View Full Version : [4e] Scale of Challenges and Awesomeness

2009-03-30, 06:46 PM
This is a rough system for scaling a given opponent to be a challenge over a wider set of levels. And it highlights PC awesomeness by allowing them to encounter at much later levels creatures they once had problems fighting, and ... have the encounter scale.

Suppose you wanted a campaign that rotated around a massive orc invasion of the civilised lands. And you intended it to stretch from the start of Heroic up to the end of Paragon and even into Epic.

The problem is you don't want to have a "even bigger badder orc" syndrom. Orcs are orcs. Some are badass, but most are ... well orcs.

Start with a base normal creature. Say a level 6 orc.

Subtract 4 levels. This creature can now be built as an elite at this level. So the same level 4 orc can be represented as a level 2 elite orc. (Note that this is the "same kind of orc", just looked at from a different perspective).

Add 4 levels, and turn the orc into a minion. Ie, a level 10 minion orc is the same orc as that level 6 normal orc.

Add another 4 levels. Now you turn the orc into a swarm, 2x2 or 3x3 of tightly packed (2 per square) orcs fighting in what they use as a formation. This is a normal opponent, however -- a standard level 14 opponent.

Add another 4 levels. At this point, you can either turn the swarm into a 5x5 or 6x6 army (a massive swarm), or leave it as a 2x2 or 3x3 swarm and 'minionize it' -- use minion rules to represent the entire swarm. So either a level 18 normal opponent that happens to be a 6x6 block of 72 howling orcs, or a level 18 minion of 18 howling orcs.

Add another 4 levels. Now your 6x6 block of 72 howling orcs is a minion. A level 22 minion, but a minion.

You can also extend this to solo creatures.

For the general pattern:
Base -8: solo version
Base -4: elite version
Base +0: normal version
Base +4: minion version
Base +8: 2x2 or 3x3 swarm version
Base +12: minionized swarm, or 5x5 or 6x6 army swarm.
Base +16: minionized army swarm

Using these rules, the same base creature (orc) can be encountered from level 1 (as a level 2 elite boss of goblins) to level 25 (you face down 40 6x6 blocks of orcs -- a 24x120 area -- totalling 6000 orcs. As a standard encounter.)

Naturally the level 25 encounter should mix it up, and have the army of orcs be led by some bosses. But the scale is there.

In addition, the above assumes you are using some variant of "tough minion" rules (as otherwise, easy auto-damage makes minions far weaker than 4 minions to 1 normal monster). I like "all minions share a HP pool. Every LEVEL damage kills the latest hit minion. A given hit on a minion can do no more than LEVEL damage", and allow miss damage to damage minions.

Minionized Swarms are just minions that happen to be swarms as a creature type. A 3x3 minion swarm of orcs is a force of 15 to 20 trained orc soldiers. A 6x6 minion swarm of orcs is a force of 70 to 80 trained orc soldiers.

As a special rule, I'd allow Cleave to do full damage against Troop Swarms instead of doing the hit splash damage.


This relies on being willing to narrate what happens and play fast and loose.

When a Wizard uses Thunderweave on two minion orc armies, the ground buckles and 100 orcs go flying into the air. When she uses cloud of daggers, a hurricane of daggers descends and cuts the orcs tho pieces, then it reforms into a pillar -- on her next turn, the pillar twists into the air and swoops down on yet another army of orcs. When a fighter uses Cleave, the fighter cuts through the orcs left right and center, a living incarnation of death. The Rogue dances between the orc blades like a ghost, cutting and making the entire force turn on itself.

This doesn't have to be used that often in order for the players to understand the scale of their power, next to what it was in the past.

Note that the above involves rebuilding a new monster, inspired by the old. The level 2 elite orc doesn't use the stats of the level 6 normal orc 'which it is as well' -- it is a level 2 elite opponent.

You can naturally go the other way -- a level 4 solo dragon could be rebuilt as a level 12 mount, while fitting the power curve. Doing it this way is more problematic -- you don't want to turn dragons into "ho hum, just another dragon", and similarly for many other solos.

2009-03-30, 08:19 PM
This is a good idea.

Of course, for smaller differences (or tougher creatures), you could just have a regular enemy "turn into" a minion at a given point. Say, when the party's level is double theirs. There's really no reason a level 20 character shouldn't cut through standard level 9 trolls like the proverbial hot knife through butter, even though you probably don't want a level 13 or 14 character doing the same.

2009-04-01, 08:08 PM
Under normal circumstances, I would find the idea of densely-packed Orc squads far too hilarious/unrealistic to use in a campaign.

But, with today's April Fools content, the possibility of challenging Epic PCs with a veritable army of Stale Trail Flail Snails is just too awesome to pass up.