Adventuring is more fun with a friend by your side! But what kind of friend should you bring with you on your journey?
In this post, we look at the different types of adventuring buddies your PC might take with them in your one-on-one game. Then, you can decide on the character and mechanics that work best for you, your partner, and your duet gaming table!
Why Use Adventuring Friends
I’m sure you already know that Jonathan and I recommend the PC in a one-on-one D&D game have someone to run around with, whether that’s an animal companion, DMPC/GMPC, sidekick character, or adventuring companion.
Having an adventuring buddy increases immersion for the character for a couple reasons:
- it gives them someone to talk to when they have questions or want to share their thoughts and ideas
- it provides someone to ask them questions about their character, which is a great way to develop PC backstory and encourage the player to add details to the story world
When the player wants to know something about the history of a new location, they can voice their thoughts aloud to their traveling companion instead of pulling out of their character and asking the GM. I also think it aids immersion for the GM, because it gives them the chance to be in the moment as a character, zoomed out from the overarching narrative.
One of my favorite examples of this mechanic used narratively is Geralt talking to his horse Roach in The Witcher when we as viewers need insight into what he’s thinking and/or to help us better understand the world. In this case, we don’t need Roach’s response (though that would be awesome), but we do need to know what’s going on in Geralt’s mind. (I’m specifically thinking about a scene in the show on Netflix, with apologies to fans of the novels, games, and the ttRPG. I can say, though, that I’m planning to read the series soon! And the ttRPG looks awesome! But, alas, I am not coordinated enough with controllers to play the game, though Jonathan loves it!)
Types of Adventuring Friends
Ok, now that you’re totally sold on incorporating an adventuring buddy of one kind or another, how will you decide which one(s) to include? Or will you pioneer your own combo of the different types and go from there? There’s not a right answer here, just a right answer for you, your partner, and your table!
The Dungeon/Game Master’s PC (I also like Storyteller’s PC) is basically a PC, or player character, for the GM of your one-on-one game. We tend to play with this being a shared character: the GM handles the roleplaying, and the player handles them in combat and makes any necessary skill checks called for during play.
Regardless of how you choose to divide up the running of the DMPC, or if you decide to not divide it up at all, you have a second set of choices to make regarding their mechanics. You can use simplified mechanics in the form of a stat block or a sidekick stat block (more on this below), you can use a full character sheet, or you can settle on something in the middle, which we’ll also cover below!
Example from our game
When we first started our duet game, Jonathan’s DMPC functioned similarly to a sidekick or an adventuring companion (our middle ground between a full character sheet and a sidekick stat block). As we went on in that campaign, we worked up to using a full character sheet for the DMPC and switched over from Jonathan running him in RP and combat to just me running him.
Eventually, that got to be too much, especially as my character’s mechanics grew more complicated and I had more choices to make for her. We had worked all the way up to having four different character sheets before we transitioned our way back down to one PC and one companion character with a simplified stat block. But this shifts depending on the campaign!
As you’re making decisions for who to include as the party NPCs at your table, remember that you’re not stuck with one decision! You may even have location-specific GMPCs who spend some time with your core party of two characters but don’t travel with them to a new location.
In June of 2019, Wizards of the Coast released The Essentials Kit which included official mechanics for playing one-on-one 5th edition D&D. For this unique playing style, they created a new set of characters called sidekicks alongside leveling mechanics for these characters. Sidekicks use a stat block like NPCs but level up alongside the PC! Win-win! Since then, several indie creators have made campaign- or world-specific sidekicks that you can find on DMsGuild with extended leveling tables, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything also expanded on sidekick mechanics!
The new rules didn’t go into as much detail on how to run a sidekick character (we’e got you covered here). So you can have a sidekick who the player is entirely responsible for, or the DM can use a sidekick stat block for their DMPC. Or, like I suggested above, the player can run the sidekick’s stat block and the DM can run their RP!
But, for fun, let’s introduce one other character type in need of an acronym…
Adventuring Companion Character
Jonathan and I created adventuring companion characters as a happy middle ground between the simplified stats of a sidekick and trying to use a full character sheet for the GMPC/traveling buddy character for the PC. We’ve found that playing duet D&D is easier for the GM and the player when the party members are flexible. This doesn’t mean that there are so many choices that the person running the companion character gets stuck trying to decide what they should do on their turn. But we also want them to be able to support the PC in combat, exploration, and RP as well as to have the potential for specialization to enhance their character development and their aid of the PC.
Out of this desire, adventuring companion characters were born!
We created two classes for adventuring companions: the crafter and the witch. Our goal was for these classes to provide a flexible adventuring companion for the PC who will help them on their journey without overshadowing them or adding complicated mechanics for the player or the GM. The crafter class has two subclasses, called practices, and the witch class has five subclasses, called ways.
We also added some unique mechanics for animal companions. (My characters always have an animal companion. They’re so fun!) And, one of my favorite additions to companion characters, we introduced companion-specific feats! My PC’s companion, for instance, can use unexpended movement to swap places with my PC without provoking an attack of opportunity, a really helpful ability for a tanky companion character to get my PC out of trouble!
I mentioned acronyms above: This is one of the places where we’ve gotten a bit stuck. AC is already taken, and ACC, to me, is an athletic conference. We could use CC, for companion character. If you have an acronym of your own to suggest, let me know in the comments below!
Putting all the pieces together
To review, there are a few different types of adventuring buddies that you can incorporate into your one-on-one D&D games: DMPCs/GMPCs, sidekicks, and adventuring companions. DMPCs/GMPCs can use full character sheets, sidekick mechanics, or adventuring companion mechanics. Or you can create a combination of the three that works best at your table! The same is true for sidekick characters or animal companions. Feel free to experiment and see what works best! You may find that it differs depending on location or campaign as well.
I hope this was helpful and gave you some new ideas for the mechanics side of your one-on-one 5e game!
Share your thoughts below!
As we say goodbye for now, I would love to know, in addition to your companion character acronym idea, who joins your PC on their adventures and which mechanics you use for them! Let us know in the comments below!
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