Are you looking for a bit of variety in your one-on-one D&D game? Or an interesting way for your character to level up?
This post covers some of the unique possibilities in duet D&D play for a side quest or refreshing adventure with a character mentor. These principles would also work well for setting up a session zero or running a quick side storyline with a character from a group game.
The Hero Meets a Guide…
One of the first things that happens in many beloved stories is the hero meets a guide who gives them a quest or helps them on their journey. We’ve written before about the importance of these higher-level NPCs, or allies, who are able to assist your PC and help them get established at the beginning of their adventure.
But in the vibrant world you’re crafting for your player, they may meet more than one mentor character who helps shape them into who they’re meant to become.
So for this post, let’s not look at high-level allies so much as NPCs who are close to the PC’s level but have access to knowledge or experience that the character doesn’t.
Experience is the Best Teacher
In a duet game, one of the easiest ways for your PC to get to know a new area is for them to meet someone in that place who knows the lay of the land and the political situations. This person may be a friendly tavern owner or a mysterious ex-adventurer alone in the woods.
Adding in this type of character and putting thought in advance into their personality and motivations will make RP much more natural while also helping the player get to know a new location.
A New Adventure
But, beyond these positive possibilities, a character mentor also allows your PC to step away from their main party and embark on a short adventure all their own!
I recognize that in one-on-one play, the whole adventure is the PC’s own. This is a bonus option for a side narrative away from a group game, but this would also let the PC pursue a passion or mission that’s uniquely theirs while the rest of their party does something else.
While in a traditional adventuring party you’ll want to have variety in terms of character class, you can add variety in terms of play and a new challenge for the DM and the player with two characters from the same class.
Maybe the PC’s sidekick stays in town, and the PC travels with their ranger mentor to take on a roving creature from the Feywild. Their options and power at range will likely be enhanced from their normal, well-balanced party, and they can use spells or traps as well as wilderness navigation to take on a creature that would require a different strategy for a larger or more diverse group.
This is a nice shift for players and DMs because you’re both working with different mechanics and strategies than with your regular adventuring party. You can also limit yourselves to playing with smaller numbers if you tend to have a couple different DMPCs or a DMPC and a sidekick in your main party.
Players can also exercise interesting mechanics for their chosen class, comparing them with an NPC who shares many of their abilities and finding their own unique place within and expression of their skills.
Your paladin won’t need to focus on healing so much if they’re fighting alongside another paladin, freeing them up to play around with some rarely-used spells instead.
Campaigns like Waterdeep: Dragon Heist bring in a lot of downtime for your character, and interacting with a mentor can be a great way to spend some of that time that allows you to RP and for the character to gain new abilities and proficiencies.
Perhaps your druid would like to improve their herbalism skills, so they meet up with an apothecary when they aren’t otherwise engaged? If they spend enough time studying and things go well, maybe they have advantage on a crafting new potions?
Could a bard learn from a traveling performer whose presence has been sought after by every city noble worth their salt? Would this open up a new social circle for them as well as increase their natural charisma?
We’ve recently used a character mentor as a way to add some specific action and adventure into a multi-month montage as our character spend time in one particular place preparing for the next stage of their adventure. While the rest of the party was at a Feywild gathering, Iellieth, my PC, and Amon, her ranger mentor, went on a quest to rescue a kidnapped pixie and discovered a creature that hadn’t been seen in the Elven Realms for thousands of years.
We’ll be writing about extended downtime and passing over multiple months in a future post, but utilizing a character mentor created a refreshing and unique session for us!
And, for nostalgia’s sake, it also took us back to their previous adventure together and the very beginning of our duet game when it was just my PC and Jonathan’s DMPC.
I know not everyone likes to simply level up their character without something definitive happening, and bringing in a character mentor to help them officially increase their capabilities is a great way of helping that transition feel weightier.
A character mentor could help the PC choose an archetype or bring them into the fold of a class just as they could add flavor to a significant level-up, such as when a PC gets a new level of spells or a special new ability.
Using our level two adventure, Second Glance,* as a session zero or Circle initiation for a druid character would be similar in terms of strategy, especially if one of the druids the PC meets wanted to help them on one of the side quests included with the adventure.
As a different example, we flavored my PC’s side-quest with her mentor for learning a new druid spell. She would have had it as an option when she leveled up regardless, but embedding mechanics in the shared story you’re telling together adds an element of ritual and growth to the changes on the stat sheet.
Share with us
What are your experiences with character mentors? Does your PC have several spread around their world? Is there someone they need to return to for a particular skill or piece of information?
Let us know in the comments below!
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