WotBS WotBS 5e with only two players

hirou

Explorer
My two friends finally persuaded me to DM for them and I wanted to run WotBS since forever. I'm already managing ZG 4e campaign with ~5 players, so I wanted to keep this side project to the minimum possible party, and most people I could invite as players would shy away from overnight sessions anyways. Any recommendations what can I do to make it go more smoothly?

I know 5e have rules for gestalt to beef up the characters, but one of players has never played DnD before, and the other has only briefly played 3.5, so it's probably too complicated for them. I can see that most of the encounters in 5e version of WotBS have recommendations for removing some mooks in case of smaller parties, but I've heard (and experienced) that 5e is much more swingy with its combat balance depending on the number of combatants, so I'd be happy to hear some first-hand stories. I guess Torrent can serve as a full-fledged PC in first adventures, but I'm wary of overshadowing PCs actions...
 
Action economy with a two-person party is rough, because first of all, you as GM will be spending more time doing stuff than they will, which might make them bored. Secondly, if you have 4 PCs vs 4 enemies, the damage gets split up and people can try to swoop in and help someone who's vulnerable, but with 2 v 4, damage might just wipe someone out before the PCs get to act.

Honestly, I think the simplest thing would be to encourage the players to make spellcasters, then tell them, "You'll each have your own character, but it's a war, so you have allies. In the first adventure, there will be a spy who's trying to get you out of harm's way and to the safe haven her allies control, plus a pair of hired bodyguards who are sympathetic to your cause. You'll control these allies in combat, but out of combat I'll roleplay them."

Then try to make the stats of the NPCs ultra simply. Like:

Torrent
HP
xx
AC yy
Str +5, Dex +0, Con +1, Int +2, Wis +4, Cha +1 (this includes proficiency bonus for saves)
Melee +5 axe (d8+3)
Ranged +4 water blast (d6+4, 30 ft.)
Spells cure wounds 3/day

Bodyguard 1
HP
xx
AC yy
Str +4, Dex +2, Con +3, Int -1, Wis +0, Cha +0
Melee +4 spear (d8+2)
Ranged +4 hatchet (d6+2, 10/20 ft.)
Guardian Defense While adjacent to an ally, if an attack he's aware of would hit that ally, the bodyguard can choose to take half that damage (rounded up), while the original target takes the other half (rounded down).
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Yes, WotBS has a plethora of NPCs that tag along with the party at an early stage. Ideal for rounding out a small group. (While in a larger group they probably get shoved to the background or forgotten.)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
been there, done that. What I did was pretty much exactly what you're discussing, but we played Pathfinder and not 5e. I had two players with Gestalt characters plus whatever NPC they'd liked to take with them. Which always included Torrent.

As Gestalt, the problem of overshadowing is next to nonexistant as these guys turned out to be way more competent than any NPC. Plus... Torrent rocks. They later tried to find excuses to bring Kathor along as well... wonder if that got anything to do with his pretty OP +14 damage aura...
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I wrote the 5e conversion. We run with 5 players in my WotBS group, but in the past I have had to be ready for groups of 3-8 players. Being ready on the fly for how many players showed is where the system that is in the 5e WotBS adventures came to be. I would consider 2 players to be the minimum for the scaling suggestions for each encounter.

Each adventure has an NPC that helps the party. My suggestion would be for these NPCs to be played like a fully committed member of the party, possibly with the players giving general directions for what they want the NPC to do. Then start the encounter difficulty as if there are two players, and if the encounters are running on the easy side, have a reinforcement show up so that the encounter balance is now as if there were 3 players.

If you consistently up the difficulty, you can start the encounters as if there are 3 players, but the system gives you a lever that you can adjust as needed for your group. If you start with the difficulty set for 2 players, the initial encounters might be on the easy side, but you will not generally have to worry about the swinginess of low-level 5e taking the group out.
 

hirou

Explorer
Thank you for your replies! We've built a monk+sorcerer duo and hope to start this Thursday.
I would consider 2 players to be the minimum for the scaling suggestions for each encounter.
Some of the encounters collapse in this case, i.e. lantern archon has 28 hp by default and I'm supposed to remove 15 hp for each player below 4... I guess that's what's called "win-win situation" for the party =) I'll try to report the perceived difficulty as we go.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Thank you for your replies! We've built a monk+sorcerer duo and hope to start this Thursday.

Some of the encounters collapse in this case, i.e. lantern archon has 28 hp by default and I'm supposed to remove 15 hp for each player below 4... I guess that's what's called "win-win situation" for the party =) I'll try to report the perceived difficulty as we go.
Yeah, just give it 1 hp, or consider Torrent as a 3rd PC and only remove 15 hp.

Have fun!
 

hirou

Explorer
And so, we're playing with Iryth, tiefling sorcerer with white dragon ancestry, whose family had a small shop in Gate Pass prior to their arrest as innate spellcasters, and Don't-do-that, halfling kensei monk with a backstory rolled from random tables. Now this land has the North Wind monastery, located within a glacier somewhere north to Shahalesti and dedicated to divine kirin spirit. I'm yet to decide how to incorporate that into global narrative, perhaps make kirins a progeny of Dragon Primordial Spirit. In addition, her parents were killed 50 years ago in Gate Pass under Coaltongue rule "by someone marked with a strange symbol". For some reason I'm inclined to blame Shahalesti in that tragedy...

That was probably the most embarrassing session I've ever DMed. None of attack rolls from three thugs landed, but Torrent had eagle-eye precision with her crossbow (despite +1 attack rolls) and, to add insult to injury, Black Horses were especially unlucky with Dex rolls from dripping flaming oil. Kathor was greatly embarrassed to be seen in the company of such incompetent fools. The players walked out from so-called ambush with no damage at all, rushed through the city and reached Depository Tower, where we had to make a break.
I'm content with the first session being kinda easy for players, as both are just getting used to new system and their abilities. Larion+archon are unlikely to seriously threaten them, but even a few attacks from fallen Ragesian rider can drop them into single-digit hp, hopefully showing them the difference between a street thugs and a trained soldier.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
That was probably the most embarrassing session I've ever DMed. None of attack rolls from three thugs landed, but Torrent had eagle-eye precision with her crossbow (despite +1 attack rolls) and, to add insult to injury, Black Horses were especially unlucky with Dex rolls from dripping flaming oil. Kathor was greatly embarrassed to be seen in the company of such incompetent fools. The players walked out from so-called ambush with no damage at all, rushed through the city and reached Depository Tower, where we had to make a break.
I'm content with the first session being kinda easy for players, as both are just getting used to new system and their abilities. Larion+archon are unlikely to seriously threaten them, but even a few attacks from fallen Ragesian rider can drop them into single-digit hp, hopefully showing them the difference between a street thugs and a trained soldier.
How different it is from game to game. In my game, Torrent has been mostly hapless in combat, and the black horse mercenaries always made for a tough fight.
 

hirou

Explorer
Well... Last night almost went too well. Wyvern rider dropped Dont-do-that to 0 hp within 2 turns despite being momentarily disarmed. She then rolled 9 and 1 on death saves while Iryth were failing the Medicine checks to stabilize her friend. All hail halfling Lucky trait, otherwise we'd have a dead player on the second session! On the plus side, Dont-do-that now has a personal vendetta against the escaped soldier, especially since this scene mimics her own backstory almost perfectly.
 

Advertisement

Top