D&D 5E Out of the Abyss Small Party


First Post
Howdy All,

I'll be running Out of the Abyss for a very small group ... 3 characters, to be precise. I'll be playing one of them, in fact.

I've read through the starting bits of the adventure, but a few questions ...

1) Three characters is small, but is it realistic (especially given all of the npcs)? Does anyone have practical experience with how difficult things are? I don't have a ton of time to finagle things beyond whats presented in the book (as loose as it is). If necessary I don't mind creating another 'npc' player.

2) I need some help with what would be good for my character. The party is going to be the following:

* Dwarf Life Cleric (will wear heavy armor, heal (obviously), and starts with very strong will saves (for the madness aspect), has dark vision)
* Aasimar Land Druid (will be more of a spellslinger with maybe a scout form, can heal if necessary, starts with very strong will saves (for the madness aspect), has darkvsion)
* My character ... I've got three things I'd be interested in, but I don't know which would be good ... I figure since the party is so small, its actually important that I get a character somewhat optimized for the adventure
- Option 1: High Elf Abjurer Wizard. Would be a great spellcaster, and it gets wisdom saves (though it won't be great at them). High elf has dark vision, and I'm aware of the sun sword later in the adventure. None of the other characters would be able to use it, so this would give some use for it (greenflame blade + the sword)
- Option 2: Human cleric 1/abjurer wizard. Cleric 1 is a solid dip for armor and either martial weapons (for the sword use) or a lot more skills (knowledge cleric), that won't hurt spell slots. A little more tanks than the elf wizard, but no darkvision.
- Option 3: Human fighter 1/bladesinger wizard. I'm the DM so I say he can be a bladesinger. :p He would dual wield (thus the fighter level, to optimize that), and could use the sun sword to the best effect. On the other hand, no counterspelling/magic resistance, no will saves, and no darkvision.

So I guess ...
a) How important is dark vision?
b) How important are will saves for madness?
c) Would an abjurer be important to have (counterspell buff / magic resistance for the huge end fight)
c) Melee vs Ranged and such - which might be more important?

I've been going back and forth, and could use some help from people who've had experience with the campaign. :)


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First things first, unless your group has a history of DM PC's and actually likes playing that way, don't do it. DM PC's are regularly listed at the top of the worst things a DM can do.

If I were trying to run OotA with two players, I would make two of the fellow prisoners be PC's and let each of the players run two PC's. A party of four has a much better chance than a party of three and you can focus on being the DM.


I'd suggest not running a dm PC...it takes away from the players.

Having said that, I'd create another NPC that's in the cell with them. I'd make it human so as to not outshine the unquiness of the pcs and other npcs. And I'd likely go with some sort of guard or soldier type, again for simplicity and to not outshine the pcs who are clearly more focused on the spell casting side of things. Give him a quirky personality trait -maybe he only says words that start with 's' , or maybe he's been down as a prisoner so long he's too afraid to speak or whatever - to make him memorable. And his goal should be to return to the surface world and get back home.

That's how I'd handle it ( in fact that's what I'm going to do when I run it for a small group, I'll add in another npc in prison with them)


First things first, unless your group has a history of DM PC's and actually likes playing that way, don't do it. DM PC's are regularly listed at the top of the worst things a DM can do.

Seconded. Don't do it. I don't know if you are a new DM or not, but this is a common mistake by new DMs. I did it. It happens because DMs really want to play a character, but they get stuck being the DM. If you're like me, you will find out that you love DMing, and it's a whole lot o fun. And you will learn that begin a DM and having a player character should not mix. The other players don't like it, it comes across as being a little immature, it prevents you from focusing on your DM duties, and it causes players to question how fair you're being throughout the process.


First Post
I've DM'd quite a bit before. :) In this case the everyone is in agreement about wanting me to play a character as well. I just want to make sure that the character doesn't unduly hinder the party.


Honestly, I'd start by just playing with the two PCs. You'll have your hands full juggling all the NPCs in chapter 1. Then, after the first couple of chapters, see which NPCs have survived & are still traveling with the party, and make one of those "your" character. Start giving them a share of XP & giving them character classes.

I wouldn't worry so much about creating the "optimal party". For one thing, part of the fun of this adventure is finding ways to make do with what you have. For another thing, you have the power as DM to alter challenges to be appropriate for the characters you have. Not just in terms of reducing the number of enemies, but in terms of giving them interesting options; ways to sneak past a threat, or make an uneasy alliance.


I think having an extra initially NPC in the prison with a really small group is a good idea. I am about to run this with 3 players and will add a 4th character to the prisoners that can be taken over in the event of a player death. Assuming your players manage to keep at least some of the other NPC's in the prison alive they will have loads of characters to control and you can juggle the difficulty based on how many useful ones they have.

There are so many vivid NPCs in Out of the Abyss, that yeah, I’d say avoiding a DMPC would be best. You’ll be busy enough making Jimjar, Shushar, Eldreth, Stool, and more all come to life.

But if you do want to proceed, I’d make sure it’s okay with your players, and then make sure that your DMPC never gets the spotlight, never takes away from their glory.

As far as the difficulty level goes, most of the encounters are easily scaled back to accommodate a weaker group. Also, there are a number of free-form spots where you can extend and expand the module. That way, you can make sure your PCs level up a little higher before tackling some of the tougher threats.

aramis erak

One technique, very old school, is of great use in this season... Multiple characters per player.

Let the NPC's be henchmen to the PCs. They can be overridden from time to time, but generally, use the loyalty rules to cover when they obey and when they go awry.


Elder Thing
I don't know OotA at all, but I always run small groups; 2-3 PCs is my prference. I run modules, homebrew, all kinds of stuff. In my experience the key thing to keep in mind is that it's easy for combat to completely overwhelm a small group, but as long as your players are not idiots (I.e., they don't assume every battle must be a gift to the death and/or assume that all fights are winnable by a head-on confrontation) they will be fine.

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