Librium – Pawns
“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to.” — Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
Everyone is familiar with the lackeys or henchmen that infest all different forms of media. From the nameless guards to faceless lackeys, they serve both the side of good and evil. And for what purpose? They are almost always loyal to a fault, incapable of doing anything more than menial tasks, and abused by their employ and their enemies.
But these mooks serve a very important role. Even as faceless goons, they show us how far reaching the villain or heroes power may be. Shredder can send waves of foot soldiers at the Ninja Turtles just to try to slow them down. The king has dozens of soldiers guarding the castle, which lets us know just how important he is. Without them the world might feel empty.
They also show us how strong the opposing side is. The Ninja Turtles are able to take down a dozen foot soldiers in a single scene without breaking a sweat. The dark emissary after the kings life is able to infiltrate the castle without being detected by any of the guards. Clearly these special, unique characters are no match for the poor toadies. Only someone equally powerful can stop them.
Minions in RPGs
Minions are important in roleplaying games because they make the players feel powerful. They are a common theme and all roleplaying games handle minions differently. Personally, I have never been completely satisifed with the way minions work in a lot of games. Let’s take a look at some other games, then look at how Librium handles it.
Dungeons and Dragons , 4th edition had special rules for minions. Minions have 1 HP meaning as soon as they’re hit, they die. Some attacks in 4e still deal damage on a miss, so there is a specific rule exempting minions from this damage. Still, having 1 HP means they they’re either alive or not and it makes tracking them significantly easier. However, it does offer the drawback of knowing when you see 8 of the same monster type you know they only need to be poked to die.
Other editions of Dungeons and Dragons do not have special rules for minions. All enemies have full stat blocks, armor class, hit dice, hit points, etc. This is all well and good, but it presents a problem with which I could not cope. Not knowing they are facing a weak monster, a player may spend one of their more valuable resources, such as a spell slot or long rest action, to deal a minimal amount of damage. Anything that is “overkill” is lost.
A recent adventure sent my party of four against 8 goblins with other enemies mixed in. Goblins have 7 hit points on average and more often than not, my players were doing 5-6 hit points with an attack. Goblins also deal full weapon damage with their attacks (1d6+2), so they are able to overwhelm the party pretty quickly, especially when supported by bugbears and ogres.
In Feng Shui, Mooks have weaker defenses and deal less damage, but are knocked out immediately with a successful attack. There are even special “schticks”, or talents, that allow characters to take out multiple mooks at a time. From my experience with this game it falls victim to the same problem as D&D: It takes all of your effort for the round to take out a single mook and any additional effort you spend on that mook is lost.
In Librium I hope to make things easier both on the Architect and the players. Certain lesser-level monsters are flagged as Pawns. Pawns have no conviction score; If their endurance is exhausted they are immediately incapacitated. They also share the same health pool with each minion contributing a certain number of health to the pool. If a minion takes a hit that drops the health pool a threshold, the minion is incapacitated. This means no damage is lost.
Let’s look at an example. A group of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons adventurer’s are fighting two bugbears (30 HP each) and eight goblins (1 HP each). The rogue, who has high damage single target attacks, only wants to fight the bugbears. He does everything he can to ignore the goblins knowing he can only deal 1 damage to them, even though his average damage potential is 25. The wizard will do what she can to hit as many targets as possible knowing that the more targets she hits, the more minions she can eliminate. The ranger will want to focus on the bugbears as well since his damage per hit is very high, despite being able to multi-attack.
For Librium, the rogue and the ranger are not punished for targeting minions. Each goblin contributes 10 endurance to their health pool (80 total). The rogue stabs a goblin, dealing 25 damage (55 HP, 7 goblins left). That goblin drops. The mage casts fireball and hits a hobgoblin and 3 goblins for 10 damage each. (25 HP, 4 goblins left). The ranger fires an arrow at two separate goblins, dealing 7 damage each and dropping both of them (11 HP, 2 goblins left). Whichever goblin takes damage next will fall.
No damage is lost using Librium. The Architect only needs one card to track eight NPCs. In addition, I encourage Architects to have any remaining pawns surrender or flee if their endurance pool hits 0. For example, if the wizard were to deal 20 damage to 4 goblins at once, the remaining 4 would be so awestruck by the devastation that they wouldn’t want to stick around.
What do you think? I’d love feedback on this. I’m sure it isn’t completely unique, but I am very pleased with it and my limited playtesting shows it works rather well. Leave a comment below.