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[5th ed] Adjustments to running published adventures with only two characters

E.K.K.R

Registered User
Validated User
So, in the possible near future I might run some D&D, only with just two players. I have no experience with 5th edition, though I do have some with 3.5 and Pathfinder.

My question: How much would two starting characters need to be buffed for them to have a chance of getting through a published adventure meant for four level 1 characters?

I am leaning towards the following adjustments:
  • Characters start with 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 stat spread.
  • Characters start at level 2.
  • The hit die roll for level 2 is not rolled, instead it is the maximum possible.
  • Potions can be used with a Bonus Action.
  • Some fights would be adjusted by removing 1 or 2 "mook" enemies.
Would this give them a fighting chance, or would the action economy and capabilities of monsters be simply too heavily stacked against them?
 
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Akrasia

Lord of Procrastination
Validated User
Why not simply have the players run two characters each (treating two as the 'primary' PCs and the other two as 'henchmen')?
 

Starcrash

Registered User
Validated User
So, in the possible near future I might run some D&D, only with just two players. I have no experience with 5th edition, though I do have some with 3.5 and Pathfinder.

My question: How much would two starting characters need to be buffed for them to have a chance of getting through a published adventure meant for four level 1 characters?

I am leaning towards the following adjustments:
  • Characters start with 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 stat spread.
  • Characters start at level 2.
  • The hit die roll for level 2 is not rolled, instead it is the maximum possible.
  • Potions can be used with a Bonus Action.
  • Some fights would be adjusted by removing 1 or 2 "mook" enemies.
Would this give them a fighting chance, or would the action economy and capabilities of monsters be simply too heavily stacked against them?
I like all of that except the potion as bonus action. I'd do what Akrasia Akrasia suggested too and give them a couple of retainers too.
 

wryfool

Registered User
Validated User
Yeah, the problem with 5e is that it is extremely swingy. This is a feature, not a bug for many people. But running a game for 2 players with only 2 characters means that if both those players fail a critical save, they are screwed. In cases like mind control, only 1 of the PCs needs to fail the save for things to get extremely dicey. I think that allowing the players to have multiple henchmen (if not using PC rules, then using NPCs) will alleviate this.
 

ftl

Member
I think buffing PCs gets into tough territory, because it's going to be really challenging to balance it in a sane way. You might either make the characters feel invincible in some situations, or in others they'll just die super fast when action economy matters more than stats.

Retainers are reasonable, but I don't know whether the players will like that - I've always thought it is harder to RP two characters than it is to RP one character, since once you're controlling two guys it feels more like a tactical strategy game rather than an RPG. Mechanically it would work great, but whether it would work for your players is up to them.

The third option is for the DM to rebalance the adventure. Cut the monster count in half in all rooms, and when there's a single big bad to fight rebalance them to be more appropriate for a 2p party than a 4p. Not just "cut down 1 or 2 mooks", a massive rebalance (since you have to also account for the fact that with 2p, players are less likely to have the right skills to succeed at non-combat challenges like finding traps, unlocking doors, persuading npcs, etc. And be careful with enemies that have save-or-be-screwed abilities.)

This last one is probably what I'd do as DM - especially that means I can change things on the fly as I see how the players are doing.
 

Starcrash

Registered User
Validated User
So don't worry about RPing the retainers, treat them as companions like in a video game. You give them a basic instruction, off they trot. Someone attacks you, they jump to your defence. Think of them less as second PCs and more allied NPCs - that's what they are.
 

E.K.K.R

Registered User
Validated User
Why not simply have the players run two characters each (treating two as the 'primary' PCs and the other two as 'henchmen')?
That was my initial idea, but the players were strongly against having two characters each. They felt that it would mess with their role-playing, and neither has played 5th edition before so controlling two characters in combat seemed rather daunting for them, especially since neither of them has even gm'd.

The third option is for the DM to rebalance the adventure. Cut the monster count in half in all rooms, and when there's a single big bad to fight rebalance them to be more appropriate for a 2p party than a 4p. Not just "cut down 1 or 2 mooks", a massive rebalance (since you have to also account for the fact that with 2p, players are less likely to have the right skills to succeed at non-combat challenges like finding traps, unlocking doors, persuading npcs, etc. And be careful with enemies that have save-or-be-screwed abilities.)

This last one is probably what I'd do as DM - especially that means I can change things on the fly as I see how the players are doing.
Very good points here, thank you.
 
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