In today’s article, I’ll discuss how you can play Dungeons and Dragon with a single player and a Dungeon Master (DM). You’ll get various interesting tips on how to successfully run a 2-player D&D game.
When my sister and I were children, we found my dad’s Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook, and decided to play. We only had the two of us, so she played the monsters and I had a Dwarf Fighter.
Obviously, we loosely used the rules since we were too young to understand, but we had fun. Now, if you’re in a situation where you and someone else can’t find a group, don’t worry! As long as you have someone that can play characters and someone to run the game, that’s all you need!
How Many Characters in a 2-Player D&D Game?
You have two options to decide how many characters you want in your 2-player D&D game.
Even if you only have one player, you can still run multiple characters. I knew someone that went with the Han Solo and Chewbacca strategy with characters. You have one that acts as the “leader” that is the main one that talks to other characters. The other character(s) might chime in occasionally, but rarely. This makes it easier for the person running the game since they will focus on interacting with one character. Also, when the player talks, they’ll assume it’s the main character unless told otherwise.
You could play with a single character, but that will greatly limit your combat choices. A single Wizard will likely die since they have low health. So you’ll need to pick a class that can survive a few hits. If you only build a character to survive, you might end up with a character that’s boring due to less roleplay or slower combat.
You also end up with a problem with character resurrections. It’s normal for characters to die in Dungeons and Dragons, that’s why certain classes can resurrect their fellow players. A single critical hit can decimate a character easily, especially at earlier levels. If you only have one character, there won’t be someone to resurrect you. You could play with the idea of checkpoints, so if you die then you reset to a previous point. If I did this, I would do it every long rest.
Random Encounter Generator
No matter how many characters you pick, I highly recommend using random encounter generators to check difficulty. Donjon is the main one I’ve used in the past. It helps me in deciding what types of enemies will be hard or easy to fight. An example is ¼ Challenge Rating monster is hard for a single level one character, while a 1/8 Challenge Rating monster is going to be significantly easier.
It is possible to have a campaign with a single character, but it will require some work. As I mentioned, you’ll have to think heavily on how your character will survive. I highly recommend starting at a higher level. For classes with higher defense, I would say start at level 5. You’ll have access to your subclass, and have access to more abilities than lower level characters. Fighting classes can attack twice, and most classes gain access to higher level spells.
Just because I keep mentioning defense does not mean you can’t be a rogue or wizard. If you want to be a character that you’re scared won’t survive fights, talk to your DM about giving you extra hit points, or run a campaign with low or no combat.
Potential Problems With One Character
Something to keep in mind for one character is that it’ll make it extremely difficult to fight epic enemies such as dragons. So instead, you should plan for combat to include enemies that are able to be taken on with one person, either groups of weak enemies or 1-2 strong enemies. Personally, I’d run a zombie apocalypse campaign or something with focus on large groups of zombies and other weaker enemies. That way when you have boss encounters it’ll be a bit more epic while still being not too powerful for the character.
If you really want to fight dragons and other powerful enemies, you’re going to have to be an extremely high level if you don’t want a full party. There is no reason for you to not just start with a high-level character, maybe level 15 or even 20. I’ve never tried this, but I imagine it would be a fun experience.
More Character Decisions
Characters or Sidekicks?
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced sidekick characters. They level up and gain new abilities, but are not as strong or complicated as a normal player character. If you feel overwhelmed leveling up and building multiple characters, having sidekicks are a good idea. This makes it easier to have one single main character, and the others are mercenaries or students or whatever role you want. It could be fun to have a teacher character and their apprentice adventurers.
The only problem I can see with sidekicks is when you’re using the encounter generators I mentioned. In that case, sidekicks won’t properly fit those equations, so the DM will have to do more work balancing encounters and making sure they’re not too easy or difficult.
If you like the idea about the sidekick characters, you might want to get Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
You can find out more about the book in my in-depth Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything review.
Character Backstories in 2-Player D&D
With only one player, you have to think about character backstories. Obviously, every character will have some background, but you could have the story focus on one main character and have the other characters be supporting characters. This is something that you should talk about before starting the game, so the DM can properly plan the story and encounters.
When building your party, there are certain roles that you want your characters to fit that will help you survive most encounters.
- Someone that can heal and resurrect characters.
- Someone that can use Thieves Tools, so they can disarm traps and open locked doors/containers.
- A good mix of characters that can attack enemies either close or far away.
- Someone with high Charisma so they can talk to characters.
- A mix of magic and non-magic characters, since some monster can resist spells or weapons.
- At least one character with high hit points and defense to absorb damage
This is why I like sidekicks. They can easily fit a role that your party doesn’t have without the work of running a full other character.
Campaigns without Combat
If you’re worried about balancing combat and want to just have a small number of characters, you can always have a campaign without combat.
Maybe you can have the campaign be a heist. Every mission is to convince someone to join your team, or to gather the items and information needed for the heist. Stealth will likely be important, but you can also start with a character that is a mage or fighter, and have to recruit stealthy characters to help.
You can also have a murder mystery. Build your character to focus on finding secrets or tricking people as you slowly gather clues. Be prepared to use spells or tricks to manipulate suspects into spilling their secrets.
Be Sure to Have Fun!
There are tons of ways to run a 2-player D&D game, so make sure to talk about your options together. I would say make a list of ideas separately, then together see if there is any overlap or ideas either of you don’t like.
Having an idea of what the campaign is about is always important, but even more so with only two people, since it can easily get complicated. I hope my advice helps you and your friend have tons of fun!
If you’re looking for more D&D articles, you can take a look at the following ones: