Whew, it’s been a while. I’ve started this post three times so far, but life kept intruding. And it has been a hectic life lately, but I’ll fill you in on that at the bottom of this. What I want to talk about is one-on-one roleplay.
Not THAT sort of roleplay, although it can turn into that depending on who you’re playing with and where. However, mostly what I’d like to talk about is running/playing games either with one GM and one player, or no GM at all.
I was dubious when Mr. Geek Girl What Rules suggested a one on one game of Burning Wheel. He’d been doing this for a couple of weeks with our buddy GeekAlpha, but I was not entirely sure this wasn’t going to be “wrong bad fun” for me. He wore me down with the promise of a game that was sort of a spin-off of a one shot we ran years before, and we sat down to “burn” the character, which wasn’t terribly odious. And then we started to play.
It’s actually kind of nice having the GM’s undivided attention. There’s no one else to go haring off on their own, leaving you or anyone else sitting around twiddling your thumbs while they sneak off to do Gods know what, nor is there any deadweight for you to run off on. It can be a bit wearing on the GM if they aren’t enamored with being the sole source of character interaction via NPCs. But my Boy likes it, so it works out fine. It’s also really easy for the GM to tailor the game to what YOU want. You don’t have to worry about group dynamics. You don’t have to include something just because someone else “totally built this character to be all about X,” even if X was not part of the explicitly stated game theme/goal/ideal (and there’s almost always one, isn’t there?).
The downside is, it’s all you. There is no one to pick up the slack if you’re feeling lazy or lethargic about playing. Granted, since it is just the two of you, calling it quits and playing another time is much easier. If you don’t have certain skills or backgrounds, unless the GM is really generous with the NPCs, you can be kind of hosed. There may not be anyone to have your back in a fight (granted if you game with dicks, there may not be anyway). This is kind of where you have to rely on your GM to have your best interests at heart. If your GM is of the “It’s my job to fuck with you and try to kill you” variety, don’t do one on one gaming. It will only end in heartbreak and recriminations.
So far the entire thing has been a really positive experience. The one on one gaming means we don’t have to work around anyone else’s schedules, we can do it in the evenings after work instead of turning on the tv or getting lost on the internet and we can game anytime anywhere pretty much. And the cats have been ecstatic at the increased opportunities to chase dice around. It’s been a lot of fun, and it allows for faster story development, you get more input on story development instead of having to develop story by committee, if you have a GM that will allow any intrusions on his/her storyline. Also, this opens up more potential for things to do in the car during the three hour drive to the eastern half of the state to see the In-Laws What Rule, apart from improv games that have an alarming tendency to make me laugh so hard I swerve all over the road.
Now Burning Wheel is not designed specifically for one on one play, but it works. And you should be able to pull this off with just about any system. Steven Erikson, who writes my much beloved Malazan series, developed that world and many of the characters gaming with a friend of his one on one using GURPS, with neither of them acting as GM but rather playing as sort of an interactive story telling thing using the GURPS system as a guide. However, the indie games scene has spawned a host of games intended for one on one play, or that are easily convertible to one on one. Breaking the Ice features two players acting as a couple on their first date. Beast Hunters is primarily for two people but can be expanded, in which you play tribal hunters slaying dangerous beasts. These are just a couple off the top of my head, but there are tons more. Check out Indie Press Revolution for more, as well as some more traditional games.
Ok, so that’s about it for my spiel for one on one gaming. Do it, but only if you have someone you can trust not to be an asshead at you. It’s fun, easier to schedule than larger groups, and faster.
Now, the state of the Geek Girl What Rules. Well, it’s been a turbulent month so far. A week and a half ago my family’s dog, Charlie, passed away. He was 15 which is incredibly old for a large dog (half sharpei, half australian shepherd). We’d helped rescue him from some fuckhead, who will spend eternity roasting in a hell I don’t even believe in, who had intended to use Charlie for dog-fighting. He lived with the Mister and I for awhile, but because his tendency to pick up the (then) kitten and carry him around by his head made us nervous and made the kitten smell like dog spit and fear all the time, we gave him to my folks, who spoiled him outrageously. Also, a week and a half ago, the Mister and I adopted two hedgepigs who had been abandoned by their previous owner. Their names are Zoe and Wash (geek cred, yo!) and they are very cute and sweet. They do nip a bit more than my previous hedgepigs, but overall they are incredibly interactive with us.
Oh, and on Monday we went to a booksigning for Steven Erikson’s latest Malazan novel, Toll the Hounds. This would be where I heard his story about gaming the Malazan universe into existence with his friend Ian C. Esslemont, who also writes in the Malazan universe. Mr. Erikson is very nice, pleasant and a good reader. I’m finishing book 7 (Reaper’s Gale) so I can get on to Book 8. Epic fantasy at it’s best. Go, find, read.
2 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #61 – One on One Gaming”
I loves me some one on one play. I like it for all the reasons you’ve mentioned, but also for some others, too:
-It’s easier to experiment, and the more you develop your one on one play, experimentation becomes that much easier. After a good chunk of our gaming group needed a hiatus to spawn (4 new gamers in 1.5 years). (My) Mister and I started to play a lot of one on one games. Since then, we’ve have played with new kinds of stories, new themes, new techniques in play, experimental systems, freeform, emotionally edgy content.
-When the person you play one on one with is somebody you live with, you always have the other around for post-game talk, reflection, forecasting, and discussion. Over time, (if you’re also doing long term play) it can add a considerable amount of nuance and depth to the fiction.
-We have the luxury to time out and talk if we need/want to without feeling like we’re delaying other people’s fun. And with lots of one on one experience we have a highly developed ability to articulate what we like, how we differ, lots of examples of play to compare and contrast to find solutions and teak things for the better.
-When the person you play one on one with is your partner, games get the right degree and quality of sexy in them. Instead of someone you know more casually trying to hit your hotspots without really knowing what they are and in a group setting to boot where there may be contrasting ideas about how sexy a game should get, your partner (one would hope) knows what you like, and in a private game setting is freer to calibrate it exactly right for you.
My favorite campaign ever was a Shadowrun one-on-one. It didn’t start out that way, but player attrition and a cross-country move left it that way. Unfortunately, it ended abruptly, leaving my PC with a lot of unanswered questions and more Karma than the Buddha.