This regular column is for Dungeon Masters who like to build worlds and campaigns as much as I do. Here I share my experiences as a DM through the lens of Iomandra, my Dungeons & Dragons campaign world. Even though the campaign uses the 4th Edition rules, the topics covered here often transcend editions. Hopefully this series of articles will give you inspiration, ideas, and awesome new ways to menace your players in your home campaigns.
If you’re interested in learning more about the world of Iomandra, check out the wiki.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT. Nacime’s regular character is a defective warforged named Fleet. Several sessions ago, a group of Vecna-worshiping wizards abducted Fleet with the intention of dismantling and studying him. Fleet’s sudden and somewhat unexpected disappearance afforded Nacime the chance to roll up a new character and try something different for few sessions.
Recently, however, the heroes located and stormed the Vecnites’ secret lair and rescued Fleet from his captors. (Now Nacime has two characters, which presents a different sort of challenge.)
To get to the main bad guys, the heroes had to carve through Vecna’s disciples, which included plenty of minions. The disciples’ main “shtick” was that they uttered a terrible curse when killed. The curse made whoever killed them temporarily vulnerable to necrotic damage, which—as you might imagine—is particularly troublesome when fighting agents of the undead god of secrets.
Here’s the stat block I created for the disciples of Vecna, which you’re free to plunder for your home campaign:
Masked Disciple of Vecna
Level 23 Minion Brute
Medium natural humanoid, human
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative +11
AC 35, Fortitude 36, Reflex 35, Will 34 Perception +14
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +28 vs. AC
Hit: 15 necrotic damage, and the target cannot spend healing surges until the start of the disciple’s next turn.
Attack: Ranged 5 (one creature); +26 vs. Will
Hit: 15 psychic damage, and the target cannot use encounter or daily powers (save ends).
Curse of the Whispered OneAt-Will
Trigger: An enemy’s attack drops the disciple to 0 hit points.
Effect: The triggering enemy gains vulnerable 10 necrotic until the end of the encounter.
Str 15 (+13)
Dex 11 (+11)
Wis 17 (+14)
Con 20 (+16)
Int 18 (+15)
Cha 15 (+13)
Equipment staff, skull mask
Because of their curse of the Whispered One power, these minion cultists are best combined with undead creatures that deal necrotic damage. Nothing says “bwah-haha” better than a minion who keeps dealin’ the damage long after it’s dead! Of course, once my players realized that the curse’s effects don’t stack, they got smart and let one character focus on taking out the minions so that the rest of them wouldn’t be cursed.
“Magnificent Minion” Contest
Thanks to everyone who submitted minion ideas and stat blocks for the "Magnificent Minion!" contest. Not surprisingly, we received a ton of fun and wacky ideas, with brutes and skirmishers by far the most popular monster roles represented. (Not a whole lot of love for artillery and lurkers, however.)
I’ve picked my three favorites and have a few things to say about each one. A cautionary note: No real effort has been made to develop or edit these monsters. In a couple cases, I made some formatting changes and filled in some accidental omissions, but that’s it.
Blood of Torog
By Chris C., U.S.A.F. Academy CO
Torog is the god of imprisonment, torture, and the Underdark. This particular critter likes to crawl inside your body, mingle with your blood, and control you like a meat puppet. Invade the blood is a fairly complex power for a minion, but undeniably scary.
I might change the encounter power to a “recharge when the attack misses” power (just to make it even scarier), and while its basic attack damage might seem low at first glance, its aura makes up for it.
The change shape power is a particularly nice little bit of flavor that doesn’t have much impact in combat but gives the monster a disturbing aspect that mirrors the mutilated form of Torog himself. Sometimes even the most experienced designers forget the impact that these sorts of powers can have at the game table. It also reinforces the idea that monsters can be more than the sum of their statistics.
Blood of Torog
Level 10 Minion Skirmisher
Medium immortal animate (ooze)
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative +11
AC 24, Fortitude 20, Reflex 21, Will 17 Perception +10
Speed 6, climb 6 Blindsight 10
An enemy that starts its turn within the aura takes 2 necrotic damage.
While squeezing, the blood of Torog moves at full speed rather than half speed, it doesn’t take a –5 penalty to attack rolls, and it doesn’t grant combat advantage for squeezing.
Hit: 6 necrotic damage, and the blood of Torog can shift 1 square and pull the target into the space it just vacated.
Effect: The blood of Torog shifts a number of squares equal to its speed and must end its move adjacent to a bloodied enemy.
Attack: Melee 1 (one bloodied creature); +13 vs. Reflex
Hit: The blood of Torog grabs the target (escape DC 18). Until it escapes the grab, the target takes ongoing necrotic damage equal to its level. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target regains hit points equal to its bloodied value and is dominated (no save), and the blood of Torog is removed from play. While dominated, the target acts in accordance with the blood of Torog’s wishes. When the dominated target drops to 0 hit points, it is no longer dominated or grabbed, and the blood of Torog appears in a square adjacent to the target.
Effect: The blood of Torog can assume the form of any creature it kills, though it appears tortured and mutilated. While in this form, it loses the ooze trait.
Str 10 (+5)
Dex 18 (+9)
Wis 10 (+5)
Con 16 (+8)
Int 10 (+5)
Cha 10 (+5)
Alignment chaotic evil
By Robert P., Toms River NJ
Try saying this monster’s name quickly three times! For those who don’t know, the nilbog (“goblin” spelled backward) traces its origins back to the earliest days of D&D. Its original shtick was that attacks healed the nilbog while healing spells wounded it. One of my all-time favorite Dungeon adventures (“Pearlman’s Curiosity” in issue #32) featured one of these little buggers, and I’ve been favorably disposed toward them ever since.
According to Robert, clobbermob nilbogs resemble regular goblins save for their greasy, violet-red skin, black eyes, and backward hands and feet. They speak a hideous mishmash of Elven and Goblin, and are inclined to sing grisly choruses as they swarm victims. Also, check out their equipment—gotta love a minion that carries around three goose eggs and a roasted pixie!
I’m guessing that “AC 1” is not an error but an attempt to reflect the idea that nilbogs are “damage magnets.” I think I’d change its Thievery bonus to +17 to account for training, but its other defenses and its damage are spot on.
Level 14 Minion Brute
Small fey humanoid
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative +14
AC 1, Fortitude 27, Reflex 26, Will 26 Perception +12
Immune attack powers with the weapon keyword
The nilbog loses its immunity and all temporary hit points if a creature adjacent to it uses a second wind or heals from a power with the healing keyword.
Tough Little Bugger
Whenever the nilbog is hit with an attack power that has the weapon keyword, it gains 5 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points are cumulative.
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +19 vs. AC
Hit: 14 damage.
Str 23 (+13)
Dex 20 (+12)
Wis 20 (+12)
Con 20 (+12)
Int 20 (+12)
Cha 20 (+12)
Languages Elven, Goblin
Equipment knucklebone cudgel, burlap sack (tunic), wine bladder, three goose eggs, spit-roasted pixie
Clockwork Wasp Drone
By Beren Ross S., Fort Collins CO
Beren reports that this particular minion was used during a fight where the heroes had to climb a tower with moving floors (shaped like Tetris pieces) while being attacked by a hive of clockwork wasps, leading to a boss battle with their queen at the top. That’s one battle I would’ve loved to see!
Being small of brain, I like minions that are simple and straightforward. However, the best minions have a signature power or trait that embodies what the monster is all about. In this case, it’s the extra damage that the drone deals when it’s adjacent to allies; it makes the DM want to group these minions into tight swarms, and how appropriate is that?
As is true of many minions, the clockwork wasp drone explodes when it drops to 0 hit points. This particular critter unleashes a burst of lightning that targets enemies only, so the poor drone doesn’t have to worry about killing all of its buddies like an exploding can of Raid insecticide.
Clockwork Wasp Drone
Level 13 Minion Skirmisher
Small natural animate (construct)
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion. Initiative +12
AC 27, Fortitude 25, Reflex 25, Will 21 Perception +6
Speed 6, fly 6
Immune disease, poison
Effect: The drone can shift 1 square before it attacks.
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +18 vs. AC
Hit: 8 poison damage plus 1 extra poison damage for each ally adjacent to the drone.
Effect: The drone drops to 0 hit points.
Attack (No Action): Close burst 1 (enemies in the burst); +16 vs. AC
Hit: 8 lightning damage.
Str 11 (+6)
Dex 18 (+10)
Wis 11 (+6)
Con 18 (+10)
Int 2 (+2)
Cha 10 (+6)
Props also go to Rane S. of Nokesville VA for the “flying eyeball” (each minion comes with a random beholder eye ray) and Kendall B. of Toronto ON for the “troll whelp” (which a troll can spawn when it takes damage and then eat to gain temporary hit points).
Until the next encounter!
—Dungeon Master for Life,
Poll 06/09/2011 Results:
1. The Chaos Scar adventure series in Dungeon magazine is wrapping up this year. If we do another series, what should be the setting?
- Sigil and/or the planes: 16.0%
- Eberron: 14.3%
- Athas: 13.2%
- Faerun: 8.2%
- Greyhawk: 7.6%
- Some other place in the “points of light” setting: 7.2%
- The Nentir Vale: 6.8%
- A generic non-world-specific location: 6.3%
- My home campaign world (duh!): 2.5%
2. If you had to have one of the following demon lords for a roommate, which would you choose?
- Graz'zt: 30.6%
- Orcus: 8.8%
- Demogorgon: 7.6%
- Zuggtmoy: 3.9%
- Kostchtchie: 2.6%
The Dungeon Master Experience: Poll 06/16/2011
Which winning minion is your favorite?
Christopher Perkins joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the editor of Dungeon magazine. Today, he’s the senior producer for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game and leads the team of designers, developers, and editors who produce D&D RPG products. On Monday and Wednesday nights, he runs a D&D campaign for two different groups of players set in his homegrown world of Iomandra.