Archive for May 27th, 2011


simple marvel minion rules

Gearing up for a one-shot of the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game (“MSH”), I’m wondering how to handle the minion arms race.

Ordinary villainous henchmen–your street thug, your violent civilian in a lynch mob–has around 20-30 Health Points.   If you’re a superhero, you’re going to be fighting mobs of these dudes frequently, and you can’t afford to spend too long plowing through them.

We ran into this exact situation a few years ago, when a friend was playing Nightcrawler dealing with an violent gang of anti-mutant bigots.  Nightcrawler connects with a punch maybe 60% of the time, for 6 points of damage.  He would, on average, need six rounds to subdue a perfectly ordinary guy.   This is extremely disappointing, because the one thing Nightcrawler can do reliably is whomp on whole mobs of minions.

Now, sure: Nightcrawler might get lucky and stun people with a single hit, using finesse and talent rather than raw power.  But that requires him to score a very rare “red” result on the combat table (around 5% of the time) and for the minion to then fail an Endurance saving throw (which happens about 50% of the time), so Nightcrawler is only going to take someone out with a single hit about 2.5% of the time.

So two ways to handle this: boost Nightcrawler’s Strength score to around 30 points, or lower the minions’ Health to 6 points. (I guess you could also make stuns easier by massively changing the game’s economy, but sheesh, lots of work.)

Boosting Nightcrawler’s Strength is kind of a bad solution.  Your Strength score has an objective value in the game: if you have 30 points of Strength, you’d be able to lift 1 ton, which doesn’t fit Nightcrawler at all.  We’d have to reconfigure the Strength chart, and boost everyone else up accordingly.  Plus it would de-value characters’ body armor: if you have 20 points of Body Armor, Nightcrawler couldn’t hurt you with 6 points of damage, but would wear you down if he did 30 points.  Nerfing body armor might not be a bad thing, since it’s extremely powerful in this game, but I think that step needs to be thought-through very carefully.

The easier solution would be to use something like minion rules.  Here’s a thought:

Minion Rank Health Points Example
Feeble 2 Schoolyard bully. Angry invalid.
Poor 4 Civilian, riled up by Hate-Monger or whoever
Typical 6 Normal, un-organized criminal hoodlum guy
Good 10 Serious crook. Mobsters. Policeman.
Excellent 20 Mafia hit-man. Soldier. The Enforcers.
Remarkable 30 Super-goon.
Incredible 40 Robotic or extra-brutish super-goon.
Amazing 50 God-goon

Minions can have the same Primary Abilities as any other NPC, just that Health is figured based on their Minion Rank rather than totaling up the scores of their physical Primary Abilities.  Optionally, Minions can have an Endurance equal to their Minion Rank, making them easier to slam and stun.

As soon as a minion gets a name and agency, he or she ceases to be a minion and becomes a regular NPC, with regular Health points and so on.

Note that this also would permit certain characters to have Minions as a super-power: in any particular scene you can have 1d10 Minions to assist you, at a cost of, say, 10 Karma per minion.

ETA: getting the last word, from the future, but in the past

So I’m incompetent at blogging.  Below, Zak S comments,

If your Nightcrawler guy is walking up to minions and smacking them, the wrong player’s playing nightcrawler.

I meant to throw some images in a reply comment, but I don’t know how to do that.  So:

it kills me I can't place this issue - I think it's Dave Cockrum's art though

And then also:

Claremont and Byrne - like, issue 131 or 132

I’ll be generous and say that reasonable folks can differ over something so vitally important to the world at large as Nightcrawler’s ability to show off in comics from, like, 30 years ago.  So it’s not like Zak is insane: this character does have a license to get creative.  But I think this is an established trick, too, and I’d like to be able to pull it off a little bit more reliably.

Past Adventures of the Mule

May 2011
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