GMs who have built solo dungeons…

Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

So it looks like I may be RPing a solo hero and was wondering if anyone can give me your opinion on how building Solo Encounters have gone? I am not concerned about healing and all of that, more interested in how the encounters felt. It seems like it could get very repetitive with just one or two enemies each room but I would like to hear how your experience went. It would be more of a dungeon crawl and combat because that is what this player enjoys the most.
If anyone else has done this with only 2 characters I would also love to hear your thoughts.

Hmm... My biggest concern would be combat balance. Normally the player characters are approximately equal to the number of enemy characters and tactics usually involve isolating a particular enemy and piling two or three character's worth of actions into taking them down quickly.

That doesn't work when there is only one player character. The number of enemies is always at least equal and sometimes higher than the number of PCs in the group. Obviously.

It does lend itself to different tactics though. Hit and run. Sneak in and fire from advantageous position. Things like that. So it really depends on how this one character is built. And you will want to tailor the encounters to allow that character to use their strengths as often as feasible and plausible.

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I have some experience with this, as it is my favorite way to playtest, as it stretches the base assumptions of the game’s math to the breaking point without actually breaking them. An interesting quirk about the system is that a solo character is challenged as it were a full party of PCs 3 levels below their current level. So if you play a character that is level 4, and level 1 adventure is appropriate for them to solo, with some caveats:

1. Avoid save or die effects. Even with the inherent advantage to rolling here, one unlucky roll can end the adventure.
2. Skill challenges are extra challenging. Considering giving a hero point as an additional reward anytime a hero successfully completes one. I also end to use NPC hirelings for downtime rolls.

Remember, grant XP as if it were a PC of the correct party level instead of one 3 levels higher. Even if an NPC would normally be too low to grant any XP, like a -1NPC against a level 4 PC, while soloing you count as a party at level 1, and gain the XP for a creature 2 levels below you instead of 5.

The “one unlucky roll” also means later written adventures tend to work better than the early ones. My solos died hideously almost immediately in Plaguestone and Age of Ashes. I have used solo characters successfully on the beginners box, some of Abomination Vaults, the first volume of Season of Ghosts (it was extremely fun to run my friend on his animist through that), and the mini-adventures in Dark Archive which I played as a mini campaign.

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I note that it significantly changes the value of certain builds.

- Durability without stickiness is a lot more valuable. I've been theorycrafting a bunch of kineticists (go figure) and I notice that with kineticists in particular, it's really easy to build one who's very tanky but who has problems getting the enemy to target them, rather than their squishier friends. If you're the only combatant on the field on your side, that's not an issue. Indeed, pretty much any power that serves to cause the enemy to attack you becomes useless. Good champs become significantly worse. Evil champs become significantly better.

- There's no one to hide behind anymore. Any class that's built with the idea of "I'll hide behind the fighter and X" is likely to have problems.

- You're generally going to be going up against foes who are weaker than you are, or at worst no stronger. Incapacitation is basically not a thing (except when it's in your favor) and you can expect to be rolling a lot fewer misses and a lot more crits. For that matter, you can expect the enemy to crit-fail more often attacking you, too... which means that certain reactions become somewhat more interesting. My understanding is that this makes summoning spells a fair bit more useful overall, though I don't know enough to swear to it for certain.

- A focus on buffing the party has problems for obvious reasons. Debuffs are generally going to be weaker for mathematically similar reasons. Debuffs against you are going to be stronger, though, and you probably don't want to neglect any of your saves too badly, even with the level advantage.

- On the flip side, anything that "only works if everyone does it" suddenly becomes rather more interesting. Stealth shenanigans are an obvious one, but various ways of making yourself unreachable also count, as do the various forms of "I will create a fogbank, darkness, or whatever that will make it impossible for the enemy to see... except that I can see just fine". In general, the fact that if you run away you aren't leaving anyone behind makes a lot of disengage/escape/re-engage strategies a lot more viable. This are things you should discuss with the GM before implementing, though, as they can become incredibly cheeseball and/or unfun, and you don't want things to go all adversarial.

I mean... it's not the question you were asking or anything, but I do notice it.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Simple NPCs are your friend for running small parties through dungeons. Just creatures like level-1 goblins or other creatures that have 1 attack and minimal complexity can provide the “Hero” (or in my case 2 Heroes) enough support to handle how dice dependent PF2 is. That is the real threat to small parties. If the whole PC team is only rolling 1 or 2 attack dice a turn a string of bad luck is death. Those super basic NPC allies can be an easy way to help mitigate bad luck and spread out damage without adding a lot of complexity or show stealing potential. Especially if they have 1 handed weapons and shields that they raise every round.

The key to making it all fun though is to make sure encounters are built around the 1 or 2 player characters. They won’t cover every skill or be good against every type of combat encounter, but if the player wants to be a Ranger with a bow, add shootouts/enemies with ranged weapons. If they want to play a trap finding rogue, add traps. If they want to play a caster, add level -4 minions and watch spells like burning hands/fire breath or acid burst shine in ways that will never happen against a party of 4.

Also consider Gestalt rules, free archetype rules, or even simply giving the ancestry test that gives you 2 free skills and a bonus lore as a bonus feat. All three of those can help fill out gaps in a characters ability to meet challenges.

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