In my last post, I discussed some of the reasons I don’t like my players trying to figure out which of the monsters on the board are minions. What it boiled down to was this – I don’t want the identity of minions to change the party’s combat tactics. I also mentioned that there are some fights when the identity of minions is obvious, and I don’t mind that. When the party is fighting a climactic battle against the red dragon, and there is a crowd of kobolds there too, I think it’s ok for the players to guess the kobolds are minions.
Assuming you agree with me, and don’t want your players pointing out the minions to one another, how do we fix this? I have three options that should start you down the path to thwarting your minion metagamers.
The easiest thing you can do is practice your poker face, and refuse to answer the question, “is this guy a minion?” It’s not your job as the DM to coddle your players and help them figure things out. I know it’s difficult sometimes to not steer them in the right direction, or divulge some information that you really shouldn’t. So next time someone asks, “is that a minion?” or says, “That’s a minion” and looks at you for a reaction, just shrug in a noncommittal manner and do your best poker face.
The next technique to thwart minion metagamers is to make your minions look different from each other. I mean this in two ways. First, use different minis for your minions. Now, I know that makes your job as the DM harder. It’s certainly simpler to use the same mini (or type of mini) for all the minions, but nothing screams “I’m a minion!” like putting 6 identical minis on the table. Second, you’re going to get a smart player or two who says something to the effect of, “Do all these guys look the same?” I think we have this image of all minions being clones of each other. There’s nothing wrong, however, with you describing each minion as having different weapons and even armor. One has a club, another has a dagger, and another has a short sword. They all do the same amount of damage, so what does their weapon matter? You can even hand-wave different armor, but same armor class as “higher armor bonus, but lower dexterity,” or something to that effect. Don’t fall into the “they all look exactly alike” trap, as much as your players want you to.
Getting more difficult
The third thing you can do is make your minions appear to be regular monsters. Roll damage dice when you roll their attack rolls (even though you’re ignoring the result – it’s all for show!), and use more than one initiative for them. Come to think of it, it doesn’t hurt to use more than one initiative for minions anyways; it gives you a chance to react to the PCs actions more frequently.
A bit of a headache
Ok, so you’re using all of the above techniques, and none of them seem to confuse your players. Congratulations, your players should be spending their spare time applying to Mensa, not playing D&D. If the above techniques are not enough, there’s one more trick you can add to the pile that’s a bit more work for you, but should keep your players guessing. You need to make markers that have more than one identifier on them. What do I mean? Normally a DM will mark the minis on the board as 1, 2, 3, etc. But now, instead of simple numbers, you’ll add an extra identifier or two like colors or shapes or letters. So now you have a red triangle with a 1 in it as well as a blue circle with a 1. The tricksy part: all the monsters have a marker on them, but only you know the combination that identifies which are minions. They could be marked with red even numbers (ignoring shape), or circles (ignoring color, number and letter), or squares with letters (ignoring color only). Or some other obscure combination. The headache, of course, is remembering the combination, picking it out when it’s the monsters’ turn, and making the markers to begin with. This, my friends, is a last resort. (As an aside, if I were to make such markers, I would use a standard hole punch, which makes a dot about 1/4″ across)
So there you have it, four progressively more difficult techniques to stop minion metagaming in its tracks. What do you think? Did I miss any?