Provide opportunities for role playing in a single player campaign focused on travelling and wilderness survival


I am preparing to run a single person campaign for a friend and I'm not quite sure how to provide them enough roleplaying opportunities, especially since a big part of the campaign will involve travelling in the wilderness by themselves with relatively few opportunities to meet NPCs and they're very excited about the character and showing off their personality.

We have already excluded the idea of me playing a permanent companion in the form of a side-kick or DMPC – for multiple reasons but the most important one is that it's not the experience they want, they are specifically after the "travelling wilderness by themselves" feeling and besides, I'm not too keen on playing a whole character in addition to DMing either.

So far I am considering giving them some sort of sentient item that they could talk to at times but that "wakes up" and responds on its own terms so it's not just a constant chatterbox that I have to devote energy to keep playing.

Best Answer

I would suggest that you don't need to do anything in particular, at least at first. Consider:

  • Your player is specifically interested in the "'travelling wilderness by themselves' feeling" - why not simply take this at face value?
  • You can always add some sort of companion, especially one like a talking sword. It's a lot harder, in an RPG, to take one away in a fun, natural manner.
  • If, after playing for a while, the player agrees with you, they can seek out companionship in character. The lonely ranger adopts a wolf cub, that sort of thing. Does it matter if it can't talk back? You can always say something like 'Rex whimpers softly, as if sympathising with you' as an answer. I feel like this would capture the spirit of the 'alone in the wilderness' genre quite nicely.
  • There certainly is literature where the protagonist is alone for a significant portion of the story; you could look to that for inspiration. Generally, I think that if the protagonist is given character development it is after a few chapters of being a somewhat mysterious figure, to set the tone properly.
  • You can get a similar result to in-character conversations with what in other media would be narration. Why not ask your player what the character is thinking and feeling? Ask the player to have their player summarise an encounter after playing through it, e.g. "It was tough, and I'm battered and bruised. But I proved once again that I am the apex predator here."