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Author Topic: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures  (Read 1008 times)

Ocule

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Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« on: November 23, 2022, 03:23:06 PM »
As in the title, I was going to run a Sword and sorcery game set in the Hyborean age or maybe something similar for a single player, at most two players. I have a few ideas but was wondering what y’all thought maybe I missed something. So far I’m thinking Conan 2d20, Barbarians of Lemuria or Mythras.
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zircher

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2022, 10:39:21 PM »
Swords and Sandals is not my fav genre so I'm short on suggestions.

I wanted to talk about solo and duet since they can be different from running a game for 1 to 2 players.  Solo generally means no GM and the single player is using a solo adventure or solo tools like GM Emulators and Oracles to play a traditional RPG.  Duet (for me) are purpose built games for two players and tend to be GMless games as well.

Rolling back to GMed games and adventures for 1 to 2 players, it kind of depends on your players.  Some people are okay with running multiple characters in which case just form up a party for a normal adventure.  That way you have your full set of skills and abilities and a deeper pool for spreading out the damage.  If it is strictly one or two PCs, you need to decide if you want to run some NPCs in the party or scale encounters on the fly if the adventure is meant for a large party.  I used to do this all the time back in the day when I was running a couple of my friends.

Having said all that, my group has had fun with on the fly swords and sorcery (in the style of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) using Fate Accelerated Edition.  If you don't mind Evil Hat's finger prints on it, FAE is a fun system for light weight RPGs, especially one-shots over the holidays.  It's also nice that the SRD is a freebie.  Since it is aspect driven, the descriptions are more important than the number crunch.  So, you can again use any adventure as a 'script' for the session.

[edit for typos]
« Last Edit: November 23, 2022, 10:41:40 PM by zircher »
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rhialto

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2022, 07:51:44 AM »
In no particular order, save for the first one, which would be my choice  :):
  • OD&D + The Grey Elf's Age of Conan revisions https://www.grey-elf.com/
  • Scarlet Heroes: B/X-based heroic rules for solo play
  • By This Axe I Hack: based on The Black Hack mostly, revised for a more S&S feel
  • Blood and Bronze: more Sword & Sandals, but evocative and a tight set of rules
  • ACKS + Heroic Fantasy Handbook: dispense with standard spell-casting classes and just use ceremonial casting

Ocule

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2022, 03:28:00 PM »
Ty for the suggestions though with anything dnd derived it looks to be more difficult just due to the nature of the game having one to two players. The single or duo pc rules from scarlet heroes might work if I went that route. Though the damage conversion looks like a bit of a headache in play

So far contenders are Conan an age undreamed of, riddle of steel/blade of the iron throne, mythras, and savage worlds. Due mostly to either making the hero more capable or having good mechanics for one on one fights.

Barbarians of Lemuria also looked good but I know nothing of how it’ll play with a lone pc.
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S'mon

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2022, 03:28:30 AM »
I used Mini Six https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/144558/Mini-Six-Bare-Bones-Edition for a 1 year Sword & Sorcery game in Primeval Thule https://simonsprimevalthule.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-valley-of-scorn-palace-of-silver.html - it worked great. The only issue I recall was realising I needed to turn a horde of 500+ skeletons vs high level PCs from monsters to hazardous terrain.  ;D
 
I think D&D is designed for multiple players and works best that way, whereas D6 System handles lone heroes very well, being designed originally around the tropes and power level of 1980s action & adventure films. Many other games work fine too, D&D and derivatives are a particularly poor choice.

rhialto

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2022, 07:26:30 AM »
Well, there's a reason I cited OD&D + The Age of Conan: if you use the Chainmail combat systems (mass, man-to-man, fantasy), and not the "Alternate" (i.e., d20-based), then OD&D does a good (and IMO, better) job of modeling S&S fiction. A PC like Conan (15th-level Fighter) would get 10 attacks/round in man-to-man combat, and is nearly as easy to create as a 1st-level nobody. It does lack the mechanical complexity of something like SW, Mini6 or Mythras, but is very capable of modeling lone heroes on solo adventures. Not trying to convince you either way, just clarifying why I suggested it.  :)

Dropbear

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2022, 06:26:53 AM »
As in the title, I was going to run a Sword and sorcery game set in the Hyborean age or maybe something similar for a single player, at most two players. I have a few ideas but was wondering what y’all thought maybe I missed something. So far I’m thinking Conan 2d20, Barbarians of Lemuria or Mythras.

Out of those, I’d go with BoL.

2d20 is always going to be a thumbs down for me as far as recommendations go. For me, the clunky and un-smooth mechanics that don’t flow well will always be a non-starter. And that saddened me, because I gave it a go with a group, I love the whole Conan propert, the art is pretty amazing throughout. The rules just make me yuck.

Mythras is okay as a rules set, and you could use that to rebuild the 2d20 game books with better rules mechanics. But why buy both sets of books? You’re a diehard Hyborean Age fan with money to spend on an expensive set of books, I guess. Cool.

Barbarians of Lemuria has a great feel in its setting, while not entirely Hyborean Age in style it’s near enough in style and cheaper than Modiphius (and possibly Mythras combined with it for the rules). Also I found the rules were much smoother, less clunky, and easier to teach people who are being brought into your game.

But honestly, I’d take Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea over all three of them.

Since I know who I am replying to, I won’t recommend Hyperborea (the third edition of the game) even though it smooths out some things even more and is an improvement. You won’t care for multiple instances of art or the particular artist.

rhialto

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2022, 06:39:12 AM »
If BoL is in the running I'd take a look at Barbaric!, too: 2d6-based, and even lighter rules than BoL. And there are a couple of related products: Death Stalkers of Antediluvia and Warlords of Atlantis.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2022, 07:26:58 AM by rhialto »

Leonidas

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2022, 10:27:05 AM »
I ran a duet game with my wife using Mythras set in Thennla (definition of Sword and Sandals) and it ran sweet, she felt very heroic and enjoyed the challenges I presented her.
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Krazz

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2022, 01:42:52 PM »
I've had some success with solo sword and sorcery using Advanced Fighting Fantasy. The default setting is high fantasy, but by leaving out non-human and magic options for the heroes, you've got a simple and fast system that you can overlay on any S&S setting you desire. And since it grew out of a series of gamebooks where a lone sword-swinging hero takes on an epic quest, it handles solitary heroes very well, both in combat and in not needing healers or magic potions to stay alive.

Batjon

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2022, 10:17:17 AM »
Barbarians of Lemuria

ForgottenF

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2022, 06:30:36 PM »
The debate about whether D&D does Sword & Sorcery well is an ongoing one. Personally, I'm on the side that says it doesn't.

More importantly for this question, I would not go with a class-based game for a 1-2 person party. That situation pretty much requires that PCs be generalists, or else be punished for not having a well-rounded party. Also, with a smaller party, I find that you tend to do more RP and skill checks, and less straightforward combat. So I'd want a rules-lite game with a decently rounded skill system. I wouldn't want something too granular, though. You don't want your players to be stuck because neither of them have any points in basket-weaving or whatever. Basically you want a game where any character can do most activities and at least not be hopeless at it.

Mythras might do the job, but it's a little chunkier than I'd go for. I'm in a 2d20 Conan game right now, and it's honestly just not a good system. Barbarians of Lemuria would be my pick of the ones you mentioned. Since it's just attribute based, I think it'd probably result in the fewest occasions where your players can't do something just because they didn't bring the right character type.

I'll throw in an outside suggestion for Savage Worlds Lankhmar. I have the book, and it's pretty well set up for making S&S heroes. There's an unofficial Conan setting for SWADE, too, if you can get a hold of it. If you want something on the more fantastical side, "Atlantis: The Second Age" for Omni System (so the same rules as Talislanta) might serve as well.

Marchand

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2022, 11:39:33 PM »
My suggestion: Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e. Despite the name it is rules-light, although still with a fair amount of depth.

It's classless, with a broad skill system (20 or so skills I think). Even if the character lacks a special skill, you can just throw against their SKILL stat, one of 3 alongside STAMINA=hit points, and LUCK=saving throw. Throw in MAGIC if you want to sling spells, although buying up MAGIC means your other 3 stats will be lower. You can still build a fighter/magic user generalist, but they would need to be more focused in each area - using special skills and feats to be effective at one type of fighting, for example.

A 2-character party of a warrior/rogue type and a magic-user would be quite viable. Anyway, the system is simple enough that a single player could run 2 characters or a stable of henchmen with no sweat.

It's an expansion of the system used for the old Fighting Fantasy solo gamebooks, which is probably where it gets the DNA of characters as well-rounded generalists.

Mythras is okay as a rules set, and you could use that to rebuild the 2d20 game books with better rules mechanics. But why buy both sets of books?

Just to note there is also the free "Mythras Imperative", which is a complete game.

Since I know who I am replying to, I won’t recommend Hyperborea (the third edition of the game) even though it smooths out some things even more and is an improvement. You won’t care for multiple instances of art or the particular artist.

Interested in your take on 3e - what it smooths out vs 2E. I'd already read the new art was a disappointment for some people. The black and white stuff from the 2E books is excellent, I think.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2022, 11:45:32 PM by Marchand »
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Philotomy Jurament

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2022, 03:11:38 AM »
I'd go with some variant of BRP/Runequest/Mythras.
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oggsmash

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Re: Best sword and sorcery rpg for solo or duet adventures
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2022, 05:13:04 AM »
   Savage Worlds Beasts and Barbarians by a mile of the systems listed.  I like most of the options, but SW has the best options for a single or duo group and pulling off things we see in S&S fiction especially when getting into fights and beating the odds.