Two Player Tabletop RPG for Beginners

I promised I used the search before opening this just in case, if something like this exists, please point me there.

Here is my situation:

Wife and I are following NY State Quarantine rules and keeping our asses in the house as much as possible. She does not care for videogames (random overcooked or something similar might be played once a month), but she does enjoy a good board/card game. We have almost zero tabletop rpg experience - closest thing would be Munchkin or the one round of Mice and Mistics I played. I have watched some stuff so I have an idea of how it works, Harmonquest, The Dungeon Run, and Adventure zone (audio only).

I was wondering if there are some suggestions for something that works well with 2 players. Almost any setting could work for me, not sure if my wife would tolerate anything TOO crazy, but if it's fun she won't care (she likes Roll Player which is basically about creating a D&D character). Looking for entry level stuff with very little difficulty or scaling difficulty that starts off pretty easy.

Hmm... let's see. I think you'd probably be well served looking into things that lean a bit more towards RP over heavy rules systems.

At the time of posting this you've got about 9 hours to grab a bunch of two player Cthulhu-themed RPG games (and some that appear to be modern-day vampire sort of themed? I think?)
https://bundleofholding.com/presents/Confidential
No idea how it plays, but it's based on the Trails of Cthulhu rules and looks like it leans more towards RP.

Might be a few things here that are of interest...

That said, If you want something D&D based, then the Essentials kit caters for a one DM , one player campaign by including sidekicks and offers advice on suitable number of creatures per encounter, etc.

When i get a spare minute i'll see if i can find others that are of potential interest. You could always try going to drivethrurpg.com and doing a search for one or two player games there. There's a ton of interesting stuff.

Oh, and try browsing itch.io's physical games as well. Here's what comes up under "two players" when you search. Bound to be SOMETHING of interest int here.

I'm always looking for good 2player Tabletop RPG stuff, but I've never found something that grabbed the two of us.

I think our biggest issue for us, as parenting and work saps up a ton of energy, is finding an RPG concept that we're excited enough about to bring to the table and learn and go into it expecting to play it multiple times. So many games depend on that group energy that it's hard to build up the anticipation with just the 2 of us when we could easily fall back on so many other games.

pyxistyx wrote:

Hmm... let's see. I think you'd probably be well served looking into things that lean a bit more towards RP over heavy rules systems.

I've found the opposite in my life. Role-play heavy systems frequently rely on a dungeon master of some kind to direct play and act as a referee. That kind of dynamic with just two people emphatically does not work in my marriage. Others mileage might vary.

Instead, we've had luck with systems that don't require DMs and lean on rules to direct cooperative play. The D&D adventure sets like Wrath of Ashardalon have been good for that. TIME Stories was a lot of fun but felt more limited. We burned through the modules we bought fairly quickly.

found this that might be of interest...

Crystalline Curse - a trio of one-on-one D&D modules

Start your own duet campaign! Teleport your way out of the confines of a castle to an ancient mountainside cavern with a secret waiting just for you...
First Blush is the inaugural adventure of D&D Duet, bringing you high quality, ready to play material focused on supporting adventuring parties of 1 Player and 1 DM.
This adventure is written for a first-level character in a one-on-one 5th edition D&D campaign. It encourages collaborative storytelling between the DM and the player and takes the PC through low-stakes social and combat encounters, culminating in a high-stakes combat far from home.

Hedgewizard has been doing a solo run of Ironsworn, which has a free PDF and from what I can gather is a really neat way to cooperatively run an adventure while collaboratively playing and GMing.

He's actually writing about his experiences in the vein of the story as it unfolds for him here.

So many choices! I'm reading about all of these things and getting slightly overwhelmed. Trying to find youtube gameplay videos for each game/book also.

The D&D Essentials Kit contains some sidekick rules, and one of the intentions of it was to allow a two-player experience. As someone who has played a lot of TTRPGs over around 40 years (insert Deadpool "f*ck, you're old" clip here), I'll say that fifth edition D&D is without question the best system I've ever played, and it's got so much less crunch than the older systems (hot take, 3.5 can die in a fire). The Essentials kit has some stripped-down rules which makes it a bit easier to learn as well.

Also, if you want to learn the system, Critical Role has a YouTube series called Handbooker Helper which breaks down basic game concepts into little 3-4 minute videos. It's basically D&D school in really easily-digestible chunks. Big fan of it, it's a really smart way to present the system in a much-less intimidating way.

Certis wrote:

Hedgewizard has been doing a solo run of Ironsworn, which has a free PDF and from what I can gather is a really neat way to cooperatively run an adventure while collaboratively playing and GMing.

He's actually writing about his experiences in the vein of the story as it unfolds for him here.

I've downloaded that and keep meaning to give it a try but...i'm running 4 D&D games and playing in a Stars Without Number game right now so...plate's kinda full!

Honestly, I'd avoid D&D as a first game especially if figuring it out yourself. It's the grandparent of them all, of course, but it's also loaded with 50 years of baggage and is heavy on rules.

I'll second Ironsworn (which has the advantage of being free to get the PDF version). You can play it cooperatively without needing a sole game master, too, which might be good for your situation.

I'd also look at Microscope (which is more about world building but very easy to get into), or for a more adventure style play you could try Index Card RPG (which is a very streamlined take on D&D style, plus has a bunch of settings to use).

Legacy of Dragonholt is an RPG-lite in a board-game box, and kind of plays like a choose-your-own-adventure book for 1-to-6 players. Simple character stats to work with and various storyline branches depending on skill levels, time of day, and other details that can determine which page your can turn to. If you're looking for something relatively newbie-friendly, it's worth checking out! I think it would be a great starter for someone interested in playing a TTRPG, but hasn't ever tried one before.

oh yeah! I still haven't finished playing that. I should probably get around to it.

*I can see that being pretty good with one person reading out the adventure and the other playing the character.

It's not really an RPG, but 7th Continent is a great two-player adventure. (Con: It may be next to impossible or very expensive right now.)

I just started an Ironsworn campaign on Thursday (largely because of Hedgewizard's endorsement) and the cooperative world building was mind-blowing. I can't wait to inhabit this world!

That said, I'm having a hard time evaluating how accessible it would be to novice players as a first rpg. Like other PbtA systems, it abstracts a lot of actions. If you're already familiar with the common tropes and conventions of (tt) rpgs that's probably not a problem, but if you're a complete noob
I can can easily see getting confused about what exactly you're supposed to be doing. It seems to assume that basic background.

I've generally found that most PbtA games are quite a bit easier for folks new to the hobby than they are for people coming in with assumptions from other games (especially D&D).

That said, Ironsworn is pretty dense, but I think it's worth considering due to the cooperative and GMless play option.

True that....wrapping my head around more narrative focused games after playing mostly d&d and call of cthulhu and the like still trips me up.

Whenever I visit my board, deck, and tabeltop playing friend and we spend a weekend playing games, I always request One Deck Dungeon. Very simple, easy, and fun RPG. Cool level up system and progression. Easy to play in short bursts and start another dungeon at a later time.

+1 to Elstree; Ironsworn and similar PbtA games assume firm grounding in tabletop RPG concepts/actions, but I think it's somewhat mitigated by the examples that are littered throughout the PDF and books alongside what I think are clearly written rules, and he also provides a full example of a "session" towards the back of the core book which helps cement things.

There's also some decent stuff on YouTube (Adam Koebel does some solo playing and he starts off learning the system as he goes - though he's also rightly on many people's sh*tlist at the moment).

Lastly, I will say, the Skyrim soundtrack is a PERFECT accompaniment to swearing Iron Vows.