So with the ongoing connection issues, my wife and I have decided to play a 1-on-1 game; I pitched the pros and cons of this kind of game last week. Today I’ll be looking over what we’ve already decided and what we’re currently looking at, so that anyone else looking into solo play games can get some insight.
Among the list of options we had the various editions of D&D, Cypher System, Hackmaster’s old edition, Warhammer, and more. Most of these were discarded within moments; the 2nd edition of AD&D was set aside because of the baroque nature of the rules, while 4e was set aside because of lack of familiarity. The Cypher System was set aside in favor of Numenera being an option.
The old edition of Hackmaster was set aside after my wife hit the part in the introduction where they make a fairly large fuss about how they intend to only use the male set of pronouns in the book; it not only made the book dated, it rubbed her the wrong way. Warhammer was discarded because we don’t really want to start with the grimdark when we have more amusing options available.
We stuck to fantasy settings because she wanted something medieval for a setting; it ruled out Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun, Star Wars, and several others. This is a bit of a shame, since I’d really like to play through a sci-fi game sometime, and Eclipse Phase offers the absolute best method of ensuring that single-player campaigns keep going – if the character gets killed, they either get restored from backup or reinstantiated from their cortical stack. It’s very handy.
Ultimately, it’s been narrowed down to a choice of three – the Ptolus setting, Numenera, and the Savage Worlds Explorers’ Edition with the Fantasy Companion added on. Each of them is an interesting potential choice, for a few reasons. Admittedly, Ptolus is something I could theoretically update to Pathfinder, but for now I’m considering it via the 3rd edition baseline.
Ptolus is a good choice, because it’s such a deeply detailed setting book; and yet at the same time despite being a setting book, it doesn’t front-load on you. The first few chapters are a player’s guide, broken down to be easily accessible and ready for players to sink their teeth into. The entire setting is richly detailed, but not to the point of painful exhaustiveness or a lack of room for GMs to introduce their own works. It is, quite literally, the cleaned-up notes of a person who ran this campaign setting for years. You can also see the characteristic design style of Monte Cook in this book with the sidebar notes and inserted details in just the right places to be of use to GMs going through a given section. The biggest caveat will be balancing encounters and making sure that the character will have access to healing magic.
Numenera, which is also a product which Monte Cook was one of the key creators of, is also a good choice; the rules for the book occupy a comparatively slim section and much of the rest is a section of rich world info – again, never to the point of exhaustion, and only in a few spots in sufficiently heavy detail that it feels like you’re reading something that has most of the room already filled. Science-fantasy, it gives GMs an excuse to let their players have flashlights and other anachronistic gadgets while keeping a fantasy setting’s vibe. Balance is less important here, as healing take the form of a few actions a day and cyphers that can restore a character or provide a serious edge are scattered across the landscape.
Savage Worlds is the one I know the least about, but it has a reputation for being fast and easy to play with a built-in system for letting the players influence the system. Combined, the core book and fantasy setting resource occupy perhaps a third of the space of the Numenera core book, which itself is only about 3/5 the size of Ptolus. Savage Worlds promises to be fast and easy, and I certainly don’t have a shortage of easily converted settings that I could drop the rules into for us to explore a few stories.
So which will we pick? At this point, I’m not sure, but I’ll talk about it when we do; until then, you can expect more musing on this subject over the next few days, and possibly deeper inspection of each of the three options (or the ones we rejected, and why.)