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5E House Rules for Two Players

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
D&D 5e can handle small groups without house rules. The DM just needs to be on top of it and players need to create characters with that in mind. But, especially with novice players, that doesn't mean that there isn't room for house rules that help recalibrate assumptions on such a party-focused game as 5e to fewer characters.

That said, has anyone implemented any house rules specifically for small group sizes and how did they go? For example, bonus skill learned to have more covered by the party. Or change to multiclassing rules to cover more niches (not that 5e requires them).

I'd especially like to hear about rules you put in play, and if they worked or didn't. Theory-crafting is fine, don't feel like your contribution won't be valued. But I'd love to hear how things actually went. And that includes a "I wish I had implemented a rule about X".

Thanks!

EDIT: 5e can handle two person parties without house rules. I know. Really. REALLY REALLY. I know. You don't need to post it. Again. What I am asking about is if anyone has house rules for small groups. Not because I don't think 5e can handle it without house rules. But for the same reason when a new book comes out we look at the subclasses and suck. Not because you can't run a campaign with the core books, but to see what new and interesting ideas are out there.

So really, I'm looking for house rules, preferably played, for small, novice parties. I don't need advice how to run for small parties. I don't need "enlightenment" that small parties can be run without changing rules.
 
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dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
We'll, we've done things that work well.

Old-school style MCing is good. With two PCs you can cover 4-6 classes. The broader range of class features is great, and since you still have the same action economy it isn't really OP for more games to start with. Now, once you get into the 100000 XP range, you can start to run into some powerful synergies. Overall, it works well IMO and can help balance things out by allow more of what the group might need at any given time.
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I've done it in the past, about the only house rule I'd consider is making drinking a potion is a bonus action.

But primarily I've just tailored the encounters and challenges to the players.
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
Scaling down the opposition for two players isn't an issue. The issue i experienced is that when 1 character drops to 0%, the group is amputated of 50% of its power, and the burden of bringing them back up relies on 100% of the remaining members (member, really). Casualties are really debilitating.

Experienced player might find it an interesting challenge but for new players, I'd suggest that they come back to 1hp on a successful death save, and allow them to take the disengage action right away. Redefine 0hp more as a "stunned" or "defeated" condition. Maybe allow them to spend HD on the spot if they roll 20 on their Death save?

There are plenty of possible variations of this rule; coming up to 1 hp (without a 20) cost you a failure on death save, forget death save and use exhaustion instead, attacks made after coming back up to 1 hp are made with disadvantage (encouraging retreat).

Watch for the potential pitfall of PC coming back to 1hp and quickly reduced to 0 on following turn, then up again and downed again etc.
 

Fenris447

Explorer
Sidekicks from the Essentials Kit can be helpful. They cover some niches but also don't overpower the PC's. You could give each player a sidekick to play, giving you a normal 4-character party without watering down the experience of the main PC's.
 





NotAYakk

Legend
If you like roleplaying and not just tactics, having 2 PCs is really hard to roleplay. I'd advise against that.

I also generally advise against a DMPC. DMing is hard enough without splitting your ego in half.

Sidekicks are a decent plan. That is different than a DMPC or a 2nd PC, as the sidekick is definitely a supporting character. Players can control the sidekick 90%+ of the time, and know that they aren't "their character".

Animal companions/mounts make good sidekicks on many kinds of adventures. They are quiet, don't talk, and loyal to a specific person. Just ensure they aren't ridiculously stronger in combat than the players are. ;) Or something like a pixie friend.
 


Having one DMPC isn't that difficult. Having two is. I was really glad when my kids could start picking up more than one character.

As far as roleplaying multiple characters, DMs do it all the time. As soon as they get the hang of announcing who is doing the talking/decision making things work out fine.

Honestly, having a sidekick would have the exact same roleplaying issues if played correctly.
 

Ath-kethin

Adventurer
or do nothing different and just throw fewer/weaker monsters at them
This is such an obvious solution it blows my mind that people don't think of it first. I've been running 1 on 1 games (often with a DMPC but often without) for over 25 years and the answer is ALWAYS "adjust to the group."
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
If you like roleplaying and not just tactics, having 2 PCs is really hard to roleplay. I'd advise against that.

<snip>

Sidekicks are a decent plan. That is different than a DMPC or a 2nd PC, as the sidekick is definitely a supporting character. Players can control the sidekick 90%+ of the time, and know that they aren't "their character".
I've run campaigns where the players had 2 PCs each - one of which was designated primary and which they'd do most of their role playing through. The other would be kind of a sidekick and be a role play focus in a more secondary fashion. One of my players, however, had some interesting fun with then as one of his PCs foiled the other's attempt to nobly sacrifice himself in a really entertaining bit of role playing. Admittedly, he's a highly experienced player - he just knew that one of his PCs would act a particular way and the other would react contrary to that based on their personalities so he ran with it.
 

Davo3

Villager
2 PCs each is great, especially if they're designed as a team from the ground up, like a Barbarian and a Rogue - or two Fighters both with the Sentinel feat.
 


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