This post clocks in at just over 1000 words! If you want to get to the point of all this, just skip to the last paragraph. Otherwise, read on.
My wife and I got bit by the gaming bug a couple of weeks ago, and after playing through Neverwinter Nights 1 and both expansions in multiplayer mode (her on the desktop and me on the laptop), we were left wanting more. We played D&D with a few friends quite a bit when 3e came out, and then played a few solo campaigns, but before tonight it had been years since we last played.
I’m usually the DM, so I started searching online for solo campaign tips. Too many of our past campaigns deteriorated into, “You roll an 8. Miss. Orc attacks, 18, hit, 4 damage. You attack. 16 hit. 8 damage. Yawn…” ad nauseam. Since dungeon crawls get tedious pretty fast when you only have 1 PC and none of us want to control an army of NPCs, I searched the internet for some solo (or duet) campaign tips. Needless to say, I was stoked to find this thread! Reading all 16 pages just got me more excited to start up a game, and gave me some much-needed DM confidence (it turns out I’ve been doing a lot of things right and the things I’ve been doing wrong I recognize I’ve been doing them wrong).
After about a week of worldbuilding and campaign creation, we played our first game tonight, sticking with the 3e rules we’ve been using for almost a decade (I can’t believe it’s been that long! It seems like yesterday I was playing with that 2e Forgotten Realms box set…
. We went with gestalt characters, and my wife rolled up a barbarian/druid.
I created some NPCs to populate the starting town, and adventure ideas just sort of flowed from the NPCs’ stories. The main quest of the night was basically “find the MacGuffin”: her old master, recently deceased, left her a golem to protect her. The problem is, some of the golem’s parts have been stolen! Some NPCs had information on where it could be, while others just happened to be traveling to those areas and would join her if she helped them with their problem.
I have to say, I was proud of this idea. Not only did it give her an adventure hook, but she’ll also have an NPC to back her up once she gets the golem up and running, one whose only thought is “protect my master.” It will be at about her power level when she activates it, but it will level up with her. Also, I got around the old “you meet in a tavern” trope by having her meet a bunch of potential cohorts at a funeral. The PC had a connection to the deceased, and so do all these NPCs. I think if I ever run a group campaign, I might have them meet at a mutual friend or teacher’s funeral…but then again, maybe the birthday party of a mutual friend would be a little more…uplifting.
I have to say, my wife roleplayed her NG druid to perfection. I had this one quest that involved escorting a monk to a monastery—the road had been blocked by some crazed dire animals (including a dire camel and a dire mountain goat), so he needed some help getting through the area. She didn’t want to kill the animals and did her best to befriend them, calm them, and try to figure out what was wrong with them. I was not expecting this! So on the fly, I had to come up with a reason for dire camels, mountain goats, weasels, and rats to be kicking around this road through the hills. I connected it to another little quest she had gone on—zombies wandering out of a fog over an ancient battlefield—and viola, an explanation for why dire animals exist: they come from another plane. I threw in an undead goat just to cement the connection, and she got some more clues from a monkey she saved from a leopard (if all this sounds silly, that’s because it’s supposed to! It’s sort of anime-inspired where the tone shifts from deadly serious to nonsensical silliness just like that). The monkey became her animal companion. In trying to explain the who was behind the crazy animals (something I had no intention of doing before my wife’s great RP), I had the monkey get nervous when they reached the monastery. Just like that, these innocent monks turned into villains creating zombies and summoning dire animals from another plane. Anyway, she found the golem arm, did some other stuff, and came back to town, and that’s where we ended the session as she planned a way to confront the monks.
We’re going to take turns DMing while sharing worldbuilding tasks: the campaign I’m running for her is in a rural area and I’m creating the countryside and the religion, while the campaign she’ll be running for me takes place in a city and she’ll be creating the government and organizations.
Some analysis that reiterates a few things already said in this thread:
Encounters really do fly by when there’s only one PC. She chatted with all kinds of NPCs in town, explored an ancient battlefield and a nearby abandoned temple; she delved below the temple and helped a formian colony fight an orc tribe over some prime underground real estate, got her golem’s arm back from the kobold gang who stole it, cleared a road of hostile animals, and tried to retrieve a friend’s underpants from the rakish young aristocrat who stole them. All that in a three-hour session! I didn’t have much story to connect those random adventures, but I figured a narrative thread would emerge, and I would continue the campaign based on whichever type of story caught her attention. I’m going to play up the “evil animals from another plane are killing the animals from this one” thread, since as a druid, she took the most interest in that one.