July 4, 2014
In most tabletop role-playing games, a battle consists of fairly balanced numbers. Usually characters find themselves facing off against a mostly equal number of opponents. Sometimes there are a few more of them, though individually they tend to be weaker, and other times there are fewer with each individual opponent being stronger than normal. Then, of course, you have your boss battles. These are fights with usually just one enemy that the whole group faces as one, or if not just one then definitely a main antagonist and a couple others acting as support. These make up the vast majority of all encounters found in tabletop role-playing games.
Every once in a while, though, I personally like to run my players through what we have dubbed “mook” battles. The term comes from a not-too-popular slang for “loser,” as in “look at that bunch of mooks.” Applying it to games, it means huge numbers of much weaker enemies all coming at the player characters as one. We are talking five, ten, or even 15 times as many enemies as there are player characters. Again, each one of these “mooks” is much, much weaker than any one of the player characters. On average a player should be able to take one of them down with a single strike. The difficulty for them in these sort of encounters is just in the numbers. Without anything to affect multiple enemies at once, the players will risk being overwhelmed. These sorts of battles can be a lot of fun to run, as it definitely gives players a sense of awesome as they stand tall against seemingly impossible odds.
Of course, it is very easy for this sort of thing to go wrong. Gamemasters, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses both of the characters and of the enemies you plan on using as mooks. Some tend to work much better than others. For example, in fantasy games like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons, enemies like goblins make great mooks. They tend to be very simple to run and lack any real “special abilities” that would make them pose an unexpected challenge.
Now, surprisingly, what does not make for good mooks are things like Storm Troopers. Why, you might ask? Simple, if played up to their potential, Storm Troopers are much more dangerous in the table-top versions of Star Wars than they ever were the movies. In the movies, the characters had plot armor, which we have already discussed, which led the Storm Troopers to miss easy shots, seem incompetent, and seem able to be cut down (or blasted, or lightsaber…ed) en mass. In no version of the Star Wars table-top role-playing game that I have ever played has this been carried over. Storm Troopers in most are fairly good shots, wear fairly sturdy armor, and fight like the trained military unit that they are meant to be. There is a reason they were feared by most of the galaxy, and it was not just because of those skull-like helmets. I bring them up specifically because they are an example of what an inexperienced Gamemaster might use as mooks if they were running a Star Wars game. What they would have on their hands if they were to do this too early in the game is a total party wipe.
Know your player characters and know the enemies you are sending against them. I cannot stress this enough.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
And have a happy Fourth of July.
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