Duet roleplaying [doo-et rohl-pley-ing]Noun
1. The process of two people engaging in roleplaying with one serving as the narrator who frames the situation and the other the player who reacts to the situation.
2. A whole lot of fun.
There aren’t a lot of areas I can claim expertise in despite an abundance of education and a lifetime spent accumulating odd bits of knowledge, but duet roleplaying is something I do know a lot about. I’ve been running roleplaying campaigns as a narrator since I was in college back in 1993. The number of duet campaigns I have run, admittedly mostly with my wife Michelle, is pretty significant, which means I have made plenty of mistakes as I have experimented and had plenty of successes as well, all of which has allowed me to really understand this form of roleplaying.
Most roleplaying games (RPGs) are designed with the assumption that there will be one narrator and a group of players; some, like recent editions of Dungeons & Dragons, are mechanically balanced on this assumption of group play. When you hear terms like balance, character optimization, railroading, and all that you have to understand that a lot of these derive from the group assumption. Back around 2005, I started talking about duet roleplaying on various forums and with Doug Lohse we created the Guide to Solo Campaigns on the WotC forums.
As you see, we used ‘solo’ back then and the industry often uses ‘one-on-one’ instead of duet, which is the term I coined for this style of roleplaying. I think that duet roleplaying is a more accurate, less confrontational phrase than either solo or one-on-one. Duet roleplaying is about two people finding a way to harmonize their play styles to create something far greater than they could alone. As you might have guessed, I’m a big proponent of duet roleplaying and have written and discussed this all over the place, including, since 2009, through a monthly column on duet roleplaying for RPGNet. I’ve also talked to many other people who have also been running duets for years and they’ve either confirmed some of my ideas or given me new things to try out.
In addition to the duet roleplaying resources linked above, I’ve also co-written several articles on the subjects that are linked subpages to this topic. Enjoy! If you have an questions or suggestions, post a comment below, check out the Blue Moon Aurora forums, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy roleplaying!