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My girlfriend and I want to get into roleplaying games, we've both been interested in trying out Dungeons and Dragons. She has never played a pen and paper RPG before, I've played the Swedish Drakar och Demoner (DoD) once in school. We don't have a group yet, so we thought we'd start out with just the two of us.

We've bought the D&D Fifth Edition Starter Set, but I'm not sure how well the game will work with one of us as the DM and the other as a player (I will probably be the DM for our first campaign). Is this feasible? Will the example campaign in the box work well enough for us to get started? How can we get started playing one-on-one 5e effectively?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You will want to investigate the one-on-one tag, it's where a bunch of questions about one-GM, one-player play lurk. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 11 '15 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ out in the rest of the interwebs the term "duet" is also commonly used to describe your setup. RPG.net has a whole column (archived) dedicated to the genre. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 8 '15 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where are you guys located? It might be easier than you expect to find a group. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Rose May 5 '17 at 0:06
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It is a problem that Lost Mines of Phandelver is designed for 3-5 player characters (PCs), plus a DM. I'm playing Phandelver at the moment with a group. One session only two players turned up, and I discovered how deadly this could be with no modification. With one PC and no modification, you would likely not last past the first encounter. As far as I can see it, you have options:

1) Tone down Lost Mines of Phandelver

By 'tone down' I mean reduce the level of the encounters. This will be easier near the beginning (where you could just reduce the number of goblins), and more difficult as the game progresses.

I actually did this with the session in question - they were supposed to encounter 6 hobgoblins (rolling on the random encounter table at that point in the game), but I cut it down to two.

With bigger monsters it is more difficult, though you could 'wound' them, reducing their HP (hit points) and possibly some of their special abilites, and XP (experience points) commesurately, but that can get complicated and possibly lack verisimilitude, so there is always option 2).

I didn't do this to one monster (a grick) and both characters ended the session unconscious. Oops.

2) Play Phandelver, but have your girlfriend control two or more characters, and/or bolster the party with an NPC or two

In this solution, you can still play Lost Mines of Phandelver, but you could split the party between you and your girlfriend, with your girlfriend controlling two PCs and you controlling another two (or three if you want to use all five) as NPCs (non player characters - controlled by the DM).

This obviously has the disadvantage of complexity, but it can be fun nevertheless, and gives you and your girlfriend an idea of the different types of characters avaiable to play.

You could also combine 1 & 2 in the following way:

3) Start Phandelver with two (N)PCs, tone things down at the beginning, then add (N)PCs and enemies as you gain confidence

For example, your girlfriend could control one PC, and you one supporting NPC (just choose two from the pregenerated characters).

Spoiler, in case your girlfriend's reading :-)

Cut all encounters in half - so two goblins on the road, half the numbers of goblins in the cave, and either weaken the bugbear in Cragmaw Hideout and/or take his wolf away. Don't forget to halve the XP. Then at the end of Cragmaw Hideout, take Sildar Hallwinter with you and have him stay as a friendly (and tough) NPC. This presumes that your girlfriend will choose to go to Cragmaw Hideout first, but that is the most likely course of action, and you can always guide her back there from Phandalin if she goes there first.

Then as your girlfriend gains confidence playing, she could start to control another PC, and so you will have a tough enough party to face the later more challenging stuff without cutting things down.

For options 1-3 I strongly suggest you have a cleric in your party - parties with clerics last longer!

I haven't tried this myself, but for options 1-3 you might also want to read Play it Solo:Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. Although it is geared to playing completely solo, looks like it might have some useful advice for converting Phandelver for playing with fewer players.

Or, for something completely different:

4) Find an adventure for one or two players from an earlier edition of D&D and convert it.

This is not my idea, but is described in more detail here:

Solo or 2 player adventures for 5e

You might have trouble doing this conversion just with the basic rules though - you would probably need at least the 5e Monster Manual, though I suppose you could just take the idea (and maps) from such an adventure and swap in monsters from the Starter Set.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that 5e in terms of play is most like 2e AD&D, and there were a lot of published solo adventures for 2e that can be trivially converted if you happen across them. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 11 '15 at 14:57
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The advices of harlandski are really good and it's the core of your solution. I'm just adding more tips to make things easier for you:

1) I suggest you play a 2-heroes team

Having 2 heroes in the story will allow you to appreciate one funny aspect of the game: characters interaction. But to make it work at it's best, it is useful to have 2 players drive 2 heroes: having one person roleplaying more than a character, especially for a new player, can be challenging. So you could play a character too, in addition to drive the story.

Example: while your girlfriend drives the "main" hero of the story, you could play her sidekick, like Batman and Robin, Frodo and Sam, ecc..

An easy setup could be a Cleric with her bodyguard, a Warrior.

You can treat this character as a simple NPC if it feels too heavy for you to roleplay it, but in my experience it's not so hard.

Beware: while you know as a DM what's going to happen, your character is not. Act him accordingly.

2) Your main problem as a DM is combat encounters

Phandelver is not an easy adventure at all, especially for beginner players. To make encounters easier you should follow DM rules for toning down encounters on page 57 of the DMBasicRules, to set up the encounter. Then use your guts when playing to further refine it.

Example - the first encounter in Phandelver is a Goblin Ambush with 4 hidden goblins. Following the steps at page 56 you have:

  • Add up the total xp of the monsters: each goblin is 50 xp, so 200xp.

  • Encounter Multiplier for multiple monsters: 4 monsters is double the total xp, so 400xp

  • Check the Encounter Difficulty by XP Thresholds: 400xp is at Deadly difficulty for a party of four lvl 1 characters.

Deadly means that it's not uncommon at least 1 character could permanently die. I'm not surprised at all, considering that the goblins can probably strike first, they can focus a single character and put it down in the first surprise round.

In a 2-heroes team, half down the number of goblins: this scales the difficulty to Hard, and it's ok for your first encounter ever in DnD, so you can see the rules in action.

3) Social moments are great

You can really make the social moments of the adventure shine with just 1 player: in a standard group it's usually hard to make everyone have fun while "just talking to people", due to the fact that lots of characters (and players) are more combat-oriented, and it's not uncommon to see just 1 leader player in the group that drives a lot of decisions. With only 1 player, you can indulge more in descriptions, acting, longer plots and deeper NPCs.

Figure out who and why the hero is talking with and make them shine!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "This requires you to play a character too": Can't she play more than one character? In my experience that's the more common and more effective way to have more than one PC in a one-on-one game. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 14 '15 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course she can, that's what harlandski suggested and it's for sure on way of achieving this 2-heroes solution. I just feel when this happens there's a different kind of involvement in the game: i think it's more difficult to relate yourself with your characters feelings, preoccupations and intents when you have more than one character to think of. While a DM is usually inclined to act more than one role at the same table, for new players this can be challenging. It was my intent to point them in a direction so they can experience character interaction, one of the funniest parts of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Manzotin Apr 14 '15 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh! My question was inspired by the word requires; if that's not the word you meant, that (and an edit) would clear that up. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 14 '15 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are right! English is not my main language and i often fall in this misconceptions.. thanks for pointing it out! Edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Manzotin Apr 15 '15 at 13:24
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Had a brain storm while struggling with this same issue. My husband is trying to teach me the game and I read somewhere that you can have 'hirelings'.

Since his personality and backstory seem to argue for it, why not see if Daran Edermath from the Orchard is willing to accompany your 1-2 man group as a second/third party member in exchange for helping him with the town's gang problems? He's mentioned as being an extremely fit retired fighter with a penchant for "protecting others from the depredations of evildoers". He can even get a share of the loot (since the rules argue for sharing exp and loot with hirelings).

Based on the Veteran listing in the Monster Manual, he'd be a 9th level fighter using Protection fighting style and have half elf stat perks. Seems a fair trade to have a level 9 when you can't get some friends to come play level 1's and nobody picked the healer . . . lol!

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Pump! her up

Instead of controlling multiple characters, adding NPCs, or toning down the adventure, you could just make the PCs stronger. A level 2 encounter might be instant death encounter for a level 1 character, but laughable for a level 6 character. Not that I am suggesting going that far. But if the adventure calls for 3-5 level 1 characters, try making her a level 2 character, and giving her a +2 to all attributes. If that isn't enough, you can give her a +2 sentient weapon that is shy or selfish, and thus will only provide the magic benefits when she is alone.

Of course part of this depends on the class and abilities she chooses, which leads to my second suggestion.

Gestalt it

I am guessing this suggestion will not be popular. Many groups dislike the gestalt rules for being overpowered or confusing (or both). But some of my groups enjoyed it immensely, so I thought I would put it out there.

In 3.5E, there was an option gestalt system, designed for smaller groups who wanted to cover their bases, or normal groups that just wanted a more powerful/epic feel. The basic idea is that each character advances two classes at a time. For example, a gestalt fighter/wizard would have the fighting styles of the fighter, and the magic of a wizard. This can get fairly complex if you start multiclassing on top of it, so you may want to restrict that. But if your PC wanted to be a rogue, they could be a gestalt rogue/cleric, play it mainly as a rogue, but break out the cleric spells if injured or threatened by an undead.

There are no official rules for it in 5E. But if you take a look around, there are some unofficial rules that look promising, if you want to try it.

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When my wife and I play I use my own character as an NPC. This seems to work well for us and I sometimes allow her 2 characters to control.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour to get an idea on how this Question and Answer site works. While your answer does address experience in playing, it lacks the kind of detail that will make it a good/great answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 1 '16 at 18:50

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