Duo Play (RPG With Your Bestie) Part 1 - Benefits and Drawbacks
This is part 1 in a series on “duo play.”
I mostly play one-on-one. Some call this a “duo” game and some call it a”solo” game. The GM/DM/Referee is a person who is playing the game, even though they’re not called a “player,” so I do not consider an RPG that has two participants to be a solo game.
I can play with any of my players at any time. If we’re in the same room, we can play normally. If we’re not (like when someone is at work but has a moment), we just type our latest response on Discord, Slack, or Google Hangouts. I regularly play with my wife during walks, chores, meals, waiting in line, sitting at the airport, etc. This is easy because I use a simple ruleset (similar to the GLOG, B/X, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and other OSR systems.) The whole thing fits on a tiny printout I keep folded in my pocket alongside some miniature dice. I’ll share it at some point.
- Extra room for detail and character exploration without a “spotlight” or any need to spend time focused on forcing character development.
It will naturally happen through decisions, as in any good OSR game, but decisions are completely owned by the player character because there’s no peer pressure or group thinking of any kind.
You’re likely to have a lot of conversation and “intimacy” with one person. Do this with your bestie.
Your player will develop a unique playstyle without others influencing it. This tends to result in some particularly creative play. All of my players have been notably more cautious as newbie duo players than as newbie group players. This is wonderful if you like game tension, resource management, etc. I’m particularly excited to try running the Veins of the Earth as a duo game.
- You’re stuck with this person now.
- If you lose one player, the whole campaign is gone. (A campaign and a setting are not the same thing.) I sometimes lose my wife as a player for a week or two at a time, which is a letdown when you get used to expecting a few turns a day. (This can be resolved by either not caring or by running multiple campaigns online with other people.)
- You’re likely to have a lot of conversation and “intimacy” with one person. Don’t do this with randos.
- Your player might be so cautious that they develop analysis paralysis. A single combat turn or a visit to the market can take forever without the live pressure of socializing with a group of people. My wife procrastinates when a decision is hard.
Comparison to Group Play
I’m playing other games with other people, mostly one-on-one. I’m also running a group, in-person game of Hot Springs Island and have run Lady Blackbird with a group as well. Those games are fun, exciting, and often humorous, but they have less tension, excitement, cleverness, and character development than the one-on-one game I play with my wife, even though she’s played in every group game I’ve run.