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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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    Feb 2019

    Default How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    I have read that 4e is heavily focused on combat tactics and strategy, which is nice for a side game I'm considering. How well does 4e handle multiple followers/PCs controlled by each player?

    The premise of the game is a group of kobolds or dwarves digging out an empire. The monsters the players come across will be TPK situations if they just play one PC per player. The point is for them to get the whole clan involved.
    Kind of an Oregon trail endeavor where the clan will likely shrink frequently, and the players have to manage tactical combat and society building to avoid total collapse.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Orc in the Playground
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    Aug 2011

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    There are Hireling rules in Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium. They're minions (so 1 HP and always do the same damage with their attacks) of various professions that each add some benefit. If you use them to represent the less capable people in battle you probably want to spare some thought to how you will handle them getting taken out in combat. There are also the companion character rules (In DMG and possibly updated at some points, I think DMG2 had stuff on that too) which are more like simplified PCs, meant to be able to accompany them without stealing the spotlight or being controlled by a player in addition to their regular character without adding the full load of running a regular PC.

    I have no experience using either, but not because of there particularly being anything about the rules that turned me away, it just hasn't been relevant. Just keep in mind that simply throwing in bigger enemies and making up for it by adding more combatants to the other side is going to make fights take longer without adding much of interest happening. More bodies on both sides will also make the battle take longer, but is easier to use for setting up interesting tactical and strategic situations.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Jun 2012

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    Honestly? NPC on NPC combat is a slog in any edition - and it's worst in 4e and 5e because in both games characters are complex and combat is asymmetric with NPCs having more hit points and doing less damage than equivalent danger PCs.

    TSR D&D (including oD&D, B/X, BECMI, 1e, 2e, and the Rules Cyclopaedia) are all based on a hacked tabletop wargame where you are expected to manage squads of troops and the rules for NPC and even PC combatants are extremely simple, with minimal mechanical variety. Low level PCs were expected to go into the dungeon with a dozen or more followers between them with little more in the way of stats than a name, equipment, and a hit point total. OSR games frequently keep this aspect of D&D while removing some of the really clunky mechanics. I hear that Old School Essentials is the current favourite - or if you can handle some jank the Rules Cyclopaedia is what you want.

    All 3.5 editions of WotC D&D (3.0, 3.5, 4e, and 5e) on the other hand have taken the assumption that you will not be handling a whole lot of hirelings - and because of this have ramped up the complexity of PCs and NPCs alike. 3.X had symmetric PC/NPC design which is a pain for DMs but helps this kind of game - and they all had hit point bloat. 5e made things asymmetric leading to a padded sumo. And 4e played up the synergy and tactics between party members meaning there could be emergent complexity. In particular the AoE effects and forced movement flying around lead to interesting tactics ... when you have 4 or 5 PCs. And minion rules for NPCs that are severely outpowered by the party are a good thing - but minion on minion combat gets silly.
    Currently in playtesting, now with optional rules for a cover based sci-fi shooter.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Kurald Galain's Avatar

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    Jun 2007

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    Quote Originally Posted by TyGuy View Post
    I have read that 4e is heavily focused on combat tactics and strategy
    Tactics yes, strategy no.

    That is, 4E runs on the assumption that a combat is a fair and level-appropriate encounter, and you can win this encounter through teamwork, positioning, using the right power for the moment, and so forth; in other words, the "combat-as-sport" approach. 4E does not run on the assumption that you can overwhelm or insta-win encounters through long-term planning, ambushes, attrition, and so forth (or conversely, insta-lose them if you do it poorly); also known as the "combat-as-war" approach.

    4E is very much aimed at squad-based tactical combat, and not at army-based strategic warfare. So I do not recommend this game for your approach.

    Giving each player multiple PCs? That will just slow down gameplay by a lot.
    Guide to the Magus, the Pathfinder Gish class.

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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    May 2016

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    Quote Originally Posted by TyGuy View Post
    I have read that 4e is heavily focused on combat tactics and strategy, which is nice for a side game I'm considering. How well does 4e handle multiple followers/PCs controlled by each player?

    The premise of the game is a group of kobolds or dwarves digging out an empire. The monsters the players come across will be TPK situations if they just play one PC per player. The point is for them to get the whole clan involved.
    Kind of an Oregon trail endeavor where the clan will likely shrink frequently, and the players have to manage tactical combat and society building to avoid total collapse.
    I do this all the time. Generally what you are looking for is to make the supporting NPCs simple to run. This more or less gives you three main options: standard monsters, companion characters, or martial classes from the Essentials line (knight, slayer, thief, scout, hunter), plus arguably the elementalist. And supporting characters should have no out of turn actions that aren't part of their class features. Note many of these classes underperform beyond Heroic tier, which you and the players will have to take into account.

    My rule of thumb is that each player can have one PC that can be as complicated as they want, and as many henchmen/hirelings/followers as they think they can handle, as long as the supporting NPCs are standard monsters, companion characters or martial e-classes. It doesn't get out of hand because (a) standard monsters run out of healing surges fast and don't last long, (b) PCs have to share experience with companion characters, and players are stingy with experience, and (c) PCs have to share experience and treasure with martial e-class characters (at least, if they want them to survive and to hit anything), and players can be really stingy with treasure.

    I should note that all those characters need a lot of space to maneuver. If you are running a published adventure that doesn't include a lot of groups of large or larger monsters, then the PC party will tend to bottleneck itself if there are more than, say, six characters in the party, and the balance will end up getting stuck out in the hallway unable to do anything. So you do need to adapt the combat space at least some of the time (although leaving the odd bottleneck can be an interesting tactical challenge).

    Also the rules for missile fire into combat start to strain credulity when you are firing through four ranks of your own allies in order to target the enemy.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    One easy option to implement would be to have hirelings/supporters as a Player Character sans any Encounter or Daily powers (and probably a limited amount of utility powers as well) Keeping all else the same it should be easy enough to run a character like that and you wont have to do a lot of rebalancing.

    Another option could be to say that all of the players characters have a limited amount of Encounter/Daily/Utility powers. This would make characters feel more equal and be less of a loss opposed to a 'main' character death.

    Either way just work to constrain player choice down to a level that your least flexible player can manage within a time that does not bother you/the other players.
    You surrender after you're dead. Lan Mandragoran

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Aug 2017

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beoric View Post
    My rule of thumb is that each player can have one PC that can be as complicated as they want, and as many henchmen/hirelings/followers as they think they can handle, as long as the supporting NPCs are standard monsters, companion characters or martial e-classes. It doesn't get out of hand because (a) standard monsters run out of healing surges fast and don't last long, (b) PCs have to share experience with companion characters, and players are stingy with experience, and (c) PCs have to share experience and treasure with martial e-class characters (at least, if they want them to survive and to hit anything), and players can be really stingy with treasure.
    From what I hear (I started playing with 3E and never played earlier editions), companions and hirelings were really common (almost expected) in early editions, but the need to pay them kept you from bringing too many. Noncombat hirelings generally got paid a flat amount based on what skills they provided and combat characters got either a share (for those who were roughly on par with a PC) or a half share (for those who are notably weaker).

    When I've use temporary characters in the past, I've given them an encounter, a simplified version of a class ability (like a cleric's healing word but none of the other traits) and one or two at will powers (usually a regular at-will plus a basic weapon attack) and run them like a monster who is helping the PCs.

    If you wanted long-term hirelings under the direction of a PC, you might try something where the PC and their hireling share actions, so the PC spends their action to allow the hireling to act. This would limit the benefit of having tons of hirelings (since only one of them would be able to do something at any one time), but still give extra options. If it's too limiting, you might try something where in some cases both of them get to do something (like both of them get to move at the same time, or one of them has to use a basic attack or they both have to use at-will abilities).

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    May 2016

    Default Re: How well does 4e handle minions/ followers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaeda View Post
    From what I hear (I started playing with 3E and never played earlier editions), companions and hirelings were really common (almost expected) in early editions, but the need to pay them kept you from bringing too many. Noncombat hirelings generally got paid a flat amount based on what skills they provided and combat characters got either a share (for those who were roughly on par with a PC) or a half share (for those who are notably weaker).
    Having henchmen and hirelings was more or less necessary for survival at low level; early D&D parties were expected to be relatively large compared to assumptions in 3e-5e. You are correct that they were paid mostly with a share of treasure, although not necessarily an equal share, that was something you negotiated when you hired them. Also, you were expected to pay for their funerals and give their property to their next of kin, but that didn't' happen much.

    Since the game could be pretty lethal, they had a significant secondary function as as replacement characters. I ran a Village of Hommlet conversion (a faithful conversation, not the nerfed official conversion) which is pretty deadly. With hirelings the party got up to 9-10 characters, and by the end of the Moathouse dungeon there had been five fatalities. I'm pretty sure 60% of the PCs who started the adventure weren't in the party that finished it.
    Last edited by Beoric; 2021-06-15 at 12:28 AM.

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