So my 14 year old son watched us finish up my campaign Wednesday night.

So my 14 year old son watched us finish up my campaign Wednesday night.

So my 14 year old son watched us finish up my campaign Wednesday night. To my astonishment, he showed some real interest in playing (I play a ton of board games and love to roleplay, but he’s always been against it in favor of video games).

Yesterday was way too busy so I told him we’d play one-on-one tonight (because he wants to see how it goes before he joins a group). I have never done one-on-one and I know he wants to play a wizard.

Can you give me some tips and suggestions for playing one-on-one with a wizard? Do (should?) I play a character as well as GM to help him out? What type of adventure would be good for a single wizard? Do I give him a few followers right off the bat?

I think I’m more nervous GMing for my son than I would be for a complete stranger.

Thanks in advance for all of your help!

27 thoughts on “So my 14 year old son watched us finish up my campaign Wednesday night.”

  1. I’ve never done it with DW. There’s some games out there made for one on one that might have good advice. Scarlett Heroes is one of them, I think.

    You can obviously skip bonds. Don’t make a character, but maybe give him some hirelings.

    Unlike normal DW okay, I’d probably start with a specific Big Bad in mind, but figure out who or what that is with your son. Basically give him a nemesis.

  2. I’ve done a few one on one sessions with my brother. We’re still figuring it out, but some thoughts.

    I’d definitely give an NPC/hireling that complements the wizard. A fighter or a paladin that could keep the wizard safe physically. You don’t want them to be a full protagonist and overshadow the wizard, so make them mostly just good at what the wizard isn’t.

    Also, since you control them, you can hold them back from doing too much. They could jump in and attack a bit. Maybe they are repeatedly thwarted by magical creatures and effects that the wizard is more capable of dealing with. The NPC might hold off a pack of wolves while the wizard focuses on the real enemy, the elf that trained the wolves to attack them both.

    Player input is very important too. Since you only have one person, you can shape the world and story around them A LOT. Ask for more information on the wizard so you can get a solid baseline, then pay attention to what parts of the game your son engages with during the first session. For example, my brother is very nonconfrontational, so I’ve been skewing more towards a non combat campaign. He still meets enemies and has conflict, but I’m always prepared for what ways he might try to avoid actual fighting. With a group this is obviously not easy to pull off, but since I only need to design to one person’s taste, I can focus on what he really wants.

  3. Thanks Aaron Griffin! I’ll take a look at Scarlett Heroes when I get a chance.

    Questions for him may be something like: What’s the name of the fighter you’ve paid to accompany you on your journey? What does that other fellow do, and what’s his name? This will give him a fighter and one other type of hireling of his choice.

    Also, maybe start him at level two (or higher)instead one?

    He has never played ANY tabletop RPG. Fallout, Skyrim, Diablo and Neverwinter on PS3 and PS4 are his sole experience with the genre.

  4. Then yeah, henchmen are the way forward if he’s played fallout and skyrim. Draw comparisons to those games when describing them , explain what a wizard can and can’t do, why he might want friends ore hirelings and maybe pre-make some and let him choose a couple – then put stuff in that benefits him having chosen them.

    Maybe do it like some sort of ‘Wizard on a hunt for ritual components to save a dying princess” sort of thing, so he knows why he is there.

  5. Gary Chadwick, excellent Advice, thanks! I think I’ll probably have a problem not over-playing the NPC, because I love playing this game as much as DMing it LOL.

    Ara Winter, I like the idea of using bonds in the way. I have some dungeon starters that I’ve plucked some ideas from.

    Aaron Griffin, yeah, while I know he sees and hears a LOT of sexually explicit stuff in movies and video games, I wouldn’t fill comfortable playing that with him.

  6. When we play 1on1, the world is allot less threatening and more explorative. Lets be honest, a lonesome ranger is much less likely to make the journey than a team of heros.

    I Love using hex cards, flipping them over randomly and filling in blanks. The crawl is much more suited for a lone adventurer

  7. Thanks Rebel Wulf. He’s already starting making comments about Skyrim, so I’m leaning towards it for some ideas for content. I already have a steading that I made for my big playgroup called Logrun (which is totally Riverwood) that I’m going to use at some point with him. I may even make it MORE like Riverwood so he can recognize it more easily.

    It’s strange that he’d want to play a wizard at all because every new character he made in the videogame ended up being a two-handed, heavy-armor bruiser. EVERY one of the. So I’m kind of glad he wants to play a wizard, and am looking at some of the College of Winterhold material for inspiration.

  8. Robert Doe, you and Ara Winter have both stated that a 1on1 is going to be more exploration based. I wasn’t planning on using it, but do either of you think Perilous Wilds is a good way to accomplish this? I really like PW, but don’t want to be rolling dice all the time.

  9. Seems like going with 1 on 1 has some challenges and risks him not enjoying it. Does he have any friends he likes to play video games with? Maybe he’d like to have them join him?

  10. As for PW, you can always use it as a frame to build your enviroment and opt out of rolling all the time.

    PW really is a great tool, but to be honest i build “off the cuff” most of the time

  11. Andrew Alwood, I’d much rather have a couple of his friends along, because I agree that 1on1 seems difficult – although I only think that because I haven’t done it yet.

    I asked him about getting some of his friends over, but he doesn’t want to do that yet, because he doesn’t think they will like it. I think it’s more because he’s 14 and doesn’t want Dad to embarrass him LOL.

  12. Haha. Very plausible.

    But in all honesty, 1on1 really isnt that bad. Take advantage of random tables. It makes it feel more “real” and “out of control”. Without more people to bounce ideas off of, those tables make it spicier.

  13. That’s a good point Robert Doe. I try to stay away from random tables with DW because we all add to the fiction. But with only one player I’ll need to rely on some randomness. Thanks!

  14. Oh! Actually about starting at a higher level. One thing I did was give my brother extra cool stuff. He wanted to be a Druid, but I also gave him the Fighter’s signature weapon and added in an ability where his signature weapon can transform, the way he can turn into creatures. In normal games you don’t want players to step on other classes’ toes. But with one player you can play with that more.

    Also overplaying NPCs is fine as long as they’re supporting the PC and not taking spotlight. ;D

  15. Gary Chadwick, yeah I actually meant to ask about that too but it didn’t make it on here. I was thinking about giving him an animal companion from the Ranger playbook.

    It’s a common enough wizard trope and allows him something else cool to interact with.

  16. I play one on one Dungeon World with my five year old, and it works great (very short sessions of course ). The thing to remember is you can always collapse back towards the conversation.

  17. Alright here goes… he picked a wizard with Magic Missle, Charm Person and Invisibility, and I let him take an animal companion from the Ranger class (he chose a hawk). I also gave him two hirelings: one with Tracker/Warrior, and one with Priest.

    He already had some cool ideas for the world. Short break and we’re diving in 🙂

  18. I might be a bit late, but me and my younger brother are playing a 1 on 1 campaign, he’s currently at level 7, so I think I might be able to give you some insights.

    1) I would definately use bonds from the get go, ask your player what kind of bonds does he want, but most importantly, ask about the NPCs the player is going to share those bonds with. Use the info to flesh out those NPCs, as he would already be interested in them (since he made suggestions about them in the first place, right?)

    2) Try to make a campaign that fits his character well. You have a great oppurtunity to make a very “personal” campaign, about a single main character working to improve itself and achieve its goals in a more “focused” way that it could be way harder to flesh out in a group game.

    If he was a thief, for example, you could make a campaign about planning a great heist, like taking the most valuable gem from the Efreet Vizier that lives in another plane, he would be totally focused on getting the right tools to open a gate, it wouldn’t be a campaign about a band of heroic murder-hobos saving the world, it would be about a thief trying to get filthy rich, in a very sword-and-sorcery way.

    Considering that he’s interested in being a wizard, I would suggest to start at a wizardry school, a young mage who just graduated, and make him explore this place, finding all kinds of weird secrets and artifacts (kinda like Harry Potter, you know). Other idea would be about him being some kind of hedge wizard, travelling the world and discovering crazy spells and other “magic stuff” on his own.

    3) Consider toning down the combat a bit, especially considering he’s a wizard, he problably would try to use his wits out of problems.

    Considering his video game background he would most problably just start slinging magic missiles around (and fireballs later on), so try to show him the Roleplaying side from the RPGs, in a way that videogames would never be able to do, but if he just wants to fireball his path, that’s fine too, don’t try to force playstyles on him.

    4) Use NPCs, but not a lot of them. Start with the ones he told about when he was choosing his bonds, but stay with a small number of them, as you might overwhelm him with all those different NPCs with different backgrounds and objectives.

    If you really want to expand your cast of characters, including different factions with different agendas can work extremely well, it helps making the players feel inside an alive world quite a lot, and they’re more, let’s say, identifiable than single NPCs IMO.

    5) As far as henchmen go, they can be awesome, my brother got easily attached to them, even going out of his way if necessary to save them from danger. You might want to make some of the NPCs members of the factions as I mentioned above, as their leaders’ agendas might end up in conflict with their friendship towards the PC, creating some interesting moments.

  19. You’re only too late for the first session. All of this will be invaluable going forward. Thanks!

    One of the things he did NOT want was to pay at Hogwarts (or anything like it), so I did kind of go with a hedge wizard.

    I asked him what his character (Celebrimbor: Neutral Elf Wizard) was really trying to accomplish with his life and he responded with “I want to find that one thing that everyone talks about, but no one knows if it ever really existed.”

    We fleshed it out (I was expecting Holy Grail or Fountain of Youth by his statement) and it ended up being something very much like the Library at Alexandria.

    That’s cool for a wizard because he’s looking for lost (or fabled) knowledge. BUT he isn’t seeking it for the knowledge! He’s seeking it to be famous for finding it (which is also cool because it gives him some role playing opportunities).

    I changed his Neutral alignment to read “Impress someone with your magic” so he tried to think out of the box when using magic in our first session. The coolest was when, after being ambushed by goblins, he used Magic Missle to collapse a tree on the last one and pin it to the ground so he could interrogate it.

    All in all the first session went much better than I could have hoped. He wants to play 1 on 1 again but says at some point he may be able to play with others 🙂

  20. Brian Holland​​ My brother’s campaign is goind kinda of a similar way. His character is a Neutral halfling thief called Buddy. His first job was to steal a very valuable gem from a very rich man in his hometown, as his contacts told him about a order of paladins that would do anything to get it.

    Later on, after getting that gem and giving it to the paladins for a handsome reward (a lot of gold), he through one of his contacts (a elven wizard) that there is a second gem, and both of them were to be used as keys to access and old, lost temple built in the name of god of Justice, the same god those paladins revered, and according to this intel, this temple held great powers and even greater treasures in its interior. So he planned to get the other gem and then “steal back” the one he sold to the paladins.

    As the campaign progressed, he got himself right in the middle of a faction conflict: there were the paladins, that wanted to use the temple’s power to recover their lost favor (they believed that finding this temple would please their god), the necromancers, who wanted to use this some power to fuel an undead invasion across the land, and last, but no least, the monks, who believed that this temple should remain hidden, as its powers could bring more harm than good, even if used with good intentions.

    During the campaign first sessions, my brother, as a good thief his character was, would steer away from the fight, taking a “f*ck those guys, I just wanna plunder the sh*t out of that temple” stance, but as we kept progressing, he started changing his view, aligning more and more with monks’ point of view, as he saw both paladins and necromancers taking rather extreme measures to achieve their goals.

    The cool thing is that I never forced this option on him (these monks aren’t the goody, calm and nice guys one would expect either). I was playing expecting he would keep his neutral stance during the whole campaign, but I started to notice the gradual change on his actions and decisions, like there is a real character development here, which is totally awesome.

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