Random Ramblings of a Mad Man: Mark’s Rules For 1 on 1 Roleplaying

“Roleplaying is usually done as a group activity: 4 or more friends getting together around a table to tell a story. It’s fun to hang out with your friends and have a grand adventure. But there are other ways to play as well, and sometimes it’s a hell of a lot of fun to do it with just a Narrator and a single Player. Sometimes it’s the only way to play, ‘cause no one else is around, and sometimes… it’s a great way to build in side stories into your chronicle.

Here is my long standing advice on how to make it work.

  • Make it INTENSELY intimate and personal, make it about the feelings and inner life of the character. Get at the interior feelings and thoughts of the character, make it all about their journey, and make sure they HAVE a journey. From good to bad, or bad to good, or confused to angry. Just like in intimate portraits like Breaking Bad, it’s all about what kind of journey the character is on.
  • Play hard. You can really ratchet up the intensity and the emotion when things are one on one, don’t shy away from doing things you would never do in “public.” Human’s act and think differently when there is just two of us, use that to your advantage. Get inside their head.
  • As Narrator make sure you have 3 SOLID characters ready by the start, and have them in your story at all times. 1. Mentor 2. Crazy Friend. 3. Enemy/Frenemy. These character should not like each other, and each have very strong personalities.
  • Remember you are trying to entertain another person, its hard, but don’t forget to ask them to entertain YOU!
  • Play for shorter sessions than you normally would, mix stuff up with your normal day activities… If you are driving to the store play out a scene.
  • Give the players TOTAL control over their life and the direction they take. You don’t have to herd a single player like you do a group of them. FOLLOW THE PLAYER. Just like in improv, react to what they do.
  • Create a cool setting, but one dialled in for one player. It needs to be smaller, more intimate, less grand (at least at the start).
  • Give the character something which makes them special and opens doors and gets people to help him or her… but which also brings trouble. The character is all alone, and won’t have all the skills required, you need to create the context for providing that help without dominating and controlling the story.

Mark Rein•Hagen”