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It seems clear that 4E really wants the party to have at least four PCs, so that all four roles can be covered. The official rules give tips on what to do when you can only have three PCs, but when it comes down to one or two PCs, the advice is pretty thin. For a single PC game, the DMG seems to punt, saying something like "you should probably play a leader or defender" and nothing else.

I'd like to be able to run one-on-one stories with characters in a larger, existing game, so I don't want to hear "use a different system." The larger game already exists, and the characters already exist, too, as 4E characters.

So far, I've found only good online ses of tips (which I will provide below as an answer) but I am eager to hear others -- especially if they have been play tested. The ones I've found already appear to be theoretical only.

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5 Answers 5

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I've quite happily run one-on-one adventures with no changes from the base rules. A higher focus on minions is handy to come within the XP budget and access to personal healing is a must. It works better with defenders, leaders, and controllers than strikers. (Strikers really do require a party behind them to perform at their best.)

My own experience suggests that you should make it clear that "killing the enemies in open combat" is not the primary tactical motivation, which allows the player to bypass or subvert many encounters.

Instead of multiclassing, potions are an excellent healing mechanism, especially if potions are healing are converted to healing word levels of utility. Alchemy, if made less of a gold-sink, is another excellent way to provide unusual resources to a character.

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I was so sure, when first thinking about it, that strikers would be the way to go, but you are one of many people I've seen say that strikers don't work well alone. -- As for healing, what if second wind was made a minor action, and maybe if a third wind was allowed in solo play? –  rjbs Apr 5 '11 at 2:10
    
Second wind as minor significantly dilutes the value of the dwarf. Healing potions are far easier to provide as "Expanded Healing Potions" that don't require new knowledge of the character or edits. It's also important to leave the character the ability to disengage fairly easily, otherwise a party kill will happen on a series of bad dice rolls. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 5 '11 at 2:13
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...and I feel really motivated, now, to work on one-PC striker scenarios that favor a thief/assassin type. Stealthily engage minions, using sneak attack to drop them before they can coordinate a response... –  rjbs Apr 5 '11 at 2:13
    
Oh, doing a sneak can be tremendous fun. (My personal favourite type of RPing) Take a look at the executioner assassin and the various Thief games. youtube.com/watch?v=YtG3orzS8l0 youtube.com/watch?v=AYSAY03hI4w youtube.com/watch?v=-S_hq-VEsu4 Both thief and e-assassin make fantastic solo-sneakers and can present compelling gameplay opportunities that way. Most guards should be minions however, and play should focus on stealth rather than combat. I'd be happy to playtest a sneak with you in The Back Room :) –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 5 '11 at 2:16
    
The dwarf could get his second wind as a free -- but it's not important to me, as I'm running a human-only campaign. YMMV. ;) –  rjbs Apr 5 '11 at 2:17

This is the only good advice I've found online on the topic, and it is presented as "mostly a mental exercise." I found it in this EN World thread:

  • recalibrate XP and magic item rewards
  • create a "mega minion" that can take two hits
  • replace the "Dying" status with "Dazed"
  • make some monsters save-or-die on every hit (?!)
  • give the PC henchmen or hirelings
  • make all powers Reliable
  • make every encounter a milestone
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Multiclassing would be the easiest fix. Diablo has each class with damage dealing capabilities, so you'd want whatever class it is to at least Multiclass with a striker.

The other thing is to design encounters according to the strengths of the individual PC. A controller might go up against a bunch of minions, a defender against a brute, a striker against a solo.

NPC allies would be another way to go about it.

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Multiclassing! Why didn't I think of that? Clearly, an excellent idea -- although hard to suggest to existing characters. Maybe I'll gently encourage new characters to consider multiclass feats, hybrid classes, and classes with secondary roles. –  rjbs Apr 5 '11 at 1:19
    
@rjbs Would it strain things too much to give temporary free multiclass feats for the one-player segments? Hm, the logistics of that could be tricky... –  AceCalhoon Apr 5 '11 at 1:25
    
4e does support easily swapping out feats. You could always just remove the one swap per level rule, and let them shuffle as necessary moving between solo and party play. –  migo Apr 5 '11 at 6:56

As a DM, you must adjust many things that have been already mentioned, but you also must keep in mind that a solo character is someone that travels in the adventure world on his own without pretending to be a super hero or giving solution to everything.

As the DM, you can create the atmosphere and tailor the specific problems for each role. Some simple examples: you can contract a rogue to steal a jewel or to assassinate an ambassador or a paladin or cleric could help a town to confront a zombie invasion. Characters of other classes could have other motivations like arcane knowledge or wealth.

Tailor the environment for a solitary character to his/her particular interests, instead of treating them as a swiss army knife.

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I allowed my PC's to take the background of "Fey Beast Tamer" which gave them each a useful pet (and effectively doubled the party size).

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/excerpt_20111028.pdf

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