View Full Version : DMing solo campaigns?

2009-07-11, 01:34 PM
There're precious few D&D players in my country, and as such I'm generally forced into playing the slow-moving PbP games, which I dislike for the sole reason that they're slow.

Anyway, I've got one or two friends who play, and was wondering about trying a solo campaign over instant messenger instead, making for much faster progress.

Are there any tips anyone can give me about running solo campaigns? How different is it from the standard party-based campaign.

(I play D&D 3.5, if it matters.)

2009-07-11, 01:44 PM
There is a lot of trial and error that you need to go through to find what works for the pair of you. I'd strongly suggest that the player runs a gestalt character that is built around having many options. This allows for you to throw a variety of things into the game, keeping it interesting beyond "I cast 'pwn' then nap for 8 hours to refresh it."

2009-07-11, 02:30 PM
Every campaign I've Dmed has either started as a or ended up being a solo game. So . . . the biggest difference is that it is harder on the one person because he will need to kick ass without every party role being filled. But you can make adventures a bit more personal (family members giving quests and such) without others getting angry

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-11, 02:31 PM
I find that these games are fine as long as you adjust the difficulty accordingly while possibly providing a DMPC to handle things the player can't do.

2009-07-11, 04:15 PM
See, if its solo, what I like to do is discard rule sets. I do it Text Adventure style. Have them start out with some items, some stats, and ignore skills all together, and have it move a bit quicker. Sort of like AD&D! Maybe even throw them a few spells they can cast. Makes the game a lot less book-keeping-y. Of course this relies more heavily on puzzles and exploration than on combat, but you get more in-depth plots that way.

2009-07-11, 05:08 PM
^^Yeah, just ignore most of the rules. They'll just get in the way.

Irreverent Fool
2009-07-11, 08:33 PM
I have to agree with the above. The rules systems don't serve enough of a purpose in a solo campaign.

I suggest running the world as something of a 'sandbox' perhaps you set up some initial opportunities, but the game will work best when it is driven by the character and your responses to his actions. This is somewhat topsy-turvy, but it works out well.

Also, let your solo player be heroic. There are no other players to worry about, so it's ok if you dump a steaming truckload of awesome on the player. Say he manages to kill a dragon and thinks to drink its blood as a source of power. Grant him a power! Grant him multiple powers!

My original games were all solo. Even when there were multiple of us together, one of our two 'DMs' would run the game for a player while others sat on the sidelines. We'd throw out ideas occasionally or possibly interact in-character if the player's actions brought him into contact with another PC, but it was still very much a solo game.

We played very rules-light. Our initial ideas were colored by AD&D, but our 'systems' evolved specifically to suit the needs of our players. My best memories of roleplaying were these games with almost everything made up on the spot.

The best part is, your player will eventually develop a desire to run a solo game for you in his own world. (Usually)


2009-07-11, 08:44 PM
IMO rules are to make sure that the game is evenly balanced between the many members. I had to run many solo campain and I personaly prefer solo than to have a bigger group. I always check with my player what he want, make sure we both go the same way and have the same fun. In that way there is no party member that can randomly screw the personnaly history of the player like in a bigger group. It's also easier to do some more heroic battle and stuff since you can focus on him. He can be a leader of an army, a merchant or alsmot anything without someone getting bored of it. If he get bored of that, you can just change since there won't be anyone to complain about it either.

2009-07-11, 09:17 PM
Most of my DMing experience is solo campaigns and the first thing I always do is ask the player what they want. From that you build a world, a rough plot and decide which rules you want to use and which you want to throw out the window. At this point I probably could not run what might be considered a more 'typical' campaign because of how used I have grown to going by my own rules and making things up on the fly rather than going by any book or adventure path.

For example, one friend of mine had always wanted to play as a monster with a huge level adjustment so I made a solo campaign just for him. I basically asked that anything too overpowered or difficult to crunch numbers for be removed or simplified because my goal was to make every combat as quick, yet epic as possible. The end result of that was that the game was very light in combat, very heavy in RPing and the few combats that did happen were what would be considered campaign ending boss battles in any other situation. Because of the crazy stats his character had every battle had to be amazing because of the abilities he had - as the DM I needed to give him a change to put all of them to good use.

In my most recent solo campaign project, I am running something for my mom (laugh all you like, but family time is important with my family and it is very much reminding me what D&D is supposed to be about). At her request the setting is one where monsters and humans live in relative peace, resulting in me stripping the stats and special traits of some more popular monsters so that they are basically funny looking humans to make it easier for me to give her some interesting minor characters to work with (she is playing as a halfling, she will be traveling with a minotaur and is already making plans to ride around on his back - and this is her first session after only a little over an hour of playing)

In both situations I rewarded creativity. My friend came up with elaborate plans based on his crazy abilities that would have taken lots of dice rolling, but managed them all with only one or two rolls because of how well he described his plans - I was not going to let something that much fun fail just because he rolled too low on one of five rolls, if anything was going to fail it was going to be for a good reason rather than an arbitrary low roll. My mom thought of an amazing use for several spells that were not quite what the rules intended, but as creative as her ideas were there was no way I could say no, none of her ideas hurt the game and she had fun with them so it was all good..

The biggest lesson I have learned is that the rule of cool is the biggest rule for players to follow and a variation of rule zero is what the DM has to keep in mind (you are the DM, what you say is final, you override all books, how much fun you and the players are going to have is the deciding factor in every action taken).

Always build the world for the player though, that way you are helping the player through their story instead of walking them through your story. Oh, and be ready for your player to do crazy things, like trying to talk the big nasty dragon into leaving the kingdom alone - the dragon might agree to go elsewhere and the next adventure might be helping him relocate his stash of treasure to a new lair.