Dungeons & Dragons has added new rules for sidekicks in order to optimize 1-on-1 play. Earlier this month, Dungeons & Dragons released the D&D Essentials Kit, a new boxed set made for new players. In addition to a new adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, the boxed set also contains dice, a rulebook, pre-generated character sheets, and cards containing descriptions of magic items and NPCs you might encounter during the journey. One of the more intriguing parts of the D&D Essentials Kit is the promise that the adventure can be played with only two players - one acting as the Dungeon Master and one acting as an Adventurer. This new 1-on-1 format is made possible through the use of sidekicks, a new kind of NPC that levels up with the player.
One key difference between a sidekick and a normal playable character is that the sidekick's stats are presented in stat block form as opposed to a full character sheet. While stat blocks are used in D&D to summarize the abilities of monsters and other enemies a party might face, the sidekick stat blocks are notable because they change as a player levels up and they can be controlled by either the Adventurer or the Dungeon Master. It's up to the player and the DM to determine who controls the sidekick, with no additional recommendations as to which method is better.
There are three types of sidekicks - the spellcaster, the expert, and the warrior - each of which utilizes class features from different player classes. For instance, an Expert can eventually use the "Cunning Action" class feature that Rogues typically utilize, while a Warrior gains access to the Second Wind feature of a Fighting. The spellcaster technically has two subclasses (called a "Magical Role" in the statblock) that grants them access to either divine magic or arcane magic. As a mage levels up, their spell list grows and they gain access to a limited block of spells.
Because Dragon of Icespire Peak takes players from Level 1 to Level 6, the Sidekick rules in the D&D Essentials Kit allows players to level up their Sidekicks to Level 6. Unfortunately, ComicBook.com confirmed with the D&D team that there are no plans to expand the Sidekicks rules to include higher levels "at this time." So, if you want a higher level sidekick, you might need to refer to the Unearthed Arcana playtest rules on sidekicks to determine how to proceed. Otherwise, you and your DM will need to do some homebrewing to level up sidekicks at a higher level.
The D&D Essentials Kit looks like a fantastic starting point for D&D players. And by lowering the numbers of players needed to run a D&D campaign down to two, D&D has opened up the game to even more potential players.
The D&D Essentials Kit is currently available at Target for $24.99