Last week, we introduced you to Gwenyth and Austin, the creators behind Me, My Spouse, and a Die, an actual-play D&D podcast of a custom one-on-one campaign.
In this post, Austin and Gwenyth give some advice for DMs and players interested in two-person D&D campaigns. They also go into detail about their homebrew world and the primary character of their podcast campaign, Octavia.
Setup: We sent Gwenyth and Austin some questions to consider, and we’ve organized the post like an interview.
What advice would you give to people who are just starting a duet?
A few tips for DMing one-on-one:
- Narratively, be present in character creation and allow the character to shape your world or your plot. I think that D&D is at its best when it’s not just your world or your plot, but that those things belong to both of you. Let the character – and the player – influence the world and story.
- When planning out plot hooks or antagonists, the freedom of playing one-on-one means you have freedom to make one character the center of attention. Make their goals, ideals, and backstory the basis for conflict and plot hooks.
- In that line of thought, reconcile the possibility of character death. Decide early on (with your player!) if character death is going to be possible in this campaign. If it is, have a contingency in mind for what will happen in that event – will a new character tie into the ongoing story? Will you start something new? If you decide that character death is something you’d like to avoid, plan plot hooks and antagonists that have a reason to keep the character alive rather than going for the kill.
- Mechanically speaking, it may be helpful to amend rules or fill in gaps where a single Player Character may be lacking. Giving them NPCs or hirelings to help with ability checks and combat is useful as long as they don’t take the spotlight from the player. You can also consider providing the PC with extra armor, weapon proficiencies, or additional feats. Letting them take the maximum hit points on level-ups can make combat smoother. (And if they aren’t playing a healing class, healing potions as loot is helpful!)
- All of these points really come down to this last one: find the game the two of you want to play. Playing one-on-one gives you the chance to create an incredibly customizable, tailor-made campaign. It may take a few sessions to get in the groove, but talk to your player and make sure that both of you are having fun playing a game that you both enjoy.
Advice about being a player in a one-on-one campaign:
- Be comfortable with your DM. Playing one-on-one can be a lot more intimate than in a group because there aren’t other people acting as a buffer between player and DM.
- Love your character. We once started a new duet campaign where I was playing a character I liked, but didn’t really love. I felt lethargic role-playing and wasn’t that invested in the story because I honestly didn’t care about it that much.
- If you’re adventuring in a homebrew world, or even a formal book campaign for that matter, get to know it. As a person, wherever you’re living, you generally have an idea about the geography and different cultures on your continent. Do the same for your character. You should know about the town where your character grew up and why you’re in the location you’re in when the adventure begins. Which leads into my next tip:
- If you’re playing in a homebrewed world, be engaged in the world-building process. Because there isn’t a party per se, playing one-on-one gives you as a player a unique opportunity to shape the homebrew world without stepping on other players’ toes or being too much the center of attention.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to be creative and bend the rules to your will! Just because your character is a wizard doesn’t mean they can’t try to do something that would stereotypically be the fighter’s job or vice versa. As a human being you do things that you’re really good at and still do things you’re not so good at without thinking “oh, this is another class of persons’ job.” The same goes for your not-so-stealthy barbarian: if you want to stealth, try it! It turns into a freeing and vulnerable type of game that, I think, matches real life more accurately.
Do you have a favorite moment from playing together?
One of my favorite sessions was a small side distraction from our first one-on-one campaign that had zero to do with the overarching plot but everything to do with a fun idea I wanted to run.
Gwenyth’s character found herself on a boat returning to her homeland with the crew slain and running low on supplies. She moored on a nearby island only to find it populated by a single bar filled with enchanted sailors.
Sniffing out the source of the enchantment, she fought her way through a house where everything (literally EVERYTHING) was a mimic, to discover that a doppelganger had been siphoning the poor sailors’ life essences away to imbue inanimate objects with life – all to create a whole houseful of mimic friends for himself.
So of course, Gwenyth used the doppelganger’s machine and animated herself a few friends out of her satchel, cloak and a ring as well (before freeing those poor sailors)!
My favorite moment stemmed from a series of sessions that had run off the rails and descended into the hostile takeover and re-establishment of a seedy bar in Durkmont – fondly re-named the Tiger’s Claw.
To gain intel on the local gangs, I was meeting a mysterious magical arms dealer in our rival bar, the Thirsty Wyrm. She was Morgana, a classy elf who was drinking martinis in a bar full of beer-drinking thugs. In order for her to give me information on the Baroness, the leader of the Goldfangs and the de facto leader of Durkmont, I had to help her with a rival dealer who had been cutting into her business.
Once I confronted this mysterious Raven, as she went by, and Austin launched into this dramatic pseudo-bad-guy monologue it hit me – “She’s Morgana’s sister!” And Austin just stopped mid-word, looked at me with the biggest side-eye, and said “… yes.”
Can you tell us about the character from your podcast?
Octavia was only moments old, her mother still in labor with her twin sister, when the infant opened her tiny eyes and stared pointedly up at her father who was cradling her in his arms. He gasped as he saw her pupil-less eyes, the whites beating against solid blue irises, burn with an inner-holiness and her full head of black curls slowly moved in the wagons’ still air, as though embodied with countless spirits – she was touched by the god Al Absolon to be his eighth Aasimar.
Octavia is also a druid. She first found her love for nature when she started foraging for truffles with her parents at a young age. Her parents are slightly magically gifted and can make potions and poultices with the herbs they find that are more powerful than if they had been made by someone else. But it was Octavia who had a particular affinity for the spirits of nature and the beasts of the forest. Her parents always thought that her angelic bloodline allowed her to transcend the mortal and communicate with these creatures in a manner that they and her siblings could not.
Like all Aasimar, Octavia has a Deva guide, named Corastus, that occasionally communicates with her through riddles and visions. These visions may be foggy pictures of events or people, a collection of sounds, or an array of scents that would be incomprehensible to anyone without her heightened senses. However, these visions are usually nonsense to her at first, and she must take time to interpret them. Corastus usually communicates with her in the form of a giant cat, in honor of Al Absolon, or a giant elk or some other large beast as opposed to appearing as a humanoid, even though they have a humanoid form.
And can you tell us about your homebrew world?
A Brief History of Moir
Moir’s history compromises two eras, separated by a cataclysmic event known as The Judgement. What is known of the first era, before this event, has been gleaned through archaeological discoveries and ancient tomes.
The First Era
Elves were the original occupants of Moir, but they were not alone. All manner of vicious monsters threatened their early settlements and civilizations. Ancient legends say the the gods took pity on the first elves and granted them a tribunal of protectors to watch over their people. These protectors were Dragons, one of each color and metallic hue, and they were given dominion over all the land.
The Elves lived peacefully under the Dragons’ watchful eyes for centuries. However, unbeknownst to them, a race of psychic aquatic creatures called Aboleth had grown jealous of the power the Dragons wielded and plotted to take it for themselves.
The Aboleth corrupted the minds of the chromatic dragons and turned them against their metallic counterparts on a fateful night called The Night of Broken Scales. This began a great and terrible war between the surviving metallic dragons and Elves against the chromatic dragons and the Aboleth. After a long and bloody conflict, the metallic dragons were slain and the majority of Elves retreated into underground tunnels and caves, sealing themselves off from the surface and ushering in the rule of the Aboleth.
However, the Aboleth were not satisfied. They desired to be akin to gods, and sought out dark powers to fulfill this wish by forging deals with Archdevils. It was then that the gods of Moir saw no other option but to step in and set their world on a better path. They channeled their powers into an avatar that manifested on Moir and waged war against the Aboleth, Dragons, and Devils. The devils were sealed into an Abyss, and the Aboleth were banished to a plane of water. The dragons, originally intended as protectors of the world, were punished and their souls trapped within five Artifacts – eternally conscious yet impotent. This event became known as The Judgment.
The Second Era
Centuries after The Judgment, new sentient life began to appear on Moir, although their origins are unclear. This life banded together, forming tribes and clans that slowly organized into City-States: The Humans of Stagpine, the Dwarves of Gruundikov, and the Elves of Elystrya made up the largest and most powerful civilizations, with the Dragonborn of Malik, the Bandits of Durkmont and the Lycanthropes of Montignon becoming minor powers.
The Pantheon of Moir
The denizens of Moir generally accept the existence of three gods. Local and regional gods are still worshipped by small groups, but their existence is disputed.
Al Fanoer: The lawful good god of light and ruler of the higher planes. His symbols are a stag, an eagle, and the sun. Domains: Light, Life, Protection, Arcana.
Al Selune: The chaotic good goddess of darkness and ruler of the lower planes. Her symbols are a gate, bat, or raven. Domains: Death, Grave, War, Trickery.
Al Absolon: The neutral good god of the material and ruler of the core planes. His symbols are a mountain, leopard, or duck. Domains: Nature, Tempest, Knowledge, Forge.
Where can we find out more?
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @andadiepodcast to stay up to date on all our news and head on over to our website www.memyspouseandadie.com to subscribe on your podcast app of choice.
Gwenyth and Austin’s episodes release on Wednesdays, so be sure to check them out! They also host fun giveaways on their social media accounts!
If you like what you’re reading, please consider supporting the blog by purchasing our adventures and supplements in our shop or on DMsGuild or sponsoring us on Patreon. We’d also love for you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for reading. – Beth and Jonathan