Running solo combats

4 posts / 0 new
Last post
In one of the dungeon adventures



There is an option for one on one combat.  I'd like to do this, but I'm a little worried that it could be too one sided.  Has anyone run something like this?  One level 10ish player vs. a similar level monster?  For 1:1 should I do same level or? 
There is an option for one on one combat.  I'd like to do this, but I'm a little worried that it could be too one sided.  Has anyone run something like this?  One level 10ish player vs. a similar level monster?  For 1:1 should I do same level or?

I'd be worried that it would simply be dull, with both creatures standing still and trading blows.

There's a very good chance that it would also be one-sided. I think one-on-one combat tends to be, even in the real world. Without the control one has in a story or movie to make the actual fight exciting, there's a good chance it will just fall flat, even if it appears "balanced" on paper.

I strongly recommend incorporating a skill challenge of some kind, or even making the entire encounter a skill challenge. Simple declare that in single combat the two are utterly matched, and so it comes down to... something else. Making a good showing, impressing the crowd, getting in a few zingers, stalling for time, spotting a weakness, etc. Consider not making it about the actual fight.

Along those same lines, I recommend not making the actual fight about one side killing the other. Maybe that's what the characters see it as, but at the player level make it about something else. The winner and loser could even be predetermined, with the actual goal (whatever it is) to be determined.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I've been running the first 1 player campaign I've had in years, and the tactical style of combat in 4e certainly runs the risk of both sides simply trotting up to each other and trading blows till one side drops.  I've been incorporating terrain effects and neutral participants into the combat to encourage movement, tactical retreats and improvised attacks.  Using caltrops (or red-hot coals, or mild toxic puddles) encourages the player to use their push and shifts or attempt grabs and throws to put enemies into harm.  I've recently had one-on-one combats that included a handful of pit vipers (willing to attack either side and useful for slowing down the player or whittling away hp from a enemy who is not dying quick enough) and zombies chained to pillars throughout the battle site (again willing to attack either opponent and a risk for opportunity attacks as the combatants move about the field). 
Making the battle site interesting when described to the player has encouraged some interesting choices in improvised attacks too, especially the ones that I didn't expect (like the player pulling a torch from a wall sconce to burn the eyes of his opponent, or remembering a series of hooks on the wall I described and attempting to slam his opponent onto them). 

Interesting challenge though, and at first all the combat seemed to resolve just as you feared.  Things are getting much more interesting now that the player is getting a taste for the rewards of attempting to come up with flavorful combat choices and I'm making extra effort to add in unique details about the battle site and encounter composition. 
Thank you for the responses.  I have several baddies who are effectively evil opposites of the players so its pretty flavorful to have a one-on-one battle.

One of these happened last night and went reasonably well, although it was a bit boring.  I think the skill challenges and environmental options are a good idea.  I had one that the player didn't pick up on, and so they slugged it out.  It was very hard to make it balanced.  I placed it at the end of a gauntlet of cronies during a single encounter, so the player had limited encounter powers left (maybe two plus some utilities).  That seemed to work well.