13th Age: Mooks, Destined to Die!

[by Sean Clark – orginally published on his Heavy Metal GM blog.]


As stated many times before, 13th Age is designed to make your characters feel awesome and immensely powerful without making it a ridiculous cake-walk. It seems like in the past, the genre had started to move in that direction with the minions from D&D 4e, monsters with just one hit point but otherwise normal stats. It helped a well placed spell take out multiple stormtroopers, I mean minions, in one go. It truly was a good feeling!

Problem is, even with a bunch of minions it could take a while to chug through them all if the dice aren’t in your favor on that particular night. Perhaps 13th Age’s mook rule is not the perfect solution, or even a solution at all, but a totally different take on the badass action sequence idea.

So this takes use to the question: What the hell is a mook?! Why, O glorious reader, I am so pleased you asked me. Or maybe you didn’t, and I’m just being a jerk and reaping the benefits of an over used cliche (more likely the latter). A mook is a single monster that shares a collective hit point value with other monsters of the same time, creating what they call a “mook mob” in the core rules. So to further elaborate, in the book, a mook will have normal stats all around but tend to have a weaker damage output and lower hit points. This makes a mook mob not necessarily as deadly as a normal monster. If you take a mook, and give him fifteen other mook friends, their hit points add up into a pool.

For all you clever guys and gals out there, yes this means more than one can be killed in a single go. Even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense. This is where my personal rulings come into play. Now, before I unleash this totally awesome house rule unto you, let me start by saying I didn’t invent this one. A player in my gaming veterans’ group made this one up to avoid people completely abusing the mook ruling and make the narrative supremely interesting. So my golden rule:

“Great! You kill (x number) mooks! Only if you describe to me how this happens.”

Yep. If the player doesn’t describe how they kill more than one enemy, then you just get the single kill and all the extra damage vanishes. Ever since imposing this rule, I’ve actually never had to do that! This helps people come out of their shell, I think, and really get into the “Theater of the Mind” aspect of tabletop role playing. Plus, it’s just darn fun! Without this sort of narration, mooks become just another type of monster to smash through rather than a chance to really hammer the badassery home.

With that out of the way, the actual practical application of mooks can be challenging at times. Pair them with only your big baddie and it could make the fight too easy, pair them with too many normal monsters and it can prove too challenging. The Encounter table in 13th Age can prove to help a bit here, but I think that even the table makes combats too easy. Beef it up, use some common sense and don’t be afraid to fudge it a bit. One downside to having mooks in combat, especially if you use miniatures, it can be a little difficult keeping track of the actual math within it. Sure, they share collective hit points but I try to keep track of which ones have partial damage and so on. This is probably just me torturing myself, but hey.

A nasty trick I love to use mooks for is to spook the players until the combat really gets going. I’ll beef up the HP threshold of the base mook stat block but a couple points, throw an ungodly amount of them at the players, and when one attack doesn’t kill multiple, they think they’re all normal monsters. The faces are priceless, until they finally figure out they’re mooks. The combat still functions the same, as far as damage output and pacing, but it creates some amount of tension, though for a small time.

Another fantastic use of mooks is simply to be a thorn in your players’ sides. If they are focusing on the big baddie of the fight, the next time the escalation die goes up, throw a big ol’ mob of mooks at them to distract them. This way it gives your baddie some time to strut their stuff, makes the players sweat, and overall makes the battle really interesting. There’s some really great mooks that also can take on the roles of blockers and spoilers too, such as the Newly Risen Ghoul and Dretch from the monster section of the core rules. Pile them up with some damage doling tough-guys and it makes for an interesting dynamic. Especially if there’s a lot of mooks!

In summary!

  • Mooks are singular monsters that form a mob and share a collective HP value
  • They’re best used in fights you want players to feel powerful in
  • Double up and use mooks that fulfill other monster roles to mix it up
  • Make your players describe their actions when taking more than one mook off the table to make some memorable moments!

Stay Metal \m/

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