Gaming for Two – Duet Gaming

Sometimes, its hard to find enough people to play an RPG game. Either schedules are tough, nowhere to meet, or you just can’t fit everyone into the room. In my case, and in many others, I just want to share a hobby with one person, instead of trying to juggle the plates of an entire group.

My fiance is a huge nerd, like myself. She’s helped me write my games, supported me, and loves to play tabltopRPGs. But, playing with a group can be frustrating, especially if your group is filled with players who may be….unstable.

 

So, what to do? Everyone knows that you can’t play a game with just a GM and one player! Can you? </rhetorical question> There have been a lot of questions about this, especially as more and more people get into rpgs. Most systems are designed for groups, with a few minor exceptions. I’m no expert, but my fiance and I have had a few successful duet games, and I’m REALLY good at collecting lots of great resources for fellow players. So, here’s my list of great stuff.

Most of the resources come from Blue Moon Aurora.

  • The Basics
    Advantages of Duet Gaming, tailoring a game for that player, increasing communication, decreasing combat.
  • Gaming with Significant Other
    Importance of relationship, communication, work together, focus on the fun, and for the love of Gygax make sure the game is secondary to the health of the relationship. Don’t enforce some mechanic if it will piss off the person you love.
  • Series of Duet Articles
    Wow, there is a LOT of great advice here, with pages and pages of info and guidance. I still haven’t read all of them, but so far its all been quality.

Here’s some of my advice (most of it stolen from the resources above):

  • Collaboration, not Conquest
    When you GM for a group, its easy to get it in your head that you are the leader, and the authority of the group. Sometimes that is true, but not when it’s just you and one other person. You both have to work together on the same level, with the player providing lots of feedback, and the GM tailoring the game for that player.
  • Focused Direction
    In a Group game, parties tend to move along in a general direction, or with a non-specific goal; e.g. “save the town, kill the bad guy”. But in Duet gaming, you can pursue much more focused goal, like “convince the shopkeeper to use his black market connections to gain entrance to the facility.”
  • Less Combat
    Any combat should be on the side, or somewhat simplified. A single character doesn’t have nearly as many tools as a party. Even combat should have more solutions than “kill everyone”. A single character can be a lot more creative than a group.
  • Make your intentions clear
    If you’re the player in a Duet Game, make it VERY clear what you want to do, and what you want from the game. Don’t be afraid to tell your GM to alter something that you don’t like.

Finally, my last piece of advice: focus on the fun. RPGs are a great way to bring more conversation interactions into your relationship (friendship or otherwise). They can be more fun than video games, and improve how well you communicate and work together. Don’t ever forget that the entire point of this exercise is to have fun with your friend! Don’t let anything else get in the way of that; not story, not mechanics, nothing.

As for systems…..sigh. There is this strange emphasis put on role-playing systems. While I will be the first to admit that some RPGs are better at certain tasks than others, just stop it. You can do anything you want in almost any RPG. You can do combat in Fiasco, and complex diplomacy in Pathfinder. The group and the GM are much more important than the system used.

That being said….there are some games that are more easily adapted to Duet gaming than others. At the end of the day, you should use whatever game you are the most comfortable using, no matter what anyone has said. That also being said, here are my recommendations for systems in Duet gaming, and why.

Mythic Mortals

Mythic Mortals

This is a bit of a shameless plug, but I felt I had to include it. My wife helped me playtest and design this game, and we were both surprised to see how much fun it was to play with just us! it’s become our regular system, both for playtesting and just for fun!

NumeneraNBG1

I played a lot of Numenera, and for a very simple reason: it’s a really really good system. The game focuses on exploration over combat, making it a good choice for Duet games as well. Every character in Numenera has the ability to spend their pools, and although characters can specialize, almost any character can reliably perform any task, especially if the difficulty levels are tailored for that player. For example, say you need the player to break through a locked door. The lock has a difficulty level of 3, but breaking the door has a difficulty of 4, and climbing over has a difficulty of 5. Boom, 3 different solutions for one obstacle.

Mythic

Mythic claims to have a logic-based system that replaces the GM, ostensibly allowing players to determine the outcomes to complicated situations by themselves. It’s an interesting idea, but doesn’t really appeal to me personally. You may get more out of it than I will.

Scarlet Heroes

I reviewed this in my Mega-post. It seems like a solid option, but I haven’t gotten the chance to dig too deeply yet.

S/Lay w/Me

This one is also recommended a lot. I haven’t read it, but if you want a more “adult” game, then this might be the way to go. It’s also built with two players in mind, and has a lot of mechanics focusing on that kind of interaction.

Again, I’m no expert, and if you have any good recommendations/advice/ideas, let me know, and I’ll add them to this list! Happy Gaming!