This is awsome,my friend and i use to to have a group of people who played but they stopped playing for some reason. Now all we do is solo gaming. aright now i am Azure Incarnate(Lawful)/Cleric and am about to become a saphire hiearch. My friend is amking a new character so i will def. be using this thread for the game. Thanks for putting the time and effort in this thing,again it is awsome
Glad to see people enjoying the thread. Once again people should feel free to write up a synopsis of a favorite solo campaign or adventure they have run, I do believe that more examples can help people understand why solo campaigns are so popular. In truth, most of my solo campaigns are in other systems so I only have a handful of D&D examples.
Also if anyone has questions or ideas don't hesitate to post them, at the least I will respond as I check this thread regularly.
KJW]Once again people should feel free to write up a synopsis of a favorite solo campaign or adventure they have run, I do believe that more examples can help people understand why solo campaigns are so popular. In truth, most of my solo campaigns are in other systems so I only have a handful of D&D examples.
Interesting that you should mention that. For myself, although I spent my adolescence dreaming about participating in the quintessential roleplaying campaign, the lion's share of my experience as a player and as a DM has come from solo campaigns played with my best friend. As a DM, however, I've largely used custom systems, rather than published ones. However, I will take the liberty of giving an example that would have worked just as well in D&D.
The Cardinal Edict
One of the great benefits of having but one player in a campaign is that you're granted a great deal of freedom in relation to the magnitude of the PC. Consider the Baldur's Gate series (BG2 is most likely my favorite game of all time) wrote:
Once again people should feel free to write up a synopsis of a favorite solo campaign or adventure they have run, I do believe that more examples can help people understand why solo campaigns are so popular. In truth, most of my solo campaigns are in other systems so I only have a handful of D&D examples.[/quote] Interesting that you should mention that. For myself, although I spent my adolescence dreaming about participating in the quintessential roleplaying campaign, the lion's share of my experience as a player and as a DM has come from solo campaigns played with my best friend. As a DM, however, I've largely used custom systems, rather than published ones. However, I will take the liberty of giving an example that would have worked just as well in D&D.
The Cardinal Edict
One of the great benefits of having but one player in a campaign is that you're granted a great deal of freedom in relation to the magnitude of the PC. Consider the Baldur's Gate series (BG2 is most likely my favorite game of all time); this premise would be almost impossible to play with a group, due to the blinding spotlight on the "main character," but functions very well as a solo campaign. During a discussion one day, my player intimated that he liked the idea of playing a young, inexperienced king who would have to prove himself. "Sweet, strategic army battles," I thought, and merged the idea with a campaign seed that had been ruminating in my mind for a time.
Prince Aozrayn of Erde Kahn, a relatively small nation on the sub-continent of Erz, is 15 years old, and the campaign started with the ceremony that marked his coming of age, and cemented his position as the heir to the throne. The royal ball that followed was spent introducing the player to his natural environment in preparation for the coming events. Through conversation and interaction, he was introduced to his bodyguard (the Princess Serreia of Navasco, a neighboring nation famous for its blend of philosophy and weapons mastery... I was typing away on an explanation of Navasco here, but I realized it's more than needs to be said), his parents, and generally got a feel for his position as crown prince.
Generally, it's best to start a story with action, but a solo campaign often relies largely on deeper emotions than a group campaign. Therefore, I felt it necessary to provide some time for the player to become acquainted with his friends and family before I threw him into the thick of it. I wouldn't say this is always the best way to start a solo campaign, but considering what happened next in this particular campaign, I believe it was for the better.
During the festivities, a shadow organization calling themselves the Crimson Shield approached the king and requested a private audience. The prince participated in this meeting after the ball, and to make a long story short, the Crimson Shield agents presented the royal family with relatively convincing proof that a demon incursion was about to occur in a neighboring country. The Crimson Shield, purportedly a group that exists to prevent such events, also claimed that the royal heirloom of Erde Kahn, the Ruby Sigil, was one of the artifacts potent enough to prevent this particularly devastating incursion. This gate, if opened, would align the domain of the Nameless Terror, the Exarch of Ker-Reguel, Realm of Fear, with Erz.
Note that, as over the top as this is, this campaign setting is relatively low on magic. Hence, neither Aozrayn nor his parents believe(d) that demons exist. Earlier in this thread, there were comments on council meetings and the role of the PC in such situations. Although Aozrayn's father was the natural leader during that event, it had previously been established that his parents were grooming him for leadership. Hence, the precocious prince was allowed to interject freely during the conversation, and his parents often let him speak for them.
Though unconvinced, the royal family decides to lend the Ruby Sigil to the Crimson Shield. However, they insist on accompanying the monks to the sealing, bringing a small retinue of their elite soldiers. Since there's no time to arrange an overt reason to travel to the neighboring nation of Jalunde, they travel incognito and swiftly across the border.
After dispatching a group of bandits who, strangely, did not seem perturbed by the revelation that they were attacking royalty, the group reaches the ritual grounds in the deep forest. To make another long story short, it doesn't go quite as they had expected (), and the Crimson Shield monks are slain as devils emerge from the burning portal, led by the hulking Gate Crusher. Their last words? Protect the Ruby Sigil... which is in Prince Aozrayn's hands. Under the skilled guidance of King Restefon, the knights fight valiantly to drive the devils back, but they are ultimately slain. Aozrayn, in a fit of terrified necessity, manages to lure the Gate Crusher away by goading him with the Ruby Sigil. Eventually, the king is cloven in twain by the Gate Crusher's axe, and the queen is torn to shreds by a group of lesser devils as she tries to protect Serreia. However, just as Aozrayn strikes out in fury and fear, the ritual, set in motion, is completed... and the Ruby Sigil absorbs the emerging realm. The devils are sent back as the prince falls unconscious.
When Prince Aozrayn wakes up, he and Serreia are the only survivors, and the Ruby Sigil has somehow become grafted to his shoulder. Thus, the campaign's prologue ends.
In order to make this campaign interesting, I had decided to introduce a variety of semi-related plots that would keep twisting while the player does whatever he wants, each one capable of spinning out an adventure arc now and then as I see fit. There are several challenges facing Prince Aozrayn:
When Aozrayn returned to Erde Kahn, the border was closed. He was then informed that the nation was at war: Shortly following his parents' death, the Queen of Kirzegoth had proclaimed that the regent of Erde Kahn had willfully attacked the nation of Jalunde, and declared war against the smaller nation. All of Erde Kahn's neighbors--with the notable exception of Navasco--allied themselves with Kirzegoth.
The Ruby Sigil has apparently made Aozrayn the Guardian of Ker-Reguel, the realm he managed to seal away. Although this enables him to decide who comes and goes from the realm, he cannot yet control his power, and the incessant voices of the innumerable denizens of Ker-Reguel crying for release make his life difficult. Since Ker-Reguel is apparently part of an elaborate afterlife, many of the demons trapped within are willing to bargain for release...
During Aozrayn's absence, an impostor had taken his place and ruled the nation ruinously. Though Aozrayn slew this impostor--a shapeshifter from a demonic realm apparently engaged in war with Ker-Reguel--his short rule had caused much damage. Of course, the presence of such a demon in Erz has some connection to the actions of the Kirzegotian queen...
His father's leadership held Erde Kahn together. Although the people are royalistic, the young king has much to prove. This is my player's favorite part of the campaign, so I make the most out of it. There are numerous people in positions of power in Erde Kahn that do not believe that the young man has what it takes to run the nation, so he has to prove himself to these people while simultaneously learning how to administer a complex nation.
Four nations are allied against the small nation of Erde Kahn, and their armies are marching through their territory as we speak. In order to protect his nation, Aozrayn must not only unite his troops and learn to lead and inspire them, but also find alliances wherever he can. There is ample intrigue, as even his allies are hard pressed to remain on his side.
Though Aozrayn does not know it yet, the Gate Crusher has managed to breach the boundaries and enter Erz. (This was revealed in one of the short stories I occasionally write to expand on tangental characters and events.)
Not all denizens of Ker-Reguel are hostile: For instance, Ech-Sezare, the Patriarch of the Dark Cloud Clan, has granted some assistance to Aozrayn, seemingly without interest for reciprocation. A demoness named Oysua seems to remain aloof of the demonic hierarchy, spending her turtuous existence constantly running from her many enemies in order to remain independent.
This type of situation allows for a varied campaign; rather than follow any one aspect, the player remains free to concentrate on whatever he finds most intriguing at the moment. At the same time, the nature of the events that surround the recently crowned king force him to take action. As the DM, however, it doesn't matter to me what he decides to do, since the playing field is set up.
The House of Feathers
There's been one traditional dungeon so far. When Aozrayn returned to the capital, he dispatched the impostor who had been ruling the nation in his name during his absence. However, the plot of these apparent shapeshifters ran deeper: When the nation's most powerful duke, a friend of the king who would otherwise be Aozrayn's staunchest supporter, arrived at the royal palace, he accused the prince of murdering his father, based on testimony he claimed to have received from the dying king. Eventually, in order to prove his innocence, Aozrayn agreed to go through with a lost tradition; the rite of the House of Feathers, which was a test to ensure the capability of the crown prince in the past.
Along with his most trusted people, Aozrayn traveled to Mount Damai to the south in order to go through the House of Feathers and seek the priestesses that dwell on the top. However, upon entering the House of Feathers, having earlier received a cryptic (and crude) warning from the demoness Oysua), he finds that the Ruby Sigil reacts to the wards within, causing a rift in Ker-Reguel that promptly becomes a battleground between devils that attempt to pass through the lethal rift.
One interesting thing about that dungeon was that the player chose who to bring with him before leaving the palace. Aside from his trusted warriors, he also said that he wanted to bring two of the ~100 soldiers that had accompanied him from the border to the capital, and had thus far proven their loyalty. His criteria were simple: He wanted a sword user and a man with a polearm... so I came up with two names and made up their personalities as we went along. Following their actions in the House of Feathers, both of them had been developed to the point where they had become trusted and well-liked by the player.
The point is that there are a lot of people in a world, and you don't have time to describe them all. When the player(s) decides to talk to someone, it helps the suspension of disbelief if you learn to develop their personality as you go along. This way, it feels as though the character existed before he was introduced, rather than being made up. He just hadn't been in the spotlight before. In general, improvisation, when trained, can help you by filling in the blanks as you go along rather than burning yourself out trying to create an expansive list of geographical features, organizations or NPCs.
More so than in a group campaign, a solo campaign is a cooperative effort between the DM and the player. My player tends to be very proactive, and I indulge that. If he's discussing something with a character, he will often make up things about their shared past or the world that I had previously not planned. In this case, unless what he just said directly contradicts something important, I just accept it as the truth and run with it.
Completely Unrelated Example: NPC: "What was that?! Gods, these things vanish as quickly as they strike... how can we stand against this?" PC "This reminds me of that time we hunted gnolls through the barrow. How did we survive then?" (Never happened, but these two have adventured before, off the stage, so it's reasonable enough.) NPC: Grimaces. "Sheer luck?" PC: "Well, that, and a couple of well-placed fireball spells..." Grins. NPC: Pales. "You're not going to... Oh, gods..."
Not all players are this proactive, and making this work is a matter of getting to know each other's playstyles. However, the important thing is to keep in mind that unless what the player suggests is contrary to something which will ultimately be more fun for him, it's good to learn to roll with it.
That was too long, too detailed, and probably too boring... and still I feel as though I left out too many important details.
This is a something that I've only recently begun to truly explore, but I've found it to be a powerful tool. In a story that lacks interaction, and especially a novel, a large part of the entertainment can often spring from knowing what both sides are thinking, or knowing something that the main character doesn't know. (Shakespeare used this almost incessantly, and look where it got him!) In a typical D&D campaign, narrations are tricky to use correctly. The difficulty lies in revealing something interesting without causing the players to metagame. If you have a group of skilled roleplayers, it's a powerful tool, but even more so if you're running a solo campaign for one skilled roleplayer who will wilfully deny his character player knowledge in order to make the story more dramatic.
In such situations, narrations can be used in a variety of ways. Narrations provide a dramaturgic break that can help you guide the pace. If the player is on a quest to save someone, you can narrate a scene where the captor is torturing or otherwise threatening the victim in order to instill a palpable sense of urgency. It'll probably make the player hate the villains more, too. In a romance, you can use narrations to show what the other person is thinking, even as they're outwardly cool towards each other. Narrating a scene with previously unknown characters can be a useful method of hinting at a profounder plot or deeper world.
I'm also planning to use narrations in the campaign I wrote about in the previous post as a means of occasionally providing further information about the king and queen's shared past, since it's rather atypical. My hope is that exposition on these characters will endear them to the player, so that the loss is all the more felt. It's difficult to make the player truly care about NPCs without extended time developing them, which is why I'm going to go about it in a rather strange manner.
It's important to find a good, balanced way of using narrations. If you overuse them, or use them at the wrong times, you'll risk ruining the interactivity of the campaign, which is undoubtedly a bad thing.
By the way, thanks for a great thread!
EDIT: I forgot to mention that I love to read your campaign examples; the more detailed, the better. If you feel like posting other examples, I don't care if they're D&D or not. They're what prompted me to post my own example.
I'm planning on having a campiagn with just one player, with me controlling all of the attitudes of the NPC's and he's gonna play them all in combat. It should add an interesting dimesion to standard D&D.
I have been inspired by Ormiss to post an overview of my current solo campaign, which is not D&D.
Well right now I am running a solo campaign with my wife in Rifts that could be called West Wing: Rifts by the way it is playing out. Rifts is a post-apocalyptic setting where the Earth is overrun by beings and demons that have come through the Rifts. It is an outrageous setting with little game balance and I used to have major problems with the mechanics, but a recent revision and my wife's enthusiasm for the setting prompted me to try another Rifts campaign.
We started on the premise that my wife wanted to run a Coaltion (evil human supremacist nation that is anti-magic, but also the most advanced and safe nation in North America) deserter who turns her fellow deserters into a mercenary unit. We ran one adventure and it felt stale and neither of us got into it as it was pretty similar to solo campaigns we had run before. My wife liked her character a psychic named Soledad Castenada...and she liked the idea of bounty hunting instead of being a mercenary, but I felt that bounty hunting would get stale quick. We stepped away from the solo campaign for a few weeks.
I retooled the campaign and had Soledad instead of being a deserter, she was exiled from the Coalition for investigating corruption too high up the chain of command. I was inspired by a series of mystery books we have been reading about a Chinese police officer sent to prison in Tibet for similar reasons and embraces Tibetan Buddhism, then gets involved in murder investigations, and eventually released to wander Tibet.
Soledad is sent from the Coalition to be part of the exodus program with which she will be given a senior law enforcement position in an allied but separate mostly human kingdom (Manistique Imperium) with a luxury apartment, high salary, and all manner of benefits. Although Soledad is being kicked out of the Coalition, she was a honest and brilliant investigator so her supporters made sure she would be taken care of in exile.
We began the campaign on the ship that took her to Manistique and was sitting in the harbor, but while the ship was traveling to Manistique with trade goods and passengers the Imperium went through a civil war and a change in government. Soledad helps with communications monitoring and waits on the ship for 2 weeks, tensions rising on board, and confusion about what was happening on shore. Eventually, the government sends out a delegation led by an alien to process visas, clearly the pro-human government has been ousted. Soledad fears the worse and is confirmed: all the benefits she was promised have been rescinded and she has no apartment or job waiting for her. Fortunately, the alien (Minister of Immigration & Tourism) gives her a few meal and hotel vouchers, lets her in the Imperium, and wishes her good luck.
She goes to the Royal Police Service and presents herself for employment, making it clear she will take any work and that as a former police lieutenant and psychic she is very qualified. She is accepted by the Special Crimes Bureau as a detective (a demotion from her previous position in the Coalition) and assigned to Sgt. Raz'torgak Berak a alien-bear magic user as her partner. She has to deal with all her prejudices at once as it is clear that this is a test by her new superiors. She gets a rundown apartment and a bicycle and is ready to work.
My wife is interesting as a roleplayer; her abilities do actually match the character. In my online group campaign she is playing a half-ogre barbarian and she plays it well and thinks like a half-ogre; in this campaign she is playing a savant police investigator with psychic abilities and was truly phenomenal at roleplaying out the police work. Soledad and Sgt. Raz were one of the few paranormal teams in the Royal Police Service (RPS), so they were given lots of cases involving demonic cults, demons, wizards gone mad, psychic criminals, and the like.
Soledad grew frustrated with the ability of criminals to strike and then leave the Imperium and discovered CACTUS (Cooperative Apprehension of Criminals Treaty for Unifed Security) a little known agreement that the Imperium belonged to that focused on bounty hunters and bringing to justice mobile criminals. With her computer background she begins improving the program and championing for the Imperium to become more involved with this agreement. [OK admittedly with two lawyers we get excited about treaties, laws, jurisdiction, and all that nonsense.]
The Queen of the Imperium names a new head for the RPS, an alien from a advanced state known as Lazlo; his first action is to have all personnel take a battery of tests, submit their resumes, and also any ideas or suggestions they have. Soledad submits a very lenghty series of suggestions. Then Minister Azlan Reyn tells the officers of the RPS to dismiss 10% of their personnel. Soledad's lieutenant fires her as she is the least senior of the department and not even a citizen. Soledad uses her computer skills to send her resume directly to the new minister and then waits to see what happens. Minister Reyn then gives Soledad her lieutenant's job and tells her to experiment with a paranormal investigations department.
At this point the campaign is moving along pretty well and Soledad is also doing volunteer work teaching computer skills to 'gifted' children at an orphanage and school supported by her new church. She is trying dating, but with limited results and is slowly coming to consider the Imperium home.
A major series of terrorist attacks by enemies of the Coalition using magic and determined to punish the Imperium for its economic alliance with the Coalition puts Lt. Soledad Castenada in the spotlight. Pressure is on, lives are on the line, and Lt. Castenada manages to thwart the terrorist cell, though several escape. This though gives her national attention. She goes on a delegation out West to go to the annual CACTUS Conference and she makes friends with law enforcement personnel across the continent and also senior leader of the Imperium, including the new Foreign Minister Gwen Patterson who is really the power behind the new government. She comes home and is on the way up.
Then one night the Coalition comes to her apartment and they have a deal,: she spies for them and in five years she can come back to the Coalition as a citizen with a high position. They make it clear that they can make her life more than difficult if she refuses, but they focus the discussion on the carrot. Soledad is scared, but goes to the first alien she met, Minister Garzan Tripphas of Immigration & Tourism and asks for help. He gets her to take citizenship and inform every key government official she knows that she was contacted by the Coalition. She has thrown her lot in with the Imperium and its new government.
The campaign moves forward and Lt. Castenada eventually rises to Capt. and creates the Special Threats Department to deal with the most eggregious of threats, which in Rifts is pretty outrageously extreme. She begins working with mercenaries though the Manistique Imperium Mercenary Guild (an institution of my own invention and really cool); she uses these mercenaries to strike terrorists and pirates outside of the Imperium. She also recruits clairvoyants and they lead to the discovery of a pending coup against the government in power that is supported by some high-ranking members of the government and also the Coalition, which wants to annex the Imperium. Minister Reyn and Foreign Minister Patterson are informed by Soledad of the situation just a few days before the coup is planned; complex maneuvering, psychic and magical interrogations concealed by mind wipes, and delicate planning allow the government to thwart the coup with minimal loss of life. The Coalition aborts its invasion plans against a prepared and ready Imperium. Capt. Soledad Castenada is a hero.
OK as for campaign planning, we had gotten West Wing Seasons 1 & 2 as gifts over Christmas and as we have been watching and loving the series, I started thinking that this could be a cool approach for the Soledad campaign. After the coup, the new relatively new monarch, Queen Marie, has been pretty much a figurehead in the Imperium and has been poorly informed about security issues though she is a key vote on the Imperium's Security Council. She recruits Captain Soledad Castenada to serve as her Royal Conservator. Captain Soledad is now responsible for advising the Queen on security and foreign policy issues and has a office of loyal people that she has built throughout her time in the Imperium, Sgt. Raz is still with her as well, to assist her and carry out investigations on behalf of the Queen. On her first week on the job she initiated investigations into a distant civil war in a state that is believed to be secretly controlled by androids, dispatched a recon team to determine the threat of a demon state to an allied kingdom, and began investigation a princess of the Imperium to see if she might be convinced to enter into an arragned marriage with a king of a rising kingdom. The Queen is thrilled to finally have someone explaining her these issues and this has allowed her for the first time to take control of a Security Council meeting. Now the politics will begin as some of the government don't like the idea of the Queen being assertive.
OK now for this campaign I created a very complex government for the Imperium, there are four royal families, a Senate, a Cabinet Ministry with elected Ministers, a Privy Council to advise the Queen, the Royal Services (which are the law enforcement and military branches of the government), and seven (now six following a merger of the two weakest) political parties. In a few months I have created over 200+ NPCs of which about 50+ are recurring characters, though the story is about a core group of 20 characters. Soledad has finally starting dating a decent guy, unfortunately he is a mercenary leader and his unit is away and in danger most of the time, which is the key flaw in their relationship that must be addressed among others. For background materials I have 'news' reports from Sundays that are about 3 pages of material (consisting of a highlight of key articles in major newspapers and a synopsis of a major TV news program that Soledad watches). I have done about 30 of these so far so there is lots of depth to the setting.
I will post later overviews of 2 old D&D campaigns, which share elements of this campaign and show how to do some of the same things in a D&D setting.