chain of command. This can be simulated but if the players don't want play along it can lead to arguments. The same problem happens in other games, for example Samurai and Heimin in Bushido etal. Assuming the players are happy to role play ranks or social status it can a fun and rewarding way to play.

The best way to handle minions is to simplify them. In Savage World for example you only roll once for any action they do as a group and they all get the same rolls. So all the minions attacking the dragon all act on the same initiative and all get the same attack roll. Some may find this to simple as they all hit or all fail. I did once for 1e Ad&d create a series of tables for each HD vs AC for no of attacker. You roll one d20 and looked up the number of hits. I would not do that now as it was too much hard work to use in practice but those of a more wargame bent may enjoy this.

Secondly get the players to handle the minions, split them up into group and get each player to handle a group. This reduces your work load. Have the player and his group all act on the same round. Get the player to look after the groups upgrade and resources.

As for healing surges etal, it depends on how powerful the minions are compared to the player characters. If you intend to not include the minions in the xps calculations then the are more like a level adjust for the party and may be the players should use there own resources to heal them etc. If you are going to count them as a very large party then they should have there own.

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This doesn't actually answer my question. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 22 '10 at 4:44

As a tangent...

Take a look at the One Bad Egg (later sold to Highmoon Games) product, Hardboiled Armies. This supplement explains a way to use normal creatures at a different scale (of number and time) to simulate gangs and armies. You basically just use normal combat rules then. It works well in play.

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