As you know by now, next week a new actual play series starts on Fandible: the SoloShot, a Star Wars Force and Destiny two person game. Billy is playing an Imperial Inquisitor, while I’m in the GMâ€™s chair.
As of this writing, weâ€™ve run three sessions of the SoloShot – halfway through the first season Iâ€™ve plotted out. Iâ€™ve learned a lot about the system since running the Winter is Coming Edge of the Empire game, but Iâ€™ve also learned that GMing a two person game presents unique lessons and opportunities.
Lesson 1: GM notes actually go to good use
Weâ€™ve spoken about the importance of notes several times on Fandible, and I always show up with notes for my games. But I also know how Fandible, or really most groups, operate, and so I don’t plot too much. I stat out important NPCs and imagine a few encounters, but there’s no point in sinking lots of time and effort into a plot that more likely than not be derailed after five minutes.
But just one player is an entirely different equation. A group will riff off of each other, brainstorming solutions to problems, and coming up with ideas to supplement the GMâ€™s plans. A solo player has no such sounding board, so the game stays way more on the rails. Billy certainly surprises me sometimes (I can’t wait for you to hear the midseason cliffhanger), but the story is following a much tighter narrative track, which means I need to shoulder more of the work in keeping the plot moving forward.
Lesson 2: Your voice is a muscle – Treat it kindly
Another obvious point, right? But just as the player doesn’t have a sounding board for ideas without a group, nor do you have anyone to rely on to fill the gaps at the table. This means a lot of talking. A. Lot. The GM isn’t only providing the narrative structure and a few key NPCs. In a two person game, the GM provides every single voice that isn’t the PC. That’s lots of different NPC voices (a need compounded by doing this game for a podcast, and so there’s a heightened necessity for a variety of voices to keep things interesting for you listeners!). All that talking is tough on your voice! Take care of yourself – keep water at the table and take frequent breaks.
Opportunity:Â Really dig into character â€‹development
This is the biggest advantage of a two person game: a chance to shine an unrelenting spotlight on one character. Their back story, their motivations, their hopes and dreams. Itâ€™s also a chance to tell a story about a character that doesn’t fit into a traditional group. Two player games are perfect for those â€œlone wolfâ€ character archetypes that pop up in groups occasionally – characters that may be legitimately interesting but don’t play well with others. For the SoloShot, Billy is playing an Imperial Inquisitor, and while I can certainly envision a party of Inquisitors, the story would be very different balancing three or four stories of evil people. In the SoloShot, we not only get to discover the backstory of Castien Saiah, but (hopefully!) watch him make choices that take him closer to the Light side of the Force.
The SoloShot debuts May the Fourth. If you’re all caught up on Winter is Coming, can I suggest these other podcasts for your listening pleasure?
Redemption – GM Chris was a huge help in giving me some cheat sheets ahead of our Edge of the Empire game, and I still use them every week for the SoloShot! Redemption is set during the Clone Wars and follows three people (and their Droid) trying to do right in a rapidly changing Galaxy.
Silhouette Zero – another two person Star Wars podcast, with two brothers playing Edge of the Empire. They’re still early in their run, so it’s easy to catch up!
Party of One – An actual play podcast that features a different two person game every week, including a few Star Wars entries – and Iâ€™ll be a guest soon playing Shadow of the Century!
Have you run (or played in!) a two person RPG? What were your biggest lessons? And leave your favorite two person or Star Wars podcasts in the comments as well!
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6 comments on “Fandible SoloShot: Behind the GMâ€™s Screen”
Can’t wait to listen to the first podast, I admit Star Wars isnt my favourite universe to play around in and I have a special hatred for FFG’s Star Wars (What do you mean I have 0 successes, no fail, 8 advantage on my stealth and the alarm still gets set off?) But your Winter is Coming one shot is really interesting, i really love David and Jesus’ characters interactions.
Because with a two person game there is no communication between a group, planning things for a long time (i.e. any shadowrun game session i’ve ever been in) or just general shit talk between players do you find that you advance through plot a lot quicker?
Once the Solo Shot is inevitably done (or this campaign anyway is) do you think it would be something you’d run again?
Again can’t wait for the Solo Shot and to see what kind of torture you put Billy…… I mean his character through.
The advantage/threat system is totally bizarre and the biggest learning curve for the FFG SW systems! But aside from the weird cases like you mention, I think it does some interesting things with more variations than, say, PbtA games that are evoking the same thing with their succeed-at-a-cost mechanic.
I don’t know if we’re actually advancing through the plot more quickly, or if there’s just less plot to advance through, if you know what I mean? I don’t need to plan for ways to keep four people entertained – I don’t need a talking scene for the Face to do something, AND a big gun fight for the gunner, AND a trap for a rogue to uncover and disarm, etc. I can tailor everything to exactly what Billy’s character can do.
It’s like the difference between an Avengers film and a solo superhero Marvel film. Avengers needs cool scenes for everybody, a solo film can focus on just what Captain America is good at.
Billy and I are having a blast doing the SoloShot – whether we do it again honestly will depend on the listeners! If we get a good response, we not only have multiple seasons of the SoloShot planned out, but other games we may run as well (we actually started a two person HEX game with Billy as GM but we never quite got as excited for that as we have been for the SoloShot).
Is it really so hard to understand that you can fail, but still have good things happen? Actions should have a goal, explicit or implicit, and that is what success is aimed at. Advantages are all the things that could go your way along the way. Here are a few examples:
You miss your blaster shot and it flies wide, striking a pipe that erupts in a gout of steam. The next person to act in that hall will be at some level of disadvantage (depending on how many advantage you generated) to their next action as the steam hampers them.
You are sneaking through an imperial base when you knock over a stack of parts and a passing patrol notices you. However, since you have 8 advantage they mistake you for a technician and escort you to the objective you meant to sneak to, further they don’t even search your bag, since you are clearly supposed to be here.
You attempt to slice into the terminal, but get locked out after three failed entry attempts. The failed attempts puts the facility on lockdown though, buying you the time to pull the drive and hide it in an air duct before they can open the doors to detain you.
PbtA doesn’t really have advantage in its system. It’s results are: Success, Success at a cost, or failure (which doesn’t mean you fail, but that the GM gets to make a move. You might succeed in kicking the door down, but be put in a spot by the guard who responds to the noise you make).
I admit part of it was probably from the way the GM ran the game, it was several years ago so I may remember wrong but I don’t think he used advantages quite like Angela was (again I may be wrong)
But it wasn’t so much I fail with advantage or succeed with disadvantage but getting lets call it a zero, no fail or success, with a shit ton of advantage and still having shit hit the fan. But again that may have been the way the GM was running it.
I will be honest and straight up by the fact that I will be shamelessly stealing anything I can from you in an attempt to learn a bit about running a solo player game. And I guess I should say now, in advance, sorry for all of the questions I am probably going to be asking.
@Steve – Yes, it actually can be tough to deal with all of those advantages or threats on the fly! And then there’s the scale – what should happen with one advantage (or threat! A success with a bunch of threats would be the PbtA equivalent I was thinking of) vs five. What about when you have a triumph on a roll that’s a failure? Or, in a truly mind-boggling roll we had, a roll that has both a triumph AND a despair come up? (The success/fail of those rolls cancel each other out, but the Triumph and Despair do not) You can sit back and come up with all of the hypotheticals you want beforehand, but when the dice hit the table, sometimes all of the planning goes out of your head, just like any other time humans are put on the spot.
@Fairystail – I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have! I also highly recommend you check out the Party of One podcast for more two person actual plays, and hit up the GM on Twitter as he likely will have way more insight than I do.
Yay, super excited for the solo-shot! I actually really love running one-on-one games, precisely because it does give such a great opportunity to explore characters! Sadly, I’ve not had a chance to run one of these games in years. Back when I was in high school (and had the free time), I ran three different campaigns (that I remember, lol) in the Vampire the Requiem setting (one with a ghoul, one with a neonate, one with a powerful ancilla) that were a lot of fun.
However, I never made very tightly plotted stories for them. They were much more sandbox style, with a fair amount of improv, but we still chased quite a few cool storylines to their conclusion. So I’m very much looking forward to your Star Wars solo-shot! The imperial inquisitor angle is very cool!
Also, since there was some discussion of the FFG Star Wars game, I think it’s a great system, though I do strongly believe that characters should start with about 100 more XP than they’re normally given. Otherwise, your best starting dice pools, with average difficulty (of 2 purple), are about 50% chance of success. It’s once you’re able to actually build down a skill tree a bit, and get 4 in your best skill that I think the game really comes alive. Also, since I think most characters naturally gravitate towards multiple careers, especially if you use more than one book (like Edge and Rebellion, or all three), so having a boatload of XP is kinda necessary.
That said, I think you’ve all done a great job with the low level story in Winter is Coming, and rolling (hardy har) with what the dice gives y’all.