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I am a GM, and I just started a campaign of Pathfinder with a group formed by a rogue, a warrior, and a ranger. I came from Vampire and WoD games, so I don't have experience with a balanced game like Pathfinder.

I see that dungeon traps have very high DC, and that even the weaker monsters do 3-5 points of damage to player that have 8-10 HP.

How many combat encounter I have to prepare for a group like this that doesn't have a healer?

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You can, of course, use a pregenned 1st level cleric or an Iconic (paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/npcCodex/iconic/kyra.html). That solves the problem of a healer. –  Randumbness Dec 2 '13 at 18:27
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7 Answers

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I've GM-ed and played through 1st level PF games and ultimately I've been surprised by a lack of lethality. It does not mean that you won't have a PC go down during a fight, but you end up dying, not dead right away.

A Heal check will at least stabilize you and actual healing will most likely put you back on your feet. Also, maybe we were lucky, but the only dying moments I remember were against Big Bads where it was mostly expected and, as long as the Big Bad was defeated, not too much of an issue since you then had plenty of time to heal up or rest.

I'd still suggest, as a player, to buy a Cure Light Wounds potion, just in case. Mostly for out-of-fight use. As a GM, I'd suggest testing the waters with mostly moderate challenges (CR = APL) with one or two APL+1 or +2 for the final baddies. This helps reduce the impact of some random rolls (crits) and gives time for the GM to get a feel for how the party is doing and whether he can throw more at them on a regular basis or not.

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Ok, potions and CR = APL. Thanks! –  Alberto Nov 22 '13 at 12:48
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Pathfinder games, and 3.x Edition games in general, are extremely lethal at low levels - and it's actually not even as rough as it was in previous editions! Both PCs and monsters alike at 1st level will often be within lethal range of mundane weapons even when at max health. Even the high-Con fighter sort will really only has 2 to 3 good hits in him.

A healer is definitely useful, but not a necessity. Combat healing is dangerous and difficult to manage safely at this level, and potions are cheap enough for even a level 1 character to be afforded in treasure almost immediately. Consider giving out such items appropriately to compensate - even holding 1 or 2 Cure Light Wounds potions in reserve could be a life-saver and remove this alleged healer need.

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I've found it helpful to give 1st level parties an item called healing salve, which I borrowed from D&D 3.0. It's an alchemical creation that will heal 1d3 hit points when applied. I usually give a free dose to each player, with the option to find more if needed. It's quickly eclipsed by potions or wands of cure light wounds, but it seems to help the low level parties a lot.

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A 1st-level character starts with about 100 gp (varies by class), and is supposed to have around 1,000 gp by 2nd level. A wand of cure light wounds is worth 750 gp, and you can tally it as split between the players when determining what loot to drop. You can easily drop (or reward) this early on without imbalancing anything. From then on the ranger can use the wand without a check as cure light wounds is a ranger spell, and all you need to use a wand is to have the spell on your list.

Ultimately, though, it probably won’t make a great deal of difference at level 1. Characters at 1st level just don’t have enough HP; they tend to be either alive or dying. Still, the wand will prove useful for a long time; it is just about the most cost-efficient form of healing in the game.

The ranger, of course, will likely not want to use the wand in combat – and he’s right. The healing spells (aside from heal and mass heal) offer extremely low numbers, making them very inefficient, and this inefficiency increases with higher level spells (again, until heal). Thus healing is ideally taking place only after combat, at which point it’s no skin off your ranger’s teeth to pop a few charges of the wand. In an emergency, of course, even the tiny amount of healing that cure light wounds offers can save someone from bleeding to death.

Overall, 3.x has little notion of or requirement of having various “roles” in the party. A dedicated healer is completely unnecessary (and often wasteful; because of the inefficiencies of healing, a character is better off just preventing damage in the first place, whether that be through simply killing enemies first or by using buffs and battlefield control). So I wouldn’t worry too much about it, aside from the basic wand so the players aren’t recuperating for a week after every fight.

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A group without a healer can have a lot of fun, but sometimes it is hard for the GM to prepare encounters for this kind of group. Fortunately, you have a few options. One way to protect the party would be to run an NPC healer. Personally, I do not prefer that, as it adds more administrative overhead to running a game. Another choice would be to have enemies wield weapons that deal subdual damage. There are many ways to do this both from a mechanical standpoint to a roleplaying one. Yet another option would be to create/borrow items. You could make, for example, some sort of salve or balm that converts lethal damage to subdual damage. You could even enhance the effect with a good skill check.

If you have access to it, the Wheel of Time game from 3.0 has an item called Healer's Balm that has an effect similar to the one I described.

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To start with, 1st level is very lethal for PCs. Most fights are basically just a coin toss, one good critical stops anyone.

The other challenge here is that PCs have very limited gold and that gold is generally all spent on basic starting gear (armor, weapons, etc.) The most basic cure item is the Potion of Cure Light Wounds which costs 50gp or basically all of the PCs starting gold. Of course, the potion heals 1d8+1, so it theoretically can heal a character from nil to full!

Honestly, even a healer is a of limited use here. The Cleric Channel feature heals a d6, but the 30' range means that it often heals enemies unless your Cleric has spent their only feat on Selective Channeling and they have a good Charisma.

There are really three reasonable options here:

  • Start at 2nd or 3rd level. Yes, you miss some of the "excitement" of early levels, but the PCs are less likely to randomly die.
  • Throw the PCs some healing potions as part of the setup.
  • Throw the PCs some form of d3 "healing salve" that's worth 15gp instead of 50gp. In fact, at that price, the salves may be worth keeping around for a level or two.
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I prefer that the party don't go to a dungeon with dozens of weak yet deadly creatures, since they are not powerful and experienced enough to face them without proper preparations (e.g. an NPC give them an item that would be helpful or they get a bit of knowledge about the place/monsters to take advantage)

If the party has no healers then they should try to use effective tactics when an encounter occurs. You can offer them a suitable environment to fight so they can take position and try to eliminate the enemy with minimal chance of failure(a couple of simple examples would be to have a high ground with only one way to reach to top, or they try to activate an old siege weapon that resides in the dungeon for years)

I've recently started a campaign without a healer. In every encounter I gave the party an opportunity to exploit the area, they have prevailed without a scratch. They were so happy to that they could figure out how to do things properly.

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