In the newest D&D Fourth Edition excerpt, “Minions,” D&D uptakes the old concept of the “mook”. I’m not sure if Feng Shui, a HK action movie game by Robin Laws, was the first game to use mooks, but it certainly popularized them. A minion, or mook, is an opponent designed to be one of those guys that goes down like tenpins in the movies.
And you know, they did a good job here! I know you’re getting used to me squealing like someone’s poking red hot nails through my nutsack at each of these 4e excerpts, but that’s only when they deserve it.
A minion is of a power level equivalent to any other monster except it has only one hit point. So it can still have a good to hit, a big attack, etc., but one hit takes it out.
Goodman Games has a Wicked Fantasy Factory line of D&D adventures where they had mook rules and “finishing moves” and other cool stuff. But actually these mook rules are better, because the point of mooks is little to no record keeping. In WFF, mooks still had hit points.
There’s a couple rough edges, though. One, the “1 hp” thing means that they have to put a bunch of clauses on like “unless you miss” (apparently there’s attacks that damage on a miss). Just saying “one hit takes them out” would be better, albeit less officious, and they like officious. Two, it seems to me that area effect spells are super duper anti mook slayers. I’d be immediately designing spells that do minimal damage to as many opponents as possible, and characters who do as many attacks as possible even at the cost of damage (shuriken, woot!). In Feng Shui, mooks don’t have hit points, you just have to exceed your normal to hit by 5 and they’re out. And you take a penalty for attacking multiple targets. Therefore multiple targeting is self-correcting – they’ll have to be very very careful about that going forward in 4e; even if they screen the initial PHB spells, abilities, etc. it’ll be hard to stop anything from getting to that “super efficient mook sweeper” level. And even though you want mooks to be easy, you don’t want it to be that “round one of combat is always the “make the mooks go away” round – that removes any drama/threat to it.
I’m also not too happy with the “mooks do a fixed amount of damage” rule. It does simplify, but it makes combat too deterministic – I don’t like a PC thinking “oh, I have 6 hp and that minion can only do 5, I’m in!” There should always be risk, and fixed damage removes a lot of that.
But is it a big improvement over 3e? Yes! 4/5!