Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mighty Mooks!

Kobold, Gremlin, Orc, Cultist, whatever their label we all know these people, just enough threat to hold the countryside down, yet sword fodder to the first real adventurers that swing through.

Now I went through quite a few cheesy titles for this posts including, Making Mooks More Meaty, Mooks Mess up Mercurial Marauding Characters, The Little People, Goons, Goblins, and You, and similarly themed options certain to elicit groans. Because lets face it, after the first few levels most game systems give you characters that can plow through them without breathing heavy. But that doesn't mean that you have to leave these fellows behind, there's a certain charm to seeing a party brought low by a bunch of kobolds.

Now the obvious option is to simply level them up, they have adventures too, right? The problem with that is twofold, first and foremost it makes more work for you, secondly, the players might feel cheated by it. "What do you mean that gnome is an epic level barbarian!" This is one of the places where I'll say that detail is unneeded, faceless minion #165 might be facing a troubled marriage and is a concert violinist, but be honest with yourself, why waste time coming up with a background when he'll be dead before dawn.

What I think is an acceptable solution is to spend a little bit thinking about the tactical situation. Often heroes will be venturing into the mook's home ground, aka, the first line of defense. Traps are always a favorite, although can be unbalancing if the PC that can actually find them is absent, or even if nobody thought to create one to begin with. But what I think that you need to remember is that there are other ways of fighting besides standing face to face battering swords, the holy trinity in most RPG games is Grapple, Trip, and Disarm. Swarm tactics, helping each other out for bonuses, and then getting the PC's to where they can ram their dirty little feet u...errr, lets just say in a vulnerable position. Other tactics include nasty little things to slow the heroes down, nets work well, and in certain situations weapons with reach allow some survivability to your mooks(not that you should expect them to survive, but you should at least hope to wear the Heroes down). Remember, weak does not mean dumb.

The other situation that you have mooks in is where you're likely just teaching the PCs the rules of the game. Here is where I think you're validated in making your tactics for the mooks less than optimal, use them to illustrate maneuvers that the PCs have as options. Again, grappling, tripping, disarming, all valid, and there are some settings that allow other options, being intimidated by a little lizard man will at least wring out a few laughs. And don't be afraid to include a little camp or humor in their portrayal, or what the heroes do to them.

The only other thing to mention is that if you're going to be rolling up treasure, take a moment to do it beforehand...and let them use it if they can. A magic wand or weapon or something of that nature can give ample opportunities for adding some depth to the encounter.

Anyways, hopefully this little primer has given you some ideas, although it is by no means exhaustive. If you'd like to share some of your tactics for the making and breaking of mooks, feel free to comment.

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