Official Dungeons & Dragons adventure books include a phrase that can strike fear into the hearts of beginner dungeon masters. “Designed for an adventuring party of four to six 1st-level characters” or something similar to that effect.
Getting four to six people to sit around a table (or online) for a few hours a week or month can be challenging. But it’s old fashioned terminology and we believe it should be gotten rid of. For there are ways to play any D&D session, or TTRPG for that matter, without having multiple people.
We here at Tal and Ru Travels started playing our homebrew world of Thread of Souls in 2015. In the beginning, we had three players. Three is a good magic number but I (Scott) the DM wanted more. The group evolved into five and fluctuated from that to six or seven at times.
Having more players gives much more fluidity when it comes to leading conversations, character development, and plot. Dungeon masters can focus on individual characters when the time comes but there are times when it can be too much. Combat, for instance, is definitely bogged down with a larger party size. Eventually our group fell apart as they often do and it was left with Ashley ( Tal) and myself. Sometimes all it takes is two.
Just the Two of Us
Since 2018, we’ve been playing weekly two player sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. We play in our home brew world of Thread of Souls so we don’t have to worry about basing encounters off of a specific number of players. Instead we each play multiple characters each with their own unique skills and backstories.
Playing Multiple Player Characters
While the DM will play every NPC the party encounters, they can also play an adventurer that explores with the party. In our case I play two player characters along with my other tasks. Both have a backstory and take turns in conversations and performing skills like investigating.
It’s all about knowing what your character would know and acting how they would act. If you’re the DM, just keep in mind that while you may know the story or campaign book, your character is just as oblivious as the other player.
Speaking of the other player. Playing with anyone in a one-on-one setting is a great way to grow and build your relationship. You both get to know the other person through the eyes of multiple characters and personalities by having them control as many player characters as they feel comfortable. It also helps if each one acts, speaks, and behaves differently so the DM can tell the difference more easily.
The more comfortable you are with on another, the more fun and deeper role play can get. And if you’re just starting out in a one-on-one setting and don’t know the other person as well, it’s a great ice breaker and allows you both to build a friendship. Or if you just want to fight and gain loot, that’s perfectly okay too.
As the DM you can also build encounters around the other players characters. Everyone is a part of the story and they all need time to shine. Make sure you take the time to talk with the player to see what they want to get out of the game. Maybe they like exploring and just want to search for treasure. While others are all about that role play and wish to delve deeper into emotions and plot.
Another great way to handle two player games is to have the player control certain aspects of the session. For instance, if it’s alright with the DM, they can take over for NPCs and speak with the game masters characters.
Tabletop games are all about collaboration. It isn’t DM versus players. It’s a shared story where anyone should feel comfortable to speak up and take part in the epic tale.
Playing together is also great for introverts who aren’t comfortable being in large settings around people. As an introvert, I can say being able to just play with someone I know makes me open up more and come out of my shell.
Honestly, you can make just about any game into a two player game. If you have a single player video game you can hand the controller back and forth to complete different quests or control different characters.
Dungeons & Dragons and TTRPGs aren’t strictly for groups of players. They are intimate, fun, freeing, and allow for character growth for both the players and their characters. It’s just like writing a book. There is an author and an editor. Imagine both players as the authors and editors of the game, world, and characters.