Beginning for two

I have a couple of questions after looking through the beautiful packet from DriveThruRPG.

I read that Luke’s response to another post that three players was a minimum, but I’d like to introduce my wife to this hobby, and I don’t really have a group aside from some kids at church with whom I play Mouse Guard and Savage Worlds. Would it be too much to let her play two PCs while I GM and control one? I’m good at playing dumb when it comes to story, but I’ve only tried that in a Savage Worlds game. Have any of you attempted this sort of thing?

I never played Original D&D - I came to the hobby through Star Wars Saga Edition - but when WotC put the PDFs back up on DriveThruRPG I grabbed a coupe of the first modules. Have any of you tried using them with Torchbearer?

I look forward to our boy Saxon and our next child (coming in February) entering this hobby. I need a gaming group!

Stephen “Trotter”

As for D&D, I found this helpful thread…
…so never mind about that.

Be sure to ask jovialbard or watch his thread, he’s done a one person game with good success (also with a novitiate-to-the-hobby wife):

The thing about old D&D modules is… most of them suck. In fact, most modern ones today do too. Almost anyone can think up much better material with the Torchbearer guidelines. Modules can make a good starting point though. You’ll really wanna cut out a lot and add in like 75% more to make them quite good though. In particular, old TSR modules are larded over with paragraphs of useless descriptions of uninteresting things and the reasoning behind many of the areas/traps are dubious.

For example, take any good Call of Cthulhu module and compare to to a top D&D module. It’s typically not even close in terms of design/writing.

One of the only ones that’s good and old is Caverns of Thracia. Red Hand of Doom is good overall as well, but its parts aren’t particularly special or interesting (it’d also be hard to work out with Torchbearer). So whatever you find, your own creative spark can make it better, I can guarantee it.

Hey, I ran 3 one-on-one sessions with my wife so far as mykelsss mentioned. She only played one character and it worked alright. Here’s a brief summary of why it works just fine:

  • You’re never stuck in Torchbearer. If you fail, you just get a condition or a twist, but no matter what, as long as the player doesn’t feel stuck, they aren’t. This means that while skill coverage and specialization are nice, they aren’t essential.
  • You won’t really get a lot more conditions than a normal campaign, yeah the one character does everything, but normally there’s a lot of help and help exposes you to conditions as well.
  • Group tests are actually easier, since you only have to climb that cliff as one person, which is a lower obstacle than a whole group.

Here’s what you can do to make sure it’s not overwhelming:

  • Get good skill coverage. You don’t want to specialize without other people to cover your deficits.
  • Keep the dungeons small, that way it’s easy to get out if things get overwhelming. Also if they don’t have cartography a big dungeon can be a nightmare, but a small dungeon is still quite manageable.
  • Play the dungeons close to home at first for hometown advantage and to take advantage of friends and family. This way if there’s less treasure in the dungeon it isn’t quite as harsh.
  • Stick to the weakest monsters. One giant rat or a single tomb guardian is an easy to moderate challenge for a single character (depending on whether they are fresh). Most might 3 or higher monsters will represent a serious obstacle.
  • Avoid kill conflicts! With low dispositions and generally only one opponent on each side, the fight can be over in one hit if the player picks wrong.
  • Take advantage of Nature.
  • Throw in the occasional NPC to help. In the latest dungeon there was a dog that she befriended and he helped her fight off some rats. I wouldn’t have them stick around, because they could draw focus from the player, but it doesn’t hurt to have someone around that adds to the story and offers a helping die now and again.

Biggest pitfall is conflicts. With only one person on the team a conflict isn’t as interesting for the narrative and the low number of dice means they can take longer… more inanimate obstacles and less conflicts might be a good thing.

Good luck with your adventures. It can work to just play one character. Also, playing two at once might be overwhelming for a new player. It does offer more skill coverage, but as I said, skill coverage isn’t essential, particularly if you can focus on the danger, scariness, and desperation of dungeon delving in a way that’s fun and not paralyzing.

Great advice!

I’d like to add that you should as the GM focus on your single-player’s Belief and Goal. I know that’s anathema to the “No One Cares” attitude of Torchbearer, but it’s a tried and true formula for making Burning games sing.