Tips for Solitary GMing

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Tips for Solitary GMing Submitted by BlindGuyNW on Sun, 02/09/2012 – 20:30

Hi All,

I’m going to be running a game of HQ for a single player in a little while, someone who is completely new to roleplaying but has many ideas and is hyper enthusiastic about the possibilities. 

I was wondering if anyone had any tips—rules-wise or otherwise, for solitary GMing with HQ? A couple of the examples in the book have solitary GMs and players, so I know the system at least is suited to the task.

It strikes me for one thing that I won’t have to use some of the group-related contest types much, if at all. This is helpful for me, as I personally found them a rather complicated piece of the book and don’t want to overwhelm my new player with more detail than she needs, anyhow. Beyond this obvious fact, I was wondering if anyone had any other tips or advice from experience here?

THanks much,


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A successful first session

Submitted by BlindGuyNW on Tue, 04/09/2012 – 22:57.

Hi all,

I just wanted to update everyone and say that the first session went off quite well. I’m happy to say that she really seemed to get into the game right away, and we ran both simple and extended contest without too many problems. I opted to give her a GM PC ally, whom I’m making as distinct from her PC as possible ability-wise.We ended up settling on a gritty mode, with moments of comic relief. I’m sure this will be fined tuned over the next few sessions, but over all, it was a great success from my perspective.THanks again for all the tips.Yours,Zack.

Thanks all for the feedback

Submitted by BlindGuyNW on Mon, 03/09/2012 – 12:52.

Hi all,

THanks for the advice and tips, I’m sure I should be able to make use of at least some of them.

I should explain that we’ll be playing in a near-future “time cop” style of setting, because it appeals more to the player than does Gloranthan fantasy at the moment. (She did specify she’d be interested in branching out if she liked the RP experience. I’m 90% sure she will, such enthusiasm is refreshing.) 

Anyhow, I had already considered an NPC for her, perhaps a patron, her superior in the time traveling agency and her recruiter. A suitable NPC ally, or GM PC, for that matter might be a fellow agent of roughly her rank, perhaps a bit lower?

I had thought some about mode, but haven’t heard from her yet on that subject. I’ll let y’all know when I do.

Thanks again,


Harald Smith's picture

solo PC’s and allies

Submitted by Harald Smith on Tue, 04/09/2012 – 11:38.

I’ve run a Doctor Who setting for my son where his PC was a time agent.  He did not use/have a sidekick or follower (a more junior companion would work fine for that), but I did introduce various single allies (usually a ‘peer’ such as a local city cop investigating strange activity or another time agent) to accompany the PC and provide in-game commentary (and assist in actions, at the direction of the PC–e.g. asking ‘what do you think we should do?’).

Occasionally a patron (superior at the Time Agency) might appear to give directions, particularly starting out a series of adventures, but more typical NPC’s would be bad guys, rivals, etc.


THat all sounds good

Submitted by BlindGuyNW on Tue, 04/09/2012 – 13:44.

THanks, that all sounds quite workable. I’ll be seeing my friend later today for a while, so will probably have more information at some point very soon. I admit the density of HQ rules is a little daunting at times—it’s a short book, but packed with all sorts of options. I’m sure things will be well in the end though.

Thanks again for all the advice and tips. More soon.



Harald Smith's picture

Solo PC’s

Submitted by Harald Smith on Mon, 03/09/2012 – 09:57.

Hi Zack,

From my experience GM’ing for solo PC’s, some suggestions I have are:

  • while you can initiate any number of scenarios, if the PC isn’t interested in them or the situations presented, they will quickly lose interest — follow where they want to go [e.g. you can start the PC at the Festival of Beasts, but he/she may have no interest in Ernalsulva — don’t force it, there may be another destiny for them to follow]
  • let them have a sidekick or follower that they can control for special situations
  • some scenarios really need a group [war-band, etc.] to help out – unless you need specific individuals called out [which I have found my PC’s like], make a generic template for the group, perhaps tweaking one ability for named figures, and let the PC roll for the group as if a single follower [while letting yourself add comments from any of the group characters as needed]
  • include a friendly GM NPC as a guide, assistant, etc. who can provide insight/comments for the PC when needed [may vary from game to game, but I found continuity useful] – a well-travelled merchant, a lore-seeker, a bard, etc. all can work well


Philmagpie's picture

Adding Allies

Submitted by Philmagpie on Mon, 03/09/2012 – 06:34.

Hi Zack,

If you are running a game for a single PC, then I would first of all urge her to take a sidekick.  This is simple enough to do under the HQ rules, and while it does “cost” the PC an Ability, I think that the benefits will be huge.

Beyond the greater range of Abilites that a sidekick opens up, there are the meta-game options.  The Player really can be in two places at once, if such is needed.  They can cope with groups of adversaries a little better and the sidekick would increase the range of social/role-playing opportunities.

Likewise, I would quickly add a GMPC to the group too.  Again, there are multiple benefits here.  Primarily, it will allow you as GM to guide the Player in-game in a more subtle manner.  You can also offer advice and give the Player someone with whom to discuss ideas and options.

Obviously, you would need to be careful with the GMPC, pitching the level at perhaps a little higher than the sidekick, but definitely lower than the PC.  A local guide, ageing mentor or other source of information might be best, somebody who can offer a lot of information, but who is not going to overshadow the PC in terms of in-game action.

Finally, I would try to ensure that the PC had plenty of backup options, such as clan, family or temple allies.  Not only does this offer you many more ways to give the PC information, and perhaps a little bit of gentle guidance, it also gives the Player a sense of not being alone in a hostile world.  You do not have to make things easy for the PC, but just try to ensure that they do not feel isolated.

Of course, it does all depend upon the setting that you want to use, but I hope that this gives you a few things to think about.

Good luck


RoM's picture

lone wolf or leader of the pack

Submitted by RoM on Mon, 03/09/2012 – 09:15.

Yes, the choice of character will be interesting. I see two options:

A. Lone Wolf

You have the rare opportunity to run adventures that would be impossible (or at least very boring) for a group of players. The player character could be an elite assassin, a free lance journalist or a spy behind enemy lines.

B. Leader of the Pack

The PC could also be a pack leader. That way her superiors (you) could still give her direct orders, what makes it easy to find new obstacles. On the other hand she can make her own decisions, what supports the player’s creativity. Possible characters would be a fireteam leader, the department chief with a government agency or an Orlanthi Thane.

Either way the PC can belong to a community and has access to the community’s resources. This could be the CIA data bank, newspaper contacts or the clan’s magic rating.



RoM's picture

the rules work fine. what setting will you have?

Submitted by RoM on Mon, 03/09/2012 – 03:35.

The HQ rules work for solo as well as for group gaming. You don’t have to change anything. As you have mentioned you can simple ignore the rules for group contests (though you can still use them for multiple player characters or multiple opponents).

Tips for the roleplaying itself depends very much on the setting and the mode of the game. Where, when and what do you want to play?

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