So I have been reading D&D blogs for a while now, and I came across an article (that I can’t find at the moment – I’ll link it here when I do) about minion generators. It was, in essence, Gauntlet. Since we’re about to move to the next part of the dungeon, I wanted to give my players a challenging (but not too challenging) encounter before they get to the good stuff (BTW gang – if you’re reading this, I’m just goofing off right now, the real story starts back up next week – so be glad you took that rest).
Anyway, this looked like a LOT of fun, so I figured I would throw it in as a micro-mini-boss.
So, the set up :
Looks simple enough, a crypt with 10 sarcophagi, and a stairway hidden behind one on the right wall. Sitting on that very sarcophagi is a skull. Examination of the Open coffin/sarcophagi will show that there is a body with no skull, and it looks to have been recently opened.
The Skull is a Lich. The Sarcophagi are skeleton generators. Every round X number of the 10 sarcophagi will generate a skeleton minion if no minions exist on the sarcophagi (You can scale the difficulty for the party, or over time, ramping up as you go, or for real randomness, roll 1d10 for X each round). The skeletons stop coming when the party leaves the room through one of the doors, or all the sarcophagi are destroyed. Sounds good, right?
The only problem I had with this setup is after a few rounds, it starts to look a little more…complicated :
How did we get to that point, you ask?
The party walks into the room, and immediately starts tearing down statues. The Lich makes a come-on to the Paladin. The Paladin declines. The Lich decides if the Paladin won’t be his willingly, he’ll bring him down with minions.
Start the generating. The minions are tissue, so this seems pretty easy. Except if you focus on the Lich, the minions ramp up. If you focus on the minions, the Lich can get at you. If they split the difference or use a power or two, the players can control things a little better (an acid wall in front of a line of sarcophagi that does automatic damage to the minions as they appear, keep the minions pinned on their origin space, etc). Cake for them, right?
Here’s the tricky bit. As a DM, you have something creating 10 new minions a round. If the players aren’t doing anything to keep them “cleaned up,” you’re going to be dealing with a LOT of things to track. Sure the minions can only do three things – move, hit, and die – and the sarcophagi just sit there and take damage, but eventually, I had 24 monsters to keep track of…and GROWING. And I don’t care how good you are at multitasking, that starts to stretch your concentration after a bit.
Next time I do something like this, here are a couple of things to remember:
- All the minions should have the same initiative, so I resolve them all at once.
- Make it abundantly clear what ALL the “stop” conditions are. Because my players almost never run away, leaving the room never occurred to them.
- Set a max number of minions that can exist at a time, for my own sanity.
And that’s about it. This one was a LOT of fun to run, right up until my brain started losing track of things. Although, if I planned ahead properly, I bet I could set up one HELL of a zombie hoard encounter…
 The Lich is a (now) recurring enemy that has a crush on the paladin (Rooster, played by UrsulaV). Hence the marker named “Pervy Lich”.
 I mean, I use animated statues TWICE in 7 levels and over 50 encounters, and they suddenly decide that every statue is a threat. I mean, really, who does that?
 Seriously, I’m not even done DESCRIBING it, just :
“You enter a room with..”
“Are those statues?”
“I start chopping at it with my sword. Is it broken yet?”
“Can I FINISH describing the room before you start tearing down set pieces?”
 OK, the one time, when half the party was dead, and the rest were out of daily & encounter powers, including healing powers.
 Also, they don’t take hints that aren’t wrapped around bricks very well.