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Me and five friends wanted to try out DnD, none of us have played before but I know the most about DnD (read: I listened to The Adventure Zone and watched some videos on YouTube) so I volunteered as DM. I decided on running Death House because it sounded cool and then seeing how we'll progress from there. I realized it would be too hard so I decided to dial down the number of monsters and give them hints here and there.

But then, one of my players got sick and another one decided he didn't want to play just yet after all. The sick one was going to play as cleric and the three remaining ones don't want to play any class that can heal for some reason. So now I'm stuck trying to run Death House for three players with no healer and we play in three days so it's not like I'd have time to prepare anything else, even if I didn't have work. Any advice?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be interesting to read for you: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/93152/… \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 11 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Thank you! Most of these don't really apply but I'll definitely give them some extra healing potions. Is there anything else I should try or keep in mind? \$\endgroup\$ – pttg Sep 11 at 9:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note you'll find that things that look "too hard" very often aren't. It's easy to underestimate how capable PCs are. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Sep 11 at 9:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor The remaining three players are a fighter, a rogue and a monk. \$\endgroup\$ – pttg Sep 11 at 10:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pttg You might be interested in one of my questions about playing Lost Mine of Phandelver with 3 players and no healers. While some answer addresses my specific party, there are a lot of useful tips for a no healer party. \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Sep 11 at 13:41
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This answer contains spoilers for the Death House, and is based on my personal experience playing it as well as the Curse of Strahd source itself.

First things first, a "dedicated healer" is something that is seldom actually seen or used in DnD 5e. The game lends poor support to characters intending to use most of their time healing other characters, and healing output from spells is generally paltry compared to the amount of damage per turn. The best way to keep your friends alive is, in most cases, to help defeat their enemies quickly instead of trying to repair the damage they do on the fly.

That said, healing magic or other powers like the Healer feat are very useful for rescuing characters from zero hit points --- even a single hit point is enough to give them full actions next turn and prevent them from having to make death saves.

But Death House is not quite your average adventure. Yet another reminder: spoilers ahoy.

The Death House is extremely deadly, assuming your players make the wrong --- yet completely sensible --- choices. Combat encounters, usually being the most dangerous part, are actually not the worst thing here: rooms filled with poisonous fog and doors turned into spinning scythe blades will very quickly wear a party to the end of their resources, unless they are exceedingly lucky with their rolls. Loss of health is not easily avoidable even with conservative gameplay, and rescuing unconscious characters quickly becomes a liability without fast healing in the conditions of the house.

To illustrate: our party went in with full resources. We had a Paladin for healing, and my Monk had the Healer feat and a Healer's kit with me. We emerged with all slots expended, the entire Healer's kit used up, with two characters at zero HP, the other two at a single HP, and this was with me and the Paladin squeezing everything we could out of our respective healing resources in a manner many would consider cheesing. Death House is that deadly.

Suggestions to alleviate the deadliness

The house is not at all that dangerous if your players pick the right choices. Since I've warned you already about spoilers, I'll state it up front: to avoid the house turning against the PCs, a creature has to die at the sanctum in the basement. Being open about the deadliness of the adventure can prime your players to make the right choice there and accept the consequence of losing one of their own. While not obvious, the sacrifice does not have to be humanoid in nature: any creature will do. If you're feeling particularly merciful, give them a henchman NPC to tag along to sacrifice, after which the party can leave the house unhindered, or some animal they can capture for that purpose.

For a less merciful alternative, you can fudge the rules of the house slightly. My Curse of Strahd GM suggested that the house should be appeased when a PC dies, even not in the sanctum. This will preserve the feeling of deadliness, but politely spares your players of the unsavory decision on who to sacrifice and gives them a shot at leaving everyone alive. You can of course also extend the players' capabilities to some extent by giving them health potions, but this is a bit fickle alternative: it might happen that the PC carrying the potions turns into a single-point-of-failure whose unconsciousness dooms the whole party.

Overall, whether or not this kind and extent of deadliness is desirable is up to you and your party. The best you can do is warn them in advance, really, that this is not going to be their average heroic romp but rather a nightmarish situation their characters will be lucky to survive and that some PC deaths are the expected outcome. If you or your players want that heroic romp instead, I suggest not playing Death House with them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking of giving each character an equal number of healing potions, maybe one or two since there's also ones in the house, so that even if one dies, they still have enough. You're probably right that the ending will be the toughest part. I'm definitely gonna point out that they won't survive if they try to fight Lorghoth. Following your answer, I also thought I might lower the door DC, make the blades do less damage (same for the smoke) and maybe make the rats weaker. Do you think that's a viable option? \$\endgroup\$ – pttg Sep 11 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pttg Those sound like reasonable choices. I'd warn them against trying to fight, but honestly I feel the greatest dangers are indeed the scythe doors and the smoke. The rats are tricky too, since they are swarms and resist common damage types, possibly restricting the players' ability to deal with them. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Sep 11 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had noted the extreme deadliness and my preferred strategy would be to take Create Bonfire cantrip and systematically destroy the place. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Sep 11 at 21:29
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Here's an option: Run it honestly and let them face the consequences.

There's something drastically depressing about all the groups which waltzed through modules like Tomb of Annihilation because their respective dungeon masters were spineless. Part of the enjoyment of a horror movie is that people get knocked off. Part of the enjoyment of D&D is that it's a game of life and death. If you take away the deadly traps and deadly encounters what is it really? A game with no tension, no fear, and no feeling of accomplishment. A cake-walk isn't something to be proud of. Even the dumbest players inevitably realize that they aren't being challenged and it saps their enthusiasm.

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I appreciated the way my DM ran this module. A group of four, two new, two with around 30 sessions in a different campaign.

In our session 0 he let us know about the Death House and that there would be a mulligan, only for this part of the campaign. This removed the fear of losing PC's while the two newer players were learning mechanics. It also showed the more experienced players this setting is out to kill us and not to hesitate running away, which we never did in our last campaign.

We died. It was glorious. DM resolved it by having the next story hook character (Ismark) pulling us out of the burning house and the story continued.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like a good way to handle it! Thanks for sharing your experience here :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 13 at 9:52

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