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Running One-on-One D&D Games

by Mike on 25 July 2022

Though typically played with four to six players and one dungeon master, D&D works perfectly well when played with one player and one DM. In fact, this style of D&D offers many advantages over the traditional group-based game. Don't be afraid of the potential awkwardness. Ten minutes in and it just feels like D&D.

For an example of one-on-one play, watch myself and Enrique Bertran play through Dragon of Icespire Peak on YouTube.

You can also read more about one-on-one D&D games in the following articles:

Advantages of One-on-One Play

Playing D&D with a single player and single DM holds a few advantages over group-based D&D. These include:

Tips for One-on-One Play

Running a one-on-one game is different than running a group game. Here are a few tips to make the most out of your one-on-one D&D game.

Let the player play two characters, a main character and a sidekick. You can use sidekick rules from either the D&D Essentials Kit or from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything or you can just let them roll up a normal character but treat them as a sidekick.

Sidekicks work best when they are mechanically simpler to play and have capabilities that shore up gaps in the main character. A bard, cleric, or druid works well as a sidekick to a fighter, rogue, or barbarian. A fighter or paladin works well as a sidekick to a wizard, warlock, or sorcerer. Work with the player to build a team between the main character and the sidekick.

Sidekicks work best when they're mechanically simpler. Stick to ability score increases instead of feats and choose simpler subclasses so the mechanics of the sidekick don't take away from the capabilities of the main character.

During play, it works well when the player runs the sidekick mechanically but the DM roleplays the sidekick. This gives the DM a great avenue for continued roleplaying and a vehicle to give the main character information. It's great fun to play this way.

Adventures run much faster. An adventure that typically takes three or four hours can be done in an hour or two. Be ready to move fast.

Ensure you run with fewer combatants in combat. A larger force of monsters can quickly overwhelm two characters if you're not careful. If you're running a published adventure not intended for a single character and sidekick, ensure you reduce the number of monsters in combat encounters significantly. Aim for an equal number of monsters to characters and adjust as needed. See my article on balancing encounters for one-on-one play for details.

Adventures for One-on-One Play

The excellent adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak included in the D&D Essentials Kit is designed for one-on-one play and is great fun.

For third-party one-on-one adventures and advice, see the work of Beth and Jonathan at D&D Duet.

A Fantastic New Way to Enjoy D&D

Playing D&D one-on-one is a fantastic experience. Any initial discomfort at the perceived awkwardness and intimacy of the game quickly goes away when both of you realize you're just playing D&D. Find a player, whip up a simple adventure, and try out some one-on-one D&D.

Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

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