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If myself and an old buddy sit down for a night of roleplaying, what game can we use? I've heard of a couple of romantic games, but they're not really for buddies. Are they? Suggestions please.

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closed as too broad by doppelgreener, DuckTapeAl, Wibbs, Tridus, Dakeyras Mar 27 '14 at 18:35

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I'm curious: are you looking specifically for roleplaying/story oriented, or a good dungeon crawl? Do you envision one of you running the game, or more collaborative? – Numenetics Aug 27 '10 at 2:26
I'm looking for a game that provides two friends with a collaborative storytelling experience. I'd prefer a game that delivers character development as well as adventure. I'm not looking for a tactical game, nor a game of romance. Something to promote creativity, enthusiasm and fun stories? – Sebastian Hickey Aug 28 '10 at 11:57
Voting to close as too broad. This covers every one-on-one ever outside a certain (small) category – doppelgreener Mar 27 '14 at 7:30
There are a handful of niche games that require two participants, and I think this question places a nice spotlight on those games. – okeefe Oct 8 '14 at 3:11

17 Answers 17

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Mars Colony is an excellent 2-player roleplaying game that was just released.

You each take the roles of the Savior of Mars who's being politically "air-dropped" from Earth into the Mars Colony to help solve its problems, and the role of the story-guide who introduces those problems, complicates them, and roleplays the locals the Savior interacts with. It's a great little game about politics, whether ends justify means, lies and scandal, and personal integrity that plays out in somewhere between 40 minutes and under a couple hours. (Being short, you can play a few times in a row, trading roles.) The dice mechanics are simple but present hard (i.e., interesting) choices, and the scene-based structure gives opportunities for personal-level roleplaying as well as fast-paced action—without forcing either—so there are lots of opportunities to try different sorts of roleplaying in small doses.

I've heard of a couple of romantic games, but they're not really for buddies. Are they?

Romantic games aren't designed especially for romantically-involved players (though most play reports of them I've read, the players have been romantic partners). The games aren't about the players having romantic feelings for each other any more than a game about orc-slaying is about the players having a hate-on for "real" orcs. Two-player games that produce romance stories aren't going to be everyone's taste anymore than romance novels are, of course, but two definitely-straight guy friends can definitely play a romance game if they want. It depends on the players whether that turns out awesome or uncomfortable, just as when any difficult emotional theme comes up in a game. It's probably easier to sit down to play such a game for an established couple because they know before the game starts that there's not going to be any or much awkwardness between them about the subject, is all. Since they're designed to be short they can be worth trying to find out if they're enjoyable.

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I've ordered a copy. Thanks very much. This looks perfect. – Sebastian Hickey Aug 28 '10 at 12:10
You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it, or at the least learn something new from it. – SevenSidedDie Sep 1 '10 at 23:58

Here's a second answer…

At the bottom of Ron Edward's "about" page for his two-player game S/Lay w/Me, he lists other games that are either two-player or that he thinks are best for two:

Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon, Sweet Agatha, Tales of the Fisherman’s Wife (best with two, I think), Mars Colony, Showdown, Ghost Dog, Clover (potentially), Thy Vernal Chieftains (potentially), Beast Hunters, and Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan

The list includes some that were already mentioned here, but also others not mentioned and some I've never even heard of. This short list would probably be worth months of play just investigating each of the games, let alone how much play they'd be worth after finding the one or few that work for you.

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+1 for Ghost Dog. I've run it for a friend, and it works well with that one on one interaction. Link to a good review. – SnakeDr68 Aug 15 '12 at 18:04

Superhero games are GREAT for one on one gaming. Think about it: Batman, Wolverine, Spiderman, Daredevil, Hulk, Superman, the list goes on, solo superheroes are always going on adventures by themselves. Work up a mini-campaign to be finished in one night, with the other guy playing the lone wolf superhero trying to finish the goal. It doesn't have to be all combat, there can definitely be character development, interactions, puzzle solving, etc. Plus the game can go any way you want if the superhero player decides to pull some wild and crazy antics! I used to do a lot of superhero one on one and they were always a great time. Some suggestions of rules systems are Villains & Vigilantes, Champions or Mutants & Masterminds.

Somewhat similar, the espionage genre is perfect for one on one gaming. One character can set up the mission and villains, the other can be the "James Bond" lone wolf or he can have a few characters "Mission Impossible" style to try and complete the task. You can go lots of ways here, and again this can have as much or as little interaction as possible. Game systems that are good here include the old Top Secret/SI system, James Bond RPG, and newer systems like GURPS or D20 Espionage.

Emulating the old Lovecraft/REHoward tales, a good horror RPG can be used for one on one action. In most of Lovecraft and Howard's horror stories, it was typically only one antiquarian who tried to find out what was going on in the old haunted mansion or shunned village. Call of Cthulhu works well for this genre. A good haunted mansion mystery (with the lone investigator, perhaps accompanied by an ill-fated bodyguard or two), spends the night in an isolated castle/farmhouse/island and the fun begins. I have done a lot of one on one horror and it's really great, because with only one player you can really set the mood that the guy is ALONE and NO ONE is coming to help him!!!

The great thing about any of these genres, you can have as few/many rules as you want. Heck, you can wing the entire thing if you want it to be pure storytelling! Maybe a few dice rolls thrown in for points where decisions need to be made, or when combat takes place, but otherwise it can be entirely just you and your buddy making it up as you go along within the framework of the superhero/espionage/horror genre...

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There are a whole lot of RPGs that don't require the old "big balanced party" kind of thing. Some new/indie games are the "meant just for two people" romantic gimmicky thing, but there's no reason you can't run anything from octaNe to Eclipse Phase to Feng Shui with one player and a GM. Unless the game specifically has "player interaction" mechanics as part of its deal, you should be able to do it fine.

Even for D&D there were a variety of published single-player adventures; I ran Thieves' Challenge II for an old friend I used to game with one weekend.

Frankly I find a lot of games, especially modern or otherwise high concept ones, seem better with one player than with a whole herd of them, and many like Dresden Files are based on a largely "one PC" kind of source material.

Then there's GM-less games if you both want to play and not GM, like the Shab-Al-Hiri Roach and stuff like that. Baron Munchausen might be a nice one to sit around and BS with an old buddy over. Or the hot new one right now is Fiasco.

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I'm looking for a storytelling game designed to be played with 2 players (rather than another type of game adapted for the same). Nevertheless, you're totally right. Lots of my favourite gaming experiences have come from the GM/friend combo. But for the purposes of this question, I'm rooting for a GM-free/transient-GM solution. – Sebastian Hickey Aug 28 '10 at 12:02
OK, then Fiasco or Munchausen are probably good bets for that with less bromance. – mxyzplk Aug 28 '10 at 18:56
Fiasco is a 3-5 player game on the tin. You could probably make it go with two, but I'm not sure how well the system will tick over. – SevenSidedDie Sep 2 '10 at 0:06
Everway seems to be very well suited for 2 people. – user19 Sep 10 '10 at 3:26

One thing pointed out on this question is the Mythic RPG, which can be played solo or with any number of people without the use of a DM. I've never tried it, but it looks cool, and would allow you guys to play together and both be players, rather than one of you having to GM.

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I've successfully played OD&D/Swords & Wizardry with my wife as a solo game. She's very inexperienced with RPGs. She still has not read the rulebook, but she loves the game. I tell her what to roll and when to do so - she tells me what she and her minions are doing. It works very well.

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Shooting the Moon is probably one of those romance games you looked at, but it's really about two people fighting over a third, which is perfect for all sorts of cool tough guy adventure situations. I've played it with other dudes where we were rival archaeologists in love with the same woman and trying to out-do each other, so it was a pretty manly experience.

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This looks very much like the kind of game I'm interested in. It seems to provide a kind of antagonistic experience. Thanks very much. – Sebastian Hickey Aug 28 '10 at 11:59
+1 for experience- especially as I've looked at it, and haven't gotten this vibe, so it's good info. – SnakeDr68 Aug 15 '12 at 20:16

I've heard Beast Hunters is 2 player and I just got this in the email for a game called World Vs. Hero

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I highly recommend the new Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebooks from Mongoose, even if you have no experience with the original cheese-tastic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style fantasy adventure books they are based on. The designers say the new game is for multiple players, but they're kinda lying. Definitely works way better one-on-one, I suspect.

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I loved the Lonewolf books. Interested. – Sebastian Hickey Aug 28 '10 at 11:54

Microscope would do the job. You basically make up and act out a giant arc of history.

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Microscope is a wonderful game, and though it has some advice for playing with only two, it's really not meant for less than three. – SevenSidedDie Aug 18 '12 at 1:38

Beast Hunters is indeed for two players, and the rules are available for free.

Also, I play Apocalypse World with my wife, and that works wonderfully.

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I'll throw in another suggestion of World Vs. Hero.

An AP by the author: The WvH Blog:

It's also used in conjunction with a system called Mythic, that's good for 2 player GM-less roleplaying as well.

Mythic Roleplaying Bundle on RPGDriveThru:

Mythic site on Word Mill Publishing:

I am a pretty big fangirl of both of those games and like using them alot. Mythic can be hooked onto almost any other system to allow you to play the games without a GM so can turn almost any game into a two player co-op game.

Nothing hyperlinked due to a rather silly spam prevetion mechanism. Sorry.

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S/lay w/Me by Ron Edwards is a great roleplaying game for 2 players. I also second Mars Colony (by Tim C. Koppang) and Beast Hunters (by Christian & Lisa Griffen).

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It really depends on what type of game you're looking to play. I've played 1 player-1 GM campaigns with AD&D, D&D 2e, D&D 3.5e, Rolemaster and King Arthur Pendragon. They all have a different feel.

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Don't Rest Your Head is an excellent system for single GM / single player play. A character is created using a question / answer system that in turn helps the GM create a meaningful adventure for the player. Evil Hat Productions makes reference to DRYH as a kind of "Dark City RPG" - your character is incredibly empowered but also at risk.

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I don't know if it qualifies as an RPG, but Fighting Fantasy has/had a two player adventure called Clash of Princes which I had fun playing (picked the two books up at Half Price Books on the cheap).

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A few settings make for great 1-on-1 play, despite the rules not being great...

  • Judge Dredd: any edition. most judges run solo anyway once experienced. If using the GW editions, start with a judge-2 profile. If running d20, 5th level. If running Traveller, 5th or 6th term.
  • Traveller as a merchant game: generate characters until you get one with a ship. Then see if it can make money
  • any spy setting.
  • many supers systems work well.
  • Pendragon

A few games are really good for two:

  • Burning Wheel - because of the system mechanics, it supports 1p more easily than many
  • Mythic - Emulates a GM so both can play.

And some board games which scratch the RPG itch, and border on RPG anyway:

  • Battlestations
  • Car Wars
  • Avalon Hill's Wizards
  • GDW's En Garde (now in reprint from some other company; rules available free in tweaked versions at various places on net) - week-by-week no-GM-needed
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