Tackling the D&D Introduction Campaign Solo (One Player!)

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Greetings, and welcome to a long post – People seem to enjoy my fictionalization of the various D&D campaigns I seem to be getting drawn into, so forgive me if I lean into that a bit. To start the new year out right, I’m currently working through the beginner campaign – The Lost Mine of Phandelver – with my fiancee, brother, and a few friends. This will not be the most impressive write up, nor will this post be focused on  the actual story – rather, my impressions on running it as a first time Dungeon Master and how it works with a single player character, rather than the usual group.

To start, I know it’s the beginner campaign. I also know it isn’t the best (Thanks AngryGM and about a dozen other online DM type people who seem to know what they are talking about). Prior to actually running the first session, I definitely read a ton of other peoples thoughts and methods on improving the quality of your DM ability. Yes – I, the massive nerd – did this before I actually had DM’ed any game. Also, I totally bought the limited edition Dungeon Master’s set that came with the DM Manual, Monster Manual, and Player’s handbook, plus a fancy DM cover for a steal, plus Ghosts of Saltmarsh because boats. I like boats.

Anywho, I ALSO bought the starter set because it was also dirt cheap and I had managed to convince the fiancee that yes, she should try out D&D, and I, having a grand total of two games under my belt, would be a great DM with some practice. So a bargain was struck – I would help her learn how to play, and she would help me learn how to DM not horribly. Or at least, she would be very forgiving. Once my brother and a few friends cottoned onto this, they all wanted into the beginner campaign (although they’re much more experienced with this).

The problem – well it was only the holiday season, and getting EVERYONE together was dang near impossible. So instead, I ran two different solo set ups for the very first mission. It appears as though we’ll all be able to get together later this week for the second part, but here’s my thoughts on running the LMOP starter campaign with just one player character. Technically – it was two player characters, but they just both did the first mission at different times.

  1. It really helped to use ALL the pre-provided characters – less for you to have to generate. My fiancee picked the Wizard, and thus I played the cleric and one of the fighters.
  2. See above – having to DM and play characters was challenging but also fun. However, I’m really looking forward to not having to worry about other character’s stats and just worry about the NPCs and monsters.
  3. Conversation and Role Playing is hard – I found myself telling Iya, our wizard, to order about the NPCs so I wasn’t having them run roughshod over the bad guys.
  4. When I ran it again with my brother, who played the rogue Tiffin, I used the last NPC character and our cleric – Sven – again, but added in some more random encounters as recommended by AngryGM and others. Also, as he was more experienced, he was more capable of having his character do different things (like snipe EVERYONE with his shortbow).

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  5. Random encounters are fun, especially when they’re just elements moved around. I created a wolf-goblin patrol from elements that would be in the cave, and had them get ambushed outside by the PCs. This was both a challenge and quite fun. Tiffin said it was the most nerve-wracking and entertaining part. Running it the second time was definitely of help.

While you can run this with just one PC, it really does help to have more, and I’m excited to try running it with more! I’ve already promised the group that, if we make it though the beginner campaign, we’ll reroll characters and start a psuedo-homebrewed campaign. (depending on how I feel or how well they buy into the premise I have).

Speaking of that, time to get back to the premise, I have two new D&D books to dig into! Happy Adventuring!

– Daniel

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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