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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Extracted from the WotC message board: What's a DM to Do? This discussion went on long after I stopped paying attention, but I think what I have here gives a good introduction to solo campaigns. Here's the full thread:

And here's a distilled version of the first 500 posts of so of that thread:

Guide to Solo Campaigns

12/15/2005 By KJW and Illion the Red:


KJW - Since joining these boards I have seen numerous threads discussing and usually praising the merits of solo campaigns. After contributing to many of these threads, I felt that one thread that truly fleshed out solo campaigns would be of considerable use to many DMs. I contacted Illion the Red for assistance, mainly because Illion’s contribution to previous threads discussing solo campaigns was always phenomenal. Both of us are fairly experienced DMs and run Group Campaigns, but we are also both married and have run a staggering number of solo campaigns for our wives. Thus all that follows comes from experience and a deep appreciation for the magic of solo campaigns.

Illion the Red – As KJW mentioned, I too, have a passion for solo campaigns as well as a number of years of experience with them. In fact, the homebrew world I am currently running for my Group campaign has the cities and regions developed from a myriad of solo campaigns dating back as far as 1997. I have found solo campaigns to be richly rewarding in roleplaying and nearly every other form of gameplay. When KJW contacted me about this project, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with someone who not only shares my passion for the topic, but also always managed to hit upon aspects of solo campaigns that I had not considered or had neglected. I truly hope you find this guide as helpful as working on it has been.

Why a Solo Campaign?

Solo campaigns arise from two situations – desire or necessity. Desire usually is a result of having been part of a solo campaign and wanting to once again enjoy the experience.

Necessity often results from a DM having only one player or the DM needing to run a player separate from the group for reasons important to the campaign. These reasons could include providing an introduction to the campaign world or maybe to teach a new player the rules of the game. Necessity will often lead to desire as many players quickly become enamored with solo campaigns.

A solo campaign is often quite different from other D&D campaigns. solo campaigns tend to be more intimate with far stronger character development, more complex story lines, and incredible roleplaying depth. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, but the primary one is the simple fact that everything revolves around a single character. Once freed from the constraints of a Group Campaign, there is far more freedom for the DM and the Solo PC to create something truly special.

Beyond the potential for great roleplaying opportunities, many DMs and players find that solo campaigns are just plain fun. Without anyone to share the spotlight, a player will often find the ability to directly influence the pace and style of play to significantly enhance the game beyond what a Group Campaign is capable of achieving.

Solo campaigns provide a near perfect opportunity for both the DM and the player to try out new ideas and explore options that may have not been explored previously. In short, it’s a time to take some chances and see what happens.

We would be thrilled to have other DMs who run solo campaigns post additional advice or ideas. Additionally, any questions or issues are welcomed as well.

Character Creation

When creating a character for a solo campaign, the DM should discuss the campaign world/idea with the player and decide on a creation method. A creation method that allows for more powerful characters than normal is recommended. This is to compensate for the character having to essentially fill every role in the party. Such methods can range from 32+ point-buy, to 10+1d8 per ability, to 18,17,16,15,14,13 array, to arbitrarily selecting abilities.

Another option for increasing the power of a Solo PC is to use the Gestalt option in Unearthed Arcana which takes the “best of two classes” and combines them into a single class. This will give you a PC that covers more bases than the single-classed or multi-classed PC.

Yet another option is to have the player create, and run multiple characters simultaneously. This is not the recommended practice as one character inevitably becomes the primary character and the other(s) become little more than PC-controlled NPCs.

A final option is to create a number of NPCs that will adventure with or support the PC throughout the campaign. Although this option can make things easier for the PC in terms of survival, it makes the DM’s job significantly more complex. This leaves the DM in the position of balancing NPC knowledge and abilities with his own knowledge and abilities. The DM in this case often winds up metagaming with the NPCs or underutilizing their abilities significantly. This is far from an ideal situation and may contribute to dissatisfaction on behalf of the player, the DM, or both.

The most important thing to consider, however is the style of gamplay that the campaign will be centered on. If the campaign is going to be combat-heavy, the PC had better be able to fight. Similarly, if the campaign is going to be a roleplaying-heavy affair, a character with social skills is pretty essential. As a DM, it is critical to tailor your campaign to the PC created.

The player should be reminded that all essential skill checks will be made by his or her character, so skill selection is important. A potential modification might be to make certain skills class skills for all classes such as Listen, Search, and Spot. Additionally, increasing the PCs skill points per level is often a wise move.

The DM should weave plotlines throughout the campaign that interact with the PC’s background and facilitate development of the character. In order to achieve this, a richly detailed character background is essential. Remember, there is only one character in the story and, as such, the story should revolve around that one character. The details of the character’s background serve as a source of material for the DM to draw upon and create plot hooks from. In a “normal” campaign with four characters, 3-5 plot hooks from each of those characters should be enough to fill the entire campaign. With one character, more depth is needed to provide plot hooks that are relevant to the character.

Campaign & Story Development

Solo campaigns allow a PC and DM to explore the campaign world in a depth not typically possible with group campaigns. With only one PC, the DM can tailor adventures directly to the interests of the player/PC which allows a break from the more generic campaign arcs commonly found in group campaigns.

Game Balance & Experimentation

As there is only one player, keeping a balance between PCs is an obviously unnecessary exercise. Additionally, the focus of a solo campaign is usually more on roleplaying, so many of the mechanical elements, such as combat, often fall to a secondary role. This allows the DM to experiment with the rules, perhaps to give the Solo PC abilities or resources that would not be wise within a party dynamic or to playtest a house rule before the DM adds it to her group campaign.

Character Development v. Story Development

 Group campaigns are typically story driven with character development as a secondary goal. While story is an important element in a solo campaign, character development assumes primacy. Whereas a group will usually amble along with a good story arc, a Solo PC is more prone to refuse to follow a story arc that does not mesh with their vision of their character. This situation ties to the fact that neither the DM, nor the player need be concerned with party cohesion or other players’ enjoyment; thereby freeing the player to directly pursue ideas and story arcs that mesh with the PCs long-term goals and aspirations.
 The story needs to be tailored to the PC, and this means tailoring the story to the goals of the PC. This is usually an easy task, but the DM must be cognizant that the story must be about the Solo PC and not necessary a brilliant campaign idea that would work for a group. 

Greater Depth

Group campaigns often fly through campaign worlds skimming the surface, while solo campaigns usually plunge deeply into the campaign world. Because there is no need to share game time with other players or to reach a consensus on direction, the Solo PC is wont to pursue their interests in far greater depth that they ever could in a group campaign. There are some advantages to this greater depth. Firstly, the PC will likely remain tied to a location far more readily than a group of PCs would, thus the DM’s work in designing a city or other “base of operations” is far more likely to be used. Secondly, the solo campaign will greatly increase the depth of a campaign world, far more than a group campaign as most NPCs will have significant interaction with the PC and need to be fleshed-out with history, goals, and objectives to support lengthy conversations. Jezebel, the Barmaid needs more than a name, a physical description, and a menu of drinks. Thirdly, the roleplaying opportunities for both DM and PC are more numerous and rewarding, which is one reason solo campaigns are so popular. The DM in a solo campaign should expect and, indeed, encourage extended roleplaying sessions to develop both the PC and the world surrounding him or her.

DM Tool: Political Structures

Solo campaigns often thrive on politics and intrigue. The DM should take steps to ensure that there are opportunities for these activities, which means a complex political structure should be developed. This is not just for governments, but also for churches, guilds, and other organizations. What follows are some ideas and considerations for developing political structures:

  1. Power should be decentralized. For example, while there may be a sovereign of a kingdom, he should be reliant on the trade guilds for revenue, on the churches to manage the courts and keep the people content, and the nobility to manage the kingdom and lead his armies. The more distributed and delegated the power and authority, the more intrigue and politics. Another alternative is having a Monarch who must answer to a council of Nobles who ratify the Monarch’s decisions.
  2. Pseudo-democratic institutions are excellent political structures. For example, the thieves’ guild is ruled by a council of nine master thieves and requires majority vote for any decisions, there is political maneuvering and even assassinations to win votes. In any situation where votes are required there will be ample roleplaying opportunities.
  3. There should be a faction that the PC will support. This is important. The DM should always try to create a faction that the PC will at least respect. This provides the PC with a discernable interest in the political structure. The faction could be in power if you have a PC who thrives on loyalty and service to a cause, or the faction could be out of power for an ambitious PC who could lead the faction back to power.
  4. Conflicting loyalties create roleplaying opportunities. For example, the PC is a knight in service to the king, but the PC’s noble family is opposed to the king and the PC’s secret faith is being persecuted by the central church that is allied to the king.
  5. Distrusted allies and respected opponents are a necessity. The PC needs friends she doesn’t trust and enemies she can respect, this may seem like reverse logic, but it really adds to the quality and realism of the campaign. For example, the PC rogue belongs to a thieves’ guild populated with backstabbing and ambitious individuals, but a paladin-constable opposed to the guild has worked with her to oppose a greater evil.
  6. A crisis is needed. Ac crisis is essential to the conflict that will build the Character into an entity greater than the paper it is written upon. This is the heart of any campaign focusing on politics and intrigue, but, in this case, the crisis should be specific to the Solo PC. For example, the king is planning on ceding dominions to a neighboring kingdom as a result of defeat in war, and the Solo PC is one of the lords of these dominions, this is a massive crisis to the Solo PC, but not necessarily the rest of the kingdom. The level of the crisis should be tied to the abilities, stature, experience, and driving motivations of the Solo PC.


D&D is filled with various and sundry challenges. Some challenge the player’s reasoning ability, others address tactical choices. In a solo campaign, it is important for the DM to select and scale challenges to both the player’s and the Character’s abilities. Whereas a normal-sized party can be reasonably expected to overcome the vast majority of challenges placed before them, a solo-PC should not be held to a similar standard.

The key to not overtaxing the player’s abilities in this case is to know the limits of the player’s ability as well as the Character’s limits. There is no substitute for past experience DMing for the player in this regard, but a good DM can ratchet up the difficulty and complexity if the player seems to be easily overcoming the challenges set before him or her.

Roleplaying and other non-combat challenges are an essential element of running a successful single-PC game. Combat is risky – a single well-rolled die can cause all manner of havoc to a character. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on things that will steer away from such situations. Conversations, investigations, puzzles, and other thought-provoking and reasoning challenges are highly recommended. Political machinations can lead to some very rewarding situations that involve little to no combat yet offer challenges to the player of significant complexity and difficulty.

Combat, of course, is nearly inevitable in D&D and special care should be taken with these situations. There are several factors to consider such as Challenge Ratings, Effective Encounter Levels, numbers of enemies, quality of enemies, etc.

Challenge Ratings

D&D is designed around a 4-character party; therefore, a single-PC party has ¼ of the resources, actions, abilities, and equipment of a party that the CR system was designed for. There are a number of options for addressing this, but primarily, a Dm should consider using encounters of roughly three levels lower than they normally would. This is by no means an absolute rule; however, it works well as a rule of thumb.

What to Avoid

Take care when designing encounters not to overwhelm the single PC with numbers. Remember that there is great strength in numbers. Six kobolds can overcome a single 4th level fighter if they are smart about it and use clever tactics such as all of them aiding one to grapple and pin the fighter who now has no dexterity bonus and an additional -5 to AC. Even more basically, flanking enemies can really ruin the single PC’s day.

Another thing to avoid is situations commonly referred to as “save or die.” Such situations exist when a spell or ability can kill the lone PC on a poorly rolled saving throw and can end a solo campaign quite prematurely (Finger of Death, Bodak’s Gaze Attack, Gorgon’s Breath, etc.). Such an event would not be a satisfying end for either the player or the DM.

The quality of enemies is of equal importance to the quantity of enemies. A single enemy with multiple class levels can be on overmatching challenge for a single PC if the class levels are pointedly selected to counter the PCs strengths or exploit his or her weaknesses. The point of encounters in a solo-PC game should not be for the PC to be overmatched from the start.

Help for the PC

NPCs can, and often should, be available to help the PC out in various situations. This can vary from an NPC Healer in the PC’s base town/area of operations that is willing to provide discounted healing magic for the PC to mercenaries ready to hire out their swords or spells to assist the PC in battle. These NPCs can be a source of materials, information, or direct support. It is important to ensure that abilities the PC does not have access to through class features be available through such channels. Self-sufficiency can only take a PC so far.

Organizations can also provide support and aid for the PC. If the PC is a member of an organization or is in their employ, the organization should be willing to aid the PC and perhaps fill many of the roles that the NPCs suggested above would fill.


In a solo campaign, the spectrum of rewards is often easier to manage than in a typical campaign. This is influenced by the ability of the DM to tailor rewards to the PCs goals and aspirations. For example, if the PC’s ultimate goal is establishing a kingdom of his or her own, then the DM can incrementally provide rewards that lead towards that goal.


The primary source and measure of rewards for any PC is experience. Experience can be earned numerous ways, with the most common being through combat. This is, however, where many solo campaigns diverge from the norm. Experience point awards are often granted for action outside of combat, especially if the campaign does not focus on combat.

Combat experience in solo campaigns that focus on combat can lead to very rapid leveling of the PC if the DM doesn’t stick to lower Challenge Ratings and fewer enemies. This is a result of the fact that the chart was designed with a four player party in mind. The expectation is that the experience would be divided up between all four players and not given to a single PC. The normal offsetting thought that there would be less encounters as the PC would need to rest often can hold true, but in combat-heavy solo campaigns, downtime is only needed for a single PC and therefore, tends to take up less “real time” than it would for a full party of adventurers. For these reasons, combat-heavy solo campaigns often rapidly lead to a higher level PC (or a dead one).

Roleplaying awards are very common in solo campaigns and serve as a means to advance a Character’s power and ability without physically endangering the PC. If a Character is heavily engaged in the political machinations of a local court, there are ample opportunities for the Character to engage in opposed roleplaying activity.

Opposed roleplaying activity presents challenges to the PC that can be fairly easily equated to combat challenges. Use a similar system of determining Challenge Ratings for the opposed roleplaying challenges. The subtlety of such a system lies in the DM’s determination of how well or completely the PC overcame the challenge. A range from 10% to 100% of appropriate Challenge Rating experience is recommended for these situations.

Another recommended roleplaying award is the spot award. Since solo campaigns involve a continual one-on-one roleplaying experience, if the player can come up with something to enhance the experience for both the player and the DM, a spot award would be appropriate. It is the DMs job to make sure such awards are scaled appropriately.


The second most important and common form of reward for a Character in a solo campaign is wealth. Wealth is measured primarily in material goods, magic, and cold hard cash. Characters in a solo campaign often have a tendency to acquire wealth at a rate far exceeding that of a Character in a normal campaign. This should not be a cause for concern. Remember that the PC is the entire party in one individual and the treasure tables are designed around a group of four Characters. There are several ways to address this.

Primarily, the recommendation is to “do nothing.” A Solo PC with the same wealth and items as a party of the same level is significantly weaker than the party. Even though the wealth can be concentrated into a smaller number of more powerful items, the lone PC has only a fraction of the options or actions that the full party has available.

Another option is to tailor the treasure, magic, and equipment available to the needs of the PC. This option usually appears to be as contrived as it sounds and is hard to implement without a serious need for suspension of disbelief.

The opposite of the previous option is, of course, to tailor the treasure so that it is sub-optimal for the PC and the PC will likely have to sell it at a discount to purchase equipment that is either more suited to his or her skills. The treasure in this option could consist of items that the PC simply cannot utilize due to class features or other similar restrictions.

As a Solo PC is likely to gather significant wealth, it is incumbent on the DM to provide means for the PC to spend this wealth. This could be anything from the ability to contract for customized magic items to ostentatious clothing, buildings, or equipment. The ability to convert large amounts of coinage into more portable form is a near essential for a Solo PC.


Magic is the lifeblood of most D&D characters. Without magic items, most characters’ power falls off dramatically when compared to monsters of appropriate challenge ratings. This is even more evident in a solo campaign. Once again, the Solo PC is forced to fulfill the role of an entire party and doing so without magical assistance will significantly increase the difficulty of the task. Unless the campaign is specifically designed to be low-magic, the PC should have significant magical resources to draw upon. These resources could be spells from class levels, magical items, NPCs, or even other sources such as racial or other special abilities.

It is recommended to allow the Solo PC to optimize their equipment if they so desire. In a normal game, such things can lead to an imbalance in power between party members. In a solo campaign, there is only one party member, so game balance is not an issue. This is not to say that everything should be handed to the character without effort – everything should have a commensurate price whether it is gold, experience, or the Character’s own lifeblood.

Unique Powers/Special Abilities

A solo campaign revolves around a single character that has a disproportionate influence in the world around him or her. One way to enhance this feeling is to provide the PC with abilities that go beyond the norm. Such abilities can be a reward for exceptional roleplaying and achievement of goals or it could be something that the PC begins the campaign with. No matter how the Character acquires them, special abilities can be hallmarks of memorable solo campaigns.

Special abilities should be scaled to both the world and to the Character involved. Such abilities should enhance the uniqueness and playability of a Character. Abilities can range from the minor (darkvision, bonus feats, minor class abilities) to the extreme (spell-like-abilities, planeshifting, major class abilities).

Care must be taken not to be overly generous in granting such abilities. Such abilities are meant to be a reward for the player, not a means to grant the Character the ability to shape reality at will.

NPC Roleplaying by the DM

The skill of NPC Roleplaying is one of the keys to running a successful solo campaign. Certainly, this is an important part of any D&D campaign, but when there is only one PC the demands upon the DM are significantly greater. There are three techniques that can be very useful in helping handle NPC Roleplaying for solo campaigns: Learn to Talk to Yourself, Develop Meaningful NPC Relationships, and Stop and Smell the Roses.

Learn to Talk to Yourself

There is only one PC and if all conversations are PC to NPC then things will become very stilted and unnatural, so the DM must learn to speak with herself. This will feel very awkward at first, but with a little practice it can be a very effective technique. To be able to do this a DM must 1) know the personality of the NPCs, 2) understand the relationship between the NPCs as well as their relationships to the PC, and 3) understand the context of the conversation. With practice these steps can be internalized, but starting out it is a good idea to have these elements written down in front of her as reminders. What follows is a classic example of a situation where the DM must talk to herself, the council meeting.

Running a Council Meeting

Sometimes the PC must take part in the classic council meeting, where a group of individuals gathers to discuss in order to make an important decision. These are the hardest NPC dialogues to successfully pull off because often the DM will be handling an insane number of NPCs. While difficult, the council meeting can be a useful device for analyzing a complex campaign and to provide a course of action when the PC is faltering. Council meetings can range from large conferences from numerous factions addressing something of cosmic importance to a local lord calling in his advisors to discuss a proposal to raise the poll tax to an adventuring company discussing how to sack a dungeon. Here are some useful tips:

  1. Someone is in Charge: Someone needs to be running the council meeting, it is best when the PC is in charge, but often it will be a NPC. If a NPC is in charge, the PC should have a relationship with the NPC that allows the PC to speak freely. If a decision needs to be made then there should be a mechanism for making a decision, maybe a vote, maybe the person in charge just makes a decision.
  2. Issues should be Clear: There is no reason for the DM to muddle the situation for the PC and should make sure the issues and arguments are as clear as possible. Certainly, people may be lying, but things should be kept focused.
  3. Most Participants are Silent: As in real life, not everyone is a talker; even when dealing with a large group of NPCs it is very likely that most of the NPCs will merely watch and listen. As DM it is important to focus on the key NPCs, try to pick the extreme views to highlight the differences of opinion.
  4. Arguments are Good: Arguments are great drama and keeps things interesting, it may be difficult but if the DM can run a realistic argument between two NPCs this will greatly increase the realism and entertainment value of a council meeting. Also arguments are a good way to get to the heart of an issue by highlighting major differences of opinion.
  5. Diversions: Sometimes diversions are good, maybe the participants take a break and an opportunity for less intense roleplaying occurs, maybe the meeting is attacked, the DM should have a few ideas on things to spice things up if the meeting gets bogged down.
  6. End the Meeting: At some point the meeting should be ended, if the PC is in charge then it is up to the PC to do this, otherwise it falls to the NPC in charge. A decision should be made, which may be a decision for the PC to go out and get more information, but a council meeting should give the PC some immediate focus to her efforts.

Develop Meaningful NPC Relationships

There are many other sources for ideas of running effective NPCs, but in a solo campaign the key is not just interesting personalities but that there are meaningful NPC relationships. Understanding these relationships will help the DM run NPC to NPC and NPC to PC conversations, which, indeed, are a necessity for a successful solo campaign. There are four primary relationships, there are others, but these four define most relationships the PC will have with NPCs. It is important to note that many NPCs may have multiple relationships with the PC.


In a group campaign the relationship between PCs is typically that of friends, and few PCs have genuine NPC friends outside of the adventuring party. In a solo campaign all of the PC’s friends will be NPCs and they must be played as such for this relationship to exist. There really is not a need to lay out the relationship of friends; it is usually based on trust, common interests, and a relative sense of equality.


It is often useful to give the PC a mentor at the beginning of solo campaigns to give the PC focus and someone for them to model their behavior on. Some PCs need extra help to get into character and find their place in a solo campaign others like to have a mentor because they enjoy the roleplaying of being a student and learning in a fantasy setting. The reverse is also a great relationship when the PC becomes the mentor to a NPC, there is nothing like an apprentice, ward, or squire to provide a fun foil to a PC.

Here are some guidelines for this relationship:

  1. Mentors Push: If you give the PC a mentor, remember that a good mentor will push her student, so the mentor will likely give the PC considerable autonomy to either succeed or fail. Keep a mentor in the background, and only available for assistance if necessary.
  2. Mentors Protect: Even with autonomy, a PC will have some protection from a mentor, which is quite useful at the beginning of a campaign when the PC is pretty vulnerable.
  3. Mentors are Resources: A Solo PC will often need advice or counsel especially in a complex campaign and their mentors are great resources, even after the PC ceases to be a student.
  4. Lineages: While mentors provide quite a bit, they also carry a burden. The PC will by default inherit the lineage of his mentor including enemies, rivals, and responsibilities. These can be great adventure hooks and also can provide goals to the PC.
  5. Students Graduate: At some point the mentor will release the student, this can be a rite of passage, a special ceremony depending upon the context, but is definitely a turning point in the campaign. Sometimes a mentor will die and thus end the relationship, but the acknowledgement of no longer being a student by their mentor is a wonderful moment and reward for a PC.


This is a common relationship in D&D and represents many NPCs who interact with a PC from the stable boy to the mercenary hireling to the scribe to followers. Cohorts often fall into this relationship, but are often also friends which help define their unique relationship. Servants are usually obedient and loyal, as long as well treated. From my experience PCs will not tolerate incompetence; in fact they are more willing to tolerate an unruly servant than an incompetent one. Servants are usually best played as silent and reliable as this is what is respected from this relationship.


This is similar to the mentor-student and master-servant relationship, but is different in that the NPC and PC are members of the same organization and this creates special rules based on the relationship. In this situation the DM has to understand the organization and what it requires of its members. A tyrannical organization probably requires inferiors to act closer to servants, while an order of healers may require inferiors and superiors to treat each other as friends. Superiors though are a great means of focusing a PC by assigning missions or in some cases being an obstacle. Additionally, PCs often like to have inferiors to command and these can also be successful NPCs.


In the following example the DM wishes to give a warning to the PC about his plans to attack a dragon, maybe the warning is a caution, maybe it is to highlight the tension, maybe the NPC is afraid; whatever the reason, the DM wants to give a warning. The relationship is the foundation for interaction and upon it is laid the personality of the NPC.

Friend: “John, I think this may be folly, remember the last time we faced a dragon it did not go well. Perhaps, we should reconsider our plan.”

Student: “Master, my study of dragons has been limited, but…it seems that…well, we might be in some danger.”

Servant: “Yes, sir, off to face the dragon.” Mumbles that he should have been a bricklayer like his mother wanted him to be.

Inferior (knightly order): “My lord, I will follow you to battle and though we are likely all to die it will be for a noble and just cause.”

Stop and Smell the Roses

DMs should always take their cue from the player as to length of conversations, sometimes the player will want to fly through a conversation, but every now and then a player will really enjoy a conversation and the DM should linger. This is the same with romance, shopping, interviews, and other things which may be secondary to the DM’s sense of story, but are more important to the PC. Give them what they want and slow down if necessary, solo campaigns cover a lot of ground so there is no rush. Always keep in mind that there are no other players clamoring for attention. Keep the spotlight squarely on the PC and his or her interactions.

Concerns and Caveats

Comfort Level & Relationship

Solo campaigns are far more personal than group campaigns. The DM and player must find their comfort level, and this usually reflects their relationship. Spouses who are a DM and a player will run a more personal campaign than college roommates. No matter the relationship, a solo campaign will always feel a little awkward at first, the trick is to plow on and find the level of roleplaying that makes both DM and player comfortable.


Less people means easier to schedule. If the DM and player are spouses, roommates, or similar, then solo campaigns can be run almost every night. The key is to find a balance between the needs of the DM and the player. The DM will need time to do adventure design and to rejuvenate the creative juices. They player also can get fatigued from continuous gaming, but the need for a break is greater upon the DM. Communication is necessary, as is being honest about your needs.

Overwhelming the PC v. Spotlight on the PC

There is a delicate balance between keeping the PC in the spotlight and overwhelming the player. It is important to remember that while the spotlight is on the PC, this does not mean she controls the campaign world nor should the DM dump that responsibility upon the PC. The PC may certainly influence and change the world, but the scope of the PC’s responsibilities must be limited. The DM must remember to not heap upon the PC the responsibilities that would normally be heaped on an entire party, unless the player is up to the challenge. What follows are some specific situations to watch for, as well as a few tricks for the DM to use this balance in adventure design.

The PC Micro-Manager vs. NPC Delegation

The PC should delegate tasks to NPCs; the PC who wishes to micro-manage the entire campaign is heading for burnout and probably failure. players who do this either wish to maintain control, do not have the ability to prioritize, or do not trust NPCs. The DM can correct this problem by providing reliable and competent NPCs to handle tasks or a trusted NPC who can give constructive advice to the PC. The DM should also not hesitate to realistically play out scenarios where the player’s inability to delegate and prioritize impairs his goals.

Adjudicating NPCs off Stage: The PC sends a trusted NPC on a quest, does the NPC succeed? This is often a difficult decision for the DM to determine, usually it is best to be generous to encourage the PC to rely upon NPCs, but failure that results in the capture or death of an NPC can be quite effective in advancing character development. The best rule is to use common sense, for example, sending two low-level NPC halflings to destroy an artifact at the heart of an evil deity’s stronghold should result in the death of the NPCs and the loss of the artifact, some things the PC just needs to do herself.

The Indecisive PC vs. NPC Authority

Solo campaigns entail tremendous freedom and authority, but some players are indecisive and need guidance. This may be from inexperience or personality, but the DM can assist these players with NPCs who can provide orders and direction. The DM should provide good leaders and not manipulate the PC, the indecisive player needs confidence before they can handle many of the challenges associated with solo campaigns. Certainly, the PC should have autonomy, but providing them with orders and immediate goals is often of great assistance to indecisive players. The challenge for the DM is to increase the authority of the PC at a pace that both encourages them to be decisive and does not overwhelm them, a cautious approach is advised till the DM knows the player better.

DM Tool: The Ultimate BBEG Weapon – Promotion

In intrigue or political heavy campaigns the opponents of the PC may decide that the best way to distract her is to give her more responsibilities. For example, the PC is closing in on a death cult hidden among the nobility, when she is asked by the king to investigate rumors that a neighboring kingdom is threatening invasion. Of course, the king picked the PC based on the suggestion of members of the death cult, but no matter the PC has now been distracted.

DM Tool: The Sacrificial Decision

If the PC is over burdened with decisions, for example the PC controls a dominion and is also waging a war against a death cult then the DM may want to set up a sacrificial decision. This is when the PC is faced with a decision in which one goal must be sacrificed for another, perhaps the death cult is led by the king and the PC will lose his dominion and be exiled unless he abandons his war against the death cult. When the DM realizes that the PC is overburdened it may be time to force a sacrificial decision, which will ease the PC’s responsibilities and often provide a great roleplaying opportunity.

Ending a Solo Campaign

At some point a solo campaign should end. There are three reasons to end a solo campaign: 1) either the DM or player is bored or frustrated with the campaign; 2) the story is finished; or 3) death or incapacitation of the PC.

In the first instance, there needs to be communication between the DM and player. Often one will want to end the campaign while the other may be happy. Sometimes ending the campaign can be avoided by changing the direction of the campaign or taking a hiatus. If there is communication, the nature of any problems can be found and a suitable change instituted. For example, the player may be fatigued with political intrigue and the DM can change the campaign by sending the PC off to war. A hiatus often will mean the end of a solo campaign, especially if it is replaced by a new campaign that is more enjoyable to both DM and player, but sometimes a break is needed to save a campaign. Sometimes the problems cannot be solved and then the campaign should be ended. This is often when the player’s character concept simply does not work for the campaign envisioned by the DM, and no compromise is readily available. It is best to simply acknowledge the failure and start over on both counts.

In the second instance, the story has been told. The PC has vanquished her enemies, been crowned Queen, and is happily married with children on the way. Now is the moment to let the character go and to end the solo campaign. The story may not always be epic, but at some point the PC will have reached the moment they long pursued. Certainly, another story may present itself for the PC, but it is often better to end the solo campaign on a high note. You can always return to a favorite PC when a great idea hits the DM or player, but high-level play can often reach the ridiculous and completely overshadow the great story which spawned the PC in the first place. It can be hard, but letting go of a character at their moment of triumph is often the best tribute to a great solo campaign.

In the third instance, either the DM or player seriously messed up. Certainly, the PC may have died the ultimate in heroic deaths, but that would be an example of the second instance of ending a campaign. In this case the PC is dead and the solo campaign is over, unless a reasonable solution is found. It may be possible to raise a character through the heroic actions of NPCs or maybe the PC’s deity sends her back for one last mission. It is also possible that the player draws up a new character to finish the work of her first character. As can be imagined these situations should be avoided and a good DM should always have an emergency plan for such a situation.

Solo Adventures for Group Campaigns

We have focused our discussion on solo campaigns as completely separate from group campaigns, but sometimes a DM may want to run a solo adventure that is connected to a group campaign. What follows are some guidelines and ideas about how to run these types of adventures. There are two key concerns for using solo adventures as part of a group campaign:

  1. Balance.
  2. Timing.


In most solo adventures advancement, wealth, and other rewards are accumulated considerably faster than a typical group campaign, but this could be disruptive when the solo-PC returns to the party. While the solo-PC should be rewarded for her efforts, the material rewards should not be out of balance to the other PCs in the group campaign. Therefore the DM should be more conservative in rewarding material rewards. There are some other rewards though that do not affect game balance, but are excellent rewards for a solo-PC.

  1. Character Development.
  2. New NPC Relationships.
  3. Special Knowledge.


Before I started my first group campaign in college, I wrote up a solo pre-adventures for all the PCs that would bring their characters to where the party was to come together. It did not work out that way. I had one PC get killed, another ended up joining a crusade, and the other two ended up on opposite sides of the continent. Eventually, I was able to pull them together, but my original campaign idea had to be scrapped. When you pull a PC off for a solo adventure you have to pay special attention to the timing aspect, especially as solo adventures can cover far more ground that a group adventure. Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep the solo adventure tightly designed, if it is too open-ended your solo-PC may never return to the group campaign.
  2. Try to run solo adventures when the group campaign will be doing lots of down time or traveling as opposed to intense adventuring like dungeons, which takes more game time for less time passage and can result in a greater disconnect between the solo and group campaigns.
  3. Fudge travel times to correct any time discrepancies between the solo adventure and the group campaign.

Type of Solo Adventures linked to Group Campaigns


These are transition adventures designed for a PC to bring them into a group campaign. They should be tightly scripted and can be tailored as tutorials for new players. Remember that you have to build up good reasons for the PC to be joining the group this can include having been ordered to do so or out of some sort of necessity. Pre-adventures can also be used to provide each PC with special information or goals for the campaign. Just remember these are preludes to the group campaign and should be kept relatively short at best 1-2 sessions.

Side Adventures

These are solo adventures for a PC that may be related to the group campaign, but are more likely for character-development. Recently, I ran a side adventure for a halfling bard/ranger who wanted to get married and who set of for the homeland to find the love of his life. No matter what the reason the previous warnings about balance and timing are the keys for successfully reintegrating side adventures to the group campaign. It is not a bad idea to have the missing PC run a NPC while his character is off on her side adventure.

Retirement Adventures

Sometimes a PC will retire a character and replace her with a new PC in the group campaign, but would really like one last adventure with her old character. These adventures really depend upon the PC and can range from a final glorious battle to running a few days in the life of a retired adventurer. This is a great tool for closure and it is a nice reward for a player who put a lot of effort into his character.

Campaign Example #1

What follows is a brief synopsis of a recent solo campaign I (KJW) ran with my wife. This was a successful and enjoyable campaign and gives an idea of what is a typical solo campaign, though there really is no such thing.

Solo PC: Camina Gravescribe a cleric of my campaign's Church of the Dead (LN Greater Deity), her alignment was lawful good. When Camina's mother died her father gave her to the Church of the Dead as payment for the funeral. Camina started off in a group campaign, that went disastrously as the party was nearly TPKed several times and my wife decided that Camina was done with the party and drew up a new more combat orientated PC. We were considering starting up a new solo campaign and decided to spin off Camina into her own campaign.

Premise: My Church of the Dead is a powerful faith that is focused on the burying of the dead and protecting the remains of the dead, while their god judges and sends souls to their afterlives. It is also a very complex faith, it would take many pages to describe the faith in detail, suffice to say that there are many orders and factions within the faith and its political structure incorporates all of the elements listed previously. We decided that Camina would be assigned to supervise a few cemeteries and try to advance up the faith.

The Challenge: Demarche Camina Gravescribe started with a number of obstacles. She was LG in a LN faith. She belonged to the holy surname of least status, Gravescribe. She was low-level, lacked political connections, and was cash poor, which was almost a sin in her faith. Through the early part of the campaign there was a Succession War running in the background that caused shortages, tremendous price fluctuations, and all manner of difficulties for her holdings and her church. There were also complex machinations occuring within her church that she was initially ignorant of, but would quickly become embroiled in. The main challenge, though, was her holdings.

The Custodian of the Crypts of Duchess Street: Demarche Camina was charged with running two cemeteries and maintaining the family crypts of a poor and debauched noble family in Duchess Street. This neighborhood of the city of Calbrien was poor, corruptly managed, overrun by the thieves' guild, home to rundown and fiercely competing churches, plagued with lesser undead in the sewers, and home to several cults including the Church of Bones (LE Intermediate Deity of Necromancy and Undead). Demarche Camina was given a young Ghost Knight (low-level NPC fighter) and a few prayers of encouragement and expected to probably be killed like the last three young demarches sent to Duchess Street.

Beginning Adventures

Demarche Camina went to the other temples, include the Church of the Dawn (CG intermediate deity) to propose combining forces to battle undead, she was able to build a small party of clerics and faithful warriors to slosh through the sewers. Demarche Camina took the bold step of contacting the Assembly (thieves' guild) and asking them to stop dropping bodies in the sewers and to just chuck them over a wall of one of her cemeteries and she would take care of them. Demarche Camina took an even bolder step when she made contact with Church of Bones and told them to stop taking bodies from the cemeteries, and if they did that, she would not delve too deeply into their activities. Within a few days, Demarche Camina had aligned herself with the key powers of the district and protected herself from assassination. For several adventures, Demarche Camina got to know people across the district, fought undead, and built up connections, but was still very isolated from the rest of her church. This was part of her plan, because she realized that many of her policies would not be seen positively by her faith.

Many of our adventures dealt with putting down undead, getting ghosts to pass to the next life, investigating special murders, handling estates, and trying to expand the faith. There were also meetings and discussions with other clerics of the faith and some of them are pretty theological in nature, as Demarche Camina starts to seriously explore her faith. There were also side plots, such as the Succession War which was changing the kingdom, but which Demarche Camina was happily uninvolved with, additionally Demarche Camina had a mute prophet as her ward and was involved with various charitable activities.

Campaign Intensifies

Demarche Camina is contacted by an Elder Demarche from a different region of the church to provide intelligence on the Church of Bones as there would be a development to eliminate this rival to the faith. Demarche Camina investigates, using her ties to the Assembly to learn that the Elder Demarche was aligned with the Cult of Orcus against the Church of Bones in a conflict known as the Bone War, which was being fought across the campaign world and in the outer planes and was coming to Duchess Street. The Elder Demarche tells Demarche Camina to make sure she is not in the district one night, and Demarche Camina decides a LE deity of necromancy is better than a CE deity of necromancy and gives a warning to the Church of Bones and her other allies in the district. She stays that night and tries to protect the cemeteries, undead enter the district and a grand battle is fought between the followers of Orcus and the followers of the Church of Bones, who are also indirectly aided by other factions. Demarche Camina and her small group fight off undead trying to desecrate the cemeteries. When things quiet down, Demarche Camina goes through the streets and sewers gathering bodies of the undead and their treasure and bringing it back to her cemetery for cremation. In the morning she sends all of the treasure to her church, except for scrolls, potions, and a few items for her own use.

During this time her ward, the mute prophet was assassinated as part of a side-plot and this was a major turning point for Camina as she desperately wanted to raise her ward, but this was against the teachings of her faith. She decides in the end to let her ward pass to the next life and thus finally comes to embrace the ways of her faith. She also starts to become a spiritual leader and having finally dealt with death is able to better articulate her faith.

Campaign becomes High-level

Demarche Camina becomes embroiled in the politics of her faith and Duchess Street. Due to her major behests to the church she is given funds to build a crypt, ie. temple in Duchess Street. Due to her political ascension she is given an additional cemetery to manage as well as Novice Demarches and a few more Ghost Knights. One of the scrolls from the great battle, was a scroll of teleport circle that looked to lead back to a temple of Orcus. Demarche Camina kept this for herself and recruited a group of high-level adventurers, much higher-level than herself, to take out this temple. They teleport in and fight a tremendous battle, Demarche Camina keeps in the back dealing with lesser undead and providing support to the high-level NPCs. After this mission, Demarche Camina is wealthy and a potent cleric and has seriously crippled the Cult of Orcus within the kingdom.

This is about when the campaign winded down and went on hiatus, Demarche Camina married a royal magistrate, became an Elder Demarche, was named a teacher at the Seminary of the Dead, and became a disciple of a epic-level spiritual leader of her faith. There are many adventures waiting to be embarked upon and my wife has hinted at returning to the campaign, but the story of Camina Gravescribe has mostly been told and this is where we left it.


Yes, we know that was very long, but Illion and I wanted to provide enough information to answer most questions and issues concerning solo campaigns. Our intention is for this to be the ultimate thread on solo campaigns, so if anyone has additional suggestions, ideas, or examples of successful solo campaigns please post them here.

If there is interest we can do more examples from our campaigns, clarify any points, and of course, answer any questions with the help of our fellow DMs.

We hope that our 'little' project is of some assistance.

Adventure Example #1

What follows is a brief synopsis of a recent solo adventure I (KJW) ran with one of my players as a side adventure from the group campaign.

Solo PC: Bert Woodshank a halfing ranger/bard with a chaotic good alignment. Bert's player is one of my best roleplayers, and Bert is his most cherished PC. Bert is admittedly worthless in combat, but he is a good scout and has endeared himself to the party by writing songs for all of the party members and the group's adventures (yes the player does indeed write songs for the group).

Premise: The party rescued an ancient temple from evil and the Tear of the Water Dragon King (water elemental weird, MMII) granted the PCs prophecies or answers to questions. Bert asks 'who is the halfling maiden he should marry' and is answered thus: “Three fair maidens of the little folk outshine all the rest for their beauty and charm and await the hand of a worthy suitor, such as you. In Pailanus, there is a beauty beyond compare named Addy Briarbrook, but any suitor must overcome her stubborn father and five jealous brothers. In the homeland, there is the lovely Madeline Greenhill, a lover of words and ideas who is as cunning as she is beautiful, but the suitor who takes her hand should not expect a traditional wife. Finally, there is Wisteria Clearbrook, who is the daughter of the First Mayor of Lorien and a lady-in-waiting in attendance to the High Queen Aurine of the Western Kingdom, and her laugh is like the singing of stars, but she sought by the most heroic of the little folk.” A few months later the party settled down for some down time and Bert decided to pursue Madeline Greenhill, and thus began the solo adventure.

DM's Note: So why did I give him three choices? Well, if the DM has the opportunity he should give the PC choices such as this, poor Bert spent many sessions weighing each candidate and trying to decide who he should marry. Also if the DM imposed his idea of an ideal wife upon the PC, that would be an example of bad railroading. Still this is railroading as I in effect limited the PC to three choices, but I thought they were good choices for Bert.

The Challenge: Bert needed to travel back to his homeland, get permission from his family's matriarch to wed Madeline Greenhill, find Madeline Greenhill, court her successfully, and get back to join the party before its next big adventure.

The Caravan: Bert decided to find a caravan going to the homeland, he figured he could offer to perform, scout, and help out to pay his way. Bert was a mid-level character and while not the best in combat, was very skilled. To help him out I had him meet up with an old friend and fellow performed, Gabby Gemsparkle a gnome rogue/illusionist. (I made up this character, introduced her as an old friend, and my player ran with it creating a back story as the adventure unfolded.) Bert and Gabby join up with the Caravan of Master Ansai, a massive caravan of cattle, horses, wagons, and pilgrims that traveled from a major city to the grand capital and back twice a year. The caravan is like a moving town filled with interesting people and activities. Bert and Gabby are hired to perform and help out the caravan. Bert performs well and makes friends with everyone in the caravan, and when cattle rustlers strike the caravan at night it is Bert who is first on the scene, tracks down the rustlers, and using hit and run tactics recovers the cattle for the caravan. Master Ansai is impressed and gives Bert some more tasks on the route, such as negotiating with farmers and serving as a liaison with mercenaries as they cross a dangerous forested area. While with the mercenaries, Bert is part of a battle with orcs and with music and sniping helps carry the battle. When the caravan reaches the homeland, Master Ansai pays Bert a bonus of 50gp, gives him the pony he had been loaned by the caravan, and is offered employment with good pay for the return journey, but he needs to be ready to go in 30 days. Gabby says goodbye and wishes Bert good luck, now Bert is alone.

DM's Note: Bert did very well with the caravan, and it gave me an opportunity to set a time limit for his courting adventure. Master Ansai offered him a good job for the trip back, one that Bert would like to take. Timing is always a problem for solo adventures in reuniting the PC and party, this employment offer established a timeline to help bring everything together on time.

Family: Bert spends a little time with his family, and sees that some things have changed. He feels a little out of place among his kin and friends, but focuses on his task and gets permission from the matriarch to pursue Madeline Greenhill, who he learns is the daughter of the eccentric wizard Alton Greenhill and lives in the northern reach of the homeland.

DM's Note: Bert provided me with a list of some of his family from his background and I filled in the rest. It was a brief stay, but I worked in the details from his background, but also changed details. His lizardmen enemies had made peace with the halflings and unmarried relations were now engaged, married, or married with kids. Backgrounds are great, but a good DM needs to make them evolve to make them work.

Finding Madeline: Bert wanders across the homeland finding Greenhills and tracking down Madeline, he eventually comes to the small town where she and her father lives. Bert learns that she is pursued by the son of the major who is a big brute, and that her father has disappeared. Bert serenades her and almost is blasted with magic missiles as Madeline is a low-level wizard. Bert plies on the charm and eventually learns from Madeline that her father has disappeared on a quest to find the House of Luzen Springapple the Mad, who was a great halfling wizard who had a magical house linked to multiple planes and was her great-grandfather. Bert says he will help her find her father in exchange for her considering to marry him. Madeline amused with her odd suitor agrees and they set off to find the House of Luzen the Mad.

DM's Note: OK I admit I patterned Madeline and her situation on Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, don't judge me harshly, but it actually worked very well. Now as for Madeline's personality, I have the prophecy, Belle, and a some ideas. Madeline is of course beautiful, charisma 18, but she is also bright and a wizard. Her wisdom is a little on the low side, and physically she is a little weak. She is assertive and a little bossy (only child), opinionated (when she eventually meets the party her little folk superiority does come out from a number of humorous exchanges with the other PCs who actually aren‘t fond of her), and loves knowledge, with Madeline I make up tons of pointless trivial historical facts, she was on track to be the Loremaster prestige class

The Quest for Papa: Madeline knows where to go and she and Bert loot the grave of an ancient ancestor, recover a magic key, find a secret door, and enter the House of Luzen the Mad. Inside they find a female Djinn who was an old friend of Luzen and now executor of his estate, she tells them the house will fall to the relation who can bring a golden apple, feather of a phoenix, and water from the celestial ocean to her. When asked about Alton, she says he set off to get the items…but he went to Sigil first. The Djinn advises them to not go to Sigil as they are…well prime halflings…and a little naive at best, but Madeline and Bert charge to the portal to Sigil in the upstairs attic of the house. Well they come out in Sigil, totally out of their element, and they don’t notice the ghoul-demon watching their portal. The ghoul-demon leaps out and tries to take them prisoner, Bert tells Madeline to flee and he fights off the ghoul-demon. Madeline escapes back through the portal, Bert is captured. He is taken to Baron Gafke an exiled cambion who has Alton in his dungeons and wishes the Soul Shard which was stolen from him by Luzen the Mad a centurty ago. Baron Gafke gives Bert three years to find the Soul Shard, if he succeeds then Alton will be released, if not then Baron Gafke will be coming to the homeland to find the Soul Shard. Bert is dumped by the portal and returns to the house and then the homeland and finds Madeline.

DM‘s Notes: I admit to being overly ambitious, the House of Luzen the Mad is a wonderful site and a true treasure if it can be reclaimed. Also I get to add a new BBEG to the campaign and introduce some planar elements. So many future adventure hooks! Happy DM!

Return to the Party: Madeline agrees to follow Bert back to his party to see if they can help rescue her father and also agrees to marry him along the way as she has become impressed with the charm and bravery of her suitor. Madeline makes a splash with the party and tries too hard to sell herself, she annoys some of the PCs, but as she is Bert’s betrothed they let her come with the party. After a few sessions, Madeline is starting to fit in better, but is frustrated with the party’s obsession with completing their current contract before deciding what to do with her father. Tragedy strikes! During an attack by evil druids opposed to the party, Madeline is killed. She was far lower-level than the rest of the party, and Bert blames himself for her death. After much indecision he decides to not raise her, but pledges himself to rescue her father. Bert acquires extreme hatred of druids. Bert struggles and slides from CG to CN and eventually leaves the party after an argument with an NPC.

DM‘s Notes: OK I am not a mean DM, it was not my intention to kill Madeline, plus resurrection was possible, and the end result was Bert leaving the party. All of this was unexpected, but great for roleplaying and my player loved the solo adventure and everything that happened. Right now Bert’s player is waiting for our next solo adventure as he decides what to do about Baron Gafke and Alton Greenhill.

Addendum 12/16/05: Romantic Entanglements

Originally Posted by quarkstomper

This is very good. I've been running solo games with my wife for several years and I can't think of much to add to your notes, except to comment that the solo game works well for romantic subplots. (In fact that's the main reason my wife likes the solo games; she plays them for all the hot RP lovin'. But that's a subject for another forum…)

One of the challenges I've dealt with is something I call the Steve Trevor Syndrome. When I give my female player a NPC companion with the idea of making him a romanitc foil, I will want that companion to be competent enough to be interesting. But because he is an NPC, I can't have him overshadowing the player. So how do I make the Companion heroic enough to be worthy of the Player without hogging the spotlight?

…argh! I have more to say, but my Favorite Player needs me to run to the store. More later.

Response by KJW

My wife is much the same, she loves the roleplaying and adventure, but it is often the romantic entanglements that make or break a good solo campaign. What follows are some questions and suggestions for designing a good object of affection for the Solo PC.

Designing the Romantic Interest

  1. What are the strengths? The romantic interest needs to be a compelling character, he should be confident, humorous (though it may be sarcasm), and should have a presence to match that of the Solo PC. Remember the Solo PC is often a near legendary character of great ability, connections, and ambition, so her romantic interest must be impressive to catch their attention.
  2. What are the flaws? The romantic interest MUST have flaws. This could be a lack of ambition, too dedicated to their work, or some other element of their personality that is a genuine shortcoming. Flaws are what make great NPCs and when they can overcome these flaws they can become legends.
  3. What does he do? The romantic interest should have a job or responsibility, perhaps they handle this responsibility poorly, but they need something to help the Solo PC and DM figure out his connection and relationship with the Solo PC.
  4. Why is he interested in the Solo PC? This is a question the DM must ask. If it is beauty or other shallow reasons then the relationship may quickly hit rough waters when the ambitions of the couple come into conflict, if the romantic interest sees deeper then this will help the relationship in troubled times.
  5. Is there a future in the relationship? Like in real life it may take some time for the Solo PC to find the right person, the DM may well go through a few tragically flawed romantic interests, before the soul mate is found. Additionally, they may be the perfect couple, but one has an arranged marriage or some other obligation that may spell doom to the relationship. A good happy ending takes a lot of work.

The Key Balance

As Quarkstomper states, the difficult balance is between keeping the Solo PC in the spotlight and making the romantic interest heroic. If a romantic interest becomes too subservient or less compelling then the relationship with collapse, whereas if the romantic interest steals the spotlight then the relationship can become patronizing. The best track is to give them related but separate careers, where both can shine and be as heroic as possible. For example, the Solo PC is an adventurer and the romantic interest is a respected court magician, yes they can help one another, but they have separate responsibilities. They both may serve the king and this is something that may unite them, but they work separately. They need to be separated physically and professionally to keep the relationship thriving during the campaign. When the Solo PC and romantic interest are close together, like both are members of a party of adventurers then things become more complicated.

DM Tool: Friends & Family

Sometimes the best way to sell a romantic interest is to have others sing his praises, this could be his friends, family members, or even underlings. These conversations will also help evolve the romantic interest. When a soldier under his command states “the General is always with us in the field and he is among the ranks in battle, he is the best officer I have ever served with,” the Solo PC now knows the General is a loved and good leader and the DM knows that the General is very dedicated to his duties, which could become a flaw in their relationship.

Addendum 12/20/05: Solo Campaign Example

By Illion the Red:

Here is an example of one of the Solo Campaigns I have run in the past and still revisit from time to time.

This campaign centered around a Halfling Rogue with three names. Portia Amareliss Thorngage was the first experiment that the player and I tried with an evil D&D character.

Early Campaign

Set in the seaport city of Natesh, our intrepid adventurer quickly ran afoul of the city’s thieves’ guild with her freelance work. She cased a number of houses and picked various pockets while she waited for the targets of the houses to be “away.” Four houses fell to her skills before the Thieves’ Guild took notice of her, but when they did…they did so quickly and with little leeway. She was given a simple choice – join or die. She chose “join” but harbored her resentment of their strong-arm methods for a later date.

Once in the guild, her skills and talents proved to be superior to her peers and she quickly became in demand by the various sub-leaders of the guild. One, in particular took a very special interest in her. Archie never seemed to leave the guild house or the complex underneath it, but he always seemed to know what was going on outside the guild – especially when it concerned the young Halfling that had taken to calling herself “Liss.”

As Archie demanded a far lesser cut of loot and allowed her more freedom in choosing her own assignments, Liss gravitated to his employ, performing more and more jobs for him. She was having a grand-olde-time increasing her standing and her secreted-away wealth.

Campaign Shift One

Then came the day things changed for her. She received some special and odd instructions directly from Archie which involved meeting him at a location well away from the guild once the job was done. She, of course, immediately became very suspicious of the mission, especially since in involved the murder of a local merchant. Still, her work under Archie had been profitable and fun, so she decided to fulfill the mission. She killed the merchant and (outside of the mission description) framed her chief rival in the guild, making sure that he had no alibi for the crime.

Her meeting with Archie afterwards was approached with care and suspicion. Frantically watching for traps and double-crosses, she went to the designated meeting location and, surprisingly, Archie was there, alone, and happy to see her. He explained to her that her mission was actually a test of her true calling and complimented her on her execution of the mission, especially proud of her nuance in framing her rival. She was welcomed into the ultra-secretive Crimson Claw Assassins’ Guild.

Liss continued her ways, accepting commissions for both thievery and assassinations with equal abandon and glee. Her reputation and prestige continued to grow in both of her disciplines until her “fame” began to grate on the nerves of the upper leaders of the Thieves’ Guild. They sought to rein her in. She had other ideas…

Campaign Shift Two

Liss played up the simpering reticent servant to her “masters” until they were satisfied that they had full control over her. She then put into motion a bold plan she had formulated to take control of the guild for herself.

Through over a year of bribes, tips, and other means, she had (in disguise) gained the friendship and loyalty of the captain of the city guard and a great number of the most effective amongst the guards’ ranks. She used this friendship to set up a secret operation for the guards to wipe out the Thieves’ Guild.

Simultaneously, she set about arranging a rare meeting of the full guild to discuss a “grave threat” she had uncovered while sneaking around the Duke’s Mansion. During the meeting, she slipped out and silently killed the thieves watching the entrances to the guild. The thieves were taken by surprise as the best of the guards stormed into the guild from every secret entrance. None of the guild leaders survived…and precious few of the thieves survived either. The guild was destroyed and all thought killed.

Liss began her new life as the leader of the few who survived the attack. As the new leader of the Thieves’ Guild, her adventures continued, moving into a more political arena where manipulating others became more important than accomplishing things herself.

This campaign continued for some time after this climax, hitting upon a number of additional high points, but in the interest of space, I’ll end here.

Addendum 12/21/05: Solo Adventure Ideas for Clerics


Alright here are a few ideas for solo adventures for clerics that could be built into entire solo campaigns…

  1. The Solo PC is sent to a small frontier community to tend a small, but spiritually important, shrine to the faith. The Solo PC will serve there for a year before being transferred to another assignment. If the DM wishes the community could be so small that the Solo PC is the primary cleric of the community. This is a good first adventure for a low-level cleric in a small community (easier to design).
  2. The Solo PC is appointed the spiritual advisor to a young prince (or princess) of the kingdom. Our young royal is advenurous and possibly a romantic interest, but has little common sense and it is up to the Solo PC to protect him from machinations in the royal court.
  3. The Solo PC is named the custodian of an ancient relic of the faith, unfortunately when she arrives to take charge of the item she learns it had been stolen upon the death of the previous custodian. Now the Solo PC must find the relic, which would be of little value to anyone outside of the faith. This could be a good side adventure for a cleric who is part of a group campaign and should be rewarded by her faith for her heroic deeds.
  4. The Solo PC is charged with transporting the remains of a recently deceased high priest from his death to his tomb, but enemies of the faith wish the body to animate into a deadly form of undead. Truthfully, this could be a great group adventure.
  5. The Solo PC is sent to a savage land to spread the faith and is charged with eventually starting a temple. This could be to a savage human land, to humanoids, or even civilized but very exotic humanoids, such as Merfolk. This would be a great solo campaign, as the Solo PC works against the local faiths, strange customs, and other challenges.

Addendum 12/26/05: Solo Adventure Ideas for Wizards


Alright here are a few ideas for solo adventures for wizards that could be built into entire solo campaigns…

  1. The Solo PC is about to graduate from his wizardry training and must perform some challenge, such as recovering an item from a trapped chamber, defeating a fellow student in a magic duel, to traveling and recovering some item needed by his master. This is a good way to start a Solo Campaign and also to teach a new player the rules.
  2. The Solo PC is appointed the magical advisor (or tutor) to a young prince (or princess) of the kingdom. Our young royal is advenurous and possibly a romantic interest, but has little common sense and it is up to the Solo PC to protect him from machinations in the royal court. [Some ideas work perfectly well for all classes with a little tweaking]
  3. The Solo PC wishes to join a wizard guild and must complete a far more dangerous challenge than #1. This would be a good side-adventure for a PC wizard who is with a group, but wants to join a wizard guild. If the DM introduced some machinations behind the scenes during the Solo Adventure, such as the Solo PC being recruit to join a faction that wishes to overthrow the guild this could become the basis for a group campaign.
  4. The Solo PC wants to craft a magical item and the DM requires the Solo PC to have to acquire a few rare components. This was common in 2nd Edition, and is easy to add to 3.5 by replacing some of the GP cost with necessary items that are not available for purchase. The crafting of a powerful magic item can become a campaign upon itself.
  5. The Solo PC is drafted and assigned as the wizard to a border castle on the frontier. This is a good idea to set up a campaign in a small community while providing the Solo PC with lots of support. This could easily evolve into many types of campaigns depending upon the setting.

Addendum 1/7/06: The Cardinal Edict

Originally Posted by KJW

Once again people should feel free to write up a synopsis of a favorite solo campaign or adventure they have run, I do believe that more examples can help people understand why solo campaigns are so popular. In truth, most of my solo campaigns are in other systems so I only have a handful of D&D examples.

Response by Ormiss

Interesting that you should mention that. For myself, although I spent my adolescence dreaming about participating in the quintessential roleplaying campaign, the lion's share of my experience as a player and as a DM has come from solo campaigns played with my best friend. As a DM, however, I've largely used custom systems, rather than published ones. However, I will take the liberty of giving an example that would have worked just as well in D&D.

The Cardinal Edict

One of the great benefits of having but one player in a campaign is that you're granted a great deal of freedom in relation to the magnitude of the PC. Consider the Baldur's Gate series (BG2 is most likely my favorite game of all time); this premise would be almost impossible to play with a group, due to the blinding spotlight on the “main character,” but functions very well as a solo campaign. During a discussion one day, my player intimated that he liked the idea of playing a young, inexperienced king who would have to prove himself. “Sweet, strategic army battles,” I thought, and merged the idea with a campaign seed that had been ruminating in my mind for a time.

Prince Aozrayn of Erde Kahn, a relatively small nation on the sub-continent of Erz, is 15 years old, and the campaign started with the ceremony that marked his coming of age, and cemented his position as the heir to the throne. The royal ball that followed was spent introducing the player to his natural environment in preparation for the coming events. Through conversation and interaction, he was introduced to his bodyguard (the Princess Serreia of Navasco, a neighboring nation famous for its blend of philosophy and weapons mastery… I was typing away on an explanation of Navasco here, but I realized it's more than needs to be said), his parents, and generally got a feel for his position as crown prince.

Generally, it's best to start a story with action, but a solo campaign often relies largely on deeper emotions than a group campaign. Therefore, I felt it necessary to provide some time for the player to become acquainted with his friends and family before I threw him into the thick of it. I wouldn't say this is always the best way to start a solo campaign, but considering what happened next in this particular campaign, I believe it was for the better.

During the festivities, a shadow organization calling themselves the Crimson Shield approached the king and requested a private audience. The prince participated in this meeting after the ball, and to make a long story short, the Crimson Shield agents presented the royal family with relatively convincing proof that a demon incursion was about to occur in a neighboring country. The Crimson Shield, purportedly a group that exists to prevent such events, also claimed that the royal heirloom of Erde Kahn, the Ruby Sigil, was one of the artifacts potent enough to prevent this particularly devastating incursion. This gate, if opened, would align the domain of the Nameless Terror, the Exarch of Ker-Reguel, Realm of Fear, with Erz.

Note that, as over the top as this is, this campaign setting is relatively low on magic. Hence, neither Aozrayn nor his parents believe(d) that demons exist. Earlier in this thread, there were comments on council meetings and the role of the PC in such situations. Although Aozrayn's father was the natural leader during that event, it had previously been established that his parents were grooming him for leadership. Hence, the precocious prince was allowed to interject freely during the conversation, and his parents often let him speak for them.

Though unconvinced, the royal family decides to lend the Ruby Sigil to the Crimson Shield. However, they insist on accompanying the monks to the sealing, bringing a small retinue of their elite soldiers. Since there's no time to arrange an overt reason to travel to the neighboring nation of Jalunde, they travel incognito and swiftly across the border.

After dispatching a group of bandits who, strangely, did not seem perturbed by the revelation that they were attacking royalty, the group reaches the ritual grounds in the deep forest. To make another long story short, it doesn't go quite as they had expected (), and the Crimson Shield monks are slain as devils emerge from the burning portal, led by the hulking Gate Crusher. Their last words? Protect the Ruby Sigil… which is in Prince Aozrayn's hands. Under the skilled guidance of King Restefon, the knights fight valiantly to drive the devils back, but they are ultimately slain. Aozrayn, in a fit of terrified necessity, manages to lure the Gate Crusher away by goading him with the Ruby Sigil. Eventually, the king is cloven in twain by the Gate Crusher's axe, and the queen is torn to shreds by a group of lesser devils as she tries to protect Serreia. However, just as Aozrayn strikes out in fury and fear, the ritual, set in motion, is completed… and the Ruby Sigil absorbs the emerging realm. The devils are sent back as the prince falls unconscious.

When Prince Aozrayn wakes up, he and Serreia are the only survivors, and the Ruby Sigil has somehow become grafted to his shoulder. Thus, the campaign's prologue ends.


In order to make this campaign interesting, I had decided to introduce a variety of semi-related plots that would keep twisting while the player does whatever he wants, each one capable of spinning out an adventure arc now and then as I see fit. There are several challenges facing Prince Aozrayn:

  • When Aozrayn returned to Erde Kahn, the border was closed. He was then informed that the nation was at war: Shortly following his parents' death, the Queen of Kirzegoth had proclaimed that the regent of Erde Kahn had willfully attacked the nation of Jalunde, and declared war against the smaller nation. All of Erde Kahn's neighbors–with the notable exception of Navasco–allied themselves with Kirzegoth.
  • The Ruby Sigil has apparently made Aozrayn the Guardian of Ker-Reguel, the realm he managed to seal away. Although this enables him to decide who comes and goes from the realm, he cannot yet control his power, and the incessant voices of the innumerable denizens of Ker-Reguel crying for release make his life difficult. Since Ker-Reguel is apparently part of an elaborate afterlife, many of the demons trapped within are willing to bargain for release…
  • During Aozrayn's absence, an impostor had taken his place and ruled the nation ruinously. Though Aozrayn slew this impostor–a shapeshifter from a demonic realm apparently engaged in war with Ker-Reguel–his short rule had caused much damage. Of course, the presence of such a demon in Erz has some connection to the actions of the Kirzegotian queen…
  • His father's leadership held Erde Kahn together. Although the people are royalistic, the young king has much to prove. This is my player's favorite part of the campaign, so I make the most out of it. There are numerous people in positions of power in Erde Kahn that do not believe that the young man has what it takes to run the nation, so he has to prove himself to these people while simultaneously learning how to administer a complex nation.
  • Four nations are allied against the small nation of Erde Kahn, and their armies are marching through their territory as we speak. In order to protect his nation, Aozrayn must not only unite his troops and learn to lead and inspire them, but also find alliances wherever he can. There is ample intrigue, as even his allies are hard pressed to remain on his side.
  • Though Aozrayn does not know it yet, the Gate Crusher has managed to breach the boundaries and enter Erz. (This was revealed in one of the short stories I occasionally write to expand on tangental characters and events.)
  • Not all denizens of Ker-Reguel are hostile: For instance, Ech-Sezare, the Patriarch of the Dark Cloud Clan, has granted some assistance to Aozrayn, seemingly without interest for reciprocation. A demoness named Oysua seems to remain aloof of the demonic hierarchy, spending her turtuous existence constantly running from her many enemies in order to remain independent.

This type of situation allows for a varied campaign; rather than follow any one aspect, the player remains free to concentrate on whatever he finds most intriguing at the moment. At the same time, the nature of the events that surround the recently crowned king force him to take action. As the DM, however, it doesn't matter to me what he decides to do, since the playing field is set up.

The House of Feathers

There's been one traditional dungeon so far. When Aozrayn returned to the capital, he dispatched the impostor who had been ruling the nation in his name during his absence. However, the plot of these apparent shapeshifters ran deeper: When the nation's most powerful duke, a friend of the king who would otherwise be Aozrayn's staunchest supporter, arrived at the royal palace, he accused the prince of murdering his father, based on testimony he claimed to have received from the dying king. Eventually, in order to prove his innocence, Aozrayn agreed to go through with a lost tradition; the rite of the House of Feathers, which was a test to ensure the capability of the crown prince in the past.

Along with his most trusted people, Aozrayn traveled to Mount Damai to the south in order to go through the House of Feathers and seek the priestesses that dwell on the top. However, upon entering the House of Feathers, having earlier received a cryptic (and crude) warning from the demoness Oysua), he finds that the Ruby Sigil reacts to the wards within, causing a rift in Ker-Reguel that promptly becomes a battleground between devils that attempt to pass through the lethal rift.


One interesting thing about that dungeon was that the player chose who to bring with him before leaving the palace. Aside from his trusted warriors, he also said that he wanted to bring two of the ~100 soldiers that had accompanied him from the border to the capital, and had thus far proven their loyalty. His criteria were simple: He wanted a sword user and a man with a polearm… so I came up with two names and made up their personalities as we went along. Following their actions in the House of Feathers, both of them had been developed to the point where they had become trusted and well-liked by the player.

The point is that there are a lot of people in a world, and you don't have time to describe them all. When the player(s) decides to talk to someone, it helps the suspension of disbelief if you learn to develop their personality as you go along. This way, it feels as though the character existed before he was introduced, rather than being made up. He just hadn't been in the spotlight before. In general, improvisation, when trained, can help you by filling in the blanks as you go along rather than burning yourself out trying to create an expansive list of geographical features, organizations or NPCs.


More so than in a group campaign, a solo campaign is a cooperative effort between the DM and the player. My player tends to be very proactive, and I indulge that. If he's discussing something with a character, he will often make up things about their shared past or the world that I had previously not planned. In this case, unless what he just said directly contradicts something important, I just accept it as the truth and run with it.

Completely Unrelated Example:

NPC: “What was that?! Gods, these things vanish as quickly as they strike… how can we stand against this?”

PC “This reminds me of that time we hunted gnolls through the barrow. How did we survive then?” (Never happened, but these two have adventured before, off the stage, so it's reasonable enough.)

NPC: Grimaces. “Sheer luck?”

PC: “Well, that, and a couple of well-placed fireball spells…” Grins.

NPC: Pales. “You're not going to… Oh, gods…”

Not all players are this proactive, and making this work is a matter of getting to know each other's playstyles. However, the important thing is to keep in mind that unless what the player suggests is contrary to something which will ultimately be more fun for him, it's good to learn to roll with it.

That was too long, too detailed, and probably too boring… and still I feel as though I left out too many important details.

Addendum 1/7/06: Narrations

By Ormiss:

This is a something that I've only recently begun to truly explore, but I've found it to be a powerful tool. In a story that lacks interaction, and especially a novel, a large part of the entertainment can often spring from knowing what both sides are thinking, or knowing something that the main character doesn't know. (Shakespeare used this almost incessantly, and look where it got him!) In a typical D&D campaign, narrations are tricky to use correctly. The difficulty lies in revealing something interesting without causing the players to metagame. If you have a group of skilled roleplayers, it's a powerful tool, but even more so if you're running a solo campaign for one skilled roleplayer who will wilfully deny his character player knowledge in order to make the story more dramatic.

In such situations, narrations can be used in a variety of ways. Narrations provide a dramaturgic break that can help you guide the pace. If the player is on a quest to save someone, you can narrate a scene where the captor is torturing or otherwise threatening the victim in order to instill a palpable sense of urgency. It'll probably make the player hate the villains more, too. In a romance, you can use narrations to show what the other person is thinking, even as they're outwardly cool towards each other. Narrating a scene with previously unknown characters can be a useful method of hinting at a profounder plot or deeper world.

I'm also planning to use narrations in the campaign I wrote about in the previous post as a means of occasionally providing further information about the king and queen's shared past, since it's rather atypical. My hope is that exposition on these characters will endear them to the player, so that the loss is all the more felt. It's difficult to make the player truly care about NPCs without extended time developing them, which is why I'm going to go about it in a rather strange manner.

It's important to find a good, balanced way of using narrations. If you overuse them, or use them at the wrong times, you'll risk ruining the interactivity of the campaign, which is undoubtedly a bad thing.

By the way, thanks for a great thread!

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I love to read your campaign examples; the more detailed, the better. If you feel like posting other examples, I don't care if they're D&D or not. They're what prompted me to post my own example.

Addendum 1/8/06: Non-D&D Solo Campaign


I have been inspired by Ormiss to post an overview of my current solo campaign, which is not D&D.

Soledad Castenada

Well right now I am running a solo campaign with my wife in Rifts that could be called West Wing: Rifts by the way it is playing out. Rifts is a post-apocalyptic setting where the Earth is overrun by beings and demons that have come through the Rifts. It is an outrageous setting with little game balance and I used to have major problems with the mechanics, but a recent revision and my wife's enthusiasm for the setting prompted me to try another Rifts campaign.

We started on the premise that my wife wanted to run a Coaltion (evil human supremacist nation that is anti-magic, but also the most advanced and safe nation in North America) deserter who turns her fellow deserters into a mercenary unit. We ran one adventure and it felt stale and neither of us got into it as it was pretty similar to solo campaigns we had run before. My wife liked her character a psychic named Soledad Castenada…and she liked the idea of bounty hunting instead of being a mercenary, but I felt that bounty hunting would get stale quick. We stepped away from the solo campaign for a few weeks.

I retooled the campaign and had Soledad instead of being a deserter, she was exiled from the Coalition for investigating corruption too high up the chain of command. I was inspired by a series of mystery books we have been reading about a Chinese police officer sent to prison in Tibet for similar reasons and embraces Tibetan Buddhism, then gets involved in murder investigations, and eventually released to wander Tibet.

Soledad is sent from the Coalition to be part of the exodus program with which she will be given a senior law enforcement position in an allied but separate mostly human kingdom (Manistique Imperium) with a luxury apartment, high salary, and all manner of benefits. Although Soledad is being kicked out of the Coalition, she was a honest and brilliant investigator so her supporters made sure she would be taken care of in exile.

We began the campaign on the ship that took her to Manistique and was sitting in the harbor, but while the ship was traveling to Manistique with trade goods and passengers the Imperium went through a civil war and a change in government. Soledad helps with communications monitoring and waits on the ship for 2 weeks, tensions rising on board, and confusion about what was happening on shore. Eventually, the government sends out a delegation led by an alien to process visas, clearly the pro-human government has been ousted. Soledad fears the worse and is confirmed: all the benefits she was promised have been rescinded and she has no apartment or job waiting for her. Fortunately, the alien (Minister of Immigration & Tourism) gives her a few meal and hotel vouchers, lets her in the Imperium, and wishes her good luck.

She goes to the Royal Police Service and presents herself for employment, making it clear she will take any work and that as a former police lieutenant and psychic she is very qualified. She is accepted by the Special Crimes Bureau as a detective (a demotion from her previous position in the Coalition) and assigned to Sgt. Raz'torgak Berak a alien-bear magic user as her partner. She has to deal with all her prejudices at once as it is clear that this is a test by her new superiors. She gets a rundown apartment and a bicycle and is ready to work.

My wife is interesting as a roleplayer; her abilities do actually match the character. In my online group campaign she is playing a half-ogre barbarian and she plays it well and thinks like a half-ogre; in this campaign she is playing a savant police investigator with psychic abilities and was truly phenomenal at roleplaying out the police work. Soledad and Sgt. Raz were one of the few paranormal teams in the Royal Police Service (RPS), so they were given lots of cases involving demonic cults, demons, wizards gone mad, psychic criminals, and the like.

Soledad grew frustrated with the ability of criminals to strike and then leave the Imperium and discovered CACTUS (Cooperative Apprehension of Criminals Treaty for Unifed Security) a little known agreement that the Imperium belonged to that focused on bounty hunters and bringing to justice mobile criminals. With her computer background she begins improving the program and championing for the Imperium to become more involved with this agreement. [OK admittedly with two lawyers we get excited about treaties, laws, jurisdiction, and all that nonsense.]

The Queen of the Imperium names a new head for the RPS, an alien from a advanced state known as Lazlo; his first action is to have all personnel take a battery of tests, submit their resumes, and also any ideas or suggestions they have. Soledad submits a very lenghty series of suggestions. Then Minister Azlan Reyn tells the officers of the RPS to dismiss 10% of their personnel. Soledad's lieutenant fires her as she is the least senior of the department and not even a citizen. Soledad uses her computer skills to send her resume directly to the new minister and then waits to see what happens. Minister Reyn then gives Soledad her lieutenant's job and tells her to experiment with a paranormal investigations department.

At this point the campaign is moving along pretty well and Soledad is also doing volunteer work teaching computer skills to 'gifted' children at an orphanage and school supported by her new church. She is trying dating, but with limited results and is slowly coming to consider the Imperium home.

A major series of terrorist attacks by enemies of the Coalition using magic and determined to punish the Imperium for its economic alliance with the Coalition puts Lt. Soledad Castenada in the spotlight. Pressure is on, lives are on the line, and Lt. Castenada manages to thwart the terrorist cell, though several escape. This though gives her national attention. She goes on a delegation out West to go to the annual CACTUS Conference and she makes friends with law enforcement personnel across the continent and also senior leader of the Imperium, including the new Foreign Minister Gwen Patterson who is really the power behind the new government. She comes home and is on the way up.

Then one night the Coalition comes to her apartment and they have a deal,: she spies for them and in five years she can come back to the Coalition as a citizen with a high position. They make it clear that they can make her life more than difficult if she refuses, but they focus the discussion on the carrot. Soledad is scared, but goes to the first alien she met, Minister Garzan Tripphas of Immigration & Tourism and asks for help. He gets her to take citizenship and inform every key government official she knows that she was contacted by the Coalition. She has thrown her lot in with the Imperium and its new government.

The campaign moves forward and Lt. Castenada eventually rises to Capt. and creates the Special Threats Department to deal with the most eggregious of threats, which in Rifts is pretty outrageously extreme. She begins working with mercenaries though the Manistique Imperium Mercenary Guild (an institution of my own invention and really cool); she uses these mercenaries to strike terrorists and pirates outside of the Imperium. She also recruits clairvoyants and they lead to the discovery of a pending coup against the government in power that is supported by some high-ranking members of the government and also the Coalition, which wants to annex the Imperium. Minister Reyn and Foreign Minister Patterson are informed by Soledad of the situation just a few days before the coup is planned; complex maneuvering, psychic and magical interrogations concealed by mind wipes, and delicate planning allow the government to thwart the coup with minimal loss of life. The Coalition aborts its invasion plans against a prepared and ready Imperium. Capt. Soledad Castenada is a hero.

OK as for campaign planning, we had gotten West Wing Seasons 1 & 2 as gifts over Christmas and as we have been watching and loving the series, I started thinking that this could be a cool approach for the Soledad campaign. After the coup, the new relatively new monarch, Queen Marie, has been pretty much a figurehead in the Imperium and has been poorly informed about security issues though she is a key vote on the Imperium's Security Council. She recruits Captain Soledad Castenada to serve as her Royal Conservator. Captain Soledad is now responsible for advising the Queen on security and foreign policy issues and has a office of loyal people that she has built throughout her time in the Imperium, Sgt. Raz is still with her as well, to assist her and carry out investigations on behalf of the Queen. On her first week on the job she initiated investigations into a distant civil war in a state that is believed to be secretly controlled by androids, dispatched a recon team to determine the threat of a demon state to an allied kingdom, and began investigation a princess of the Imperium to see if she might be convinced to enter into an arragned marriage with a king of a rising kingdom. The Queen is thrilled to finally have someone explaining her these issues and this has allowed her for the first time to take control of a Security Council meeting. Now the politics will begin as some of the government don't like the idea of the Queen being assertive.

OK now for this campaign I created a very complex government for the Imperium, there are four royal families, a Senate, a Cabinet Ministry with elected Ministers, a Privy Council to advise the Queen, the Royal Services (which are the law enforcement and military branches of the government), and seven (now six following a merger of the two weakest) political parties. In a few months I have created over 200+ NPCs of which about 50+ are recurring characters, though the story is about a core group of 20 characters. Soledad has finally starting dating a decent guy, unfortunately he is a mercenary leader and his unit is away and in danger most of the time, which is the key flaw in their relationship that must be addressed among others. For background materials I have 'news' reports from Sundays that are about 3 pages of material (consisting of a highlight of key articles in major newspapers and a synopsis of a major TV news program that Soledad watches). I have done about 30 of these so far so there is lots of depth to the setting.

I will post later overviews of 2 old D&D campaigns, which share elements of this campaign and show how to do some of the same things in a D&D setting.

I really want to congratulate Ormiss on the Aozyran solo campaign. The epic of King Aozyran is a great example of how a solo campaign can go deeper and farther than group campaigns. In fact, it has tempted me to try beginning a solo PC as royalty, honestly, I usually chicken out and keep my solo PCs a few heartbeats from the throne.

One little thing I really liked is when your PC picked the two soldiers who had distinguished themselves, this was wise and kingly. A good solo PC makes everything come alive, because they can step up to the plate and become a true king, and one on par with the greats from literature and movies. The amazing thing is that I have seen many PCs who in group settings are a little off the curve in cunning and heroics, but after a few solo adventures they become absolutely amazing in their roleplaying and heroism (or villainy depending upon the campaign). Anyway, congratulations you have a great player by the sounds of it.

As for Ormiss's suggestion to do narrations, I second it and suggest anyone trying it, to stick to it for a few adventures to see if it works. In a few Star Trek solo campaigns I have roleplayed out flashbacks to the Academy or previous assigments and it worked out very well to fill out characters and the story arc. They felt a little awkward at first, but I pushed on and they became a cool addition to how I run games in Star Trek. I can definitely see how they could work well in D&D, but for some reason I have a DM-block on using them.

Anyway, Ormiss don't hesitate to update us on King Aozyran, I think it is a brilliant solo campaign and I can imagine how rewarding it is.

Addendum 1/8/06: Prologues

By Ormiss:

KJW, thanks for sharing with us the adventures of Soledad Castenada. I must confess, aside from playing and DMing (when it flows), reading summaries or logs of excellent campaigns is one of my favorite pastimes. Therefore, I thank you not only for the example, but for the entertainment and inspiration that reading it grants me. I'm looking forward to the D&D campaigns you mentioned. As an economist, I definitely understand the lure of treaties and pure political maneuvering as roleplaying potential. For me, that kind of realism adds a great deal to any campaign, even one focused primarily on action.

In the recent thread called something akin to “The Most Outrageous Character Ideas,” a player that wanted to be heir to a throne was mentioned, as was the reference to the Baldur's Gate plotline. Naturally, I agree that both these ideas are poor in most group campaigns, and I do recall playing a halfling king in a session when I was 12… Incidentally that was a solo campaign, but nothing to be proud of. I think I killed a hydra within an hour. At any rate, making a player royalty should, in my opinion, only be done as the story concept warrants. For instance, in a campaign based around diplomacy and heavy politics, it might be better to be an advisor or minor noble with a lot of limitations. (Soledad comes to mind, in her position as the queen's advisor.) However, when the campaign idea is the trials and tribulations of a ruler who has no one to turn to for higher assistance (well, except for demons… heh heh heh…), it fits. Ultimately, if you are blessed to have a skilled roleplayer in your campaign, anything that fits the campaign will work out. I am fortunate enough to have a very close relationship with my best friend, who is an experienced and excellent roleplayer.

At any rate, my suggestion about the king PC is: If you've got a player that can handle the challenge, and a campaign idea that harnesses the position rather than being hampered by it, go for it! It's been a lot of fun so far.

I'm glad you liked the example I made with the soldiers; part of the challenge and Aozrayn's roleplay is that he must choose his vassals carefully. His father's dearest friend, the chancellor and captain of the Falcon Knights fled with Aozrayn's sister during the impostor's reign, and their whereabouts are unknown, even as the late queen's Midnight Hunters (an organization of largely urban rangers) hound them, obeying the impostor's last command. Most of the knights died, and Aozrayn is left to fill positions with the best–and most loyal–people he can find. The soldiers, Cafas and Aridai, witnessed their young liege's bravery first hand in the event of the House of Feathers, and have bonded with him to the point where they will give their lives for their king. This will undoubtedly matter in the long run. Such relations also inspire me, since loyalty, friendship and heroism are among the things that touch me most.

The player actually has a lot of fun simply governing his kingdom. Occasionally I throw in more or less significant courtly events where he has to render judgment on a variety of things. One of the most interesting parts was how he handled the three nobles that accused him of killing his father: After returning from Mount Damai, he gauged their intentions and rendered quite different judgment accordingly: The duke was not punished, because his intentions seemed genuine, but one of the more opportunistic nobles was actually stripped of his title (actually, Aridai happened to be from that noble's domain, and could attest to his poor rulership… and suggest a better ruler, a young mayoress who will be quite surprised at the turn of events), while the third, a woman, was put on a “probationary period” as ruler of her domain.

You mentioned that narrations felt uncomfortable in the beginning. I forgot to mention that; I definitely felt pretty stupid when I started narrating. After doing it a couple of times, it gets a lot easier. The first time I used it was in the Wheel of Time (I used to be fanatical about the series until Crossroads of Twilight came out) campaign I started up this summer, and I felt like a total dork while describing Myrddraal and Trollocs sneaking through the woods. (If you're not familiar with WoT, a Death Knight leading a band of orcs will give you a close enough mental image.) The irony is that the campaign hasn't gotten too far because I'm worried about not being able to keep up the quality of the sessions after feeling like I got a hole in one during the last session. The campaign, and the romance, has so much potential that I am worried about wasting it.

Thanks for your kind words! It's very encouraging and inspiring to get some feedback aside from my player.

I should mention that me and my friend play online, since we live in different countries. There are detriments to playing online, but personally I feel that it fits us well. I'm not going to speak for other people, but I find that especially in a solo campaign, the roleplaying intensity is helped by the fact that it's easier to shut out outside influences and imagine faces, voices and situations. It's easier to imagine the queen's smooth, feminine voice if the baritone DM isn't mimicking it, for instance, and you get more time to consider what words and speech pattern your character would use.


The first time I encountered the idea of the prologue was in the second campaign my friend DMed for me. This campaign, which he has titled Shrouded Stars, is a science fiction campaign initially based on the premise of piloting gritty, “realistic”-style mecha. In order to show my character's past, my character, Ralward, was started off as a 12 year old boy on a fairly recently colonized moon called Fallowmist.

In this campaign, set in a made up solar system, the science level isn't outrageous, but rather a few hundred years beyond our own. There's no such thing as interstellar travel, and only a few planets have been colonized. Fallowmist, a moon orbiting an inhospitable mining planet called Bane, has been largely abandoned by the solar community, and had degenerated into a struggle between two armed factions that dragged the entire moon into their conflict.

During the first session, Ralward's mother was accidentally killed by a gunshot when a fight broke out between thugs from the two factions in a roadside tavern. Following this event, his father, previously an optimistic colonist, became obsessed with getting off of Fallowmist with what remained of his family. In order to do this, he needed a ride, and in order to get a ride, he needed to participate in the one feature that made Fallowmist and its backwards “misties” famous on Homeworld: The annual MotorGames.

The crux was that the MotorGames have no rules. You're supposed to cross the finish line with a vehicle, and that's it. Ralward's father spent years building a motorcycle he called the Lunar Comet, and finally participate in the event. Unfortunately, quite near the finish line, as Ralward watched, a ruthless participant named Hendar “the Hammer,” knocked him off of his bike and got him killed. Not a great day in a 14 year old's life, so Ralward got sad, and then he got mad. The ambush that followed ended with both of them believing that the other had died, which later led to the most awesome showdown I've played… but I digress.

Later on, Ralward helped his employer prevent an act of terrorism against one of the moon's Atmospheric Formatters (a terraforming device), but was picked up by the Alliance military as he passed out, and was taken into space. Waking up and staring out at the shrinking moon in the night sky of space was quite a roleplaying moment.

Ralward is 22 now, and Fallowmist seems a long time ago, but as player, I'll never remember what his life was like back and, and what his thoughts were. This backstory could have been simply retold to me before the first session, but the fact that it was played out added an immeasurable depth to my character. These days, we almost always do some sort of prologue to our solo campaigns.

An effective prologue is as long as the player wants it to be. In the Wheel of Time campaign I mentioned earlier, the prologue kept getting longer as circumstances prompted more detail. The difficult part is knowing where to start. Actually, I've played a 2 year old once, and loved it

Addendum 1/8/06: Queen Eleanor Peridan Caldru


I had two PCs break off from one of my best group campaign and become two of my most epic solo campaigns. First, I will tell the story of Lady Eleanor Peridan a fighter/cavalier who would become the first Queen of the Western Kingdom.

Lady Eleanor was a knight from minor nobility in the kingdom of Timbron who joined up with an adventuring group that was seeking the lost Tomb of Emperor Belagon, a great warlord who was the son of the God of War and who nearly conquered the entire continent a millennium ago. He was killed by elves, or actually by his wife on behalf of the elves, but his tomb was forever hidden. This difficult quest went across the continent and the party faced all manner of challenges from rival parties, a river god, to finally the reborn Emperor Belagon whom they awoke when they discovered his tomb. Most of the party survived this quest, but the party dissolved when its common purpose ended. Some became villains, some tried to keep the company going (eventually the remnants of the entire party were decimated in a later adventure), but Lady Eleanor decided to find her own destiny.

In the party, Lady Eleanor was closest to Arendius, a old diviner/loremaster NPC who was a font of useful and useless information, and was aided by her squire Brunsk, who was a squire only in the most generous sense and was mostly a glorified groom of pessimistic disposition and limited education. Lady Eleanor was disappointed with most of the monarchs she had encountered in her travels including the less than impressive king of Timbron and she dreamed of serving a great king.

Arendius came to her one day with information about Theus an ancient king who was elevated to godhood, but who returned to the world to be reborn as a mortal king for the ages. He unfortunately was betrayed by dark gods, and his ancient kingdom collapsed, but legends say that Theus continues to be reborn with no memory of his existence, but waiting for his chance to rebuild his kingdom. The old party had encountered the fabled White Armor of Theus and tangled for a time with its curse, before a party member died and they were rid of it by giving it to the Church of Mithras (a warrior god for knights and paladins and Lady Eleanor's faith of choice). Lady Eleanor and Brunsk began a quest to find the reincarnation of Theus with Arendius providing research and occassionally joining in on the quest.

(See Theus [] for a generic and slightly dummed-down version I used in Master DM Competitions #19.)

Brunsk's contribution was to taste various local fruit preserves on their travels as it was said that where Theus lived the land would be bountiful, so Brunsk figured that the best preserves would lead them to Theus. Lady Eleanor was more methodical and sought out to find any remnants of the Blue Knights an ancient order of knights dedicated to serving Theus. Neither of them were overly successful, but Lady Eleanor, who was a gifted warrior and very well-equipped, dispatched much evil in her travels. They were joined by an elven ranger named Marinane who was saved by Lady Eleanor and in truth was curious about the quest and figured a decade or two searching for a lost god-king would be an interesting experience. They are also joined by Numestra (Lady Eleanor's new cohort) who was a bard that wished to sing songs about this legendary female knight and hero.

Lady Eleanor from her travels and discussions with sages and prophets came to fear that a great crisis was on the horizon and that only by finding Theus could this crisis be averted. Still she despaired, but one night was visited by a young girl named Marie (in reality this was Aurora a good god feared by my players for her meddling and heavy handed approach to mortals) who gave Eleanor a magical compass that would lead to the birthplace of the current incarnation of Theus.

Lady Eleanor, Marinane, and Brunsk set off in pursuit and came to a village in Anduran and learned of a young man named Micadus Haeron who went to the Principality of Pailanus to study engineering and was working on the Grand Temple of Dalicus (CN Greater God of the Sea), which would be the largest temple in the continent upon its completion. Pailanus was a port city of great culture and justice, but Lady Eleanor still feared for the safety of Theus, or Micadus, and tried her best to conceal her identity when she sought him out for she was not an unknown hero in these lands.

She quickly found Micadus who was a gifted young engineer working as a foreman for a pittance of a wage on the Grand Temple of Dalicus. He was a respected and well-liked leader and the workers looked to him to settle their grievances, but he was not kingly to the eye of Lady Eleanor, at least not yet. Lady Eleanor eventually quietly introduced herself to him and explained his destiny, not surprisingly he rejected the idea and thought Lady Eleanor a disturbed woman. She refuses to leave his side and stated that she would protect him from harm, which was fortunate as a few days later a demon-assassin came after Micadus and Lady Eleanor barely managed to fight him off. His identity revealed, the dark gods were already in pursuit. Micadus was still in denial, when Marie showed up and told him to grow up and deal with it and advised the two of them to leave Pailanus now as Belagon was coming to invade the Principality. Lady Eleanor asked if Belagon sent the demon-assassin and Marie replied, no that was sent by Dehok the God of Fear and Terror whose task it is to ensure that Theus does not ascend again as a god.

Lady Eleanor gathers her party and takes Micadus from Pailanus just ahead of the floating citadel of Belagon and an army of thousands of mercenaries and Belagon's Stone Army, which is composed of one thousand stone constructs inhabited by the souls of his best soldiers from a thousand years ago. They await in the Earth until called forth by Belagon from any point in the world. Pailanus is occupied and the continent trembles in fear of another dark reign by Emperor Belagon. Word also spreads that Theus the White King has returned to the land to bring peace, but in truth Micadus is confused and unable to process all that is happening.

Lady Eleanor is joined by Arendius and they realize that they were part of the party that accidentally restored Belagon to life so this crisis is their responsibility, but that the best they could do is organize a common defense of the western kingdoms with maybe Micadus as the central king or leader of the cause. Marinane is sent to the Elven Lands to get help, while the rest of the party heads for Maerithia and Alphatea the two most powerful kingdoms in the west. Behind them Belagon is quickly claiming territory for his new kingdom.

Fear is rampant, and many of the lands are afraid of opposing Belagon for the legends of his cruelty to those who challenged him are many. The wizards of Maerithia decide to be neutral in the conflict and the halfling shires follow this example. In Alphatia, the party is welcomed by the aged King Sorian X who is a man of faith and immediately accepts Micadus as Theus reborn and pledges the aid of his mighty kingdom in this cause. He names his grandson Prince Cusarus to command his forces to face Belagon; immediately Prince Cusarus dislikes Micadus and the two of them are in constant arguments. Prince Cusarus is a knight and military officer, while Micadus is of a more commoner, with a flexible nature. Micadus also becomes smitten with Princess Tione, another grandchild of King Sorian X.

The Belagon War begins in earnest with the knights of Alphatea routing many of the mercenaries of Belagon who lack the discipline and skill of his armies of ancient times. The legendary Emperor had been too impatient and his invasion begins to crumble as it was not prepared for serious resistance. Belagon orders boulders dropped from his floating citadel to devastate Pailanus and sends word to this 'Micadus' that if his forces continue to advance he will completely destroy Pailanus; he also releases the black dragons he has under his command from an ancient accord with the Black Dragon King.

There is much debate among the leaders and Micadus suggests that the army hold position and stall, while he tries to convince the elves to aid the cause. Lady Eleanor and Micadus go to the elves and find that they are mobilizing for war against their old enemy, they will throw their sky ships and aerial cavalry against the fortress and will provide archers to the army. The decision is made and the army advances on Pailanus riding through the night in hope of getting as close to Pailanus as possible before discovery. At this point several new heroes have joing the party including Fargain Ironshield of the dwarves and the brother Sir Almayce and Sir Tigris of Alphatea. Lady Eleanor takes the party to deal with the most powerful of the black dragons and by morning the fortress is in retreat with the elves suffering heavy casualties but hounding Belagon in his withdrawal. Much of his Stone Army was lost and his mercenaries totally routed, more importantly the invincible mystique of the ancient Emperor Belagon has been lost.

Lady Eleanor expects Micadus to take the throne of Pailanus and work to unite the western kingdoms, but Micadus instead installs a survivor of the Royal Family of Pailanus and takes but a small town as his dominion. He intends to unite the land with words and wisdom not with swords and bravery; Lady Eleanor accepts this and takes charge of the newly formed Blue Knights., but she is unhappy with the passive nature of her new liege and is drawn in many ways to the more direct and assertive Prince Cusarus.

The Blue Knights under Lady Eleanor fight many evils including a great red dragon and the Jabberwock, from these battles many of the ancient artifacts are found including the Crown of Theus, which gives Micadus memories of his godhood and rekindle some of his abilities, but he still refuses to become any more than an advisor to other kings. A suit of Blue Armor is also found and brought back for a tournament to be fought to see who should wear this armor from among the Blue Knights.

Lady Eleanor is nervous about this tournament; she is the First of the Blue Knights and should win the tournament and get the armor, but many years ago she was a disaster in tournaments. Not surprisingly, times have changed and Lady Eleanor easily wins the tournament against some of the best knights of the continent. For a time she and a band of Blue Knights travel to other tournaments to herald the wisdom and glory of Micadus Haeron. Lady Eleanor also becomes closer to Prince Cusarus as the two of them have much in common and dream of a united Western Kingdom. Lady Eleanor finds her relation with Micadus distant as he turnes to Princess Tione and others for counsel, but no other warrior is as famous or feared as Lady Eleanor and the Church of Mithras names her as their champion as well.

Then the Godswar began.

Archon the King of the Gods is slain in treachery by the Dark Gods in the Sacred Hall where no god can harm another, but the Dark Gods sneak in powerful mortals with divine gifts to ambush and slay Archon. A war erupts in the Outer Planes that threatens to destroy the Pantheon, this causes ripples and fear in the world and Micadus knows what he must do for good to remain in control of the heavens and the world (which is one of five worlds controlled by my pantheon, each world is different, but share similarities in culture and traditions). Lady Eleanor is sent to recover an ancient key, which he will use to summon UR the over-power to issue a challenge on behalf of the gods of light. Micadus talks to UR as a god and all the gods are trapped on the world to fight till one god is selected as king; UR also restores many dead gods to life, including Archon.

Lady Eleanor is a little overwhelmed, but does her best and seeks counsel from Aurora who is in her full form now and ready for combat against evil. Lady Eleanor is told to gather forces for battle as Maerithia has joined with evil and Alphatea is where the Godswar will be fought and ended, she is also told to go to the capital of Alphatea for King Sorian X has marched to aid another kingdom and evil has found roost on the throne. On the way Lady Eleanor tangles with lesser demigods and holds her own, but realizes that this fight is beyond her and only commits her party when absolutely necessary. She joins up with Prince Cusarus and the two of them march on the throne where Karse the God of Deception (a minor demigod but a real pain) is posing as the High Priest of Archon and is serving as Regent. They drive him out and prepare for the onslaught as the dark gods are marching with their mortal followers towards Alphatea. The two of them provide heroic leadership to Alphatea during this crisis. The Battle of Calagard is where it all comes down, Lady Eleanor and Prince Cusarus ride out to meet King Sorian X and the gods of light to battle the gods of darkness and their allies. Survival is the hope and the goal is to give the gods of light any edge in this battle.

Lady Eleanor and her band plow through the mortal minions and even destroy a few minor divinities, but they are knocked around like playdolls by the more powerful dark gods. King Sorian X is killed as are many of the great heroes of the land. Archon is nearly destroyed again, but Mithras steps up and defeats Zythgal the God of Darkness. The rest of the dark gods immediately surrender the challenge and Archon is elevated again as the King of the Gods, though his faith is demoralized and weakened and in terms of divine power both Aurora and Mithras are now greater.

The Western Kingdom

Micadus Haeron, the reborn Theus, refuses to become the ruler of the Western Kingdom, but announces his support for such an idea as long as all kingdoms would be equal under its rule. Prince Cusarus marries Lady Eleanor and they are selected as the first High King and High Queen of the Western Kingdom. A Council of Princes and the western kingdoms are united and in time become the most dominant power of the continent.

This is where the campaign ended.

I switched my group campaigns to another of my Five Worlds for a time and then came back to this world about 120 years in the future long after the death of High Queen Eleanor and High King Cusarus, but with the Western Kingdom still strong and just. Honestly, we have yet to decide if they are really dead or now minor divinities or angels, but for the mortal world they are dead. This was one of my more epic campaigns and my most epic in D&D. There was some politics, but not much the real challenges were tactical and in building something lasting. This solo campaign also completely fleshed out my campaign world.

I should also note that I trimmed out a lot from the adventures of Lady Eleanor, including an orc war, a battle against the Prince of Vampires, and numerous other hefty quests. Lady Eleanor began the group campaign at 4th level, started the solo campaign at 11th level and we ended the campaign at 20th level.