Last night was the first game in which I used my new house rules for minions – namely that they inflict the average damage of a normal monster of their level and type, instead of the massively watered down damage that the official rules suggest. I also got to use one of my earlier minions modifications, which was that they inflict double damage on a critical hit - and at one point this made a huge difference when a brute minion whacked a character for a fearsome amount of damage.
The reason I wanted to do this was really one of threat vs reward. Minions, designed to die with a single blow, are never really seen as any kind of credible threat even when used intelligently, and are almost considered bonus XP by many. When you consider that four minions actually give the same XP as a “full fat” monster, but deal significantly less damage and die almost instantly, you can see that they are indeed a bit of a windfall – especially as PC's advance in level and gain more and more “insta-kill” abilities for the little fellas!
By upping their damage (and allowing them to inflict double damage on a critical hit) minions are suddenly something to be considered seriously when planning tactics. They still die in droves, especially when bursts and blasts are unleashed, and a few still die pathetically before getting to do anything, but they are no longer a joke, and are definitely no longer things to be ignored until the “real” bad guys are killed. In my mind, they now fulfil both roles – they give the players that feeling of heroic badassery by dying with a single stroke, but still give a credible threat worth the XP they reward, and would realistically make good allies for their masters.
Give these modifications a try and see what you think!