Faster ways of taking out mooks

Faster ways of taking out mooks

Faster ways of taking out mooks

In tonight’s game we had a fight with a dozen kobolds protecting a baby dragon. This encounter took over an hour as we slowly took out one kobold after another. While the overall game was fun this battle was a little tedious. Are there any techniques for dealing with large groups of weaker enemies?

24 thoughts on “Faster ways of taking out mooks”

  1. Chris Stone-Bush not having every enemy fight to the death is my usual go to but I think the GM was playing on the kobolds fanatical dedication to protecting their God dragon. Wasn’t much in the environment that would make an attack able to hit multiple targets. Currently reading battle moves in apocalypse world 2nd for ideas. I like how they have combat moves that focus on obtaining a goal as opposed to 1 on 1 combat. Trying to find a way to “pull the camera back” for dungeon world.

  2. When I have a horde of monsters, I frequently treat their Hit Points as a group resource.

    The standard-issue kobold has 3 HP, so 12 of them would have 36.

    If the Fighter does 7 damage, you can reduce the HP total to 29: Maybe she cleaved through two of them (supposing they were close enough). Or maybe she chopped one down while throwing a sax into another at range. Or maybe one of them saw his comrade get skewered and fainted or had a little heart attack. Or maybe a kobold saw his comrade get skewered and ran away, stepped on a rake, and KO’d himself. Or anything.

    You don’t even have to narrate it all right away—in the chaos of combat, maybe the players didn’t see what happened to a few of the kobolds. They go around looting the corpses and find 3 of them playing dead!

    Using a Monster Rating is another possibility for collapsing a bunch of enemies into one—as the “group” loses HP, their damage gets reduced too:

  3. Treating their HP as a group resource has another effect too: If another kobold drops every time their collective HP falls by a multiple of 3, any given kobold might apparently take 1–5 damage. From the player’s perspective, it seems like they have variable Hit Points, like monsters in old school D&D.

  4. Erik Buchanan it’s tough, because of how HP work and the way that all the fighty moves interact with HP and the individual damage that combatants have.

    AW and it’s battle moves work the way they do because harm scales pretty elegantly between both individual combatants and gangs… and because “how much harm an NPC can take” is largely handwavy guidelines for the MC.

    You might try using this (it’s my go-to move for handling zoomed-out challenges that affect the whole party):

    Struggle as One

    When you Defy Danger as a group, acting despite the same imminent threat or suffering the same calamity, say how you all deal with it and you each roll +STAT. On a 6-, you get yourself into a spot, tell us how and what it looks like. On a 7-9, you do just fine. On a 10+, you do well enough that you can get someone out of their spot, if you can tell us how. (If you roll a 6- and someone else saves you, don’t mark XP.)

    The way this resolves, generally, is:

    A) Everyone rolls 7+, and they steamroll through the challenge

    B) They get at least as many 10+ results as misses, and there’s a cool little vignette where someone gets in trouble and someone else bails them out

    C) They get more misses than 10+ results, in which case you zoom in and deal with that spot they are in and play from there.

    For a burly brawl, you might also say that everyone uses up some resource… taking damage, losing ammo, losing a spell, etc. And maybe on a 10+, they can avoid the resource loss or get someone out of a spot, their choice.

  5. Attacks can cleave if it makes fictional sense to do so, and it sounds like it would here. You could also add in DD before H&S, with the danger being that the fanatical kobolds just overwhelm you by sheer numbers.

    A rule of thumb that I like to use is that after every move, or turn around the table, the situation should change. Even fanatical enemies aren’t going to throw themselves onto the PCs weapons after you’ve just cut their front lines to ribbons. Change their tactics. Change the environment. Show the effects of time passing. Make the action as dynamic as possible.

  6. You can use Defy Danger much like Seize by Force – “we want to grab the dragon”, “ok cool, there’s kobolds in the way, what you gonna do about that?”, “Hmm the fighter will wade in trying to keep them at bay while the rogue slips in and grabs it”, “badass, ok roll DD… Fighter, you can Aid”

  7. Victor: sorry I was trying to respond to you and I hit report instead. What g+ group aren’t you on?

    Thanks for the ideas. I think pooling all there hit points together would have sped things up. I’ll bring it up to the MC.

  8. Yeah, pooling hit points is the way to do it. I don’t have my book on me, but I know that’s in the monster section somewhere.

    And to the argument that a ‘single attack’ shouldn’t hit more than one monster: a Hack and Slash roll isn’t a single sword swing. It’s an exchange of blows, a series of attacks and parries that can cover however much time makes sense for it to cover.

  9. I haven’t played DW yet but pooling hp and basically clumping groups into whatever shared health resource there is how I do it in other systems.

    The upside to this as well is that it is narratively an effing heroic and badass image.

    Your armored up paladin swinging his two handed maul back and forth wading into the sea of kobolds and just sending them flying left and right!

    I thought though also that DW doesn’t specify one attack vs one enemy per action.. so if the fight says I’m pushing in slashing across a kobold on my right, feeding my shield to another on my left, and then driving forward with a hard thrust to the one ahead me…

    He makes a Hack and Slash and on a 10+ he rolls Damage for all of them, on a 7-9 he rolls Damage as above but also receives enemy damage+1 per enemy attacked beyond the first so in this case like d6+2.

    That right?

  10. Personally I don’t (intentially) pool the hp, but just go with the fiction. As pointed out above, no reason why someone swinging a broadsword couldn’t cleave muliple goblins at once. I let the roll themselves decide on how succesful they are at that.

    Or if someone distracts a bunch of goblin, let one of the other party members get some ‘free’ kills on those.

    On exceptionally good rolls, let their attacks do more than they intended. Etc etc.

    Whatever you do, try to avoid combat becoming long / tedious. Although you pointed out your players enjoyed it, from my experience the main thing that put people off D&D was long drawn-out combat because of mechanics. Dungeon World gives you much more tools to avoid just that – Use ‘m!

  11. > As pointed out above, no reason why someone swinging a broadsword couldn’t cleave muliple goblins at once.

    I can think of a reason, which I mentioned above: fictional positioning.

    Suppose the Fighter is committing some Hack & Slash against the lone kobold standing beside him. The rest of the kobolds are hurling sling stones at him from higher ground, about 100 yards away (that’s 100 meters for metric people). If there’s nothing stopping the Fighter from closing that distance before the slingers lob more rocks or run away, then sure: He can cleave through multiple kobolds.

    But I don’t imagine they would just stand there.

    Maybe the GM depletes their collective HP anyway. As I noted, there are a lot of ways they might get hurt in the fiction without getting cloven.

  12. I feel like there’s a disconnect and we’re all talking past it.

    The main thing that makes a combat slog a slog is not about the number of enemies or how many hps they have. It’s about the fact that you have to kill them all without gain or purpose. “Haha here’s fodder to fight”.

    The mooks shouldn’t be something that just need to be beaten for the sake of it. They should be actively preventing the characters from achieving a goal, and the characters should be trying to achieve the goal. That’s where the entertainment is.

    So this baby dragon, right? I imagine the players were trying to capture it.

    “There’s like 20 kobolds in front of it, what do you do?”

    Boring answer: “I hit one” / “I hit the next” / “yeah me too”

    Better answer: “I swing wildly into their ranks trying to scatter them”

    Or: “I charge in with my shield to make a hole for the others”

    Or: “I put on the mask of the kobold dearh good I took from the other room and scream while charging”

    Or: …

    What makes these interesting responses is seeing beyond the mooks. The moon aren’t there to die. You don’t have to kill them one by one. They’re an obstacle you need to deal with. You don’t have to completely dam a river just to cross is – you just gotta get across.

  13. Aaron Griffin I can dig those examples, they’re good.

    Of course sometimes people want to smash heads and roll Damage dice.

    Sounds like it was a set piece kind of battle so maybe that could have been an interesting setup for a custom move too like do some standard combat stuff and after a handful of actions trigger it like…

    When the kobold hoard is thinned roll with Strength or Dex…

    On a hit you’re able to snatch up the baby dragon

    On a 10+, you get it and get away!

    On a 7-9 you get to the dragon but choose two from below:

    • it was lighter than expected! You can pick it up alone.

    • the kobolds didn’t notice you in the chaos!

    • the baby dragon has been fed recently and is pacified. Lucky you!

    That way for the people that like to smash faces they get a few rounds to drop kobold mooks and then when you’re ready as gm trigger this move for someone and give them the opening and have them roll.

    Not sure how good of a move that is but an idea.

  14. Marty B. I dunno, the idea of a “set piece battle” against mooks doesn’t sit right. It still sounds like it was a “get the dragon” situation with an obstacle in the way and instead of treating it like a whole obstacle, it was treated at 20 small obstacles with 6hp each.

    Here’s another example that feels similarly boring to me:

    “Ok the dragon statue is on the other side of a raging river. You’re going to have to ford all 10 feet of it to get there.”

    “Ok ill go get it myself. Defy danger? Cool rolled a 10”

    “Alright you made it 2 feet into the river. What do you do now?”

    “Um, what? I keep going? Do I need to roll Defy Danger again? Fine. Rolled a 7”

    “You move forward 1 foot. What do you do?”

    “For real?”

  15. Aaron Griffin the story behind the conflict was an origin introducing a new player. She was in a cage caught by kobolds and a young dragon was there as well. The gamemaster is fairly new to running games and she has mostly played savage worlds so she tends to think in terms of individual actions. The raging river crossing you mentioned is dead on. Last session she made a player who was bound at the hands and feet make 2 different defy dangers for the hands and then the feet.I have to watch what I say to her as she tends to take things in the worst way possible. I sent her a text mentioning bundling up hit points in future Mook beat downs so let’s hope she takes it for the constructive criticism it is.

    That being said there was alot of good alternatives so thank you all for the helping hands.

  16. All of the above are great. In addition, one thing I have done frequently is (when fictionally appropriate) allow damage to spill over to multiple targets. Fighting kobolds with 4 hp each and the paladin hits for 12 damage, have him describe how he takes out 3 of them in quick succession. The key is to do something when you sense that it has become a slog, change the situation, end it quickly, or have the enemy run away.

  17. Aaron Griffin Haha yeah that is true a set piece against mooks isn’t super exciting haha but sooo many! Maybe toss in some magical priests and their master. Plus it could lead to a fun chase. But I totally get you… a big mook fight by itself isn’t super exciting but more of a time sink.

    I didn’t write it down but my first thought about the custom move I had written was that it puts whoever rolls it in an interesting conundrum on a 7-9 result as whatever isn’t chosen becomes true.

    In my head you do maybe one or two full go arounds of individual actions and then resolve the Thinning the Hoard move. That might take 10 minutes tops?

    You’d probably resolve the Thinning move and go around again, posing some Defy danger type situations like, ok Thrak, you see Thundarr is struggling with the baby dragon… and so on. Resolve it all and determine how well they get away.

    My first thought though was that on a 6- something like this could happen,

    ‘finally up close to the baby dragon you notice that the shadowy backdrop to the cavern has a repeating pattern on it… at about that moment the baby begins to squee and squeel and the shadows peel apart beside you revealing a massive molten green orb. As you watch frozen in place, the eye rolls in your direction, the black reptilian pupil focusing its cold gaze on you…

    Mom just woke up, what do you do?’

    Things just got really bad, like really really bad.

    Even if they were to get away without mom waking up, when she does she’s going to come looking 🙂

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