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I'd like to try one-on-one RPGing with my partner and am looking for an initial high-fantasy adventure to get started with.

My original plan was to adapt the Fighting Fantasy gamebook, 'The Warlock of Firetop Mountain'. (I gave up on it 17 days in, but I recently came across it again and decided to finish it off, so it's fresh in my mind.) However, I realised that dungeon-crawling through a variety of monsters, horrors and puzzles is not, on its own, going to be enough to provide a compelling story for my partner. I think I need something with more interaction with likeable and engaging characters, something which is completely absent from The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I'm not looking for 'Care Bears: The Adventure', just something that is closer in tone to, for example, Harry Potter, in that there are defining moments of horror, violence and sinister intrigue, but also plenty of humour, camaraderie and general non-violent interaction.

So, does anyone know of such a character-focused adventure in a fantasy setting? I don't mind what the specific fantasy setting is or what the rules are, as I will just adapt to the ruleset I end up using.

To add detail to the context: I haven't RPGed for 13 years and my partner never has. If this first try doesn't appeal to her, I fear I'll put her off for life!

UPDATE: I'm looking for an adventure that was created specifically to be an interactive adventure with multiple paths. I'm not looking for story ideas. I'll adapt the adventure to my chosen ruleset, but I'd rather start with something that's designed to be interactive in some way. I don't mind whether it's an actual tabletop RPG adventure, a solitary gamebook, or even a computer game.

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Perhaps some good leads from this question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1864/… Also, added the [one-on-one] tag, follow it to some other related discussions. –  mxyzplk Oct 1 '11 at 14:18
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@Sardrathrion I've answered that by way of an update to the question. –  lumpkin Oct 2 '11 at 21:32
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6 Answers 6

While this may sound simple, take what you know of her and make your own setting. You didn't get this from me but plagiarize what books, stories and movies she loves and make them "Her" own. Start simple and add to the story as it goes along, session by session. Create a new basic goal for each "Chapter" and watch how she reacts, arranging the next part to be more to her liking. At some point when she is invested in the character start to make things less black and white and more about the tough choices we all face, Yes killing the bad guys is important, but what about the fall out of the families it leaves behind. She'll either love it or hate it and you'll know soon enough.

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I like that approach. I've discovered a ruleset called FU which encourages a lot of player input into the storytelling, so I think it should facilitate your suggestion very well. –  lumpkin Oct 1 '11 at 19:58
    
Once the story telling starts to take hold of her, with any luck she'll begin to add her own 'Spark' to it, it makes for a deeper story for the both of you. One other piece of advice, do NOT rush the story. I can not stress that enough, let it linger like a good wine. If you hurry it it's like eating the best diner in five easy breaths. –  Vethor Oct 7 '11 at 23:52
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The first thing to remember about tone (Harry Potter vs. Horror) is that you get to set that when you a game. Some games lend themselves one way or the other, but you ultimately get to make that choice. From the main fear you have voiced, I believe that the system is less important here and the story you lead your partner through is more so. Tailor it to engage her and design it to let her be successful. Check out the books she likes for plot ideas. Movies too.

However, you should have a system you are comfortable using. That will help you immensely to have fun as well.

For a system suggestion I would put forward Mouse Guard. I don't know if you guys read the Redwall series growing up but it's essentially that. It's also a system that lends itself to story telling more than rolling dice and counting totals.

Second suggestion would be Earthdawn. While that is a horror setting by nature, you can easily set aside the all the Horrors for a while let your partner become acclimated to the setting (much like in Harry Potter where Voldemort is more ephemeral to start and slowly becomes a true physical threat over the course of the series).

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The Fighting Fantasy books are, as you've already discovered, particularly bad choices if you don't want a lot of fighting.

I would start not with any published setting--especially since high fantasy and slaying goblins and dragons seem to go hand-in-hand--or even with the idea of a role-playing game at all, but rather collaborative storytelling. Take some fantasy setting that you both know and like, whether it be Hogwarts or Middle Earth or Narnia, and imagine a side-tale taking place within that framework. For example, Sauron's armies threatened both Dale and the Lonely Mountain; you could tell a story about, say, a woman who ran into Mirkwood as a child and was saved by elves and has maintained a long friendship or admiration for them suddenly thrust by circumstance into needing to smooth over some rift between the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the people of Dale--made all the more difficult due to the dwarves' suspicion of her elvishness (despite being human). You already have lots of background and deep plots and excitement built in; you just need to craft your own story out of it.

(The other gentle entry into role-playing games is from the games side--there you could start with something more obviously a game such as HeroQuest or Talisman or something (I don't know what's popular these days)--and then expand into more of a story. But the game is usually about fighting, even if you can do amusingly well in Talisman without fighting at all by picking an appropriate character type (Prophetess to select cards and don't select monsters, or Ninja to evade enemies).)

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Thanks for the wise advice. I'm going to take it, in that I'll be using FU as the ruleset, which is very much on the collaborative storytelling side of RPG, but will plunge straight into the deep end with a barely fleshed out fantasy setting of my own creation. –  lumpkin Oct 1 '11 at 19:55
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If you're looking for an actual adventure that is full of character interaction, mystery, and with multiple paths I can think of none better than Festival of the Damned for Ars Magica.

This adventure is unique in my experience in that it rewards kindness, honesty, and humility in the players. Interacting with NPCs is key to solving the mystery, where everyone has good reason for what they are doing, and to hide their motives. A resourceful and wise paraplegic character could solve the adventure, but a band of arrogant and violent super-heroes can have their asses handed to them.

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Oh, typical adventurers are just what the Infernal Realm wants to play with. ::Cackle:: +1 for a good suggestion and Ars Magica. Welcome to the site. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 13 '11 at 7:47
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Since you mentioned that you don't care if its a computer game, I highly suggest adapting the storyline of Planescape Torment. It's perfect for a one on one story line, and it has some of the most amazing characters.

Essentially it is about a person who has complete amnesia about who they are, and why they found themselves woken up in a morgue. The main character is immortal, and searching for answers to their life. Lots of fun twists and what not and really focuses on dialogue, mystery, interacting with personalities and combat is a side point.

As an added bonus the game and characters are already designed to exist in a RPG game environment (i.e. they come with stats and skills and spells and equipment etc.) And some people have already started the hard work for you.

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I do this all the time, using OD&D or 1e rules.

I think it's crucial to choose a rules system that doesn't slow the game down, so you can focus on your priorities.

All you need to do to modify early D&D is to reorient character progress away from loot-gathering and into goal accomplishment.

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