Jul 222008

This came up in a recent discussion on rpg.net about the status of “mooks” in an RPG. (Basic Role Play specifically)

Most of the games I play do not have mook rules, and I rarely add them in. Likewise, I rarely use them, even if they are present in the system. The reason for that is that I don’t find they fit my vision of how gaming should work.

The idea of the “mook” (I prefer the term Goon myself) is that of a disposable combatant. Someone the PC’s can triumph over, and shove aside with relative impunity. Often their role is there to either make the PC’s look good, or to make them use up limited resources before the big boss fight.

I find that dull and uninspiring, more importantly, I find it unappealing.

A fight against only mooks is, to me, pointless. If the sole purpose is one listed above, I would rather not bother going through the motions of RPG combat simply to dispose of a few zombies. Just give me a roll against your combat skill, and we’ll narrate how awesome you look, while you trash their decayed brains in.

More importantly however, I find the notion of “unworthy opponents”.. creatures that exist in the game mechanics purely to be killed and defeated without breaking a sweat to be strongly unappealing. It’s a throwback to the mid 70’s, when encounters could be divided into “slaughter”, “boss fight” and “buy new weapons”. Each creature encountered should have a rationale for being there, and should be a full fledged being in its own right.

Doesn’t mean you have to create it as a full blown character, I often just make up stats as I go, if I end up needing to know the Fast Talk skill of a Manticore. No need to do work you don’t need to do, after all.

At its core, it comes down to a fundamental view of what the game engine is for. To me, the mechanics are there to simulate a form of reality. Warhammer FRP simulates roughly how things work in the old world, Runequest simulates roughly how things work in Glorantha and so forth.

The idea that certain creatures are not capable of having their own goals, morals, dreams and designs, but are fundamentally resigned to being eviscerated by a bunch of heroes that happened to come by, is simulationally (is that a word) unsound.

When designing an encounter, think about why you are putting this encounter into the game. What purpose does it serve ? What objectives are the opposition trying to achieve ? What do I hope the players take away from this situation ? Could this time be spent better on something more interesting ?

  One Response to “Mooks and genre’s”

  1. Exalted, my current game of preference has rules for “extras” which simply amount to 10’s on their die rolls don’t count double, and you don’t need to roll damage against them. For the most part I don’t use these rules because they’re a pain in the ass to remember, but they’re there to speed up combat some. As for the purpose of a mook or goon or extra, I don’t see why you wouldn’t include them in your stories. I think you would agree with me that in most games the PC’s are heroes, meaning they’re better than the average guy on the block. But the average guy is still there, that’s part of what makes RPG’s appealing, you’re able to pull off things that most people could not. You’re a cut above the soldier, or the baker, or the farmer because you’re the big damn hero! But sometimes the everyman is put into conflict with the big damn hero, be it because the hero’s just had a one-night stand with his daughter, or the town villain has employed him to guard his laboratory. It’s not about making the PC’s feel “tough”, it’s about maintaining a consistent setting. It’s not consistent to have arch mages tending farms. Now some games add an element of humor to the game by saying that named characters have better stats, and this is mostly just for humor. Exalted takes that a step further and bases a character’s heroic stats off of his or her motivation. Meaning, if the character’s goals in life are to meet a nice girl have three kids and provide for them, that character is not going to be as well statted as the guy who’s life mission is to run the Assassin’s guild in the capital city.

    So whether or not you “like” rules for mooks or not, they have a place because while you might prefer to only fight equal level bosses that are a challenge, it stretches the believability of the game to have a populace all as capable as you, but somehow aren’t bothering to be as big and heroic as you are.