Recommendations: Two-Player, GM-less/full RPGs ("Duets")

For the sake of completion: S/lay w/Me by Ron Edwards. I haven’t played it or read it.

There’s also Cthulhu Confidential, the duet Gumshoe system game, which I guess isn’t really GMless.

Having played these two Emotional Mecha Games, I want to recommend Breach by @Cass and Rev Your Engines by Maayan Priel.

Breach is all about a Mech and its Pilot making a decision about what to do when the rules of engagement conflict with camaraderie. It uses a deck of cards to make the decision impossible and its final move is gutting.

Rev Your Engines brings big scale mechæmotion down to the anime rivalry schoolyard level. Choosing from its nine prompts becomes a lot more difficult when each of them is on a tic-tac-toe board that will determine which one of you comes out on top.

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My upcoming game A Cool and Lonely Courage is designed to play well as a two player GM-less game, although it can be used with up to 5 players. Kickstarting soon! Information here

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I made this microgame for two players a long time ago, about political negotiation and bluffing. It’s made to be played in a Chinese restaurant, where you have to reach a consensus with your sworn enemy over the course of a single meal, or the entire world will be destroyed. (Based on a true story.)

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I created a game called Lonesome World, a Powered by the Apocalypse Western-themed one-on-one game. It’s been through a few play tests and holds up pretty well. The bones are there, but development is on hiatus as I strategize about handling the problematic aspects of late 19th century America.

Rules Summary, Playbooks, and other materials here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1g-0371OWpPn6odYLjl3xHKmu89tozaxB

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How we are like Storm by Jackson Tegu is another duet game. It’s a game about two people who have been apart for 10 years and great distance coming back together. As one player describes the landscape the other paints/draws the landscape on the speakers arm. It is also about anticipation, and reflection on how each character has changed the course of the other, and ruminating on “how alike a storm we are”.

Then you swap roles and who is speaking and who is painting/drawing flips. The game ends when the painted landscapes meet at your held hands.

I have a copy but haven’t played it yet. Someday. As far as I can tell it’s not currently available. Possibly reaching out to Jackson might let you know when or how you can get a copy.

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My game The Policy of Truth is a two player game. One player is an Iraqi asset of American intelligence in Baghdad in 2004 and the other player is their American handler. I don’t know which of your categories it would fall into. It will make you feel something, and that something is bad, and there will certainly be some murder.

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Tobie Abad’s A Single Moment is very similar to Jim McClure’s Reflections (I can’t say the former completely inspired the latter), with the former having more crunch than the latter. A Single Moment has rules to “force/reward” more give-and-take in the build-up of the two former friends’ relationship (token economy) as well as the final back-and-forth during the duel (gambling with dice pool built from the token economy), while Reflections relies on the players more to go as deep as they want (1 single roll, no token economy, only a point tracker). But I felt the crunchier system can easily get in the way of the improvised storytelling, unless both players have mastered the rules, then maybe A Single Moment helps with the improvisation because of the give-and-take structure (help your opponent’s character so as to gain valuable token, or help your own character so as to gain better fictional positioning). Reflections is easier on the cognitive load, but doesn’t necessarily play faster because sometimes both players have to decide when to finish a scene if it looks like neither could accomplish their scene objective narratively. The base game for both plays out a tragedy, but in the appendix both have a “romcom” hack.

The link for One Missed Call above doesn’t work for me at the moment, but it sounds like a similar game by David Zerbst, To Erase and Re-Record, Press Three. David was/is on the StoryGames Discord and sent me his longer document upon request, and I play-by-chat it with someone. The built-in X-card mechanism felt novel to me at the time. My gut says the emotional core of this game may be “hope”. But it’s probably dependent on the players.

Mars Colony, in the “Influences” section of the rulebook, talks about the “feelings of personal failure,” which I presume could be the emotional core of the game, but when I played it with someone who didn’t let failed rolls (consequently narrative setback) get to him, it nearly came out a “perfect victory” for the protagonist. So, your mileage might vary?

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Here’s an updated link for One Missed Call!

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I want to try this (lonesome world) sometime!

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention Ironsworn. It does some really neat things with tone and uses a solid structure to facilitate one on one, gmless, and solo play. Highly recommend checking it out.

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I’ll second the vote for S/lay w/Me. It’s an excellent game for this!

Another game that’s really great for two players is Showdown, by Seth Ben-Ezra.

I believe this is the official link:

Finally, I’m not 100% sure about this, but wouldn’t For the Queen work well as a two-player game?

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