Last Christmas, my older brother got my younger brother the D&D 5e Starter Set. We’ve been running sessions of the Lost Mines of Phandelver with my older brother as GM whenever we all get together, but as my older brother has inconveniently decided to go to Yale’s law school, these get togethers are few and far between. To fill in the gaps, I recently started GMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen for him.
I made a few efforts to find other players, but ultimately abandoned all of them. When you try to gather up new players, a large chunk of the people you’re looking at are people who are looking for a group because they aren’t welcome at other game tables. The ones who aren’t are unlikely to especially want the same style and tone of game as you do, although running a store-bought campaign does alleviate this. On top of this, you have to consider the prodigious attrition rates of your average pick-up group and on top of that, the incredibly difficult scheduling associated with getting 4 players and a DM to show up at the same time. Every new person added to the group makes this harder. With just two people, you can plausibly get together 3+ times a week. With a full group of five, you’re lucky to get one or two.
I decided to run for just my little brother. The standard D&D solution for duet campaigns is to power up the PC, but 5e’s bounded accuracy harshes that mellow like whoa. Instead, we created a complete party and he’ll run all of them, like this was a Gold Box game. Occasionally I take control of one of the party members for the sake of roleplay within the party, usually so that noble Thaemin or good-hearted Ront (usually played by my brother) can have a conversation with cynical Arvensis or sardonic Robyn (usually played by me). As a happy side-effect, since no free XP has been given out and we’re running a published adventure, all characters are completely rules-legal for use with the Adventurer’s League any time we want to head down to a hobby store or to a convention or whatever (note from the future: preserving this happy side effect would end up taking a lot more effort than I thought it would).
So here’s the party:
Thaemin (pronounced “thay-minn”) is a half-elven Paladin of Tyr. Native to the town of Greenest, his mother fled here from the Neverwinter region after his father turned out to be a homicidal psychopath (my younger brother’s previous character, the crazy half of a buddy cop duo). He is a devoted adherent to the Law of Tyr, and dedicated to keeping his hometown safe, especially its temple and his mother. He is inflexible in his thinking, but his heart is pure.
Ront is a half-orcish Barbarian blacksmith. He is a near-mute but always helpful resident of Greenest, using his smithing skills and brute strength to help those in need, and often willing to offer discounts, defer payment to the future, or even work for free for those in need. This altruism often sees him working alongside the temple of Tyr, which has made Ront and Thaemin friendly acquaintances, if not outright friends. He lived in Baldur’s Gate when he was younger, and sought the love of a human girl there. Their love for one another was strong, but she was scared of being seen in a relationship with a half-orc. They met in secret for over a year while Ront worked to become a journeyman, independent and capable of supporting a family. Then, the young and naive half-orc planned to propose. He never got that far. A wealthy merchant’s son swept his lady off her feet, and she ultimately left him. Waking up in the aftermath of the bar room rage he’d caused the night before, Ront walked out of Baldur’s Gate and never returned. Over the past several years while he has worked in Greenest, he has become convinced that he is predestined to die in battle as an orc. He might live and work in human society until that day comes, but the orcish half of his blood defines him just as much as the human, and it will claim its due sooner or later.
Robyn Hood is a wood elf Ranger who ranges across the Baldur’s Gate area, finding bandits, tyrants, and other wicked creatures to plunder for wealth. Orphaned by plague at a young age, she was taken in by a minor lord reigning over a small town in the hinterland of Baldur’s Gate. This minor lord was a benevolent and just ruler who believed that a noble’s only reason to be at all was to defend the interests of the people they ruled. Upon his death, he implored his eldest child to follow in his footsteps. This eldest child did not do that, and instead immediately began over-taxing the peasantry to fund a life of decadent luxury. To repay her debt to the man who took her in and raised her when she was left with nothing, Robyn Hood took it upon herself to redistribute the wealth back to its rightful owners, regardless of what side of the law she had to do it on. Since Greenest isn’t especially tyrannical, Robyn Hood uses it as a safe haven, much to the aggravation of Thaemin, who does not appreciate the heat she brings to the village at times. The castellan of the village castle, Escobert the Red, who is also the closest thing they have to a town guard, has made it clear that Robyn is welcome in the village, so Thaemin gives her no trouble, but it grates on him.
Arvensis Cotula is a tiefling Sorcerer, part of the Cotula Clan descended from a succubus who haunted a powerful elven wizard for decades, producing a dozen-odd offspring from him before being slain by one of her own children, releasing the wizard from the madness which kept him at the demon’s mercy for so long. The Cotula Clan is a dysfunctional mess with a strong strain of demonic evil in the family, which the family in general fights hard to suppress and exterminate. This fratricidal code puts distance between parents, children, and siblings alike, everyone always waiting for the day when some family member snaps and must be put down. Arvensis’ response to the family curse is to seek knowledge. While his powers are innate, his knowledge of the arcane is very much a result of many hours of long study. Arvensis believes that with sufficiently thorough knowledge of the demonic magic that blights his family, it can be controlled, and he can not only put an end to the bloodshed within the family, but banish the looming specter that someday he might be the one to fall into darkness. He keeps his finished tomes on demons and dark magic in a private cache in Greenest, and often pays Robyn Hood to smuggle him forbidden texts or abominable specimens. He is suspicious of others almost to the point of paranoia and is deeply mistrusted by the rest of the town.