Sometimes, juggling daily life and gaming reminds me of the quote from the Princess Bride, “Life is pain, princess. Anyone trying to tell you different is selling something”. Let’s be honest, he wasn’t wrong. He might not have been completely right, but he wasn’t wrong. Life is pain, and chaos. There’s work, school, family obligations, chores, and the list goes on and on. How do you juggle so many duties with fun, and somehow during all your juggling magically get a tabletop roleplaying group that can meet the same times you can? There’s a reason there are so many jokes and memes like the one above about ‘A steady group that can meet on time every time.’
Tabletop roleplaying games are considered a group activity, a GM (or two), and usually three to five players, sometimes even more. However, life happens and you can’t find a game or a group that you gel with. You’re left lost and bereft, adrift in an aching sea of sadness. What then? What happens when the times and days don’t align and you can’t play with other players. When you only have yourself and maybe one other? What do you do then to play? Well, we have an answer, or at least our answer of what we do.
First, let’s talk about solo play. Journaling is the ticket to go with if you’re more into writing. You can find games like One day at a Thyme, or The Page I Didn’t Write. This flavor of solo play is very much a choose your own adventure, but you’re the one authoring your character’s story. (Fun fact, you can also turn this solo game into a campaign with some minor adjustments. More on that in another post.)
You can use gaming engines, like fortune rolls, decks of cards (like the excellent ones from Larcenous Designs), and they even have games like One Deck Dungeon (meant for one to four players, it’s a fun little game). Parts Per Million as put together a bunch of oracle-based games like Alone in the Dark, a solo version of Blades in the Dark. The Cypher System even has it’s own called the Chaos Game Master Emulator. Ironsworn is more of a system and setting for solo play, but has included adapted rules for group play. This has a bit more focus on character sheets and action rolls for those who aren’t ready for full narrative roleplaying. There are other resources out there as well, like this link. These guys put together a really nice article on how to solo play which helped me write this blog for you.
Double play or Duet play, is you and one other person. First, this guy put together this really cute video. It’s Dungeons and Dragons-based but I didn’t hold it against him. Now, do note I enjoy Dungeons and Dragons, it was my game of choice for a very long time. I just tend to focus more on people who need my attention, like the indie game developers, these days. There was also a long series of threads on RPG.net about running Duet games by a guy named Kirk Johnson-Weider that you can find collated here.
Let’s talk Monte Cook Games for a second. They released an article on their website with Shanna, Sean and Bruce, three very lovely wonderful people at MCG, giving a bit of advice for doing one-on-one gaming. Now, my husband and I have done one-on-one Numenera and one-on-one Cypher System. The only game we’ve avoided this with is Invisible Sun, because honestly, a lot of the community and neighborhood building require more than one or two people. When we’ve done that we’ve combined a bit of Shanna’s advice and Sean’s. I will state here, that playing two characters as a player can be tiring and stressful. Especially if you’re playing two different sides of the types (A glaive/warrior vs an Arkus/Speaker). At the same time, having an NPC that’s a companion to the player can be stressful. How much knowledge does this NPC have that the player would be able to access. Separating Game Master Knowledge from NPC companion knowledge is as difficult as avoiding having a DM Character (I try to avoid those).
Journal Writing: Something I mentioned above in solo play can also be used in a double play. One of you sets the world and setting, the other writes the character’s actions. This can be done in two ways: First, as if you’re writing a story together. This is something Josh and I do a lot, especially when we’re working on new setting information (In fact, much of the initial development work that went into Hope’s Horizon was done using exactly this method). Second, as if you’re journaling a day to day life. Captain’s Log, Stardate… you get the idea. This is what you saw, what you did, how you handled it. However, during the course of the journal writing you get input from your partner. I hope you found this article somewhat helpful and that it opened up at least one new way of thinking about one-on-one or roleplaying by yourself. Happy gaming!
- Joann Walles
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