Welcome, friends, to D&D Duet!
If you’re looking for adventures and advice for playing D&D one-on-one, you’re in the right place!
Below, you’ll find sections for starting your D&D Duet campaign, special mechanics and adaptations for one-on-one gaming, and adventures to help with your session prepping and planning!
Why play one-on-one D&D?
One of the best things about duet D&D is the amount of time you get to spend with your duet partner. You’re co-creating an entire world together and spending lots of time together as you do so.
It’s also a great way to express love and care to your duet partner. When Jonathan helped me design my first character, he had already put a lot of thought into the type of character I would want to play and the classes I would find most interesting. That made the process of getting started with D&D much less overwhelming.
We know there’s a lot of information out there! But our aim is to help you start your duet game, deepen your in-session immersion, figure out the unique mechanics of one-on-one play, and embark on a full duet campaign!
Keep reading below to start—or level up—your adventure!
Looking for something specific?
If you’re new to D&D
If you’re new to D&D, welcome! Playing one-on-one is a great way to get started as you only need two people!
For New DMs
For new DMs, we have a couple key articles to help get you started.
For New Players
We also have a guide for new players to help you start your journey into the world of D&D! After that, we can talk more specifically about the top two things to keep in mind as the player in a duet game.
There are a few key adaptations to make for scaling and playing D&D one-on-one. In this section, you’ll find an overview and links to our favorite posts and our answers to the most frequently asked questions. We also have lots of advice all across the blog that takes a deeper dive than what we’ve listed below.
“In duet-game play, the player and the GM work together to tell the story.”Beth Ball, D&D Duet
Scaling Combat for One-on-One D&D
When we first tell people who are new to one-on-one D&D how we play and what we write about, their initial reaction is usually a look of surprised confusion followed by, “That’s so intimate!” And almost every time, they’ll then ask, “How do you scale the combat?” (What do you do about the monsters?, etc.)
So we’ll go ahead and start with scaling combat in one-on-one 5e. The number one thing to keep in mind is that you, the DM/GM, are working with the player—not against them.
And since you two are on the same side, the decisions you make in-game, any last-minute creature or stat block tweaks, are in service to the person across the table from you and the story you’re telling together.
Now, with your permission slip to change and adapt what you need to in hand, let’s look at the principles for adapting combat and scaling encounters in duet games. (Links to a video and in-depth discussion on this topic. You’ll find more ideas for scaling a D&D encounter here!)
First, you’ll want to keep a close eye on action economy. The short version of this advice is making sure that your PC and their adventuring companion aren’t terribly outnumbered.
For larger-scale encounters, we suggest using waves of combatants instead of sending eight worgs to attack two characters all at once. Click here to read more about encounter planning, adaptation, and execution.
Planning PC-focused Campaigns
Outside of individual encounter prep, it’s most common for D&D campaigns to operate in a series of arcs. These are often based on location, though they may also revolve around a particular enemy, problem, or villain.
The key for one-on-one D&D, though, is to keep the story centered around the PC. They’re the main character, and all the different pieces of the narrative should connect back to them.
In duet-game play, the player and the GM work together to tell the story. It’s almost as though each side of the storytelling spectrum—or either side of the table—has taken a step toward the other. The player should be moving the narrative forward, and the GM takes a bit more of a backseat than they would in a group game as they create scenarios and locations where the PC can shine.
Empowering—not overpowering—the Primary Character (PC)
Another key mechanic to keep in mind when playing one-on-one is the flexibility of the PC. Most classes in D&D 5e have flexibility built in, and you can also balance out the PC’s strengths with their adventuring companion.
As an example, I usually play casters, so we set them up with a tanky companion character who can absorb damage up close while I cast from farther away.
Bringing Sidekicks into One-on-One Play
Not so very long ago, Wizards of the Coast introduced sidekick mechanics into the official D&D rules to make playing D&D with two people a lot easier.
We have created our own version of a sidekick, called an adventuring companion, but whichever type of adventuring buddy you choose to use, the core principle remains the same—duet D&D is more fun when the main character (the PC) has someone to run around with!
Designing an amazing DMPC!
So how do you create the perfect traveling buddy for the main character of your game? First, we have a video for you on DMPC and sidekick best practices. And then you can learn more about creating your DMPC/GMPC here!
If all of this sounds like fun to you, we’d love for you to join our community, the Circle of Story! We write about one-on-one D&D, fantasy storytelling, our favorite books, incorporating fantasy and magic into the everyday, and connecting to the natural world.
Enclave members gain access to an exclusive duet adventure, “The Penshaw Poisonings” and two epic fantasy stories set in our world, “Blood Wolf Moon” and “The Gathering Dark.”
And Enclave members who want to help support the work we do here and with our umbrella site, Fantasy Afield, gain access to our content library and an exclusive book, Threads of Fate, which details the lands and history of Azuria! Learn more about how to join our community here!
We’re so glad you’re here!
Playing in a one-on-one D&D game has brought us closer together and brought more fantasy, storytelling, and fun into our lives. For me (Beth), it’s opened up my creativity and provided me with a much-needed outlet. I’ve even started an epic fantasy series inspired by our campaign!
But the other thing we’re both super thankful for from this experience, this journey, is the community we’ve been able to join and become a part of. Thank you so much for your support, your encouragement, your time, and your attention. We’re so grateful that you’ve brought us along on your adventure, and we can’t wait to hear about all the amazing experiences you’ll have at your gaming table.
– Beth and Jonathan
The character art on our page is from Adam of Bard and Lute.