Small Groups

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So I run a D&D group on Sundays with a very small group. (Only three people, myself not included) And they're about third level and about to finish their first adventure, now more often then not they've had a very tough time winning due to the fact that there is only three of them. I was wondering if when we do the next adventure, should I pick one that was made for PCs of level 1-2 so that the fights seem more balanced? 
I'd probably use an adventure that's equal to their level and then hold back one or two monsters per encounter until it looks like they're having an easy time of it, then add the monsters back if it made sense and would be cool in the scene. "Two more orcs rush in, grraaah!" It's much easier to add to an encounter than to take away. A lot of players see taking monsters away from the encounter midfight to be "going easy" on the PCs and thus don't care for that.

Consider also combat outs and alternate goals. Encounter balance is less important if you can still win the encounter without necessarily killing every little thing on the map.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Make sure to check the Dungeon Master's Guide. You cannot just pick up adventures without editing them to your group. 

For example. I have five players in my group. I know that encounters that reward 500xp are fairly easy to them. If I see this in an adventure packet. I like to bump it to 575xp of monsters or 600. So that's like 3 more minions or one more monster at level 1.

This is the opposite for you. If you pick up a pre-made adventure; read through it first. Perhaps take monsters out here and there. Give them more minions to fight instead of full on monsters. This way they feel like they are killing more things, but it's not as difficult for them as it once was. 
  Knowing which adventures you're looking at would allow us to offer more specific advice, but a general principle for standard published adventures is that if you only have three PCs then you should cut the XP budget to ~60% of whatever is listed to even things out. So you'd take a level 3 encounter (750 XP) and remove (or replace*) creatures and hazards to get the budget down to 450 XP.

  * Sometimes it's better to replace regular creatures with minions, thereby scaling down the XP budget without cutting down the number of creatures appearing. For example, an encounter that normally includes one elite and three standard monsters might become one with one elite and four minions instead of one elite and one standard.
Alright thanks! All of these answers will be immensly useful, so thank you!
I'd probably use an adventure that's equal to their level and then hold back one or two monsters per encounter until it looks like they're having an easy time of it, then add the monsters back if it made sense and would be cool in the scene.


Seconded, with gusto.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
One household allowed our three-player party to be successful without scaling back encounters:
Allow Second Winds to be taken as a minor action (free action for dwarves on their turns).

Combine that with a well balanced optimized group where each player also has a theme, and just keep running encounters as normal.
In a campaign where I was a player with two other players and a DM, we each created a henchmen.  Basically we each had two characters from a combat/skill challenge standpoint, but we primarily RP'd our main character.  This made it easy to play standard modules (which was why we added the henchmen), and even had a few side benefits later in the campaign.
In a campaign where I was a player with two other players and a DM, we each created a henchmen.  Basically we each had two characters from a combat/skill challenge standpoint, but we primarily RP'd our main character.  This made it easy to play standard modules (which was why we added the henchmen), and even had a few side benefits later in the campaign.


What side benefits?
So I run a D&D group on Sundays with a very small group. (Only three people, myself not included) And they're about third level and about to finish their first adventure, now more often then not they've had a very tough time winning due to the fact that there is only three of them. I was wondering if when we do the next adventure, should I pick one that was made for PCs of level 1-2 so that the fights seem more balanced? 



I run most campaigns with a group of 2 players. It's really all just about balancing encounters with the numbers. In our last session, the two dropped to negative hit points during the fight with an Owl Bear, but managed to live and defeat it. Meanwhile, they walked all over three gnolls who decided to hassle them for money.

If you're ever unsure, do as iserith suggested. Start light, then add more if it looks like they're on the verge of winning with ease. Do remember though, a few easy fights can be a blessing in disguise for you and them. On their side, they use up less resources to win. On yours, you lull them into a false sense of security. ;) 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/

 In our last session, the two dropped to negative hit points during the fight with an Owl Bear, but managed to live and defeat it. 



How does that work? 

 In our last session, the two dropped to negative hit points during the fight with an Owl Bear, but managed to live and defeat it. 



How does that work? 



The fighter took a nasty hit and the halfling had to force a healing potion down his gullet while he lay bleeding to death on the ground. There was tricky grid movement involved so that they were just out of reach of the owlbear while he used the potion.

edit: one is a halfling psion the other a human fighter.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/

 In our last session, the two dropped to negative hit points during the fight with an Owl Bear, but managed to live and defeat it. 



How does that work? 



The fighter took a nasty hit and the halfling had to force a healing potion down his gullet while he lay bleeding to death on the ground. There was tricky grid movement involved so that they were just out of reach of the owlbear while he used the potion.

edit: one is a halfling psion the other a human fighter.



Ah, well interesting.

 In our last session, the two dropped to negative hit points during the fight with an Owl Bear, but managed to live and defeat it. 



How does that work? 



The fighter took a nasty hit and the halfling had to force a healing potion down his gullet while he lay bleeding to death on the ground. There was tricky grid movement involved so that they were just out of reach of the owlbear while he used the potion.

edit: one is a halfling psion the other a human fighter.



Ah, well interesting.



I'm still not sure why he didn't just try confusing the owlbear with his darkness cubes again. :/ They were still active. >.< But, ah well...they succeeded. That's all that matters.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Of course, my group is made up of Mage, Rogue, Rogue, and a Ranger that comes ever other week, somehow they're still alive. (I may have done minor tweaking to the encounters already...)
In a campaign where I was a player with two other players and a DM, we each created a henchmen.  Basically we each had two characters from a combat/skill challenge standpoint, but we primarily RP'd our main character.  This made it easy to play standard modules (which was why we added the henchmen), and even had a few side benefits later in the campaign.


What side benefits?



After a couple years of gaming, our schedules changed.  When all of us were available we played our mains, but when only some of us were available we played our henchmen.  Even with the focus on RP'ing our mains, we had developed our henchmen a little.  Since I was the one who ended up with vastly less time to game, the other two often ran their henchmen together.  My wizard had manipulated an evil warlord into trying to seize power, which failed. 

After that story arc was completed, we separated our henchmen, and I decided my LG wizard was going to work with the evil warlord (fighter), and fall from grace.  We had a nice little story arc as he slowly became LN, and the evil warlord kept promises to behave in a lawful manner, since help from this wizard was her best path to power.  Despite limited game time and just one player with a DM, it was a great story.  The two did not trust each other, and the constant threat of betrayal added to the danger.  Since this was just a henchmen the risk of permanent death was very high. 

Later the henchmen ended up in some PvP action as the wizard and warlord sought items to expand their power, which were also being sought by the other group of henchmen.  Because the henchmen were not the most important primary characters we were able to explore other aspects of the game without messing up our main characters story.  There were a couple other occasions when a henchman betrayed the party or did something to gain power, that forced him out of the group because they were now evil. 

Without the henchmen, I would have created a character from scratch and ran it without other players to bounce off from.  I doubt it would have been as fun.  Having the henchmen around provided the group with a chance to change things up on occasion by RP'ing our henchmen on those occasions where their skills and abilities were at the center of some task. 

In the end my wizard the the evil warlord became king and queen of an evil city and the surrounding countryside.  They were mostly at odds with the other campaigns, but provided aid on occasion because some of the BBEG were also their enemies.  From what I was told, my character was often a third party trouble maker for the other group of henchmen, which they enjoyed immensely.   
Well that's cool, i'll have to seriously consider giving my players Henchmen.
If a henchman doesn't work for some of your Druids or rangers, or other antisocial hippies, check out Fey Beast Tamer under the Theme button on CB.
If a henchman doesn't work for some of your Druids or rangers, or other antisocial hippies



Hey, my anti-social, paranoid, non-hippie ranger takes offense at that! 
Ah, so he would probably be best accompanied by a Fey panther (fey beast tamer theme).
Heh. I think he could get behind that. He had a wolfogriff (creature we made up with dire wolf in front and griffon in the back) mount for a while.