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Gamemastering the Run-for-One
Roleplaying games now have a long history, dating back to the early 1970s, when Gary Gygax created the first- Dungeons and Dragons. Since that moment of inception, available or interested players in any given geographic area have sometimes been limited. This situation has led numerous GMs (Game Masters) to accept the role of running a game for one player only- the Run for One. The Run for One is a unique situation requiring unique solutions from the GM.
Player Character Choice
When operating alone, the player's choice of character is vitally important. Most RP (Role Playing) games include a combat system of some sort, meaning that the character can take damage and die. For the PC to have a better-than-average chance of survival early on, encourage the player to include an ability to heal damage.
With games such as Dungeons and Dragons that are class-based, encourage a class that includes healing magic or healing abilities. In Second Edition AD&D, this would include Clerics, Paladins, Rangers and Druids. In Fifth Edition AD&D, Bards also have healing magic. The best of those choices, in my opinion, would be Ranger under both cited editions, largely because of the Ranger's better combat abilities.
With games such as Battletech or Shadowrun that are skill-based, encourage a high level in medic or first aid skills. At least the PC will have a chance to recover some health quickly after dangerous encounters.
In a run-for-one situation, where the PC will have no backup, plan for far more skill-based and roleplay encounters over combat encounters. Talking your way out of trouble is safer than fighting your way out of trouble. If a combat encounter does get out of hand, don't be afraid to fudge the dice a bit, send in a helpful NPC, or have the villain suddenly lose his courage and either surrender or escape. If your PC seems determined to get himself killed through combat, give him a minor healing item to help ease the pain.
When adventuring alone, the single PC can easily feel outclassed by the environment you create. Don't be afraid to award a little extra for successful encounters. Perhaps there was more cash in the loot, or the PC now has more influence with a group of NPCs. This approach will encourage the player to keep playing. Be careful to not overplay this tactic. If the rewards are too great the player may not see the need to try so hard.
GM as Player
Sometimes, with some players, one PC is just not going to be enough. You, the GM, will have to run a GM PC yourself. When doing so, choose a character with varied abilities to complement the player PC. Your GM PC should have a smaller personality than the player PC, allowing the player PC to maintain center stage during encounters. Be careful to not use inside knowledge of your story to give away secrets and info to the player PC. The player PC should still have to work for their rewards. The GM PC is there only to support, and possibly suggest, courses of action.
If you as Gamemaster ever find yourself in a run-for-one situation, I hope these ideas will assist your efforts. Please feel free to add your ideas into the comments.
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