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GMing for Only 1 Player [+Tips?]

edutrevi

First Post
Sometimes you don't have a group and all that remains is play with your neighbor / girlfriend / mom / dog...
Anyone already run a game for only 1 player? What tips you have for beginners on it?
 

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Zhaleskra

Adventurer
Dogs can't roll dice as well as cats. :)

Looking harder could also help. Until I posted one of my first recruitment ads, other than the GURPS group I used to be part of, I didn't realize how many RPG gamers there were in my town. Once I had, interest exploded. None of these groups have formed yet.

As the coffee shop owner said, part of the problem was that no one had set a schedule. Next run of my recruitment ad, I put a potential schedule on it. Life got in the way for some people, but the interest is definitely there. I will be posting another ad today with a different setup time, and another ad tomorrow (one of the locations I'm posting is not open on Sundays).

Well, you'll definitely need to pair down combat encounters unless the player is running multiple characters. That's been an option since forever as far as I know. Other than that, go slow, I guess?
 

gamerprinter

First Post
Though its not ideal, I've run 2 games with me as GM and one player. One was a solo ninja/assassin game and the other an investigator pursuing crime cases, both were fun for a short campaign, though each only lasted about 5 levels of play using D&D 2e, before more people showed. Not that 2e was optimal for solo games, rather that was the current game when the situation of having one player only occurred. I found that both scenarios allow a player to "go undercover" which doesn't work well (at least not easily) with a full adventure party, and can be very innovative in play.

One tip, since you don't have options to bounce ideas off other players, you need plenty of NPCs to deal with, and not just opponents. You'd need a point of contact for a base of operations, and plenty of innocents to get help and information to share with your single player. It can certainly be a challenge, but if played right, it makes for a fun and unique experience. Its worth giving it a try.
 
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Vigilance

Explorer
In my experience, start the player in a better position than you normally would. Ask the player what they want for their PC at the start of the game, If they plan to fight a lot, or if they plan t skulk around, their starting equipment should be different.

It will go against SOME of your instincts as GM but the play experience is different than what you and the PC are used to. They need different things, because they are alone, which means you need to run the game differently. It's not what either are used to. So be flexible.
 

gamerprinter

First Post
In my experience, start the player in a better position than you normally would. Ask the player what they want for their PC at the start of the game, If they plan to fight a lot, or if they plan t skulk around, their starting equipment should be different.

I agree, I should have included that too. In a solo game the solo PC needs to be optimized and generally more powerful than a standard PC. Interestingly, for those that don't like overly-optimized PCs in a game like D&D or PF, especially in a group of mixed optimized PCs. In a solo game, an overly optimized PC is almost necessary, just to survive alone.

Add to that, in a game like D&D/PF, giving at least the first level PC max hit points, and extra bonuses to attributes (perhaps an extra +2 stat bonus than what is normally provided in a base character), as well as extra skill points per level are all a part of allowing more powerful PC build are good tips towards that goal for a solo game.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Sometimes you don't have a group and all that remains is play with your neighbor / girlfriend / mom / dog...
Anyone already run a game for only 1 player? What tips you have for beginners on it?

You no longer have to worry about balancing the spotlight or the goals of multiple players. This means your game can become as one dimensional as the player wants. Lots of low melodrama that is otherwise only spottily available at the table becomes something you can reasonably do all the time. Things that advance building relationships between the NPCs and the PC which don't otherwise advance the story become perfectly acceptable if the player is inclined to character exploration or thespianism. Suddenly, shopping for gear and getting to know a local merchant can be meaningful RP.

Keep in mind that not only is the character about 1/4 as powerful as a party, but they are much more likely to enter into death spirals of suck. In a party, if you go unconscious or fail a save, someone is probably there to get you out of it. Solo, you're helpless. In my experience, about 90% of all deaths in my games have occurred when the party separated. Well, this is a party that has that weakness all the time. So ramp the challenge level of combat way down, for anything less than pun-pun. I don't think you have to boost the PC necessarily, but in D&D terms keep in mind that 1 kobold warrior is a reasonable encounter for a 1st level PC solo and 1 alert well armed orc is probably way too likely to go wrong. You are better off with things like 3 rats, 1 diminutive scorpion, a skeletal dog, etc. Even at higher levels, be conservative about what you are throwing your protagonist's way. CR-2 is a potentially tough boss fight. CR-3 can still be a challenge. Remember, the PC is one bad critical, one bad pull, or one failed saving throw from facing death in pretty much every fight. Also remember that the CR's in a game like D&D are based on the assumption that you have a balanced party capable of attacking the monsters Achilles heel. Undead CR should be treated as boosted if the solo player isn't a cleric. Anything that is countered by simple magic, has boosted CR if the PC lacks it. Anything that is immune to magic, has boosted CR if the PC depends on it.

Stealth, evasion, and negotiation are far more interesting options solo than straight up combat. Encourage them rather than the opposite.

Also keep in mind DM options to fail forward are much fairer and more universally reasonable when applied to a solo game. Instead of killing the PC, consider having them imprisoned or sold into slavery or suffering obscure deaths or deus ex machina from powerful spirits that intervene for their own motives. You don't have to worry about playing favorites or justifying this to the audience. You've got an audience of one.
 
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BigVanVader

First Post
Games for one person, you're able to be a bit more lax with the rules. Wolverine is always way more competent on his own than he is on the X-Men, that's because he doesn't have to worry about overshadowing everyone else with his hundreds of multitudes of skills.

Batman could learn a thing or two from Wolverine, actually.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
My go-to answer is "run it like a TV show".

Your main character is exactly that, the main character. The main character (of action/adventure shows) generally excels above the supporting cast; if she does not excel, she will eventually excel via destiny/leveling up/finding the magic comet/whatever and her story becomes the Zero to Hero / Hero's Journey plot.

Speaking of plots, pick any TV series, put aside a big chunk of time (when it happens, you'll know), and search it at TV Tropes. You'll understand story design pretty quickly from seeing how tropes are used to build a TV cast, setting and plot.

Single-character adventures work best when they're urban-centric, but if you're comfortable having the Hero adventure with a regular team of pals with their own goals/ambitions (like, say Dragon Age, or the Final Fantasy series of video games), by all means, have your Hero brave the dungeons, kick the doors and loot the rooms - just be sure to adjust encounters appropriately. ;)

One interesting thing I noted about the video game Dust: An Elysian Tail, is that the protagonist is actually a three-person party: The Hero (Samurai Cat), his companion (a talking, magic-using dragon/cat/thing), and his weapon (an intelligent blade containing the Soul of a Warrior). You COULD conceivably have a Warrior-Caster-Rogue relationship with a team like this without ever adding a new meat-shield to the team.
 
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