One-on-One D&D, Running The Game #89

Can you play D&D with a GM and just one player? Yes you can!

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29 thoughts on “One-on-One D&D, Running The Game #89

  1. Honestly I'm playing in a world where I am five grung party members and I can confirm that it is a blast. To roleplay a bit for my more primitive player brain was to make one of them the only one capable of speaking common, another who could speak sylvan and druid, and a third one who could speak gnomish.

  2. Playing third campaign in the same world now. From the first one of my players become a god. I play with him in messenger and in the second campaign the same player played warlock of his god 😀 This warlock after some four or five session led them in divine town of the got. Then I sit on different chair and have the god player to be a DM for this session. Of course we have planned what will happen. However it was just sooo cool to have this player be the dungen master when players were adventuring in his home plane.

    Well, he was evil god and he absolutely decieve thed players. They actually helped him to kill one of their own partons (he did this at the end of his god campaign because of weapon they gived him for info). Yeah, great stuff, which was not possible withnout play one-on-one.

  3. I was able to convince my wife and three kids to start playing D&D with me a little over a year ago. I hadn't played since I was a teenager and none of them had played at all. So, to give myself a chance to warm up and get them up to speed on how it worked, we had a series of one-on-one games where we played a sort of origin story adventure for each of them. The ranger encountered a goblin patrol, lost the rest of his patrol squad and was recruited by the king's agent to help investigate why goblins were leaving the caves where they'd peacefully remained for many years. The cleric noble was asked by her cousin, a member of the court, to join the ranger, both to investigate magical disturbances and to reach out to the halflings, with whom the humans had limited contact. The elf wizard went through her initial wizard trials before going to the mage's college, testing her mettle, then having a teleportation spell misfire, putting her near the halfling village. The halfling rogue became a local hero, rescuing a lost boy from goblins who had captured him in a panic, lost after they got separated from their raiding party.

    Each game was fun in a different way. I highly recommend this approach, if you can afford the time, for a session 0 (or 0.5?) as a way to really flesh out who and why these characters are, before you put everyone at the same table.

  4. I used a bunch of enemies but they all died in one hit (most of the time.) And if my player’s hp got to zero, instead of killing him, he sustained a massive injury like a broken bone or a concussion that would negatively affect the rest of the game until he went to a hospital or something.

  5. I like to make my players prepare an encounter.

    Make sure you know its weakness, maybe even poison the watersupply, enhance your weapons, gain some resistances. Something like that, it becomes a bit more the witcher this way. This also stops them yolo-ing into a bbeg camp and just murdering everyone, and they gain knowledge about the world in the process

  6. Seriously, there's so much good advice in here that I keep coming back to it. I gotta say though, "By my hand or none" is the most metal thing I've heard in a long time.

  7. my very first game of DnD was back in 2007 playing 3.5 and my older brother gave me two characters to control and he ran me through a dungeon I was like 10 years old and it was really really fun.

  8. I'm using one-on-one sessions for downtime activities. Several of my players have vastly different playstyles that, though all will inevitably prove useful in the main mains adventures, can get overshadowed sometimes. I thus use these sessions to play into how they like to play. The Life Cleric is an aspiring detective a la Sherlock Holmes, but he also wants to still be a healer/doctor? I played a downtime session with him that incorporated both. At the end of it be was so excited about some of the things that happened that he immediately shared some of what happened with the rest of the party.
    Another player, the Druid, said to me at the end of his downtime session that he can't wait for the next solo quest to see what he can get you to next.
    Solo/one-on-one sessions are definitely a tool in my DM arsenal I use to make the world more alive and exciting

  9. My greatest peak of being a DM, which occurred after a near party wipe in the Dungeon of the Dead Three in the 'Descent Into Avernus' campaign module:

    The halfling rogue Ephraim Tumblepotts had barely escaped with his life when servitors of Bane and Bhaal caught his adventuring party. The half-elven sorcerer Davvalor had, in a fit of overconfident zeal, ignited a room full of natural gas with a fire bolt cantrip. Now he, the human paladin Hector Hardwick, and the eladrin ranger Alariel were captives of a death cult. And only a bag of caltrops and quick feet had kept the halfling from suffering the same fate.

    Now, though, he had a problem. In order to complete his investigation, find a kidnapped (or, more likely, dead) tiefling woman he believed was being kept here, and live to tell about it, he would have to rescue his meat shields – er, invaluable comrades-in-arms. His options were: 1) attempt to stealthily move through the dungeon and free his friends, or 2) go back to his employer, an unscrupulous guard-captain in the Flaming Fist, for help. He didn’t like either option, but decided to go with what’s behind door number 2.

    And then there was me. See, I knew that at the conclusion of this “adventure”, there was a final encounter: a group of cultists in the service of Tiamat, who were looking for treasure stolen from Tiamat’s personal horde and given to the Dead Three cultists (talk about cajones). And I decided… well, they have been scoping this place out, and here comes a halfling who very much does NOT belong to this death cult, but may be able to lead us through the dungeon to “our Queen’s” treasure… or they might just kill him.

    So, the dragon cultist leader approached the wary halfling. Ephraim, being a chaotic-neutral rogue with no real depth to his scruples, decided that in this case, the enemy of his enemy was his friend. And he struck a bargain: the cultists helped him recover his friends, and they could help themselves to whatever treasures the dungeon held that belonged to Tiamat. He was really smooth in his roleplaying, and made some great Charisma checks to go with it, so the cultist found this agreeable.

    Except… halflings can’t really see all that well in the dark, which the dungeon was. The dragon cultist commented on this, and made an offer to Ephraim – until the conclusion of this “little excursion”, he could grant Ephraim “the sight of a dragon”. Ephraim, not seeing anything sinister behind this offer, agreed. He gained darkvision with a 60-foot range, and blindsight to a range of 10 feet (from the statistics of a common wyrmling). This decision, in effect, changed the entire course of my campaign.

    What Ephraim didn’t know, what he wouldn’t realize until the rest of his party saw him after he had carefully snuck through the dungeon and to where they were being interrogated by a priestess of Bhaal, was that he didn’t just have the sight of a dragon… he had the eyes of a dragon. I described to the other players (and, by extension, to Ephraim’s player) that his eyes were luminous pools of azure and cerulean swirls, with slender black slits where his irises and pupils should be. I don’t think anybody was as surprised as Jeremy, Ephraim’s player, but the other players just asked in disbelief: “What the hell happened while we were unconscious?!”

    Now comes the climactic moment of drama. After the adventure was over, and Ephraim had saved the party and the NPC tiefling Vendetta Kress, and the party had put a stop to the murderous plots of the cult of the Dead Three, the dragon cultist tells Ephraim that their deal is concluded. He waves his hand in a dismissive motion, and suddenly Ephraim cannot see. His eyes are gone, and only empty sockets are left. The party is furious, but they are significantly weakened after dealing with the threats of the dungeon, while the cultists are fresh and have stronger numbers.

    The cultist tells Ephraim that he will have to speak with the cultist's lord if he wishes to recover his eyes. Ephraim, seeing not much else in immediately available options, acquiesces. The cultist performs a profane ritual, and Ephraim can see, in his mind’s eye, a tower of obsidian and bone standing against a backdrop of a crimson sky. Ash and flaming meteorites fall from the heavens and smash into a scorched-earth landscape all around. And standing beside the tower is an imposing red dragonborn in black plate armor. His right hand is immediately eye-catching – it is unnatural, the flesh appears to be rotting on it, and it is obviously not his own. There is a clear delineation where the red scales of his forearm end and the putrefied flesh of the Hand begins. The dragonborn introduces himself to the bewildered halfling as the disciple of the “True God”, the dragon queen Tiamat. In his left hand, this one normal, are a pair of eyes – Ephraim’s eyes.

    Ephraim is tasked with performing a profane duty for Tiamat, who has foreseen that the halfling will soon be traveling in Avernus. Ephraim does not know what this sworn duty is, but he must agree to it if he wants his vision restored. He makes the pact with the mysterious figure, and awakens with his eyes, thankfully, back where they belong.

    Weeks, if not months, later, the party is traveling in Avernus of the Nine Hells. They come across a traveling bazaar, run by a rakshasa. He greets the party amicably – the customer is king, after all, and asks them about themselves. When Ephraim introduces himself, the rakshasa looks surprised at hearing the name. He bows low, saying, “Ah, the Herald himself! Please, do give my warmest regards to your queen when next you see her.” Ephraim’s player Jeremy is taken aback. He asks the rakshasa: “What do you mean, Herald?” The rakshasa answers, “Surely you jest. The Herald of Tiamat! He who will pave the way for her return to the Material Plane and usher in an eternity of darkness and torment! We are very much excited you have finally arrived.”

    The party is stunned, and Ephraim Tumblepotts starts to get the first glimpse of what lies ahead for him. This presents a multitude of roleplaying opportunities for Jeremy (and don’t worry, all the other characters got a chance to shine, but Jeremy is the only player to have been in a situation which sort of required a solo adventure), up to and including a face-to-face (to face to face to… you get it, Tiamat has a lot of heads) with the dragon queen herself! Jeremy told me it was the coolest thing he had done as a player or a DM as far back as he could remember, and as a relatively new DM that was the best response I could have received.

    TL;DR – one-on-one adventuring can be incredibly awesome for both the player and the DM and have super tangible impacts on your entire campaign. Don't be afraid of it!

  10. Is there a way to have those retainer cards designed on your website? A way to plug in the stats/math for a printable PDF, or (for more $) physical cards? I don't know how complex that would be to do, but it could be HOT.

  11. Minor nit-picky correction. R0 (or R naught) cannot drop below. R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is and represents the average number of people an infected individual will infect. So an R0 of 3 means a person will on average infect 3 people and an R0 of 0.5 means they will infect half a person (or more accurately 1 new person will get infected for every 2 people with the disease). So unless an infected person can somehow absorb the infection from other infected people causing those people to become cured, an R0 cannot be below zero (i.e., it is impossible to infect negative people).

    Edit: to clarify, what Matt surely meant to say was "When R naught slips below 1 and stays there for some time…."

  12. I sometimes run dnd for my nieces and nephews who are quite young, mostly improvised and simple adventures, and I sort of improvise rules and let them get creative and make up their own spells, I like the retainer system I think I will have to use that in the future for simplified PCs for younger players, since kids don't care about the numbers, they just want to do cool stuff.

  13. Yo Matthew I just wanted to say that you’ve helped me so much as both a dm and a player its actually insane and because of this video I’ve decided that I would run a dnd game just for me and my gf. I really appreciate everything you do and make sure to keep up the good work!

  14. Literally just wrapped up a solo session for a player wanting to dona heist during his down time to get in good with the local thieves guild. He got so nervous about being caught that he had to excuse himself to step outside and smoke a cigarette at one point. Matt is sooo right here. He said it was the best session has ever played in and asked if he could do something like this again the next time hus character had some downtime. The player is now secretly an initiate from the other players.

  15. Funny enough I remember in 2nd edition there was this set of adventures published meant for solo play. Something like "Cleric's path" and "Fighter's Challenge" or something like that. I never picked them up, but I was curious since they were meant for that 1 on 1 style and relatively meaty (it seemed) since it was geared to take characters from level 3 to 5 or so. I kept considering picking them up just as a way to kind of do some transitional fill. Like have the usual sort of level 1-3 adventure, then these solo adventures for the survivors (or to introduce new characters and give them time to develop) before calling the party together again.

    Just never got the chance to pick them up, see if there was anything good in them, etc.

  16. Big fan of these 1 on 1's. I for most of my PC's, even if they're joining a group, like to have a little "prequel" you could say where they start level 1 and get to about 3-5 range. For example one of my PC's is Uruk, an Orc Barbarian who is a member of a nomadic tribe who migrate with the buffalo/bison herds. (Keeps them fed, warm and always moving to evade the blood thirsty rival tribe, the Gijak) He started right in the heat of combat of a little raid on a Gijak camp. His Father in the battle was stabbed with a poison tipped weapon and needed a strong antidote, Uruk had to then seek out the ingredients and return to the tribe in time. Then the main part of his story was his "Hunt", a coming of age for all members of the tribe. They offer themselves to someone in the tribe, and that person requests a trophy. You leave the tribe and you either return with the trophy, or you die, it essentially shows that you have the strength to go out and provide for the tribe. Uruk's father recalled a "cool big lizard that spat venom" (Dilophosaurus) he had seen in his youth and Uruk set off South, through heavy Gijak territory to the Jungle of Melora. Returning successfully, with some extra trials and tribulations to make it interesting and earned his last name Loyalhorn. Then I slapped his ass and sent him off to meet up with our Vedalken Artificer who also had his own prequel. Forgot to mention he had his trusty steed, Athabasca the Rhino.

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