What should I know about GMing BE for two?

In a couple of weeks I’ll be starting to GM a BE campaign with two players. I’ve GMed for four before but this feels a bit different. The set up is tighter, for one, and we have 4 FoNs total instead of 6. Having 6 seemed like too big a burden on me and 4 feels more evenly matched than an odd number. If we make it to Invasion we figured we’d repeat previous phase FoNs and/or promote an important NPC to FoN status.

We’re starting in Infiltration which will give us a bit of room to swim in the more earthly problems of rival bastards claiming heir apparent and illegal eugenics scientists running hand-in-hand with blackmarket criminals.

I’m not used to GMing for small groups. There’s something intimate and exciting about GMing for two. Have you done this with BE? Is there anything I should know - specific challenges, perhaps (it certainly makes keeping track of Beliefs easier!)?

It’s really fun, very intense.

How many LPs?


The player FoNs are 7 and 8 LPs. The GM FoNs are 8 and 9.

Oof. Those GM FONs are going to clobber the players. They really need to stick together and help one another. You really need to separate them and attack them individually.

I’ve never run BE for fewer than 3, but if I were, the things that might worry me would be…

  • Having enough variety in the relationship map. Like…if you look at the FONs like a table, with every intersection being a possible relationship, a 4-FON game gives you 4 possible relationships, but a 6-FON game gives you 9 – more than double! I, personally, like having that larger range. So I might, if I were running a 2-on-2 game, look at building out a couple more important NPCs in advance rather than strategically banking my Relationships points.

  • A slower burn rate on your Phase dispo, because the pools are smaller all around. Are you running 2x maneuvers/sesh or just 1? Because single-session understaffed play may make for quite a bit longer game than you expect. Given there’s just less shit to do, I’d definitely push for 2x maneuvers/sesh. I might even contemplate 3, but that’s a lot of brain juice.

  • Adjunct to the slower burn rate, I’m betting the defensive plays (go to ground etc) aren’t going to see much play. And if they are played, they’re gonna drag the game out that much longer. That intense BE urgency might take a hit on the Infection side.

  • Probably a faster turnover on Beliefs because of the fewer possible interactions between FONs. This could actually be pretty awesome since you’ll probably see each character’s arc develop at a snappy pace.

So…I’d probably not directly hack anything, but just be aware of the slower Infection pace and build out more NPCs in advance (if this were my game).

Sounds like big fun – you going to post any play reports?

PS and Luke’s dead on with those huge LP GMFONs. After seeing how things played out in the phase sprint last Oct, I’m not totally persuaded that Vaylen need or should have extra LPs. They have much narrower LPs so they end up with crazy maxed-out skills across the board. If you’re also going with the “max 7 for GMFONs” rule, they’re maybe brokenly good. Then again, they’re not gonna get nearly the artha the PCFONs get. But if you work out the math, basically giving yourself 1 Persona for every roll and inevitably having many maxed skills, it’s a bad scene.

Yeah, I’m not saying shy away from the challenge, though.

As Paul noted, expect to have a fast turnover for Beliefs, but a generally slower churn in the macro game – since you can’t must quite as many dice.

Thanks Luke & Paul - this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Very helpful.

I had thought about possibly knocking off a LP from the 9LP GM FoN - he/she is pretty powerful, but more in the sense of having access to lots of skills than being super awesome at them. He/she represents a major life change - a warrior Valyen who becomes a pretty princess. I wanted to toy with the idea of a Vaylen who takes the body of a very young child and grows up with the family - being part of them in every way. This Vaylen has conflicting loyalties and may push harder for personal power within the royal family than for clan victory…at first. But it will be disastrous if she gains the throne of course. Anyway, I’m hesitant to knock off a LP because 1.) it took a long time to get her just right and 2.) I feel like they still have the advantage. Not so much in terms of numbers, but in the sense that two heads are better than one. Although they will probably all be interacting at some point, the main antagonist for each player is one LP higher, and that seems pretty reasonable to me.

Regarding some of your specific comments, Paul…

*Yeah, I’m not sure I’ll be banking any Relationship points. They can be handy, but having a less messy set up has made the need for specific NPCs much clearer. I think you’re quite right and there will end up being a few that become very important. I think Circles will play a bigger role here and I won’t be surprised if we have the chance to make new Relationships through repeated Circling. That would be pretty cool. In fact, advancements in general could play a bigger role than with a large group.

*Great point about the slower dispo burn. I hadn’t actually thought of that. We are going to do our absolute best to do two maneuvers per session. This part will be new to all of us, so we might fumble at it a bit. Paul. 3 maneuvers in one session makes my brain bleed just thinking about it. I would love to see you try this. You might actually be able to pull it off.

*Yessss…fast Belief turnover. This is going to be intense. Gonna need lots of sleep beforehand.

I think we will post play reports. It’s a lot of work, but we probably won’t be playing more than once a month. We’re trading visits between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Yes we’re nuts. (We might use Skype to supplement, but that is far from ideal.)

Thanks again!

As someone who had an eight lifepath business man / psychologist / court magnate, it’s exceptionally hard to not make an 8+ LP character absolutely monstrous in at least one field and maybe two. Your circles and resources alone are going to be staggering. That said, high power, high stakes!

I find it’s rather easy to diffuse monstrosity in BE, actually.

Just make sure you take a lot of skills and a lot of wises.

I found that the BE limits on FoRK’s and help meant that there were a lot of rolls with 8-10 dice on each side. Generally speaking, for us the main counter to monstrosity was a different slice of monstrosity. And yeah, lots of wises and skills, and make sure that everyone is able to do at least part of the infection maneuvers (and that you’ve got all of them covered some how) since having an exploitable maneuver hole (or rolling unskilled) is really bad.

So, I’m one of the players and figured I’d just check in…

We had our first session over the weekend, and it went pretty well. Actually, my fellow player managed to resolve all three of his starting Beliefs in one session, which surprised both me and the GM (my PC isn’t the FoN this phase, so I was happy to push some of my agenda a bit less - that plus, in-fiction, I’m finding my feet a bit after a long absence off-world).

I’m a bit less worried re: the power level of the GM FoNs, though that may be because my character is not built for power in the first place, so I’ve got lowered expectations… (I’m the 8LP PC, but I spent years being a Bastard and Sentenced Criminal, and max out at the flavorful but not too crushing Advisor). I’m curious to see, actually, how well it is possible to parlay a sub-optimized character into an effective or at least interesting one (perhaps given that most of my history with BE is as a GM, building very efficient antagonists).

Re: the speed of the maneuvers. I, for one, haven’t been too worried about it - Rachel mentioned on Sat that the issue had come up. But, for context, when I pitched the game to her, I was billing it as “Slow Burning Empires.” The game is tied to getting together with our respective toddlers and hanging out, then playing after they’re in bed. So I suspect many times two maneuvers is going to fall to everyone being tired after chasing a couple kids around playgrounds all day. But on the other hand, that gives us time to get to know the characters and the situation at a more leisurely pace - on the one hand, BE is about urgency, but on the other, it’s long-form makes one advantage (to my mind) being that you can really come to care about the various fictional persons involved, and especially in Infiltration that requires giving them some time to do their thing.

Anyway, we managed to start building a conspiracy, to find out that the Rebel Line are at least as disorganized as my Contender PC, debate the merits of a slave rebellion, and have my Kerrn bodyguard give the other PC’s compound a thorough penetration testing. Hopefully one of us will get around to a write up soonish. Next session, I’m off to try to seduce my Vaylen-infected half sister.