You know what would be awesome? A fully realized adventure RPG specifically designed for one player and one GM.
Yes yes, I know all about Mars Colony and Beast Hunters. But those games don’t have the widgets and advancement and economies and scope you get in a more traditional GM-and-Players setup. But the problem with that setup is that they’re not really built for a single player. If it’s a tactical traddy game, the game kind of relies on ability niches to cover lots of challenges. If it’s a character-driven storygame kind of game, you don’t get all the nice interlocking relationships. I guess you could have the player side play lots of roles, but do you give up development and investment? Dunno. The DCC funnel folks don’t seem to care much either way. Scarlet Heroes looks like it’s purpose-built for one-on-one play but man I’m just not feeling the OSR thing at all.
There’s always something missing, some compromise. Too big a prep footprint for the GM. Too much (!) screen time and intensity for the player to carry. The constant feeling that there’s a lot of rules weight happening and do we really need all that, you know, just the two of us?
I’ve been reading Ryuutama the past few weeks and its killer app is probably the fact the GM levels up and gains additional options. It’s neat, really neat. And it seems like something you could leverage in a purpose-built two-player RPG experience. Both sides are interested in expanding their options and it wouldn’t have to be competitive. I could see it being an interesting collaborative game as well as, you know, a game with distinct roles being played across many sessions.
Dunno. Just something that’s been on my mind for a while. Have I completely missed something that does this?
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There’s ERA, which is designed for one on one or two on one play, and to last an hour or so, as well as being very low prep. It doesn’t quite tick all of your boxes, but it’s Pay What You Want, so worth a look:
John Harper and I played a few sessions of a Mouse Guard hack for black ops spies that got close to this. I found GMing for a single PC exhausting (you don’t have inter-PC interactions to fall back on), but I think you could build support tools to make it easier. I think something close to MG’s level of complexity would work well.
How does the GM advance in Ryuutama? I never heard of such a thing!
Aaron Griffin it’s so cool. The GM “plays” a Ryuujin, which is positioned as this…servant to the dragons kind of thing. It shadows the party, writing down good stories to feed baby dragons so they can go grow the world. And as they feed stories to the babies (i.e. play scenarios), they earn new abilities they can use. There are four colors and they each have their own “benediction” abilities (to shape the themes and vibe of the campaign: exploring, interacting, fighting, grimdark) and…some other ones I can’t think of. There are also generic abilities that the Ryuujin can spend their “life points” on — like to get the characters out of a no-win tactical situation, rewind time to before a fight started, stuff like that.
Paul Beakley have you seen Showdown? If not, you should. I think you’d be into it.
Ehhh… I don’t know about that. It’s over in 90 minutes?
Paging Brand Robins and Mo Jave
I’m not sure I have a category that is too much screen time or player intensity.
James Stuart what specifically did you have in mind?
I just know they have a ton of experience with two-player games. I think they tend more towards troupe play, but I think they’d have interesting things to say.
Neat! I’d love to hear more.
But to add my own thought, I think here’s a tricky knot.
“too much screen time/intensity for one player” vs “asking the player to play multiple roles, which may decrease immersion”
Without using GM rotation/troupe play, it seems like that’s a hard bind to escape. Are there any games you feel like approach solving that?
The most obvious things I’d look at would be either breaking up GM duties across both players, or switching off and having the players GM each other. So their duties are broken up some.
I think breaking up chars is a good idea. A 2-player quasi-GMless game would be really interesting.
Robin D. Laws is working on a game called Gumshoe 1-2-1 (I think) that’s a Cthulhu mystery RPG for one player and a GM, and his stuff tends to be pretty traditional.
Brand and I play all sorts of 1 on 1, but mostly hacked.
It doesn’t have finicky advancement, but my two-player epic battle-for-the-world game Fate’s Fickle Winds is switch-off-GMing (kinda) and you could potentially play for a while. I dunno, it’s free if you wanna check it out. I bet you’ll find all the ways its broken, too!
(sorry to be that guy).
Given the extreme asymmetry of the DM/player relationship my initial response was that you hand them something like OGRE in a box. One person “plays” a macro system (empire, age, community, megadungeon, the OGRE) and gets all the moving parts to make that happen. The other person plays one or more person-size entities who interact with that system as per conventional play. Their interaction creates narrative. Great to think about!
You may want to check out Scarlet Heroes. The idea there is to adjust the rules so one character can go on adventures designed for parties, so you can use your OSR adventures with a solo player.
I would post a link but RPGNow is being derpy and slow.
Paul Beakley can the Ryuujin affect the world in any way? Would it be possible to play a two player game with 2 ryuujins? Just a random thought…
You’ve played Murderous Ghosts?
EDIT: OH wait, not an adventure.
Jesse Coombs yes! And it’s got some interesting stuff. Not super repeatable, but it is fun to show off to new players sometimes.
How do you feel about the 1-on-1 BW Luke describes in the Si Juk posts on the BWHQ forums?
Mark Delsing it’s pretty good! But it feels like an imperfect fit.