Sunday, October 31, 2010

A better formula for minion damage.

Ever since the monster creation guidelines received errata to cover the new math from Monster Manual 3, I had wondered what had happened with minion damage. The new tables covered other types of monsters, but not minions, so we could only guess what was expected from a modern minion - was the table in Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 still valid, or were new monsters following a different, unknown math? Minions are far less common than normal monsters (particularly at higher levels), so sample monsters in rule books tend to be scarce, complicating the task of verifying the creation guidelines. Still, I found that MM3 had just enough such monsters to prove that the previous formulas were slightly off. Even better, it was possible to come up with a new formula that was a better match for the new monsters, but also for those in Monster Manual 2! Not only that, but it was pretty straightforward, and could be related to that of standard monsters. It was the following:

Minion Damage (normal) = 4+ Level/2

Extending it for brutes and areas

Under Monster Manual 3 rules, brute and limited damage expressions are a 25% higher than normal, whereas low and area damage is 25% lower. This leaves us with the following formulas:

Minion Damage
  • Low = 3+ 0.4*Level
  • Normal = 4+ 0.5*Level
  • High = 5+ 0.6*Level

I have done a bit of rounding for clarity, which shouldn’t add a significant error. As usual in 4E, the formula results should be rounded down. At lower levels, this should be pretty close to the previous table, but for paragon and epic monsters it brings an increase of a couple points of damage.

Interestingly, these formulas are roughly half the damage you’d get from a standard, non-minion monster, which should provide some insight on a minion’s relative value. Compared to a single monster, four minions deal twice as much damage, but get weaker with each hit they take. This suggests that the damage contribution of a group of minions would match that of a normal monster if both took 4-5 turns to kill - though this is rarely the case, as minions’ pitiful survivability means that all are usually dead by the second round of combat.

Some pretty diagrams

I came up with the current formula by analyzing the chart below, which shows the damage values for all non-brute minions in monster manuals 2 and 3, ordered by level. For most levels, there is only a single minion in each book (MM2-1 and MM3-1), but sometimes there were additional ones, which I have displayed as MM2-2 and MM3-2.

As we can see, even though there are a few monsters that show moderate deviations from the norm, most follow a trend of linear increment. Including the formula (4+ 0.5*Level) as blue dots, we get that most values fall over it, or very close to it.

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