Tips for One-on-One Gaming

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I’ve heard complaints before from referees about how difficult it is getting adults together for gaming sessions. I’ve certainly seen this with my own group, it is a fairly common occurrence to run a game for one or two players.

I’ve dealt with this a couple of ways. The first is to just run one player/one character, but this has the drawback that you have to modify the adventure on the fly so it is less deadly.

The next way is to allow one player to run multiple PCs – I’ve had them run as many as four at a time. Along with this, you can augment the party with mercenaries. This works fairly well, and depending on the party size you end up with you may or may not have to modify the scenario you’re using. So you get a pretty standard gaming experience, but your player also has more to keep track of, and the game slows down quite a bit.

There is another way which I’ve grown fond of lately, and that is to use the Scarlet Heroes rules as a framework (you can also just play using Scarlet Heroes, but I’m assuming here you want to keep playing using your existing system). For Labyrinth Lord, these rules are codified in the Black Streams Solo Heroes supplement, which is free in PDF. What this allows you to do is use existing modules unaltered, by making a few mechanical changes:

  • Monster hit dice equals monster hit points – so that 4+1 HD Ogre has 4 hit points.
  • Scale damage done by  PCs or monsters from 1-4 points based on the normal damage die roll. For Labyrinth Lord, of course this is usually a d8, and so the table in the Black Streams supplement is scaled appropriately.  For my Swords & Wizardry White Box or OD&D games where damage is d6-based, I use the following table:
D6 Roll+Modifiers Damage Done
1 or less No damage
2 to 3 1 point of damage
4 to 8 2 points of damage
9 or more 4 points of damage
  • Add a ‘fray die’, which is a class-based, automatic damage roll made each round when fighting enemies of equal of fewer hit dice. For starting OD&D-style fighters, it is a d6. For starting magic-users, I use a d3, and clerics a d4. You can increase this to the next higher die (so from d6 to d8, then to d10) every few levels.
  • Allow PCs to heal up to 2 HP after each combat by binding wounds. Healing spells or potions work like reverse damage dice, healing on the scale noted above.
  • Optionally allow players to win initiative each round.
  • Allow PCs to “defy death”, which is a last-ditch hedge against certain death, using a damage roll (see the Black Streams supplement for details on how this works).

As you can imagine, the above rules greatly increase survival for low-level PCs who are adventuring solo, and they remove most of the work necessary to modify modules on the fly so they are suitable for lone adventurers. They also speed up play. I encourage you to give them a try!

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