As a GM, it can be difficult at times to determine the balance between guiding a player and railroading them. This becomes particularly complicated while playing in a duet game because it’s just the two of you. If the player misses something important, they don’t have backup, besides their DM, to help them figure it out.
We ran into a version of this issue in our one-on-one adaptation of Curse of Strahd with the added difficulty of RP.
Jonathan, as the DM, knew that my character needed a particular being to come with her in order to be able to access the next part of the narrative.
Without this creature, or part of the creature, we wouldn’t be able to enter the manor house and complete our quest by recovering the gemstone hidden inside.
I (Beth the player) knew that my character and her two companions needed the captive to come with us to the next because we had learned this information during combat a short while before. However, Briseras (my character) was hurt, which she doesn’t handle well, and irritated. She wasn’t going to go back into the icy cave to try to free the thing they needed because, if she did, she might die.
So Jonathan had a decision to make. Briseras was resting and planning how to get herself and her two companions out of the house. We’d killed the creature, as it wouldn’t stop attacking us, and left it in the basement. But this still didn’t solve the problem of getting it to the next house.
He had one of the sidekicks/DMPCs, Jorgan, go back down and take a trophy from the creature. (I recognize that this is cruel as well as gross, but our characters are in a weird head space at the moment, and this is how they solved the problem. Also, the creature wouldn’t stop screaming in rage.)
Then, when we got up to the house, Jorgan approached it first, used detect magic, and discovered that there was a break in the forcefield around his person, probably because of the trophy he’d taken from the creature.
We discussed this afterward to make sure we were both happy with how it had gone. Was I upset that Jonathan took charge in that moment?
For me, no. I didn’t feel that I had lost any sort of control because I got to be my character and fully immersed as her in that moment. She wouldn’t have gone back down into the cave.
I could have made the decision for one of the other characters, but it can be difficult to RP multiple characters simultaneously, especially without talking to yourself, and I think it’s best if we let DMs and players avoid that as much as possible.
Like we’ve said in our sidekicks overview post, we let the player run the stat blocks for their PC and the sidekick(s), but the DM RPs the sidekick(s). I prefer to use full character sheets so I can quickly find similar information in the same spot on all the sheets, but do whatever works best for you!
We also could have stopped to discuss it while it was happening, or Jonathan could have asked if I was sure that we wanted to keep going.
Or, he could have let us leave and we could have returned for the creature’s jawbone later. However, he knows that I value the narrative and characters above all else, so this solution fit with my personal playing style.
If you’re interested in learning more about different types of players, we love this video by Matt Colville!
What about you?
Have you run into something similar in your game, either as a player or a DM? Do you have a solution that we haven’t mentioned? Please let us know in the comments below!
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