How To Run One-On-One DnD Campaigns

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Whether it’s with your spouse, child, or introverted friend, sometimes the best way to play Dungeons & Dragons is with one player and one dungeon master. With just one member in the party, this can significantly change how you play the game and what kind of story you will tell together.

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As your lone adventurer goes out into the world, it will start to feel a whole lot bigger, and almost everything will suddenly be three or four times as dangerous. Since this shift in power is so significant, there are a lot of things to consider when balancing your campaign or even just preparing your sessions.

8 Shrink Your Encounters

a githyanki riding a red dragon charges at a githzerai surrounded by psionic energy
Githyanki Dragon Rider via Wizards of the Coast

With the explosively cinematic combats of D&D, your players fight ancient dragons, hordes of goblins, and massive giants as they carve their way to legendary status. While it is not impossible for your lone party member to do so, they are far more likely to end up as their lunch.

While you should scale back combat to include less monsters and fewer actions, you don’t have to sacrifice the best parts of combat. Instead of fighting through hordes of minions to reach the lich, have your player enact a chase sequence against the lich that ends in single combat. In this way, you still get the feeling of intense action without just throwing more minis on the table.

7 Discuss What Kind Of Campaign You Will Be Playing Together

A knight of the Circle summons ancestors
A Knight of the Circle Summons Ancestors via Wizards of the Coast

When planning your campaign, you should do so with your player. Discuss whether they want horror themes, if they’d rather keep it lighthearted, or if they want to visit other planes. You will also want to make sure that you express the kind of campaign you want to run, as this is a collaborative game even when there is only one player.

Since there is just one, you might find it is much easier to incorporate various storylines and content that they are looking for, as you only have one player to cater to. Something you’ll want to know, as it will affect the rest of the campaign, is whether your player wants to explore the world or stay in one location for the majority of it.

6 Give Your Player Allies

A character breaks into a prison to speak to the prisoner
Prisoner 13 Prisoner Heist Scene Art By Katerina Ladon

Although it is usually not recommended to add DMPCs to your three or four-player campaigns, making sure your player has some aid in combat or healing can open up the game to more dangerous combats and encounters.

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When including allies, make sure it is a character who is there to help the player and not the other way around. They should include abilities and spells that support your player instead of taking the glory by smashing all the monsters. While you should rarely add more than one DMPC at a time, you can include a rotating cast of allies that come and go depending on the needs of your player and the story.

5 Make Them The Hero

Guests from the material plane and the feywild come to a palace to party
Party At Paliset Hall Chapter Art Via Wizards of the Coast

While it is your story and world, ultimately the hero of the story should be your player. When they overcome great challenges, have the people celebrate them. Give them access to world-changing magic items and make them the target of your strongest villains.

While somewhat antithetical to the core of D&D, you’ll want to avoid killing your only player. In a large party, they can just create a new character and join the story in progress and be brought up to speed by the other members, but in a solo campaign, it will feel like they are starting all over again. This can be a hard line to balance as you’ll want to include intense action and close calls while making sure they are always safe, all without your player noticing they were never really in danger.

4 Work Together On Their Backstory

four women sit around a candle lit table
Black Market Connections by Evyn Fong

While backstories can enhance your campaign with large parties, they are essential to your solo campaigns. You don’t have to revolve the entire campaign around what your player wrote before session one, but making it have a significant impact on the story and setting will go a long way to ensuring your player feels immersed in the world.

You should work together while your player makes their backstory, giving them essential lore while workshopping how your player expects certain elements to come into focus in later sessions. You can even use this as an opportunity to set up the initial adventure and allow your player to continue right where they left off on the page.

3 Simplify Traps And Puzzles

A rogue trying to disarm a trap
Dungeons & Dragons Art by Wizards of the Coast

One of the advantages of an adventuring party is that you can rely on several skills, features, and spells that allow them to detect and avoid traps or otherwise get out of trouble. With your one player, if they fall down a bottomless pit or into a lake of lava, they are unlikely to survive or even avoid the trap on their own.

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Consider making your traps less deadly, and avoid poison darts as the poison condition will only make everything they do harder, making you both frustrated. When it comes to solving puzzles, rarely does it only take one player to solve them. If you plan on adding intricate riddles and several-step clues, think about how your player can instead choose to brute-force it or otherwise avoid it entirely should they get stuck.

2 Prepare For Fast Sessions

A halfling using Blur in D&D
Blur by Dave Greco

With only one player, adventuring becomes a lot more efficient as they do not have to wait on party members to take turns in combat, complete a shopping list, or otherwise play the game. Because of this, your player will likely blow through everything you have planned as their decision-making is single-minded.

With this in mind, your session planning should include more broad strokes where you shouldn’t be afraid to improvise. Also, adding roadblocks and random encounters can slow them down if they are reaching their goal too quickly.

1 Give Them Additional Starting Equipment

A woman clutches a dagger as she glares at something off screen in Dungeons & Dragons.
Spare Dagger by Khurrum

A single-member party is likely to be under-equipped to handle dungeon exploring or improvising. Either by upgrading their background equipment, class equipment, or just by including it on their sheet, give them access to a handful of gear that would otherwise be available to an entire party.

While the adventuring packs hand out torches and ropes like they are going out of business, you’ll want to give your player additional sets of tools. Especially Thieves’ Tools and either Alchemist Supplies or a Herbalism Kit if they do not already have it. This means that a locked door won’t keep them out indefinitely, and they can learn to brew potions and other healing items.

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