Making Magical Minions, Affordable Warlordism and Henchmen

Stormtroopers. Gangers. Toughs. Devotees, Stooges. Toadies, Vassals. Lackeys. Thugs. Pawns. Underlings. Aides. Retainers. Made Men. Flunkeys.

Evil Masterminds, mafia bosses, and gang leaders always seem to have their swarms of thugs about – but they never seem to train them properly. Their thugs fall for the same silly ruses, and people claiming to be sick, and simple distractions, over and over again. Their aim is always terrible. They get treated as being completely disposable by their bosses, they get wiped out by heroes in hordes (and without inducing any guilt whatsoever), and there are always – ALWAYS – more. They don’t seem to demand hazard pay, they don’t require recruitment, they don’t even seem to eat and drink. They’re just THERE.

And unless you’re in a deconstruction, they never surrender, or lament that they will never see their children grow up, or beg for mercy. You never see mourning relatives either. They just march to their anonymous dooms. Where do bad guys GET all of these obedient, disposable, unremarked, faceless minions?

Well…

You take Summon Monster as a Summon Minion variant. This version summons an NPC minion of the caster’s race with an effective level equal to (spell level -1) OR 4 thugs with an effective level of (spell level -2) or ten lackeys with an effective level of (spell level -3). All come with appropriate gear for an NPC of their level, although it will vanish with them. All have effective attribute scores of 12 in everything. The spell is otherwise identical to Summon Monster.

Getting minions designed using Eclipse is more expensive; it requires +1 level of the Amplify Metamagical Theorem to get one type of minion and +2 levels to get the usual summon monster style selection. Even then, the caster will have to work with the game master to design them and will need to keep them useful in a variety of situations and roles. Otherwise, given the ease with which Eclipse characters can be specialized for particular tasks, you can expect to see a lot of “Army eh? I summon (extremely specialized high powered lightning mage) and have her blast the entire area”.

The Basic Minion (48 CP):

  • Universal Jack of All Trades: All Minions are considered to have a +1 base in any unrestricted skill (12 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: +2 to All Skills (1400 GP), Greater Invocation of Convenience (Produces any L0 Hedge Magic Effect, 2000 GP), Power Tool (2000 GP), Enchant Tools (L0, +1 Circumstance Bonus, 1000 GP), Mage armor (1400 GP), Force Shield I (1400 GP), Resistance (+1 Resistance Bonus on Saves, 700 GP), and Immortal Vigor I (+14 HP, 1400 GP) = 11,300 GP (12 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills (6 CP).
  • Proficient with Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Immunity/having to worry about where their gear is beyond tracking it’s encumbrance (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 3 CP). Yes, this subsumes worrying about drawing weapons and such.
  • Minions normally come equipped with:
    • Explorer’s Outfit (10 GP, 8 Lb)
    • Light Crossbow with 3 cases of Bolts (38 GP. 7 Lb)
    • 2 Spears (4 CP, 12 Lb)
    • Heavy Mace (12 GP, 8 Lb)
    • Wooden Holy Symbol (1 GP, -)
    • Common Musical Instrument (5 GP, 3 Lb).
    • Thieves Tools (30 GP, 1 Lb)
    • Block and Tackle (5 GP, 5 Lb)
    • Pitons x10 (5 SP, 5 Lb)
    • Caltrops (1 GP, 2 Lb)
    • Chalk
    • Grappling Hook (1 GP, 4 Lb)
    • Lamp (1 SP, 1 Lb)
    • Oil, 5 Pints (5 SP, 5 Lb)
    • 100′ Silk Rope (20 GP, 10 Lb)
    • 10′ Pole (2 SP, 8 Lb)
    • Masterwork Artisan’s Tools (55 GP, 5 Lb)
    • Assorted Minor Bits – comb, string, tacks, candlestub, etc.
    • Light Riding Horse with saddle, bags, etc (75 GP)
      • With Workhorse, this leaves them with a Light Load.
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Workhorse (6 CP). A minions encumbrance level is reduced by one. They can carry roughly another two hundred pounds before exceeding a heavy load.
  • First Level Bonus Feat: Occult Sense / Detect what their summoner would like them to do in their current situation. This means that you don’t have to worry about issuing orders or having them misinterpreted; they just know.
  • Minions get four skill points. These are automatically invested in the Duck and Cover martial art, providing them with DR 2/-.

That gives our generic first level minions +1 to Attacks and Damage, AC 19, 23 HP, +2 on Saves, +5 on All Unrestricted Skills, and Initiative +1. They normally speak Common and one other language suitable to their race. They do get racial abilities.

Basic Minions are just all-around competent. They can cook excellent meals, manage your accounts, take care of your horses, provide first aid, find food and warmth in the wilderness, run bars, steal stuff, fix your mundane gear, baby-sit your kids, and paint your portrait with all the skill you’d expect of a well-trained professional – with occasional flashes of brilliance.

So are minions only for spellcasters? Certainly not!

Gangsta Wrap: This elegant scarf (many other variants exist) does not take up an item slot, since it need only be activated once per month in any case. It summons four basic minions to serve the user,

  • Summon Thugs III (Specific Summons -1; four L1 thugs with no higher level options) with Improved Persistent +8 (lasts one month), Amplify +1 (Gets “Generic Eclipse Minions, as written up above), -3 (seven or more levels of built-in metamagic) -1 (takes a full minute to activate) -1 (can only be activated at a place suitable for hiring aides – whether that’s your office or a favored hangout) = SL 6 x CL 11 x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word) x .05 (one use per month) = 5.940 GP. You will have to wait a month to “hire more” if they get killed though.

Four are not enough? Go to the Minion Employment Agency (Nodwick Import-Export Services) and hire some M.E.A.N.I.E.S

And how does that service get them?

  • A Minion Employment Agency uses Summon Minion IV with Persistent +1 (lasts one minute per caster level), Amplify +1 (Minions are written up in Eclipse, although you only get one type per level, which must remain generic enough to be suited to a variety of tasks), Renewable +1 (when the spell is recast an existing summons may be extended, eliminating any one status condition or purging one negative level and regaining 3d6 hit points, one lost attribute point, and one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast), Amplify +1 (being deceased does not prevent a minion from regaining hit points, and coming back, when it’s turn for renewal comes around – but it will suffer short-term amnesia as to exactly what happened), -2 (five or more levels of built-in metamagic) = Level Six.
  • Effective Cost: Spell Level 6 x Caster Level 11 x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .5 (Immobile) = 66,000 GP. This can sustain 110 castings in total (each providing one third-level minion OR four second-level thugs OR ten first level lackeys), for an effective rental cost of about 1 GP per day (25 GP/Month or 250 GP/Year) per casting. (Interestingly enough, this comes out reasonably well in line with the rules on hirelings and such).

In either case, if first-level minions don’t do it for you, the simplest thing to do is to boost the level of the base spell.

  • A Gangsta Wrap II (L2 Minions) costs 8190 GP, III (L3 Minions) costs 10,800 GP, IV costs 13,770 GP, V costs 17,100 GP, VI costs 22,770 GO, VII costs 24,840 GP, and VIII costs 29,250 GP.
  • A Minion Employment Agency II costs 91,000 GP and provides 130 sustained castings (each providing 10 L2 Lackeys OR 4 L3 Thugs OR 1 L4 Minion), III costs 120,000 GP and provides 150 sustained castings (and L3/L4/L5 lackeys/thugs/minions), IV costs 153,000 GP and provides 170 sustained castings (and L4/L5/L6 lackeys/thugs/minions), V costs 190,000 GP and provides 190 sustained castings (and L5/L6/L7 lackeys/thugs/minions). I’d recommend some caution here; it wouldn’t take very much optimization to create an army of elemental blasters or some such.

You can also improve the duration another one or two steps instead of improving the summoning level, taking it to tens of minutes or hours per level – effectively dropping one or two levels on the minions in exchange for the ability to sustain ten or sixty times as many. Do you happen to need a clone army for your Star Wars game?

For a “ten times as many” example take a version III and give yourself 12,000 L2 Veteran Troopers, 800 Grizzled L3 Sergeants to command squads of 15 Troopers each, and 100 L4 Dashing Captains to command Companies of 8 Squads each, and your Warlord has the iron core for his army – and an answer as to how anyone can afford to actually field an army in d20. Yes, 120,000 GP is a big investment – but it buys you a fair-sized military force with perfect loyalty, unbreakable morale, a load-out of basic equipment, little need for supply lines, and the ability to reform itself from total annihilation in a day – at least as long as you maintain control of your central castle, or capital, or wherever you’ve put the place (video game special effects are optional). The resulting numbers are also a reasonably good match for the typical army sizes in medieval Western Europe. You’ll want to go for the “sixty times as many” option if you want to represent the armies of the Middle East or Asia.

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9 Responses

  1. A dusting off of the old summon army article, huh? At a glance, everything from there still seems to be true here.

    • It pretty much is. This is more about finances really – “how much will it cost my character/kingdom/etc to have an army?” and “How much to just HIRE some competent aides without all the baggage of taking the Leadership feat?” – with a side order of “game statistics for a generic hireling that should suit almost anyone”. This way, given the usual “apply your own special effects” principle, you can just say “An army? That will be so much. here are it’s statistics. As long as you hold your capital city and allow at least a day or two between battles, you can use those numbers; we can presume resupply, healing, and new recruits to make up any losses. Logistics? There’s magic for that”.

      For that matter, it also gives a price on maintaining your own team of lower-level adventurers or administrators or item-crafters or whatever.

      Admittedly, this is “Civilization“-level abstract – but that works well enough for d20.

  2. […] Gangsta Wrap I (but one use/day (x4) and Immobile (x.5) instead of one per month (120 minions, 11,880 […]

  3. […] if we go with the city magic warlord trick… it’s 120,000 GP to deploy an army consisting of 12,000 L2 Veteran Troopers, 800 […]

  4. […] and upgrade a Supply Pouch, Rod Of The Imperator (or one of the many variants thereof), or a “Gangsta Wrap” (2 […]

  5. Isn’t that spell more inefficient than just using summon monster normally? If you precondition the spell to be specifically for summoning (the caster’s race), then you can get performance at least as good.

    • Well, I can firmly say “That Depends!”

      “Summon Monster” (and most of the alternate summons, expanded summons feats, and similar) summon just that – monsters – and are primarily for combat use. The “Summon Minion” version (3’rd party Pathfinder) is “as summon monster, but it summons npcs from the Gamemastery Guide that have a CR at least 1 lower than creatures a similar summon monster spell would produce.”

      Looking through the Summon Monster lists, L2 mostly summoned CR 1 creatures, L3 summoned CR2 creatures, and so on – although things started to improve at L5 (which summoned CR5 creatures), again at L7 (which summoned CR 8 creatures), and a final time at L9, which summoned CR 11 creatures.

      Now, the 3.5 guideline was that CR was roughly equal to level for a classed creature with no ECL adjustment. Pathfinder says CR is (Level -1) – unless the creature has PC-level wealth by level, which brings it back up one.

      There’s nothing addressing what the CR becomes for a classed character optimized to specialize in a particular role and equipped solely for that role would be. That’s why “Summon Minion” is limited to generic, not especially optimized, types from the Gamemastery Guide. And this version includes gear.

      So lets say my seventh level wizard casts Summon Minion IV. He elects to call forth a…
      Third-level human healer-priest, with 1650 GP worth of gear. The healer will hang around for seven rounds. Three Feats: Extra Channel (x2, total of 8 uses), Selective Channel, Domains of Healing (Restoration Variant), and whatever. That gets me… 14d6 of healing for everyone in the party. Before using whatever magic (partially-charged wands are nice and cheap) me might be carrying to deal with special situations. That’s not bad for a fourth level arcane spell.

      Go to fifth level and caster level nine and now they’ll last longer and you can get four. That upgrades you to 64d6 of healing for everyone in the party and a spare round to use their lesser spells and powers in.

      How about a third level Wizard with a few one-charge wands? At 225 GP per charge for a level three spell at caster level five…1650 GP would let him carry seven rounds worth of assorted blasts. Maybe a few wand-boosting Feats? Why not?

      To upgrade to Eclipse style builds, you’d want the Amplify Metamagical Theorem and a couple of levels of Streamline – all Specialized and Corrupted / only to boost your Summon Minion spells (6 CP). That lets you start summoning the real specialists.

      Really, this spell is arguably way too good – but it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other ways to exploit the d20 rules.

      And I hope that helps!

      • So, I assume the rule of thumb is ‘not substantially more specialized than characters using a class’?
        If you wanted to just summon a wizard with maybe a few basic personalized enchantments, that makes decent sense as just being the ‘summon minion’. The harsh ‘eclipse style build’ thing is kind of odd though. I’d probably allow a selection of standard builds that aren’t nesccarily things outside of eclipse to be summoned as minions normally. (e.g. summon a general dweomerist or theurgist.)

      • Well, it’s (Spell Level -1) for the basic minion, and +1 Spell Level for a specific Eclipse-Style build. So let us take a second level summoning spell and build a specialized level zero human minion. That gives us 30 CP to play with. Spend them on…

        Three specific spontaneous spell formula (6 CP).

        2d6 Mana as 4d4 (10) Generic Spell Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / only for casting three specific spells (4 CP).

        Caster Level Three, Specialized and Corrupted / only for casting three specific spells (6 CP).

        1d6 (3) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Natural Magic option, Specialized and Corrupted / only usable to reduce the effective level for casting purposes of three specific spells (2 CP).

        Berserker (Casting Level), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+16 Caster Levels, +8 Intelligence), only once per day, only lasts long enough to cast a single spell (6 CP).

        Metamagical Theorem / Compact with Fast, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to three specific spells, only to apply the “Dying To Cast It” modifier to take 3 levels off the spell (4 CP). It would be -4, but you can’t use Compact to reduce the base level of a spell by more than three.

        Returning, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works to come back after using the “Dying To Cast It” modifier on three specific spells (2 CP).

        There. For 30 CP a level zero character with Int 12 may, once per day, jump to an effective Int 20 and Caster Level 19 and cast one of three spells with a base level of up to (10 +3 (Mana) +3 (Dying)) = 16

        So what three spells? How about…

        Wish at +3 levels to eliminate the costly component and with +7 levels of the Multiple (Spamming, 5 Activations / Wishes per casting) Metamagic for +4 levels. That’s level sixteen. Lets have those inherent bonuses and things!

        Maybe the 15’th level version of Grand Creation? Admittedly, that’s only an income of 3800 GP worth of stuff per casting, but that’s not bad.

        How about Fireball with +16 levels worth of built-in Metamagic (+13 levels, for level sixteen). That’s sixteenth level – so lets apply Boundless (Affects an entire city or battlefield, +8 levels), Global (can target any known spot on the planet, +6 levels), Amplify (+50% damage, for a total of 15d6, +2 Levels), and Elemental Manipulation (choice of Fire, Lightning, Cold, or Sonic energy). That will let you drop city-killer blasts anywhere on the planet.

        Now that’s pretty handy for a second level spell! Who could pass that up? Take it as an 12 CP Innate Enchantment (Spell Level Two x Caster Level Three x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated) for a total of 10,800 GP). and now EVERYONE can have five wishes per round, or make more than two million gold pieces an hour, or – for that matter – blow up six hundred cities per hour.

        This breaks pretty much any setting, so it falls afoul of the general rule that “Since lots of adventurers have come before you, easy setting breaking stuff doesn’t work for one reason or another. Otherwise the setting would not be here for you to adventure in”.

        The problem is that this can get pretty broken even without using Eclipse. Using Eclipse to build monomanical characters really breaks things. So you don’t do that if you actually want to play. Exactly how much optimization and specialization is acceptable is going to be up to your game master. He or she is the one who has to put up with it and still find a way to keep the game interesting.

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