The Alexandrian

This is a quick little thing I wrote up on Reddit a few days ago. The basic idea is that you’re looking to run a game with 1 DM and 1 or 2 players. Legends & Labyrinths includes a build point system which makes it very easy to build encounters for non-standard group compositions, but very small groups pose some unique challenges. It can also be useful to have some quick conversion guidelines for published adventures.

2 PLAYERS

So if you’re looking to DM for a group of 2 PCs:

(1) One of the PCs should be a cleric.

(2) Give them plentiful healing resources. At 1st level, a wand of cure light wounds with 15-20 charges should do it.

(3) Take any adventure designed for 1st level characters and do the following: For any encounter involving multiple creatures, halve their hit points and reduce their number by half. For any encounter involving a single creature, reduce them to minimum hit points.

And that’s it. You’re good to go.

For example, consider the encounters found in the first dozen keyed areas of The Sunless Citadel:

Area 1: 3 dire rats (5 hp) = 1 dire rat (3 hp)
Area 3: 1 dire rat (5 hp) = 1 dire rat (2 hp)
Area 5: 3 skeletons (6 hp) = 1 skeleton (3 hp)
Area 6: 1 dire rat (6 hp) = 1 dire rat (2 hp)
Area 10: 1 quasit (9 hp) = 1 quasit (3 hp)
Area 12: 1 dragonpriest (42 hp) = 1 dragonpriest (21 hp)

The reason this works is because encounters are designed for 4 PCs: If you halve the number of PCs it means that monsters will generally live twice as long and have only half as many targets to inflict damage on. That means that the difficulty of an encounter roughly quadruples if you halve the the number of PCs. So we adjust for that by halving the monster’s hit points (so that they survive half as long) and halving their numbers (which halves the number of actions the monsters can take each turn).

1 PLAYER

Adjusting for having only one player in D&D is a little tougher because there’s no margin for error: If a PC gets knocked unconscious in normal play, they can be revived by other members of the party. If a solo PC gets knocked unconscious, it’s an immediate game over.

Here’s what I recommend: Start the PC at 3rd level and then run them through 1st level adventures that have been adjusted as per the above. (You’ll probably want to have them use a cleric again. Or find some other way to make sure they have access to magical healing.)

I have done very little one-on-one stuff, but this method seems to work.

3 Responses to “Thought of the Day: Running 3E for Very Small Groups”

  1. Tom Coenen says:

    My experience is mostly with 4E, not 3E.
    I send an NPC cleric along which only heals (pacifist cleric).
    Or a fighter (tank) to absorb damage.
    Reducing the number of creatures and their hit points is a good idea.

    Here are the experiences of someone running a solo campaign in 4E:
    http://geekken.blogspot.be/2012/08/dming-solo-player-party-part-1.html

  2. Charles says:

    Or let them take a whack of hirelings… Adding in 2-4 0-level crossbowmen would go some way to evening the odds for a low-level party.

  3. Todd says:

    For a slightly different flavor to balance a soloist, try adding a pet or two. A faithful hound, warhorse, or trained falcon can improve survival through combat strength, or indirectly through such things as superior senses. They also tend to be naturally limited to a small number of commands/reactions, and can almost never be relied upon to “take the lead”. But, unlike hirelings, you don’t have to grope for reasons why they don’t take advantage in times of need.

    Not to mention their usefulness as plot devices…

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