Last week I ran a dungeoncrawl for a single player. D&D is of course balanced around full groups of specialized player characters, so it was a bit tricky to run for one person without modifying my prep at all.
To mitigate the player’s lack of resources, I suggested that he start with a few combat-ready hirelings and a torchbearer. All fighters (his choice, though I didn’t explicitly offer alternatives).
The first delve was not a great success on his part. He descended into Borshak’s lair, met a non-combat-ready hobgoblin guard, whom he surprised and massacred, and then entered a room with heavy red velvet wall hangings. He surmised that there must be something behind the hangings and pushed past them, revealing another 5 feet of room on every side. In the corner of the hidden perimeter was a pile of cloth and trash. I rolled a giant tick for a random encounter. He moved forward to the pile. When he was about 10 feet away, I described how the pile shifted, and he could see some hard grey chitinous shape crawling within it. He advanced further, and the tick burst out, winning initiative and biting him on the thigh. He ran out of the velvet-lined perimeter into the center of the room, where his retainers could help him whale on the tick.
Unfortunately for him, giant ticks have an AC of 2, meaning he had a base 15% chance of hitting with each of his retainers. I ruled that, if he stood still, he could get a +2 to hit, since the tick was affixed to his thigh and couldn’t jump around. After a few rounds of missing (and blessedly low damage rolls by the tick) I suggested “Anything that would work on a normal tick would probably work on this thing too” and he had his torchbearer burn the tick out of his thigh.
The tick was still alive after this, and he chose to stand and fight rather than flee (either back upstairs or further down into the dungeon) so I randomly chose a target for it (ticks are blind, so it wouldn’t attack intelligently) and it took out one of his retainers in a single blow. Then he fled.
We talked a bit about how the session was going, and I gave him some more advice: that he shouldn’t stand and fight unless he had something to gain from it. He hired a new retainer (this one with a bow) and descended again.
Now I’ve written a decent amount and I should probably just post a full session report, huh?
Two-player gaming had a special difficulty because he was so weak. He had to run from pretty much every fight. But he was still able to pick up treasure along the way, and he got out of the next delve unscathed, with enough XP to level up!
I really enjoyed the immediate back-and-forth that comes from playing with a single person. There was no downtime at all. No pauses for deliberation. I would play more games like this (and, based on the RSVP count to my next Borshak’s Lair session, I am going to!).