Hypothetic scenario: A ranger does a stealth check and succeeds. While moving he notices two patrols and decides to attack them using Two Fanged Strike. The patrols are normally minions. He gets to kill the first but the second one sees him, so now he has to fight him, but a minion would be really easy to kill.

The Question : Is it against the rules to change the type of the patrol from minion to soldier?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you familiar with the Break and Enter 3rd party stealth rules set? It uses somethings similar to what your discussing. My understanding is that surprised enemies are treated as minions and then when no longer surprised they become standard monsters. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Feb 24 '14 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle are you referring to this? (rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/90922/…) \$\endgroup\$ – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes. That's the one I'm thinking of. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Feb 24 '14 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aha, would you know of any free PDFs, cause I'm currently broke? \$\endgroup\$ – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 14:54

Minions Are People Too

The minion-ness of a monster in D&D 4E measures its effective threat versus the PCs. It is not usually some in-character property that the PCs or NPCs are aware of. It just so happens that the first sword, spell or whatever that connects shows its true deadly nature. The whole setup with minions is very much inline with cinematic storytelling, and very much the opposite of a simulation.

So, in terms of what the game stats are supposed to represent, anything that seriously increases the threat status of a minion logically in the game world is a good enough reason to change its type. That includes it going from unaware to aware of being attacked in an infiltrate-the-castle challenge.

However, you should take care

  • Try to be consistent and not arbitrary. If the guards are minions when being stalked through stealth, but become a tougher fight when prepared, this should apply to that type of creature in similar situations, otherwise the players will not understand how to play the game you are creating.

  • There is no need to make every conflict in the game a serious challenge. Resolving meaningful combat challenges in 4E can take a lot of time.

An easier solution

Any minion not killed in the first attack calls up the two nearest patrols and now the Ranger has to fight 5 minions. Similar risk level, and added bonus the Ranger feels more like a hero when he beats them all.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, interesting approach. And combined with @Joshua Aslan Smith's answer, I think I really got something here. \$\endgroup\$ – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the minions are smart / well trained enough (and it really doesn't take that much training), the patrols that hear the initial call for help will split up, with one member running to help and the other running to raise proper alarm. So the ranger actually gets to fight three minions now, and n minions plus whatever other defenders the minions can call up a few moments later. Of course, if you really follow that kind of reasoning to its logical conclusion, we all know where that leads. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Feb 24 '14 at 17:43

Rule Zero is the antithesis of good 4e play.

You don't have to, and shouldn't show your players everything, but the foundation of a good 4e game lies in players knowing the mechanical framework their characters operate in and knowing that it is fair.

If you let your players know up front that unaware enemies are minions, but aware enemies act as regular monsters then they will understand the environment they are in. This can be telegraphed via your GM narration which: "You fire on the first group, the whistling of your arrows catches them without warning and they fall" vs. "The enemies are wary and saw you coming, they are ready for a fight".


Is it against the rules? : No, there is no "rule" that states you are unable to hot-swap a minion for a more powerful statblock.

Is it a good idea? : No. Or, more accurately, probably not. There is always the unspoken "social contract" where players and GMs can assume that both parties are being honest with each other. Also, as DM, you should always avoid "railroading" as much as possible. Be flexible.

Reasoning: You play the game to play a hero. Or at least an awesome 'larger than life' person. So roll with it and let the player feel awesome.

You can always bump up the obstacles going forward to provide more of a challenge. You can insert things ahead of them (or even behind them) that they are/were unaware of. Roleplaying is an interactive adventure, so interact with your players. Help them interact with your world, let them make their mark. Let them feel heroic.

That doesn't mean they need to be playing on 'easy mode', though. Games are much more interesting when they are challenging, so keep on challenging your players. Just don't start pulling bait-and-switches on them to keep things "on the rails".


The simple answer is, NO, it's not against the rules.

The more complex answer is that, the DM's job is to ultimately create a good story. To do that, sometimes they must use Rule #0, which allows for the DM to change the rules in pursuit of fun.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your point, but I'm thinking that it might raise suspicion on the legitimacy of what I am doing as a GM. e.g. Changing things around to give the players a hard time etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Valamorde Feb 24 '14 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Changing the rules on the fly carelessly is something that can be really, really bad in 4e. "In pursuit of fun" might actually lead you to disaster. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 24 '14 at 15:07

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