One on one play is a great time to develop a character’s backstory; You need common ground between you and your player (otherwise, why are you gaming together?!), the character’s background should be a ripe source of information you can plunder for this as well as motivations for what they want to do.
The trick is, however, to remember that you, as the GM, are still in control, it’s not a collaborative story (unless that’s the sort of game that’s running) the world’s mechanics, physics and so on are still yours but the spotlight is on the player, but you control the stage.
I’ve run quite a lot of one on one games and for me, as a GM, the best bit about this is I get a lot of time to develop NPC’s personality and goals as there are no other members of the party to talk to. Usually, in one on one games, a player can’t do everything themselves (otherwise it’s a bit of a dull character) so they’ll need other people to help them. Sidekicks, contacts, hirelings, shopkeepers, etc are a GM’s shoehorn and delight into this situation. However remember that these NPC’s are there are window dressing, they are not your own characters – there is the temptation to bedeck a favorite NPC with gear, skills and buffs as you become more attached to them – this is something to avoid and something I’ve fallen foul of.
As mentioned; you need to talk to the player and find out common ground, adapt and think around the problem. You’re both there to have fun, but do remember you’re running the game, not playing. The player likes fights and you like social situations? Add a sidekick to their dungeon adventure and talk to them as things go on, draw the player into situations that you can enjoy and give them what they want as well.
- Talk to the player, find common gaming ground. Players can surprise you!
- Adapt to situations, NPCs are your most powerful tool for this.
- Dig into the characters backstory, this is a time to root out a story and run with it.
- Give and take, mix and match. You’re both there to have fun. Run things you’ll both enjoy.
- If you’re not enjoying it or the player isn’t – talk to them some more, don’t let things degenerate – take a break over a game of Munchkin or something.
- Have fun! You’ll likely have much more time NPC’ing than usual as party banter is gone.
- But don’t fall foul of playing NPCs as your own characters.
- Not working one on one? Use other methods to game! Go online and get some other players – try playing via Skype/Google hangouts or whatever.