Thursday, 4 July 2013

Just the Two of Us

Over at Known World, Old World, Andy discusses the issue of the single player session/game. One DM, one player. Mano a mano (or womano).

I don't get many, or indeed any, opportunities to do that sort of game, because unlike the surprising number of bloggers out there who play D&D with their spouse, the young woman I share a bed with will not display the slightest modicum of interest. She takes an entirely dim view of silly geek games and treats me with the kind of patient indulgence you would a small dog engaged in some unsavoury activity or other: He can't help doing such a stupid thing, it's in his nature, and, well, he is kind of cute when he does it.

I am sure every husband in the world is more than familiar with being looked at like this, for one reason or other.

That said, Andy's basic point is an interesting one - clearly, some games seem tailor-made for the single player, others not. D&D doesn't really leap out as a one-person game. There's nothing to stop you playing it one-on-one and having fun, of course, but D&D does feel reliant on the chemistry of having a group of PCs to really sing.

On the other hand, there are games, like Pendragon, say, and Call of Cthulhu, maybe the various World of Darkness settings, which I can well imagine being played solo (and not just because of this); I suppose this is because a single player game is probably the only situation in which I would imagine that developing a character in considerable depth would be just as, or more, important than the obviously "fun" stuff, and those games encourage that.

But I also think solo campaigns are a good way of doing something genuinely different. A number of gaming supplements - the various Sin Nomine sandbox kits, Renegade Crowns for WFRP, ACKS, Birthright even, if you want to go back that far - strike me as having the potential to be discrete two-player games, though not in the traditional sense; I am talking about setting creation as a game in itself. Working with somebody to riff on setting-creation tools could work all on its own, especially if a large element of randomness is worked into the process. Renegade Crowns would, indeed, be perfect for this, because it is all about rolling on tables and seeing what comes out; you would simply take it in turns to roll and describe what has been generated and the setting would evolve from there. Rules would have to be agreed on, of course - like, when one player is describing an element of the setting, the other has to accept it. Or has three vetoes.

Then again, there's also the "other" different thing: you each create a party of characters for some very rules-crunchy system and then have them try to kick the living shit out of each other in a combat arena.


  1. Back when I was fist taken with story gamey type stuff, I read "Archipelago", which I believe is available for free. It has a really big shared setting creation element, and I think some rules to help cover that. And then there's Microscope, which is a game about creating shared setting/history things. I haven't read/played that, though.

    Another way I could think of would be to have discrete areas that each player has final responsibility over (I might have gotten that from Archipelago. I don't remember). So, effectively, each is Game Master about some stuff. Maybe then each player also has a stable of characters to run around?

  2. I had been thinking about pretty traditional RPGs, with a strict(ish) GM/player divide (though Pendragon advises that players should increasingly take the role of GM for a session, to allow everyone to play). My limited imagination didn't see the opportunities in single player gaming as anything other than, 'great, now I can put some crunchy systems through their paces without worrying about a table full of people'. Perhaps I ought broaden my range a little.

    Immediately, thought, I might have to dig properly into Renegade Crowns. I bought the .pdf a while back and have barely looked at it.