[RPG] Is it possible to play the D&D Starter Set with fewer than recommended players


For a long time I've been interested in D&D and pen-and-paper style games. I'm trying to convince my… lets call them 'social contacts', for… years.

I have to add that I have a social competence disability, which makes it hard for me to establish a solid group of people around me that I can kind of call "friends". So my social habits are more like meeting new people and losing the contact after some time (unintentionally caused by myself). In fact, it is hard to find people that are at least open-minded to give a game like D&D a chance and try it. So getting a group of 5 people together is almost impossible for me.

To prepare a situation that may occur where someone would be willing to give it a try, we would be 2-3 people at most.
I myself, who never DM-ed before, would be playing a starter adventure with 1-2 other players while the set is made for 5 people. It would already be tough to play it as no one has previous experience with it. Imagine that, in addition to that, I had to crunch the numbers to adjust the adventure without having any knowledge of the balancing behind it… It appears to me like my player(s) will have a session that won't be that enjoyable for them, and I guess that after that session, (s)he/they won't want to play it again as the result of the first impression.

To prevent this scenario (in the case where I'll finally be playing D&D), my question is:

Is there an enjoyable and easy way to adjust the difficulty of the beginner adventure, to be designed for a single PC? A general method for adjusting adventures in such a way will also be helpful. And would this still provide the same gaming impression?

Related: How to scale down Princes of the Apocalypse for a 3-adventurer party?

Best Answer

The Basic Rules are a place for you to start.

The Dungeon Master's D&D Basic Rules has a section on encounter building and modifying encounters (p.165-167) which will get you the same advice @Marius referenced in the DMG--at zero cost. Pay particular attention to "Party Size" on p. 166.

(The adventure contained in the Starter Set--The Lost Mine of Phandelver--does not contain notes on modifying it's encounters' levels.)

Note that the Basic Rules were revised in 2018. If you have the old Basic Rules, the referenced sections are on pages 56-58.

Next steps...

Take a look at Black Streams Solo Heroes, which has a lot of good advice for modifying adventures/campaigns/gm-style to suit the one-player experience.

Likewise, rpg.net has a good series of columns on Role-playing Duets that might give you some ideas.

But the best reference...

is to be up-front and honest with your players. Let them know you're not sure how things'll go and that you're very interested in their feedback. Some games are fun to play at the edge of survival, some players only want to play heroes who will embody the monomyth.

Most importantly:

All of the references above are distilled wisdom of other GMs over the years, wisdom borne of experience. It's all good, but none of it's going to be better than the experience you all get playing together and discussing what you like and what you hate. Use these as references for ideas, but use your players and yourself as your guide.

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