Duet roleplaying [doo-et rohl-pley-ing]
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 things I can claim expertise despite an abundance of education and a lifetime spent accumulating odd bits of knowledge, but duet roleplaying is something I do claim to 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, but this has also allowed me to really understand this form of roleplaying.
Most 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. About six years ago 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 sounding 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. I've also talked to many others who have also been doing this for years and they have either confirmed some of my ideas or gave me new things to try out.
In late 2009 I started a monthly column at RPGNet about duets that can be found here and discussed here. I have to thank Shannon Appelcline over at RPGNet for letting me do the column. I also have to thank all those who have read and commented on the columns, because really that is the main reason for doing the column. For ease of reference here are direct links to the columns:
These are articles I have written to provide advice or my thoughts on various aspects of roleplaying; especially, narrating as that is usually where my focus is:
Designing Governments - This article discusses the process of creating a government for a community within a campaign setting and I believe it is useful for helping one design an evocative and realistic government.
Finding and Taming Adventure Ideas - Adventure ideas are the bane of all narrators and this article tries to communicate my thought process on the issue, though I like everyone still hit the wall on ideas from time to time.
Setting the Tone - This is basically a short article on execution in the art of narrating roleplaying campaigns.
Tips for a Successful Play-by-Post Campaign - Play-by-post is an interesting challenge for narrators and like duets requires a different approach to make it work, which I think this article communicates.