Novice One-On-One Game

I’m planning a one-on-one game with my boyfriend (inspired by the brilliant one-on-one Ölrun’s Journey). I’ve only played a couple of sessions of BWG before, as GM, and he has very little experience of RPGs in general (played a couple of one-shots, including Vampire the Masquerade). I’m just putting a few of my ideas on here to ensure I’m not doing anything stupid, or anything he’s likely to find difficult to handle. I’m planning on sticking to Hub and Spokes to begin with, and introducing the rim bit by bit when it’s relevant.

I hope that that one-on-one games aren’t particularly special or challenging for whatever reason - BW is a very carefully made game and I feel like it’s a bit of a precision instrument that’s not to be messed with too heavily.

Having said that, I have a pathological inability to GM an RPG without messing with it in some way, so we’ll be using my very own Common Magic rules. The idea is that he’ll be a novice magician from a Common School who seeks true magical power by passing through the Five Debasements and Five Purifications (Birth, Scholarship, Servitude, Freedom, Wealth, Asceticism, War, Peace, Death, Rebirth). Once he’s done this he’ll open up the Sorcery skill proper - I think with a grey shade, since you have to become a fundamentally supernatural being to possess Sorcery of your own in this world. By that point I’m sure we’ll have come up with various beliefs and goals that will allow him to set his new skill to good use. Again, is there anything obviously wrong with the above concept, or any challenges we should be aware of?

In general, I’d suggest not using anything outside of the book for anybody’s first campaign, but here’s my advice, first specific then general:

With your current rules, from what I’ve just read, it’s really difficult to get a lot of dice for rolling. And advancement is complicated, from what I can tell. Which makes me think that the common magic is both weak (not many dice) but way more useable than “vanilla” Sorcery (spell books are EXTREMELY common comparatively). It’s way more complex than standard Sorcery, because in order to get enough dice it takes gaming the system hard.
Opening Sorcery, with the Gifted Trait (which you vote on after the trials) and spell book access as relatively easy, seems to be enough, without the Grey shade opening. Because Sorcery will advance really really quickly if the PC wants it to.

For One-on-ones, the game is fundamentally the same. Communication is key. Don’t be afraid to suggest things via helpful NPCs when they ask them. Circles will be their friend, and make sure they know that Circles can be used to gain allies. You have no excuse for not knowing your single PCs BITs off by heart, so hit them every single step of the way. Be generous with Artha at first, for the first session, including outright saying “if you do X here, it will be a Persona/Fate for Y reason”. As soon as they know Artha is their lifeblood, let them know you’re both gonna step up your game.

It’ll be awesome. Have fun, and write up how everything goes so the rest of the forum can game vicariously through you.

Knowing that he doesn’t have much RPG experience, make sure he is WELL aware of the guidelines on pages 551 and 552. (BWG) Those really help smooth gameplay.

Keep in mind that if things don’t go perfectly its OK. It’s all a learning experience. The things you should make absolutely clear though in the first session is that BW is about visceral decisions that change the way your character works as a person, not just as a set of numbers. Artha and the twist consequences are probobly the best ways to do that. Those and the key tests (versus, linked, graduated, regular) will make for a game that tells a lot about the story and what the characters tick without bogging itself down learning the other somewhat complicated systems (fight, DoW, RnC).

As far as magic goes, there is a lot of material, especially in the Magic Burner and BWR, that suggests that modifications to the magic system are both interesting AND functional. BW is surprisingly modifiable, and only the core of it needs to remain relatively untouched. I say, go for it.

And, as always, the goal is to enjoy the game. Make it whatever you want it to be.

Thanks guys! It’s really useful to have this kind of advice. By the way, I didn’t mention that we’re probably going to use Art Magic, since I think it fits the concept of the game better. And in terms of the Common Magic being low-powered, I think that might work well - a spell is something dramatic that it takes a lot of time and resources to craft. A powerful spell requires Help, or some kind of magical artefact - that is, until you become a true Sorcerer. I’m still deciding how advancement works - either it’ll be linked tests (but that would make casting a spell even harder…) or just the lowest exponent skill gets the test.

I would absolutely not use a magic system that messes with advancement with a newbie. BW already requires enough bookkeeping and attention. To tests. To BITs. And grasping the advancement cycle is one of the keys to the game working and being fun. You have to do things, they have to be hard, and they have to be with the skill you want to advance. Don’t throw things out of whack with someone new to roleplaying generally and BW specifically!

The closer you hew to original Art Magic the better it’s going to go, I think. It’s probably better to just start him off with Sorcery B1, let him by schools, and otherwise use Common Magic as you described. Slow and hard, but let him actually advance a skill with it. And be aware that Art Magic easily turns into a hammer and all problems into nails.

My usual recommendation is a no Sorcery first game, or the sorcery in the core book if you must have it. If you do want to have magic, though, I really wouldn’t get too creative. BW is moddable, but it benefits a great deal from GM and player mastery first.

Wayfarer, half the people who play BW don’t have anything other than the core rules :stuck_out_tongue: I’m pretty sure the way the game will be played means that his BF won’t even be testing sorcery until a couple sessions in at the very least based on the lore of the common magic.

if I’m wrong, Scribe, then I recommend that you just use magic as a regular skill the first session;

  1. Player names intended effect of spell.
  2. GM gives difficulty (in this case using assumptions from the setting create by your common magic rules).
  3. Player rolls dice against difficulty with sorcery.

I think Common Magic might limit the hammer-nail problem, especially since the school of magic we’ve chosen has a pretty limited wood-carving based mechanic.


You’re right that the first session probably won’t involve much magic.

We’ve talked about it, and come up with a school of magic. It’s a wood-working based magic which channels the power of tree spirits by carving wood into mystical forms. The skills are Spirit-Wise, Carving, and Folklore. Given this, I think I might simply treat the magic as Carving with FoRKs from Spirit-Wise and Folklore, using normal advancement rules. That should clear things up. The only problem is that it doesn’t make Common Magic as frustrating and hard to advance as I envisioned it, but maybe that’s good for a newbie. And the kinds of spells you can do with a carving are going to be pretty limited (I’m thinking Shapeshifting - carve a bird and transfer your soul from your body to the bird, Sorcerous Weapon - create a wooden axe that becomes a mystical Death Axe in battle, Advantage - the wooden charm protects you in your time of need, Arcane Knowledge - you read the grain of the wood to gain the knowledge of the spirit inside), so the big ‘True Sorcery’ achievement can still feel significant.

Make it take absolutely ages (a day to prepare a carving, each carving works only once, damaging a carving destroys the magic) and punish failure with the worst consequences possible (you lose part of your soul. The axe animates and strikes you instead. One of your fingers becomes wooden and immobile).

It’ll feel frustrating, without taking away the potential for awesome. And when True Sorcery with its heartbeat long spellcasting comes along, and its potential “just didn’t work” Harmless Dissipation, it’ll feel all the more powerful.

Good ideas, Why

Sorry for the assumption, Scribe.

Also, as I’m sure you noticed during the creation of your rules, BW’s magic is powerful. Make sure he knows that your system is vastly different from default BW. (You probobly have already.)

It’s funny, but if you go down to the Rim of Fire subforum, there’s a thread started today to talk about best practices for one-on-one play. A few of us, myself included, have pretty extensive experience. Not to discount the discussion here, though – it’s been good! Just saying there’s also a thread that you would find quite useful on this very issue.