In the start of my adventure the PCs will not be together. I plan to have all them fight 1-3 encounters alone before finally meeting up. I read in the book about setting encounters but the minimum I saw was a party of three, nothing about being alone. They are of course all lvl 1. Their classes are Figher, Ranger, Sorcerer and a Cleric.

All the encounters will take place in a not so dense forest covered in fog.

Some more char info.

The Cleric has 13STR 10DEX 15CON 13INT 15WIS 18CHA Feat is Quicken Spell

The Fighter has 18STR 12DEX 15CON 13INT 13WIS 10CHA Feat is Power Attack, Cleave

The Ranger has 11STR 15DEX 16CON 10INT 15WIS 10CHA Feat is Alertness

The Sorcerer has 13STR 15DEX 16CON 14INT 14WIS 19CHA Feat is Spell Focus

I want them to fight animals, undead and maybe even demons if possible. The theme is mostly dark and dreary foes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well the difficulty of the encounter I want to run I Average. About the individual characters, what do you want to know? \$\endgroup\$ – DMSerph Jun 4 '13 at 3:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ A useful thing to remember in cases like this is that not all encounters are fights, and not all fight encounters have to be with suicidal homicidal maniacs who never retreat or surrender. When not every encounter is to the death it's way easier to design encounters that won't accidentally kill the PCs. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 4 '13 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I'll do a non-fight encounter for the sorcerer as he looks the easiest to accidentally die. \$\endgroup\$ – DMSerph Jun 4 '13 at 8:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DMSerph It's normally a good idea to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. People will feel less encouraged to answer if an answer is already accepted, and you won't get a range of advice to soak up and choose between. The answer below may be useful, but other answers may come along with more useful input or a contrary stance (it is not unusual for later answers to demonstrate that an earlier one is a bad idea, for instance). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 4 '13 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ You want each player to fight up to 3 encounters solo before the group meets up? That means a lot of potential downtime for the other players. Due to the low HP resources of characters at first level (and the difficulty of holding player attention) you may want to limit that to one fight per character, then have them meet up. That way, there's less downtime at the table. \$\endgroup\$ – Discord Jun 4 '13 at 12:42

The results are going to be highly variable, and depend on the situation, and depend a lot on the critters facing each PC, along with the way the PCs are built. Any PC built to depend on someone else (for instance, the Sorcerer, depending on his spells, or the Ranger, if he is built for ranged combat) will struggle more, and should probably be allocated less opponents than the others.

The basic way to do this, though, is to take the XP allowance for a typical party at this encounter level, and divide by 5 (since encounters are based on 5 PCs normally). If you want an average encounter for level 1 PCs, this would be 80xp. A single raven or lizard are worth 65xp. Working the other way, a single Kobold (100xp) looks to be between CR 1 and 2 for a single level 1 PC, and a single Goblin is just over a CR2. A Hard encounter at level 1 is a CR4 encounter, which would translate to 240xp for a single character, which would be slightly more than a pair of Kobolds.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I'll go with the kobold idea for my ranger, fighter and cleric. \$\endgroup\$ – DMSerph Jun 4 '13 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't the basic party 4 PCs? \$\endgroup\$ – leokhorn Oct 14 '13 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the vintage of the scenario - older (Pre-Pathfinder) APs are based on 4, newer APs and PFS scenarios are based on 5. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Oct 14 '13 at 21:43

I want them to fight animals, undead and maybe even demons if possible. The theme is mostly dark and dreary foes.

Are just the foes dark or is it a theme in your whole world?

If that is the case then kidnapping might be common and the rangers encounter could be with some peasants whose child has gone missing. It needs to be tracked down though a wilderness. Add a few brave people to help (e.g. the boys father and his brother, armed with pitchforks) and you have an instant mini goal with some NPCs as a buffer.

For the cleric you may be able to do something similar pacifying a graveyard. The local priest or some of the family of the people who are burried there can help the their loved ones find eternal rest. This might involve turning them, or just keeping them at a distance while some rites are performed to clean the source of evil. This makes a great way to have an encounter without a fight.

The fighter on the other hand is build for fighting. I think that YogoZuno 's answer is quite good. Give the fighter something to easy kill. Adding an NPC or two or making the enemies quite slow will help. (Slow in case you have bad rolls and need to run away). A nice tactical map might also help (e.g. one narrow point though which a few monsters must pass, and which can be blocked by the fighter. This will teach him that it is not just about hitting enemies, but also about placement on the map).

As for the sorcerer: Charisma 19. That will come in handy with a nice political mission (e.g. convince the major of a neighbouring town to aid another town or to convince a group of NPCs that they really want to do something else. Which, unless bungled, is yet another safe no-combat encounter. No risk of dying.


Apart from YogoZuno's excellent answer, I've found that in practice the challenge a single PC can face safely varies a lot. With only one person fighting, a few unlucky rolls can be all it takes for a player to die. However, sometimes the player will do a lot better than expected and simply plough through the challenge.

I would suggest giving them one or two NPCs to temporarily help out. If they are commoners with sickles and staves, they aren't going to majorly boost your player's power, but they can drag him away and bandage his wounds if he is bleeding out.

Also, this is an opportunity for each player to shine. It can be a good idea to set encounters up to play to your PC's strengths - if you let the Cleric fight some low-HD skeletons instead of Kobolds, he'll have an easier time of it by turning them/using Cure Light Wounds to damage them and it will help teach him tactics for when he's in the party later on. If you let the fighter go up against a bunch of weak mooks (maybe animated piles of branches with a 1/2HD each who are clustered together) instead of a single, stronger foe, his cleave will come in very handy and he will start to learn to group his foes. This can teach valuable lessons to your players as well as characters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So basically to make the starting solo battle, if I decide on a battle, make it tutorial-like? \$\endgroup\$ – DMSerph Jun 4 '13 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMSerph Not necessarily, although that's an option. I think it's a good way to show how important tactics are and what a class' strengths are. The player should notice that they are doing better than average against a challenge, so they will hopefully use tactics again in the future. Also, if you give them a battle in which they have an advantage, they are less likely to die if you accidentally make it too hard :) \$\endgroup\$ – Dakeyras Jun 4 '13 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ How can anyone notice he is 'doing better than average' if this is literally his first encounter? I would go with 'you remember what your teacher suggested about Cure Light Wounds against undead' myself; if you choose not to give them a tutorial, the characters will only learn by trial and error, so you will need some way to make their errors non-fatal. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jun 5 '13 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington The players won't necessarily be able to notice they're doing well until later, when (assuming they haven't realised that the tactics they used earlier were good) they may be doing less well. At which point they'll consider, 'what was it that made me stronger then?' and hopefully, with some DM guidance, use clever tactics instead of "I attack until it's dead". \$\endgroup\$ – Dakeyras Jun 5 '13 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ OIC. But that will certainly take more than the 1-3 encounters that OP asked about, and the real problem is how to keep an unsupported level 1 character alive long enough to draw conclusions. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jun 5 '13 at 16:48

At level 1, on their own, they can basically die to anything.

Simple example: take 4 kobolds (total CR ~= 1).

  • Your sorcerer has 8hp, they deal ~3 pts. damage per successful attack. They have a 50% chance of hitting, so two hit each round. Well that sorcerer is dead in 2 rounds. At best he goes first, gets a color spray and runs. Of course, one critical by any Kobold is bad news. Each attack only has a 2.5% chance of being a critical, but you have 4 guys. So there is a 10% chance that round 1 is a crit on the sorcerer and a 5% chance of 2 crits.
  • Your cleric has about 10hp, but dramatically better armor. Your cleric gets hit 20-25% of the time, but has limited attack spells and only hits about 30-40% of the time. That's definitely an edge, but if the kobolds maneuver into flanking position, that edge disappears. The cleric does have the ability to heal and channel, but the channel also heals the kobolds and is generally a net loss.

So the problem you'll find with these first level fights is that things are very random. Unless the characters can work the terrain to their advantage, they are two unlucky rolls away from death.

BTW, Cleric with Quicken Spell at level 1 is basically useless. Quicken is completely unusable until level 9. Given the Cleric's high CHA, they should consider Selective Channeling. Which is dramatically more useful.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well me and my freinds aren't very used to this game asy of yet. They chose their own feats on what they thought could be useful and I don't want dictate how they make their character. \$\endgroup\$ – DMSerph Jun 5 '13 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The probability of a crit on the sorcerer in one round is not 4 x 2.5%, it's actually 1 - (0.975^4). This has to do with the possibility of a doublecrit, the sorcerer dying, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Dakeyras Jun 5 '13 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMSerph completely understand the "new character" thing. I actually made a similar mistake on a character at one point and eventually had to change the feat. You don't necessarily need to guide them to Selective Channeling, but I'm sure they would like to know that Quicken has an "effective" pre-requisite of 9th level. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Jun 6 '13 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dakeyras I actually did pass my 3rd year combinatorics course :) But without getting into the inclusion / exclusion theorem, I feel pretty safe saying that there is about a 10% chance that one of the kobolds will crit in the first round. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Jun 6 '13 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GatesVP To 2 d.p., it's 0.10, but with 3 d.p. it's 0.096. I'm doing Stats at the moment. \$\endgroup\$ – Dakeyras Jun 6 '13 at 18:29

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