Roleplaying with Only Two Players (Or a Few More)

I don’t have a gaming group, and I don’t have access to public transportation to get to one. I’d still like to get back to roleplaying, either one-on-one with my brother, or cooperatively.

Any suggestions?

As far as one-on-one games go, I haven’t tried any of these. Cthulhu Confidential has good reviews. And it includes pre-written adventures. I don’t have much gming experience, so I’d prefer to start with pre-written adventures. Scarlet Heroes has good reviews too, on dtrpg, but it doesn’t seem to include pre-written adventures, and the system would trip me up. Blade and Lockpick tries to make it easier for one player to handle multiple characters. I think there are also one-on-one adventures for D&D 3.5 and PF, and again the system would trip me up.

As far as cooperative games go, I have tried some of the boardgames but not the true rpgs. Eldritch Horror is a nightmare to set up. as bad as any monster game. Temple of Elemental Evil is much easier to set up, but it feels more like a strategy game than like roleplaying. Mythic Role-Playing is supposed to allow co-op play using its own adventure generator. (the Thomas Pigeon game, not the neo-Nazi game). There also seem to be the Gamemaster’s Apprentice Cards.

Any experience with these, or suggestions of other one-on-one and/or co-op approaches?



I’ll describe my path, which is mostly solo RPG/writing exercise, but also suitable for small groups and quick games. Using the books below, along with some other random inspiration (tarot cards, lists of things that can be rolled against), I play mostly narrative games. With few people, keeping up with characters, plot, how things fit together, and what happens is enough for me without a lot of rules. The books below are mostly charts to randomly roll things and inspiration to fit it together.

Pick a genre/theme that sounds interesting. My current setting is a sort of Firefly/Cowboy Bebop/Rebel Galaxy genre - a band of misfit rebels traveling around in a spaceship getting into episodic situations. With that thought in mind, I roll a random plot from the list of RPG plots and/or roll up something from Instant Game for an episode. I then generate the primary antagonist and/or conflict randomly (using Instant Game, UNE) and a bit of the characters’ and antagonist’s backgrounds (using BOLD and/or Mythic Variations). That should give us some side threads and NPCs to fill out during the adventure.

From there I pick or generate a starting location and thread for the opening scene and just play. When I have questions, I use Mythic, CRGE, or FU to resolve them (sometimes resulting in unexpected events) and interpret the results. When the questions are open enough, or results difficult to interpret, I use other things like tarot cards or just a random roll against a list of things or randomly-picked words until the lightbulb flashes on and I think of something that fits or is interesting. As you get a better feel for the characters and events going on, it gets easier to tie things together and interpret those rolls.

Most of these are free or pay-what-you-want:

  • Mythic is designed for solo and GM-less play.
  • CRGE is a similar concept, with slightly different execution.
  • Instant Game gives a quick way to roll up random plots, places, etc.
  • UNE - Universal NPC Emulator gives a generic way to create random NPCs and conversations.
  • BOLD - Book of Legends and Deeds helps generate backstories and connections between the random characters that you roll up otherwise and tie things together.
  • The 9Qs is a way to structure adventures based on screenwriting technique.
  • The Big List of RPG Plots can give you a basic plotline and some twists.
  • FU is a pretty simple system that fits fairly well with this type of play.

That toolkit can be used with any system (Mythic and Instant Game have their own systems included, FU is a system) or you can also play in a narrative fashion without much of any complex system. You can of course take inspiration from any setting you like. I’ve used it with Mutant Chronicles, Cyberpunk, modern day horror movies, buddy-cop crime-drama, and gothic horror.

When I have other people playing, I give them FU character sheets to fill out because that’s expected and FU is simple enough that character creation doesn’t eat too much time. If it’s just me, I just envision characters and roll up backstories so that I have contacts and side-threads as well as a better idea of the characters’ motives.


I believe the recent Resident Evil RPG is dm-less, for 2-4 players


I’m not sure of any for those two systems, but there were a set of “Head to Head Quest” adventures for 2nd edition D&D, made for a DM and a single character of a specific class: “Fighter’s Challenge”, “Wizard’s Challenge”, “Thief’s Challenge”, and “Cleric’s Challenge” for level 2-4ish and a 2nd module for each class for levels 4-6. They’re using old rules, but serviceable (and I often feel the older rules had more room for freeform play).

Though, you mention D&D rules possibly causing issues… the focus on a single character and that character’s class can help there, but YMMV.


Rules aren’t as important as the rest. But as far as they go, I prefer to avoid random character creation (which Scarlet Heroes still relies on) and I trip on a lot of the class-specific things (which Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 tried to moderate, but 3.5, Pathfinder, 4E, and 5E have gradually reintroduced)-- unless there’s a coherent rules framework, like Temple and its sister-games which treat special abilities like spells. I might use a modified Savage Worlds system w/o the bonuses for “Wild Cards.”

Going co-op without a gamemaster would be nice, but I’m worried it would be too random, and wouldn’t allow much of a coherent setting. I’m thinking the best option would be an existing setting, with a background book, and a combination of custom setting-specific emulators, and custom choose-your-own-adventures.

P.S. There’s also Avalon Quests for Pathfinder, designed for solo or co-op play. Again, I may trip over the rules, and I don’t know if I would need extra rules such as Bestiary 17.

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That was one of the things I liked about the head-to-head adventures - each one’s specifically written for one of the base, nonspecialized classes, which narrows the rules involved (the adversaries may vary in classes, but they’re kept pretty simple). I’ve also used them as a basis for games with other systems, but that takes a bit more on-the-fly tweaking.

For other, newer systems, the Cypher system that The Strange and Numenera are built on is fairly simplified and geared more towards storytelling than combat. Since they have less combat built-in, the adventures could be played towards a smaller group or one-on-one. The pre-written adventures tend to be more like a story skeleton with a little bit of a choose-your-own-adventure feel, but that does put a bit more weight on the player(s) and DM to flesh out the details of the events and story.

Hmm, I’ll have to look into those myself.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum, I would like to deal with space and setup time for boardgames. I’m thinking a mail sorter, with 15-30 slots, will help me keep the table clear for games. I’m also thinking a look-up table, with percentages for each result, could replace a lot of the cards in Eldritch Horror so it fits on 1 table. (But people confuse more and fancier components with a better game… sigh…)

P.S. Cold Shadows looks like another co-op game.

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Pandemic or Forbidden Island are very good coop games. The mechanics are very similar and they’re both fun, but Pandemic is more adult and has more of a roleplaying aspect.

They’re both at their best with four or more players, but can be played with one or two if you double up roles.

GURPS works well with small player groups, but it’s a bit overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with it. It gets a lot easier once you realise that it’s a toolkit rather than a single system; 90% of it is optional. It can be as simple or as complex as you desire.

I can show you PDFs of most of the GURPS books if you’d like, and there’s a streamlined version here:

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I enjoy Pandemic.

I don’t know about GURPS. I avoid point-buy systems because it’s too easy to screw up too badly before I’ve even started playing. And I don’t think GURPS would make it any easier to handle either co-op or one-on-one adventures.


For one shot roleplaying with 3-5 players, you could try Fiasco. It’s almost pure roleplaying and very rules light.

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And although the One-on-One Adventures Compendium (vol. 1) wouldn’t be my first choice, it’s 60% off due to the deal of the day.

P.S. I hope Fiasco works for some people, but I don’t have 3 to 5 players, and I personally want more character development.

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