D&D Miniatures08/17/2006


Introduction to Design
Making Miniatures Rules pt. 2



In my last article (Making Miniatures Rules), I asked for help designing some hypothetical miniatures. Readers presented some cool ideas on the message boards, and I’ve had some ideas of my own. I’ve combined them to create the miniatures below. In the next article Steve will develop our work and assign point costs, telling you a bit about that process.

As you might recall from my last article, our miniatures were for a hypothetical set designed around the theme of law versus chaos. I got the ball rolling by describing some basic characteristics of some formian miniatures. Formians are very lawful creatures and a good fit for the set’s theme. Now, let’s see what we came up with to pass along to development.

Formian Myrmarch and WarriorPushing the Limit

You’ll note that the miniatures I’ve described below present a lot of abilities to fit on their theoretical cards. In design, I often intentionally add an ability or two too many. This gives the development team a broader idea of a miniature’s possible applications. In miniature’s design, it’s better for development to get something that exceeds what is necessary and pushes the boundaries of the rules than to get something conservative where a designer tries to get the miniature “right.” Of course, a designer can’t be lazy and hand over garbage, but going farther than seems necessary can be healthy. In addition to that general philosophy, I sit within 20 feet of Steve, and if I think I’m going nuts with a rule, I brainstorm with him about how it might work.

Formian Alignment

You’ll note that all the formians are Lawful Good. As I mentioned in the last article, I did this because making them all Lawful Neutral doesn’t seem to add much to gameplay, and because it’s nice to offer the player of Lawful Good some miniatures other than humanoids, constructs, and dragons. That said, they could easily be Lawful Neutral, and development (in this case just Steve) might choose to go that direction. Doing so would suit their use in RPG play very well. We’ll see what Steve thinks in the next article.

Common -- Formian Worker

The Formian Worker should be a cheap and relatively weak figure because the Formian Warrior from Aberrations costs only 16 points. At the same time, making a Formian Warrior with fewer hit points and no new special ability makes for a dull addition to a set. Thus, it seems like the best course is to make it a weaker version of the Formian Warrior in keeping with the worker's roleplaying stats, and then give it some new ability in keeping with its spirit.

Many people cued in to the formian hivemind ability as a cool way to link the creatures and give them an interesting ability. Unfortunately, the Formian Warrior lacks such an ability, so if we want all formians to have it, we need to find some way to give it to the Warrior. That sounds like a commander effect, so we'll save that idea for the Formian Queen.

I mentioned in the previous article that it would be nice if having a few of them is somehow beneficial -- so that you might be inclined to take a bunch rather than just one. That idea turned into the Mob 2 ability. Several folks on the message board suggested Mob 3, and I've pulled that back to Mob 2 for reasons that will become clear later on. Giving the Formian Worker Squad Activation prevents a player from using many Formian Workers to control activations in play, and it fits their hivemind flavor.

Other abilities suit it well. Phalanx Fighting makes a lot of sense and might make other LG miniatures with that ability more useful with other LG miniatures that have that ability. It could also use a new ability I'm calling Improved Flanking. In truth, I think Mob 2 and Squad Activation are enough to keep track of, but the development team looks for me to push the boundaries, and presenting the abundant ability combos is one way to do so.

Designer's Note: I want this mini to be weaker than the Formian Worker in Aberrations, and cheaper by 5 or more. Note that its speed is unusual for LG and might make it a tile grabber. Phalanx Fighting and Improved Flanking might be a bit much, especially because other formian's don't have it, and that's a bit of a disconnect.

Formian Worker

Size: Small
Faction: LG
Level: 1
Speed: 8
AC: 17
HP: 5
Melee Attack: +3 (5)
Type: Outsider

Special Abilities:

  • Immune Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic
  • Mob 2 (Every 2 creatures named Formian Worker count as 1 creature for the purpose of warband construction)
  • Squad Activation (All creatures in your warband named Formian Worker must activate as a single activation)
  • Phalanx Fighting (+2 AC when adjacent to an ally with Phalanx Fighting)
  • Improved Flanking (Melee attack +4 against flanked enemies instead of +2)

Rare -- Formian Queen

The Formian Queen clearly represents the best choice for a formian commander, but her RPG stats are way out of the range of a normal set. Other formians are unlikely to be good epic combatants, so if we want the formian queen to have formian minions, we need to make skirmish statistics that capture the spirit of the queen rather than attempting a direct translation.

Her point cost should be no more than maybe 60 points so that you can put lots of the other formians or other creatures in the warband. That gave me a particular range of numbers to aim for in creating her stats for the skirmish side of the card. Having those numbers, all that was left was designing the abilities.

To design the Hivemind ability, I took cues from the message boards. The benefits of Hivemind are thus tied to the commander effect rather than it being a separate ability. I like this solution better than creating a separate hivemind ability applied to all formians and other miniatures because going that route would leave the Formian Warrior out of the picture.

The Formian Queen has a slow speed even though the queen lacks a speed in RPG play. There were some neat suggestions for not giving the queen a speed on the message boards, but it seemed to me that they were either a little too complicated or would make battle with the Formian Queen warband play out the same way too often. Giving her a speed in keeping with LG makes using and fighting against the Formian Queen more familiar, which is good when there are so many other weird things she has going on. I added the Queen's Push ability to give her a simple rule that might replicate the idea of formians moving her, but I don't think the mini needs it, and I find it somewhat unsatisfactory. We'll see what Steve thinks when its time to develop it.

The Queen has no melee attack in RPG play, and that is easy enough to replicate in miniatures rules. Of course, lacking a melee attack means that the Formian Queen should have some spells that she can cast while adjacent to foes. Fireburst is a good candidate, but one that deals cold damage would be better as formians are immune to cold. Also fireburst is a bit weak. A maximized frostburst makes a good solution. I imagine it's a maximized fireburst that does cold damage due to the Energy Substitution feat. Although the Formian Queen is a sorcerer, I don't want to clutter her card with options, so I added just a few more to make her interesting.

The really out-there ability on this miniature is Hive Command. I've given the Formian Queen a commander rating of 0 and the ability to have a commander rating equal to her number of formian followers. This reinforces the flavor of the formian hivemind, and it makes each formian more valuable to the person using the Formian Queen as a commander. This ability combined with Hivemind might make her point cost too high in sealed play unless you get lucky, but I'll let Steve worry about that after he decides whether or not the ability is too crazy for the game.

Designer's Note: There might be too many words to fit on the card. This creature has no attacks on purpose. It's intended to be a great commander of other formians in the warband, and a decent commander if you have other creatures. It probably has too many abilities to fit on a card. I think Queen's Push and Counterspell are the best cuts. Hive Command might be crazy, especially with Hivemind and Mob 2 on the Formian Workers. Also, I'd like you to be able to have all the types of formians in a warband with this mini, so her cost shouldn't be too high. Does this stray too far into designing warbands for players?

Formian Queen

Commander Rating: 0
Size: Large
Faction: LG
Level: 10
Speed: 4
AC: 23
HP: 80
Melee Attack: --
Type: Outsider

Special Abilities:

  • Immune Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic
  • Spell Resistance (May ignore spells unless the caster rolls 11+)
  • Regeneration 5 (this creature heals 5 hp at the start of its turn)
  • No Attacks (This creature has no reach and cannot make melee or ranged attacks)
  • Queen's Push (Has Speed 8 if it activates adjacent to an active allied formian)
  • Counterspell 4 (Immediate: sight; cancel spell of up to 4th level as an enemy casts it)
  • Hivemind (Formian followers are always considered to be within 6 squares if this Formian Queen is active)
  • Hive Command (This miniature gains a bonus to its commander rating equal to the number of formian followers in your warband)

Spells

  • 4th -- empowered frostburst [unlimited] (each adjacent creature; 25 cold damage, can cast while adjacent to enemy; DC 16), empowered Melf's acid arrow [unlimited] (unlimited uses) (sight; 20 acid damage, ignore Spell Resistance)
  • 5th -- cloudkill (sight; radius 4; 15 poison damage, ignore Spell Resistance; DC 17)
  • 7th -- dictum (chaotic creatures of level 6 or lower within 4 squares are paralyzed, those of level 12 or lower within 4 squares are stunned, can cast while adjacent to enemy; DC 19)

Commander Effect: Allies gain Chaos Foe +5 (Melee damage +5 against chaotic creatures) and Immune Confusion, Flanking

Formian ArmadonUncommon -- Armadon or Taskmaster?

The taskmaster (from the Monster Manual) and the armadon (from Fiend Folio) were both favorites for the Uncommon beater figure, so I've decided to show you designs for both. When designing a real set, I couldn't spontaneously create a miniature for the set like that because the process for sketching and perhaps even sculpting has already been set in motion. Yet with any set, it's often fun to design a miniature for the following set that works with the others, so let's assume that one of the two uncommon miniatures is for the next set. Steve can then pick which of the two uncommons works best for our hypothetical set and explain why the other should follow later.

The armadon can be a relatively straightforward beater right out of the gates. If anything, it needs a little beefing up and a little less AC to get it in the right place as a playable figure. To simplify things and focus it more on what it does best, I reduced its number of attacks and ignored its poison sting.

The taskmaster presents a more interesting translation challenge. Its main feature is a dominate monster ability not yet replicated in the game. For that ability, I'm plundering a similar ability from a miniature in a future set. Sorry, I can't tell you what set or what miniature has the ability, but perhaps you can guess from the name. Otherwise, it seems like a poor fit for the beater role, and I don't want to turn it into that type of figure. Instead, I imagine it more in a 'tricky' role, meaning that the figure might be a bit fragile for its points and requires good play skill to be used most effectively. Many spellcasters are tricky miniatures.

Formian Armadon

Size: Large
Faction: LG
Level: 8
Speed: 8
AC: 22
HP: 80
Melee Attack: +11/+11 (15)
Type: Outsider

Special Abilities:

  • Immune Acid, Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic
  • Spell Resistance (May ignore spells unless the caster rolls 11+)
  • Breath Weapon (Replaces attacks: cone; 15 acid damage; DC 17)
  • Keen Critical 19 (Scores critical hits on melee attack rolls of 19 and 20)
  • Vicious Attack (Triple damage instead of double on a critical hit)

Designer's Note: I'd like this mini to occupy a beater role, but I'm not certain it's in the right spot yet. Note that the RPG armadon has two more attacks, a Strength poison, fewer hit points, and a higher AC. It also deals less damage.

Formian Taskmaster

Size: Medium
Faction: LG
Level: 6
Speed: 8
AC: 19
HP: 40
Melee Attack: +10/+8 (10+Poison/5)
Type: Outsider

Special Abilities:

  • Immune Acid, Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic
  • Spell Resistance (May ignore spells unless the caster rolls 11+)
  • Beguile (Replaces attacks: range 6; target living enemy takes an immediate turn under your control, which does not count against your limit of activating 2 creatures per phase, even if it has already been activated this round; this does not count as your opponent's activation of this creature this round; DC 16)
  • Minion (One living creature of up to 10 points; creature cannot be a formian)
  • Poison (5 damage whenever poisoned creature activates; DC 15)

Designer's Note: This creature doesn't occupy the beater slot well. Maybe it should be a tricky mini for the next set?

Time for Development

We finished design so now it's development's turn. Stay tuned for the next article wherein Steve Schubert will develop the miniatures and tell us more about how to cost them.

As always, if you have miniatures you want to see, email me your suggestions.

About the Author

Besides working on miniatures, Matthew Sernett was lead designer for Spell Compendium, Tome of Magic, Hellspike Prison, and the new Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game. He also contributed work to Tome of Battle, Player's Handbook II, Complete Mage, Complete Scoundrel, and a big project for Forgotten Realms that he can't talk about yet. Before that, Matthew did a fair amount of freelancing for Wizards of the Coast and was Editor in Chief of Dragon.

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