5e/Pathfinder/13th Age: Guide to Minions

In a previous post, I wrote up a guide to mini-bosses. The thing about mini-bosses, they’re nothing without those to boss around. Today we are following that post up with the group that makes the last group possible: minions.

Minions come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of willingness. While fantasy and science fiction races that are weak, selfish, and not particularly clever are typically seen as the normal minion groups, always remember the Empire in Star Wars treated Wookiees as minions and that species is anything but weak or selfish and Chewbacca proved they are quite clever. So what makes a minion a minion?

1) Minions are Controlled in Some Fashion

Whether it is a psychic link that takes over a mind or a security of a regular pay check, the mini-boss gives orders and the minion follows. That at the end of the day that is what makes a minion a minion. Does that make most of the civilized world someone’s minion? Yes actually it does. However, I am not advocating you overthrow your boss. Remember it is both the organization treats those minions as well as those outside the organization that determines whether the company is evil or not. A lumber company that hires orcs and hill giants as a way to give them honest work as opposed to raiding human villages, gets all the appropriate permits in an above board fashion, works with the local fey to remove select trees with their permission, and hires orcs to guard the logs on their way to the mill still uses minion even if those minions are working for a good company. Compare that with the human only lumber company that bribed officials to work a section of forest right next to the good company. They attack the fey and fight the hill giants and ogres whenever they leave the human permitted area and enter the other company’s territory prompting both to defend themselves and possibly attack back. Not only does the human company fail to plant new trees but they also try to steal the felled trees from the other lumber company. This company as well uses minions. The first one controls their people with a regular pay check and a desire to be law-abiding citizens; the second controls their minions through a desire for violence and quick cash.

While the word minion has negative connotations, it covers employee, freelance contractor, slave, indentured servant, thrall, and many others just to name a few. Use the full breadth of the term to give real variation to your organizations, evil or otherwise.

2) Minions Fill a Variety of Roles and Can Be Found at Every Level

Frequently, I hear the question, “Why doesn’t [insert name of ultra high level NPC in the setting] just take care of this minor problem?” The answer is simple: they can’t handle everything. Take a modern world variation of that problem: if you have a question on your taxes, do you go to the best accountant in the world or do you go to the local accounting firm and ask someone there (an accounting minion to use a gamified term)? The best in the world is busy handling other cases that can pay more. Instead, we get it handled by an accounting minion. Now if you start a business and it becomes rather sizable, you’ll need higher level accounting minions. You wouldn’t ask them to do plumbing work because they do not fill that role. You would need a minion that is trained in plumbing.

Same is true for fantasy games. Kobolds are the go-to minions when mining, gnolls when taking slaves, hobgoblins when needing military like precision, goblins for random violence, and orcs when slaughtering people indiscriminately. Each of these has their own role. So why not just have a higher level one handle this? Well the higher level hobgoblin is training the next group of recruits, the higher level gnolls are working their connections to sell their slaves, higher level kobolds are scouting out potential caves to mine, and on and on. The higher level ones have better uses for their time than to do the same thing as their lower level compatriots.

So when you get to a higher level, you need new minions to fight. Demons, devil’s, undead, and giants are the classics. Unless you are playing a convention/organized play-style game where one session has nothing to do with the other, these higher level minions are working towards the same end (if a different aspect of the overall plan) as those same low level minions. Why would the giants and devils be working towards the same ends as the kobolds and gnolls? The simple answer is ‘because the big boss of the whole campaign is all having them work towards a single goal.’ While you could train up a bunch of orcs to do your bidding instead of working with a number of different groups, it would be much simpler to take advantage of some other group of minions’ natural strengths when they lend themselves to solving a particular problem. Just like you don’t ask an accountant to do plumbing, you don’t ask a goblin to solve a problem that a requires patience and planning, things devils excel at. So change up the monsters you are using as minions to fulfill a different aspect of your big bad’s overall plan.

3) Minions Have Similar Stats, Despite Being Individuals

Minions are a collection of individuals. Each one has different stats if you wanted to take the time to create unique stats for each. However, minions can instead be represented by a single stat block. Sure, that single stat block is not going to catch the nuance of one loving to solve true crime mysteries while another appreciates listening to music, but if all you are having them do is fight the PCs, then those abilities don’t really matter. Making a minion stat block that presents average stats for a group saves considerable time.

Back to that accounting example for a second. All those accountants at the tax firm can be represented by a single stat block. You don’t need to assign stats for their individual hobbies and other life events unless it is somehow relevant. You’ll need their ability to crunch numbers and use their stapler offensively. Maybe wield a letter opener if you want to be cute about it. Remember these are supposed to be average stats for the group, not specific stats for everyone. Making a single stat block for the whole group doesn’t prevent you from making a single stat block for a specific accountant. So you can have a stat block for the NPC that discovered the company’s fraud and became the whistle blower. Had that NPC not done that and just stayed another face in the crowd, they would still be just another minion with the same minion stats. As always, the Order of the Stick has a great comic that exemplifies what it is like going from a minion to a named NPC.

Quick tangent here: feel free to change the stats of any monster in the monster books. If the book says a lizardfolk has 5 hit dice (as an example), feel free to make it 3 if it fits your needs that way. Five is just an average. Maybe this tribe is composed of young lizardfolk. Maybe they’ve been starved or are sickly. The book has average stats. Raise or lower them as your game needs. This goes doubly true for specific NPCs instead of minions. Individuals can vary widely from the average of their kind. Just remember to change its level of difficulty to match the new stats.

Speaking of monster books, be sure to download our monster books for Pathfinder 1e, DnD 5e, and Mongoose Traveller 2e.

Christmas in July Sale 2019

It’s the middle of summer. The temperature is murder. In about a month, it will be time for new role playing groups to form and for existing groups to get back together and roll some dice. So now is the time for you to grab some of the best PDFs on the market at 25% off their regular price over at DriveThruRPG. What better place to start than with Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Pathfinder, D&D 5e, 13th Age, and 1e Mongoose Traveller books. All the books you have been wanting are now on sale. Grab them now for this awesome price.

Traveller

All of our 1e Mongoose Traveller books are on sale. for 25% off. Grab the Vehicles of the Frontier, Mech Squadrons, Fighters and Small Ships, and of course the d66 Compendium. See all of our other 1e Mongoose Traveller RPG books we have for sale right here at DriveThruRPG. All of these books and more you can treat yourself to right now at a great price.

Fifth Edition

We have an awesome group of Deadly Delve adventures available for Fifth Edition for 25% off during the Christmas in July Sale. Check out our 1st level adventure Doom of the Sky Sword, 2nd level adventure Rescue from Tyrkaven 7th-8th level adventure Reign of Ruin, and 15th-18th level adventure Temple of Luminescence. Prefer to make your own adventures? Grab the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods. Are you a player? Grab the Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 and Player Races 2. Get all these and more for Fifth Edition.

Pathfinder 1e

Sticking with Pathfinder 1e? Here are some awesome options you shouldn’t pass up while they are on sale. Want to play a new race? Grab the Book of Heroic Races Compendium and the Advanced Compendium for even more options. Play a spellcaster? Check out the Book of Magic: Signature Spells 2, 7 Spellcaster Feats, Patron Hexes, Insurgency of Summer, and Pirate Spells. Need modules beyond the low levels? Check out the 9th level Deadly Delves adventure The Gilded Gauntlet, 11th level adventure The Chaosfire Incursion, 12th level adventure Nine Lives for Petane, and 16th level adventure The Dragon’s Dream. There is lots more for Pathfinder on sale now.

5e: Doombat

Writing monsters is a simple joy that I do not do enough. I really should since new monsters are at the core of the much delayed Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures. This book when it is finally finished and released is for any spellcaster that utilizes the various conjure spells in Fifth Edition. As such this book is perfect for druids, wizards, rangers and those that can use the spell list from one of these classes. Plus it doubles as a monster book for GMs.

We really love this book and know you will enjoy it as well, just as soon as we finish it up. In the meantime, here’s the doombat—one of the monsters from this book—that I recently wrote. Not only is it useful for GMs but it is perfect for a druid casting conjure fey as a 7th level spell. As you can see in the link, there are previous few options for that spell in that level range, which is something Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures aims to fix.

Doombat

Huge animal, neutral
Armor Class 15
Hit Points 171 (18d12 + 54)
Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 21 (+5) CON 16 (+3)
INT 5 (–3) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 6 (–2)
Skills Perception +5
Senses blindsight 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)


Echolocation. While it can’t hear, the doombat has no blindsight.
Keen Hearing. The doombat has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.

Actions


Multiattack. The doombat makes three attacks: one bite and two wing buffet.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) piercing damage.
Wing Buffet. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6 + 5) bludgeoning damage.
Deafening Cry (Recharge 5–6). A doombat can unleash a scream that can cause any non-bats to recoil in pain. All non-bat creatures within a 30 feet radius that can hear takes a 45 (13d6) points of thunder damage and is deafened for the next minute. Any creatures that succeeds a DC 15 Constitution saving throw takes half damage and is not deafened.

Image by Nicole Cardiff

3 Keys to Reskinning an Adventure

As I mentioned, my “office” game is Tales of the Yawning Portal. Previously, I talked about reasons to use published adventures and how to turn published modules into a campaign. Today I want to talk about keys to taking a published adventure and turning it into what you need for your campaign. This process is called reskinning and it is pretty easy.

1) Figure Out What to Keep

The single biggest reason to use a published adventure at all is to save time. So if you are not using a published adventure as written, you have to ask yourself why you’re not simply using a different adventure. Some reasons include you like the map, or the story, or perhaps some unique monster. These are the things about the original adventure you will want to keep in your reskinned final version of the adventure.

This will also tell you what about this adventure you need to change. If you simply do not like the map, then all you need to do is draw a different map and perhaps change the read aloud text to describe the vicinity. If the level of the adventure does not work for you, figure out if can you just increase or decrease some of the numbers in the monsters/difficulties to make it work? This works best if the level of adventure is only 3 or less levels away the character’s level. Any wider a gap and the designers probably did not anticipate the capabilities of the characters (whether in their favor or not) to be able to complete the adventure. If some of the monsters simply do not grab you, then it is time to use those creative skills you have in you and craft a new one. Alternatively, you could just a monster book and switch out the offending monster with a new one.

2) Add New Reasons to Go In

Changing the premise of the adventure is the easiest thing to do. If the adventure is at the right level, features enemies you want to pit against the characters, and has a map you like but the reasons the module has for going on the adventure don’t work for your campaign, change it to something that does work for you.

When you do that, make sure to add multiple reasons for the characters to go on the adventure. Players and their characters are not monolithic. Seeking out a treasure horde does not always excite them. Similarly, serving the good deity if goodness is not always proper motivation. Having a handful of reasons means that everyone can find something. These reasons should be a mix of long term campaign reasons and some reasons specific to this adventure.

3) Just Use the Encounters

If you want to be dramatic and essentially throw out the adventure, there are still parts of you you can keep. Namely, the monsters and their proportions (aka the encounters). By using the encounters, you know the battles are already balanced; the math is already worked out. All you have to do from there is focus on the map, the descriptions, the reasons to go in, and maybe make a monster more or less difficult. Translation: do everything above.

This works great when you have an adventure that takes place that doesn’t work for your campaign—such as a volcano like in Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion—and you want it to take place elsewhere, like in a magical glacier. Well you will need new maps and will need to rewrite all the flavor text. However, you can keep all the encounters, simply renaming the monsters and changing fire damage to cold and the …. well that is a spoiler for the adventure.

The real advantage of doing this is you save time on crafting your own adventure, but you save some by using whatever parts of the existing adventure work for you. Plus you have a template for how the story should flow, giving you a basis for your own version of the adventure.

Download all of Jon Brazer Enterprises’ adventures for 13th Age, Fifth Edition, and Pathfinder at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

3 Steps to Turn Published Adventures into a Campaign

As I mentioned last week, I am running an “office” game of Tales of the Yawning Portal. These are some really great adventures, but what they are not is a campaign. These are adventures that for all tense and purposes have nothing to do with each other except that one starts at a level where the previous left off. Beyond that, there is no connective story, no common set of NPCs to help make everything work together, nothing. It is exactly like running a campaign from a bunch of pre-published modules that you pulled off the shelf. So if you want to run a campaign with these kinds of modules, here’s what you have to do.

1) Make an NPC or Item Significant

The best example I can think of from this happening in fiction is the Ring from The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings books. In The Hobbit book (not the movies), the ring was little more than a ring of invisibility. It wasn’t anything special. Then came The Lord of the Rings and that same ring now has a back story, one that will spell the end of the world as they knew it if it fell into the wrong hands. That is what you should do when running a campaign using pre-published adventures.

So what did I make significant? Well, I choose an NPC that they just rescued and an item they destroyed. Other than saving the NPC, their characters had no interaction with her. This particular Macguffin could just as easily have been a puppy. Because of spoilerific reasons to the first adventure that NPC was perfect to make significant. Not only that, the big bad of the first adventure used an item that the PCs ultimately destroyed. That item is perfect to be made important to the larger campaign.

2) Add in the Connection

This step is relatively small, but is critical. This, in The Lord of the Rings is where Gandalf found Bilbo’s behavior suspicious, went and researched the ring, and came back to tell Frodo what he found. Last week in my campaign, I had one of two NPCs that the PCs just rescued just up and died suddenly. So now the players have a reason to go on another adventure. What is that adventure? It is to follow the spread of the item encountered in the first adventure into adventure two. Like I said, the characters destroyed the item in the first adventure, but I added in that they found a note saying that another of that thing is elsewhere, and from examination of the body of the NPC, her fate appears tied to that item. That is the connection to the next adventure.

So what was my total work on making the connection: I wrote a note they found, and I added what amounted to a paragraph of box text. It was not hard at all. You might be thinking that that connection is not much. Let me point you to the TV show Supernatural. In the pilot episode, one of the brothers find’s his dad’s journal with some numbers in it. They figured that was a location and maybe dad would be there. Was he? No, but it got them from adventure 1 to adventure 2. Not only that, it established that finding dad as a connection between what would otherwise be random episodes in that first season. And that is what you are doing in this step: adding in those numbers in the journal or giving that ring a backstory. Those are not much either, but it is enough to get the PCs to go off on another adventure.

3) Make a Few Small Changes to the Adventure

Now I have to add in the impact of that connection to the existing adventure. How much does that change the adventure? Surprisingly little. Whenever they encounter an NPC that I already picked out, I have to add in the item. That’s it. From there, it is their call. Do they destroy the item again or do they bring it back? I can guess which way they are going to go, but I will wait for them to make that call and at that point I will adjust the reasons why they are going to adventure 3 accordingly.

Did you catch that important detail? “… the reasons why they are going…” not “… where they are going…” The latter requires changing the module from one to another; the former requires you to change the connection (see above) to the module you already have picked out. If I had said, “they must bring back the item,” some will balk feeling that it should be destroyed, and the reverse would also be true. By leaving the decision up to them, they feel like their decisions matter to the overall campaign. However, it does not impact what further adventures will be, only the motivation behind those adventures. And I can still run the adventure that I want to run, no matter what they decide.

So to recap, what changes am I making to the next adventure: adding in an item from a previous adventure to the next one and adding a connection to the following adventure based on the PCs actions. That’s it. This is not difficult and you can do this as well.

The perfect place to start is with our Deadly Delve adventures. Download our 5e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder adventures at the JBE Shop today so you can make your own campaign.

5e: Unbroken Hero

With the Book of Heroes: Heroic Fighter Archetypes coming out next week, we wanted to give you a taste of what is inside. This one is one of my favorites. This is the “you saw Cthulhu and critted your Sanity check” archetype. This archetype pairs well with the soldier background. It is designed for a character that fought in a war and returned home and having the horror of seeing your friends slain upon the battlefield play out over and over again in your mind. While it does not fully portray those that have survived a true war zone, I hope it provides enough flavor to express that type of character for those looking to play one.

Download all of JBE’s Fifth Edition PDFs at the JBE Shop. Our adventure Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin is coming out in game stores this month. Tell your local game store that you want to pick up this 7th-level adventure today. And now, to the archetype.

Unbroken Hero

You have seen things. Whether it was someone being torn apart, whole villages destroyed, loved ones dragged into the Abyss, or something even worse, you witnessed it with your own eyes. What you have seen would break many. The memory of that day fuels your drive to continue forward, never yielding or surrendering.

Take the Attack

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to make an attack targeting an ally within 5 feet of you target you instead. You must say you are using this before the attack is rolled. This cannot be used with area attacks or on spells that do not require attack rolls.

Haunting Eyes

At 7th level, your gaze can piece the mind, heart and soul, making you far more persuasive, to the point of terrifying. You gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. If you are already proficient with these skills, you add double your proficiency bonus when using these skills.

Fight Through the Pain

Starting at 10th level, you can use your Second Wind ability a second time before needing to finish a short or long rest.

Undeterred by Fear

Upon reaching 15th level, nothing can frighten you. You are immune to the frightened condition. Additionally, you can use a bonus action to remove the frightened condition from an ally within 10 feet.

Avatar of Terror

At 18th level, your very presence is terrifying. As an action, you can give a loud shout, requiring all of your enemies within 30 feet to make a Charisma saving throw (the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or become paralyzed with fear for the next minute. A successful save means the creature is frightened until the end of your next turn. Once used, you cannot use this again until you complete a short or long rest.

Announcing the Book of Heroes

Today JBE is announcing we are consolidating all of our player-focused lines into the Book of Heroes. This goes for DnD 5e, Pathfinder, and 13th Age. So all future Book of Heroic Races, Book of Magic, Book of Feats, Book of the Faithful, 13 Class Options, and several other lines we created will all be in this line. This is something we should have done from the beginning, and I only recently understood just how important it is. So I thought I would share with you our reasoning and hope you will check out our titles.

1) It Makes It Easier for You to Recognize

This is easily the biggest reason. From now on, you will know that any book of ours labeled Book of Heroes, you will know it is designed for players. From there, all you have to do is look at the subheading to see if it is right for you. Makes life easy.

2) It’s Less Confusing

Previously we had put Arcanist, Warlock and Witch class options, dragon themed-archetypes, and spellcaster feats in the Book of Magic, Cleric subdomains, feats, and artifacts under the Book of the Faithful, and some magic items and Cavalier class options under no heading at all. Where exactly the line was on these was not well planned out and was downright confusing. By consolidating all of these and others under the heading of the Book of Heroes, it all makes sense.

3) It Gives Us More Freedom

Lastly, we have the freedom to combine different ideas. Take the Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes as an example. In addition to the spells, we included archetypes and class options for the Occultist, Shaman, and Wizard classes. You’ll notice there is no dragon rider archetype for the Cavalier, dragon hunter for the Ranger, or a scaled warrior for the fighter. Those ideas were cut because they did not fit under the heading of Book of Magic very well. From here, we are no longer held back by the label we put on the product. From here out, you should enjoy seeing our products covering a wider range of topics. Now we are freed up to include new archetypes and class options as well as magic items designed to work with those new class options and spells to make better use of these archetypes. Plus we can consolidate them all under one title to give you more print books for your shelves.

I should point out that Shadowsfall will still be separate but that is because it is its own setting and not designed for use with any setting, like the Book of Heroes line is.

Check out all of our Pathfinder, D&D 5e, and 13th Age products at the JBE Shop. Order and download them today.

Poll: Where Do You Buy Your Pathfinder Compatible, 5e Compatible, and 13th Age Compatible Books and PDFs From?

Today we would like to ask you where you buy your books from, be they print or PDF. Please note, we are only asking about Pathfinder Compatible (so not Paizo’s books), 5e Compatible (so nothing from Wizards nor from the DMs Guild), and 13th Age Compatible (so not Pelgrane’s books). Vote for your top 3 answers. If you don’t see where you purchase your books and PDFs from, please let us know in the comments below.

Sorry Traveller, we would include you in this poll, but the license allows for only one place for Traveller MGT2e books to be sold at DriveThruRPG.

Thank you in advance.

GM’s Day Sale 2019 Is Here!

The GM’s Day Sale is here and it is better than ever. Get 20-40% off of our Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, 13th Age, and Traveller 1e books you have been wanting for a while now. Grab these books now while they are available at a great price. Which books you ask? Here are some highlights.

Fifth Edition

Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 (For Fantasy Grounds)
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2
Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (2019 Edition)
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence

13th Age Compatible

13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers
13 Rogue Talents and Powers
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 2
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin

Pathfinder

Book of Heroic Races CompendiumBook of Beasts: Legendary Foes
Book of Bests: Monsters of the River Nations
Book of Bests: Monsters of the Shadow Plane
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium
Book of Heroic Races Compendium
Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes
Book of Magic: Gemhancements
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer
Book of Magic: Patron Hexes
Book of the River Nations Complete
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane
Deadly Delves: Quests of the Sands
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence
Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion
Deadly Delves: The Guilded Gauntlet
Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface
Treasury of the Sands
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion

Traveller 1e

Creatures of Distant Worlds Compendium
d66 Compendium
Foreven Worlds: Vehicles of the Frontier
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Fighters and Small Ships
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Mech Squadrons
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Warp Ships 1

Download these and other titles now at DriveThruRPG.

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