My solo Pathfinder adventure, The Duskwalker's Due, has proven to be a bit hit, so I'm designing a few more solo adventures. I thought this might be the case, so I planned by preparing a fairly generic "here's how to play a Pathfinder solo adventure" section near the beginning of that adventure. With light tweaks, it can go into any solo adventure. Even into yours! If you want to take this language and make it your own, do so! In these strange times, more solo adventures can be a big help.

Playing a Solo Adventure

This adventure is designed for solo play, without a GM. Generally, you’ll read through this adventure as you go, selecting your encounters from those available to you at each point in the story. It’s is written to provide you with a challenge, but most of the decisions during the adventure are yours: where to go, how to interact with the environment, and what happens when you do. You should keep in mind this overarching rule when making your decisions: what would be the most fun right now? Keep that in mind, and you won’t go wrong—even if your character doesn’t make it.

A solo adventure brings the following special considerations that aren’t present in a typical RPG.

All the Rules Are Yours

You’re responsible for all the rules in the game, and you’re not holding anyone up by stopping the game to reference something you didn’t know, like the range of sound burst or what a monster’s Improved Knockdown ability does. Feel free to learn! Experiencing the rules on both sides of the game will make you a better player and GM.

You’re Also the Monsters

This means that you not only play the part of a character, but also all of the enemies you face. During combat, you should roll for the monsters as well as for your character, and have them act as reasonably as you think they would. Generally, this means attacking your character in the most straightforward way possible, using their best attacks. For example, pairs of monsters try to flank you if they can. Monsters don’t have any reason to hold back. If you defeat monsters, they don’t reappear in the room unless indicated otherwise.

You Know the Adventure

You have perfect knowledge of the adventure, particularly if you’re replaying it, and know where everything can be found. You’re still bound by the result of your skill checks, and, most importantly, you can only attempt relevant checks once. If a treasure requires a successful DC 15 Perception check to locate, and you only roll a 14, you can’t get the treasure. You can’t keep trying again and again until you find it! You know the treasure is there, but your character does not, so you should move on. The same goes for secret doors; if you fail the Perception check, your character can’t use the secret door, as the character doesn’t know it’s there.

Even though the adventure provides you with the relevant map, you might want to draw out the rooms you encounter on a battlemat or large sheet of graph paper and use miniatures to represent your character and any enemies, just as you might in a normal RPG. As you move from room to room, go to the appropriate room description indicated on the map. You’re not likely to encounter all the rooms in order, and skipping around—even skipping around a lot—is fine.

You Adjudicate Actions

Many of the actions you’ll take as a character in a solo adventure have set difficulties and specific effects. For example, if you attack a monster, your attack roll is made against the monster’s AC, and you deduct your damage from the monster’s Hit Points. The adventure will provide you with many opportunities for using your skills against a particular DC, with results set forth in the adventure.

However, there are many other things you might want to try that aren’t specifically called out in the adventure. For these, you should pick a relevant skill or ability score, set a DC and a consequence, and determine the number of actions required.

Pick a Skill

Determine which skill seems most relevant to the task at hand; if it’s not a skill you have, then you’ll make this check untrained using your ability score instead. Here are some suggestions for how to use skills beyond the skill uses set forth in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Acrobatics is a good choice for any check requiring whole-body agility, such as swinging on a chandelier, sliding across a sheet of ice, or rolling under a rapidly closing door. If you’re reacting to something being done to you, like avoiding falling over from some effect, a Reflex saving throw is better than an Acrobatics check.

Arcana is useful for noticing a magical effect, or getting a hunch that some arcane magical effect is in the area. 

Athletics is the best choice for anything involving physical prowess, such as lifting something heavy, jamming a door closed, or shoving your hand into acid to grab something. If you’re reacting to something, like withstanding a wave of water, a Fortitude saving throw is better than an Athletics check.

Crafting is best if you’re making anything. The existing Crafting rules are pretty robust, but a Crafting check also works in a pinch for jury-rigging something, like making a lasso out of vines or lashing logs together as a raft.

Deception is not only good for directly lying to someone, but also for misdirecting someone in a sneaky way, quickly sending someone off on a wild goose chase, keeping your true intentions to yourself, or hinting that you’re someone you aren’t. Keep in mind that bluffing your way through an entire dungeon by pretending to be “just one of the guards” isn’t likely.

Diplomacy is usually the best default choice for talking to someone, including convincing someone to stand down when you clearly have the upper hand.

Intimidation is useful if you want to scare someone, and is also the best choice if you want to do something that’s intended to scare someone, like construct a scary totem or put a blood-soaked warning on a door.

Lore and Perception might be situationally appropriate, but since you’re reading the adventure, your character is assumed to have more knowledge than usual, such as a monster’s abilities, weaknesses, intentions, and so on. If there’s something that requires a specific Lore check or a Perception check to identify, the adventure says so.

Medicine is the most useful skill for patching yourself up between fights, of course, but it’s also the best choice for dealing with or evaluating wounds on yourself or others. 

Nature is a good choice for anything involving knowledge or affinity with animals, fey, or the natural world. Examples include mounting an animal that doesn’t want to be ridden or deciding which fungus tastes best. If this isn’t about something you’ve learned but about general proficiency in the wild, Survival is a better choice.

Occultism is useful for noticing curses or magical effects on creatures, or convincing someone you have mystical powers.

Performance is a good choice when you want to make an obvious distraction that involves noticing you and possibly copying you, like getting someone to join in a dance or getting them to lunge for you when there’s a hidden pit or danger in the way. If you’re trying to be sneaky about misdirecting someone, Deception or even Stealth are better options.

Religion is useful for just about anything involving faith, celestials, fiends, or undead.

Society is useful for combing an urban area for information (without actually interacting with anyone, which would be Diplomacy), rearranging things in an urban setting to look innocuous (like moving a hay wagon under a high window you intend to leap from later), or faking most kinds of writing.

Stealth is best for anything that involves hiding you, an object, or another creature.

Survival is useful for manipulating a natural hazards like setting up a deadfall, finding the right moment at sundown to launch an advantageous attack, or setting up obvious tracks to fool someone else.

Thievery is a good choice for anything requiring hand-eye coordination, like threading a rope through a small hole, catching a small item that’s falling or rolling away, or opening a door without touching its latch.

Sometimes an attack roll is be a better option than a skill, like if you want to cut a chain holding something up or shoot a flaming arrow to start something on fire.

Set a DC and Consequences

To set the difficulty of a task: just decide whether you think the task could be attempted even by an untrained novice (DC 10), requires a little skill or familiarity (DC 15), requires a moderate amount of skill or familiarity (DC 20), requires an extraordinary amount of skill or familiarity (DC 30), or is something only a few people would ever be able to do (DC 40). If in doubt, you should use a DC of 20. You can also consider using the appropriate DC for your level, as set forth in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Using this DC means a character of your level is slightly more likely to succeed than not, but note that this doesn’t mean your specific character is more likely to succeed.

You probably have something in mind for successfully making the check; this often means delaying some effect (by shoving a bookshelf against the door, the gnolls can’t get through until they shove the door open) or imposing some condition (by spilling cooking grease on the floor, anyone rushing through the room is flat-footed and slowed 1. A success shouldn’t take any combatant entirely out of a fight or eliminate a danger completely, but a critical success might. 

You should also decide whether your check has a consequence for failure. Sometimes, the situation you’re envisioning has an obvious effect of failure. For example, if your Intimidation check to hang bark effigies from the trees to keep the lizardfolk at bay, the lizardfolk aren’t impressed and just attack you. 

If it seems like a failure should give you some damage or give you a debilitating condition, use the following guidelines.

Damage: Failure does you 1d6 damage for every 10 points of the DC. For example, failing an Acrobatics check to swing on a chandelier with a DC of 20 would deal you 2d6 damage. The damage would be of the appropriate type for the failed task. If you critically fail this check, double the damage and apply some appropriate debilitating condition to yourself (like being prone). 

Condition: You should give yourself a condition with a value equal to 1 for every 10 points of the DC. For example, failing an Athletics check to lift something heavy with a DC of 30 might make you enfeebled 3. If there’s no way to clear this condition (like slowed or stunned, which go away on their own, or sickened, which you clear by retching), then it should last 1 round. On a critical failure, the condition instead lasts 1d4+1 rounds. 

Determine the Actions

Most attempts only take a single action, but some might be a longer activity that take 2 or 3 actions to resolve (or even multiple rounds or minutes). Judge this based on the time you think would be involved. You should also determine whether the attempt has any applicable traits, like Attack, Concentrate, Manipulate, or Move, if they’re relevant. For example, most attempts to physically impair someone should have the Attack trait, which makes a multiple attack penalty relevant if performed during combat.

Danger is Greater, But You Can Retry!

As with any Pathfinder Second Edition game, your character has a Hero Point to spend on rerolling a die roll. You can also use Hero Points to recover from dying by performing a heroic recovery; if you don’t do so when there’s still an active monster or danger in the room, you die, and your adventure is over. The adventure indicates when you gain more Hero Points.

It’s possible that your character will die in the dungeon before reaching the end. In this case, you can simply try again, starting from the beginning, with all the monsters and dangers back in their places. If you want some variety, you can create a character of your own instead of using the one provided for you; just make a normal character of the same level. Some elements of the adventure might rely on features the provided character has, like darkvision or a good Thievery skill, so be careful when doing this!