Online Dungeon Master

May 9, 2011

Minion critical hits

Filed under: 4e D&D, DM Lessons — Tags: , — OnlineDM @ 8:00 AM

Somehow, I keep coming back to minions as a blog topic. I first talked about my love for two-hit minions, then later embraced the idea of using hordes of one-hit minions.

Today’s topic is a simple one: What happens when a minion scores a critical hit?

A normal monster gets to deal maximum damage on a critical hit (and you’ll occasionally see one that gets extra damage on top of that). Most minions, however, deal static damage (if they hit, they deal a flat 5 damage or something like that). What happens when they score a crit?

Well, technically speaking nothing happens when a minion scores a crit. They deal their regular old damage. But I feel like a critical hit (a natural 20 on the attack die for those who are confused by the terminology) is something special and should be more interesting (and deadly) than a normal hit.

For a while, my answer was for minions to deal double damage on a critical hit. If they normally hit for 5, a crit deals 10 damage, and so on. That works just fine, frankly, and makes minions a little more scary. I recommend doing something like this.

However, I’ve just started experimenting with a slightly different approach, thanks to the way I program my monsters in MapTool. My typical monster attack macro is as follows:

[h: AttackName="SingleTarget"]
[h: AttackBonus=0]
[h: Defense="AC"]
[h: NumDice=1]
[h: DamageDie=6]
[h: DamageBonus=0]
[h: DamageString="damage."]

[h: Enh=0]
[h: CritDamageDie=0]

[h: DamageRoll=roll(NumDice,DamageDie)]
[h: d20roll=d20]
[h, if(CritDamageDie > 0), CODE: 
 { [CritBonus=roll(Enh,CritDamageDie)]  }; 
 { [CritBonus=0] }

[h: AttackRoll=d20roll+AttackBonus]
[h: MaxDamage=NumDice*DamageDie+DamageBonus+CritBonus]
[h: RegularDamage=DamageRoll+DamageBonus]

Attack: [d20roll] + [AttackBonus] = <b>[AttackRoll]</b> versus [Defense]<br>
[if(d20roll==20), CODE:
  {<font color=Red>--CRITICAL HIT--</font><br>
    Hit: [NumDice*DamageDie] + [DamageBonus] + [CritBonus] = <b>[MaxDamage]</b> [DamageString]
  {Hit: [DamageRoll] + [DamageBonus] = <b>[RegularDamage]</b> [DamageString]}

For most monster attacks, I only edit the first seven lines (the attack name, attack bonus, defense it attacks, damage die, number of damage dice to roll, the damage bonus, and the accompanying text for a hit). For minions, I would usually edit this heavily to remove all of the business about damage dice and damage bonuses and just type the numbers into the bottom of my macro in the Hit line.

Then I realized I could save myself some trouble with minion attacks by setting the number of damage dice to zero and the damage bonus to the static damage. If you roll zero d6 and add 5, you always get 5 damage. Much easier!

The problem: Now I had no way to deal extra damage on a critical hit. However, my damage macro does allow for bonus damage on a crit – set Enh (equivalent to the enhancement on a magic weapon) to however many bonus crit dice the monster gets and set the CritDamageDie appropriately. Here, I stumbled across my new minion crit rule by setting Enh to 1 and CritDamageDie to the amount of static damage that the monster normally deals.

My new minion crit rule is that, if a normal hit deals X damage, a critical hit deals X + 1dX damage. So, a minion that normally deals 5 damage will deal 5 + 1d5 damage on a hit (somewhere between 6 and 10 total damage). Naturally, we don’t have 5 or 7 sided dice in the real world, but MapTool has no problem with this.

What do you think? Is it worth it to make minions deal extra damage on a critical hit? Is doubling their static damage on a crit too vicious? What about this new approach I’m toying with?


  1. I double the Minion’s damage for that attack too, but occassionally vary it be adding a different effect instead – low ongoing damage, pushing the PC back, stunned, etc.

    Keeping it varied keeps the PCs on their toes, and makes Minions just that little bit more unpredictable.

    Comment by greywulf — May 9, 2011 @ 9:40 AM

    • Whew – STUNNED? That’s a nasty minion!

      But I like the idea of mixing things up when a minion gets a critical hit. Thanks for sharing!

      Comment by OnlineDM — May 9, 2011 @ 9:47 AM

      • Granted, it was a fairly high-level Stone Giant Minion………..

        Comment by greywulf — May 9, 2011 @ 9:54 AM

  2. No, it’s not worth it.

    Comment by pdunwin — May 9, 2011 @ 9:43 AM

  3. I’m fine with minions not doing any extra damage on a crit, myself. They’re just minions.

    Neat to see your maptool code, though!

    Comment by Oraibi — May 9, 2011 @ 10:06 AM

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