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Seems like our normal party is slowing down a bit, so 3 of us decide we would run an alternate adventure on the side until our regulars are back in town.

1 of us is DM, other 2 are PCs. We all agree we want to keep difficulty elevated, fewer "convenience" house rules, a more starved approach to treasure/items (compared to our recent campaign), meaning more planning and teamwork.

DM already planned our opening plot, and really wants the encounters to start at ECL 5. We talked about running 2 characters each, or having the DM also act as a NPC with our healer/pack-mule. I think we want to avoid allied NPCs if possible. 2 primary PCs only.

We dont want floating-reroll, power-optimized characters, but we also don't want to die a lot, or need to rest every encounter.

The topic of gestalts came up, to help fill some of our party holes. For a target ECL starting at 5, how about Standard Point Buy with two gestalt PCs starting at level 6 or 7?

We want some versatility without gaining too much of an edge tactically.

Looking for feedback from someone who has tried this style of adventure and met with failure or success. DM wants us to decide.

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My angle on this is as a GM, first with one player (3 different campaigns), and another time with 2 players (1 campaign).

The bulk of balancing the game will be on the GM's shoulders. An NPC is possibly his best asset for helping the PCs through difficult encounters. Don't leave home without one!

The real restriction that still exists for the players is the action economy. You still get only a full-round action, even though you might have access to 2 full classes worth of abilities. This becomes a real choke-point as soon as one of the PCs goes unconscious, and then the burden shifts solely onto the remaining PC. This is the real danger zone of a small party, gestalt or otherwise.

Keeping that in mind, I would HIGHLY recommend you allow an NPC to tag along. He can remain in the background 90% of the time, but that last 10% could be him pulling one of you to safety and giving you a potion of healing while the other PC tries to finish the fight. Are you going to want to disengage to heal your partner when he falls in battle, and possibly give free attacks to your potentially multiple enemies? Bad idea--or at least, not a very healthy one.

I won't speak to the ECL, because as GM, I found myself considering much more closely how my players would naturally react to all my encounters. I was very careful to adjust mob sizes, by tempering them with morale checks if I felt my mob was too big. Or essentially treating them as 2 hp mooks, and softening up the PCs just enough before revealing a bigger, stronger, boss-type creature to carry the "meat" of the encounter.

Before choosing classes, ask the GM if he is willing to customize how healing works. This is essential if you don't choose a healing class, and you don't want to spend a week in bedrest after every combat. I allowed a modified healing skill, which acted as a cure spell once per day, and later twice per day. And I think I used one type of healing potion which always healed half of an individuals total HP. (Because if you spend a round drinking a weak healing potion, and then get hit for that same amount next round, you didn't gain anything really and should have just kept fighting instead to begin with.)

The GM will find it much easier to overwhelm you with mobs. Be prepared to be flanked, a lot. Even if they are mooks, those flanking bonuses multiplied by the number of mooks can add up to serious damage really fast.

Also, keep in mind that if you don't both melee, you likely give up any possibility of flanking, as mobs can quickly surround both of you. Animal companions can definitely help you out with this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We are currently planning on Wizard (controller) and Fighter (melee with tumbling/mobility) as our first choices. The idea was to use illusion/conj to prevent ambushes/swarms from pinning us. Although if we failed that, your NPC definitely gave us a better chance to recover. (basically if wizard was ever pinned, it was bad news). \$\endgroup\$ – user2097818 Jul 8 '14 at 6:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought flanking was a flat bonus (either 0 or +2) regardless of the number of allies around a given target, is it not ? \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Jul 8 '14 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not under all conditions, such as if they are stunned. But I meant using web to entangle them 20ft away. \$\endgroup\$ – user2097818 Jul 8 '14 at 8:18
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I would recommend using an adapted version of the Leadership feat so that you can each get two cohorts of a level less than yours to help you through the encounters, as if you were playing another PC of a slightly lower level.

Lower the level requirement for leadership ( the level of the cohort is limited by your level anyway ) and you and your friend pick a cohort to run by the GM so you can tackle encounters that would normally be too tough for 2 lower level characters to face on their own.

I would also recommend that you and your friend both use 750gp to each purchase a belt of healing to help with the after-battle healing so your resources aren't stretched too thin, as well as possibly making one of the cohorts a cleric to take off some of the pain and allow you to focus on having fun encounters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We are completely missing rogue utility; we have no stealth surveillance, trap sense, disable, open-lock. Will a rogue cohort be sufficient, or will he always be behind the difficulty curve (assuming our DM does not feel sorry for us)? \$\endgroup\$ – user2097818 Jul 8 '14 at 4:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Provided a rogue cohort has skill points in search, hide, spot, and the appropriate rogue skills like disable device, tumble, and a few others, as long as you have decent stats in DEX ( with weapon finesse to land attacks, move silently and hide to avoid detection ), INT ( To boost disable device, appraise, and for more skill points ), and CHA ( For the many information gathering skills or party-face skills ) a rogue will still well-eclipse any other character as a skill monkey, even if a level lower. A scout would also serve as a great skill-monkey as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 8 '14 at 4:56

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