How to Play Multiple Characters in a Solo Adventure
When you play Dungeons & Dragons as a player, you assume the role of a single imaginary character – preferably one that you create yourself.
You all meet in a tavern and join up for a bit of mutual adventure (or genocide and looting, depending on who you ask).
From there, you play out the story in your mind, imagining that you are looking at the campaign world through the eyes of the character you created.
You look at your friend and do not see your friend, but the character he/she plays.
You look ahead and see danger – a band of werewolves charging at you, in search of blood.
You also see that half of you are still bleeding from the last battle.
There is no time. You need to act quickly, lest this moonlit night be your last.
This, in a nutshell, is what D&D is all about.
Playing D&D solo works pretty much the same way, except that you are on your own. When you look around you through the eyes of your character as you travel, you see no one else around you.
Adventuring alone can be a brave, yet foolhardy thing to do. Imagine the glory and adulation you will receive if you are successful as a lone adventurer, but no one will be there to bail you out if things head south.
So here’s a suggestion – why not take control of a party of characters in your next solo adventure?
A party of characters?
Just thinking about all that paperwork and bookkeeping would probably be enough to make your head spin, wouldn’t it?
But if you can get the head around the concept, it can become a far more complete and rewarding experience once you’re up and running.
Why Play Multiple Characters?
- Solo adventures are few and far between… but there’s an abundance of adventures for group play.
- More tactical options in combat, making combat a lot more interesting.
- You have several character concepts gathering dust and never had the chance to play them all.
When I first started playing D&D solo, I noticed there was a wealth of (free) adventures for group play, but not nearly as many solo adventures (and even fewer for free).
Most published adventures are – and will continue to be – written for a group of players, and published adventures are pretty much essential when you don’t have a DM to create a campaign world for you.
The Dungeon Master’s Basic Rules do give you guidelines on how you can balance an adventure for one character, but you either have to do it on the fly or spoil the entire adventure by going through all the encounters before you play.
So rather than try to re-balance an adventure that is balanced for four to six players, it makes sense to play an adventure the way it was intended to be played – with a whole party of adventurers.
A more fundamental reason as to why you should consider playing with several characters is that it’s simply more fun from a roleplaying standpoint, as well as tactically.
A single PC is restricted by his class abilities (and not to mention, the action economy) no matter how good he is, but a group of characters can pool their resources together to survive an encounter.
I’m sure you can imagine that this opens up more tactical possibilities in combat and you are not simply doing the same things over and over again with the same character.
Survival rates are generally higher too: D&D 5e is great in that a fallen character can often survive long enough for the cleric (or another character) to administer first aid, but a lone adventurer will rarely have that luxury.
And if you’re anything like me, you may have dozens of character concepts gathering dust somewhere, so why not take them all out for a spin?
Where Do You Start?
So how do you play several characters at once in a solo game?
As I said before, the biggest obstacle is the amount of bookkeeping that you have to do:
- Create your characters (although you could use pre-generated characters instead…).
- Keep track of inventory for each character.
- Update your character sheet each time you level up.
- Record status effects, damage taken, spells cast and other stuff during combat.
- And more.
The key is to start small.
Let’s use juggling as an analogy: at first, you might be juggling two or three balls at a time to start off with, then you can add more as you become more proficient until you’re juggling as many as eight balls at the same time.
Drawing from the same concept, start playing with one or two characters first. Once you get comfortable with playing two characters simultaneously, add another character, and then another character until you have the classic four man (or woman) band.
Leave out the roleplaying and simply concentrate on the rollplaying side of the game. It doesn’t matter if you have access to DM information or if you die. The important thing is that you get used to switching between characters, whether in battle or otherwise.
The best tool to use for this exercise is this random dungeon generator:
This app should be pretty self explanatory, but basically all you need to do is set the level of the dungeon, the number of characters you are going to play, the size of the dungeon and so on.
Once you’ve done that, just click ‘construct’ and explore this dungeon starting from room 1.
The best thing about this tool is that there is a dungeon generator for AD&D, 3.5e and 4e as well, so players of the aforementioned editions of D&D can also use the generator.
Streamline the Bookkeeping
You can use the following apps to make your life a lot easier when it comes to keeping track of character information.
The quality of each app has not been evaluated in any detail by me (except the spreadsheets), but most of them are free so it doesn’t hurt to give them a spin and see if they work for you.
Fifth Edition Character Sheet
A handy little free-to-download app called ‘Fifth Edition Character Sheet‘ developed by Walter Kammerer for Android.
You can create your character, save it and edit it whenever you need to. You can store as many characters as you want or need, so no more loose paper notes strewn about in four different directions.
Creating your character is quick and easy, and it took me only 10 minutes to fill in all the information about my character.
You could save even more time and enter only the bare essentials if all you want to do is crack some heads.
Once you’ve generated the character, the app automatically fills in some of the information for you, based on class choices and background information.
For example, your character will receive the starting equipment for his class and background, and your skill, saves and attack bonuses are automatically calculated.
What would make it more complete would be the ability to fill in the personality traits using a drop-down menu, like you do when you select your character class, although the option to manually type in this information should also be present for those who want create their own personality traits.
You can switch between character sheets by tapping the folder icon and selecting a different character.
There is a paid version of this app (which I have yet to try) which is ad-free and allows you to level up your character automatically.
There are similar apps available for other editions of the game, so just browse around.
5e Realtime Character Sheet (Google Drive Powered)
You will need a Google account before you can access this character sheet. If you don’t have a Google account, you will need to create one on the Google website.
Once you gain access to this app, simply click on ‘Create’ to create your first character sheet. This sheet will be saved on your Google Drive.
You can create more than one character sheet and access each by clicking on ‘Open’.
The downside is that you will need to enter most information manually, though some of the variables are automated, notably the proficiency bonus which, when increased or decreased, will increase or decrease other fields on the sheet such as saving throws, attack bonus, etc. – handy for when you level up.
Spreadsheet (Excel, Google Drive, Numbers, etc.)
I am no stranger to using spreadsheets to record my games, and they have served me quite well.
I use them to keep track of what happens in battle: initiative order, status effects, temporary modifiers and character information.
If you have some knowledge of using formulas, you can use them to create cells that update automatically when you increase (or decrease) other cells you specify.
For example, a cell containing your Attack Bonus would be updated when you type or edit values in a cell containing your Proficiency Bonus and Strength bonus.
This makes it easy to update your character whenever you level up your character.
It will take some effort and time to build a character sheet like this using Excel, so it’s just as well someone from Enworld has already done all of the heavy lifting for you (link below).
Unlike some of the other suggestions above, you can mess with these character sheets offline and/or without having to access a mobile device such as a tablet or mobile phone.
You will need to spend some time typing in all the character information, but once you’ve done that, updating your character upon level up should be a breeze.
You will still need to fill in some of the information manually, such as equipment carried, number of items, weight, personality traits, class features, etc.
There may be other apps or programs that would help streamline your solo gaming experience, so if you have a suggestion of your own, please let me know in the comments below.
Other Minor Points to Consider
You can also streamline the process of inventory management by keeping all your items under one single inventory page, with an ‘overall carrying capacity’ which is basically the sum of each character’s carrying capacity added together.
It’s not accurate, but the last thing you want is to get too bogged down by all the minor details – at least not until you get used to playing several characters at once.
It is also best to have a central pool of currency that party members can draw from.
Putting it into Practice
Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how you get on in the comments box below?
If you’ve played multiple characters before, how did you find it?
Did it enhance your solo gaming experience and open up more tactical options in combat?
Or would you rather do without all the extra paperwork that results from playing several characters at once?