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The Pool with 2 players?

Started by Kenway, April 27, 2003, 11:40:53 AM

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I was planning on a Pool campaign with only 2 participants and I didn't want to have 1 GM and 1 PC.
   Are there any suggestions to make play more interesting?

   Possible ideas:
   -Each player makes a PC.  Each player takes turns GMing for 15min-30min?
   -Each player makes a PC.  There is no GM?
               -Each player's "character" is not actually 1 PC, but is instead a party?

   -And just wondering, has anyone tried solo-Pool?

Shreyas Sampat

You missed an option:
2 PCs; GMing responsibilities get divided in some way.

Solo-Pool sounds like Not Much More Fun to me, because the interactions between the situations you're put in and the decisions you make regarding them is what makes the game cool.  If you're setting the situation and making the decisions both, then you're basically telling yourself a story.  Not Much More Fun, by the way, compares to, say, sitting around and daydreaming.


I used 2 player Pool to play my Guyver/Space Ninja game and introduce the system to a friend.  We had a blast, since we both love trying to see who can bring the more "over the top anime" experience to the table.

This can work fine, if you make clear what the "expectations" of the game are about.  In my case, it was clear to be a classic anime lone hero vs. armada of bad guys.  I could easily see other stories that focus on a lone protagonist, especially detective stories, working out well.

Other options would be to give the player 3 different characters, all of whom are involved in the story, although they may not be "buddies" to each other.



Quote from: Kenway-And just wondering, has anyone tried solo-Pool?

I'm not sure if I got what you mean by solo-Pool... You mean single PC and GM or single player as in only one person in the room?

Anyway, in my first playtest of the Pool we were two players, me as GM and a friend running the sole PC in the game. It was very fun, but the story was very lone-hero oriented.

I guess that would be the critical success factor here: the story should support the one PC option. Things like 007 or Die Hard come to mind (though Die Hard would hardly make enough material for a campaign). A time traveler scenario might also be nice.

About alternating GMs, you might try doing it between sessions as opposed to within sessions. No real reason for that, as haven't tried either option, it just feels least confusing.

Now if you're going for both players are simultaneous GMs, you might try Universalis? ;-)



I hate to say this, being such a fan of the Pool, and all, but it sounds to me like you don't really want the Pool at all. The Pool has a GM and players, and the line is clearly defined. That's the whole reason why the Pool is cool . . . it formalizes the split between GM director stance and player director stance.

Have you thought about Universalis?

Mike Holmes

How about this?

When you take an MoV, you become GM until the next player takes an MoV. Basically MoV becomes "you are the GM", and they essentially last indefinitely with player interaction.

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Thanks for the comments, everyone.

   Solo-pool (Shreyas):  Yeah, I guess a loosely-plotted narrative RPG like The Pool doesn't really lend itself to solo play.

   Multiple characters (Bankuei):  Maybe the Rashomon/Boomtown (tv show) adventure that was suggested a few months ago on The Forge could work this way.  ie. The GM and PC could take turns re-enacting the same plot hook from different perspectives.

   Aplath:  Yeah,  I meant "solo-pool" as 1 person playing alone.

   Aplath, Paganini:  I'll look into Universalis.

   "Pool MOV= you become the GM" (Mike):  Mike, was this a Pool variant that was suggested somewhere else?  I wonder how this would work with a regular amount of players.

Mike Holmes

Quote from: Kenway"Pool MOV= you become the GM" (Mike):  Mike, was this a Pool variant that was suggested somewhere else?  I wonder how this would work with a regular amount of players.
I can't remember it being one, but then I probably just forgot. I'm sure I steal subconsciously. :-)

I can't see why it wouldn't work. It would just be like a more randomized version of Universalis.

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James V. West

Quote from: Mike HolmesHow about this?

When you take an MoV, you become GM until the next player takes an MoV. Basically MoV becomes "you are the GM", and they essentially last indefinitely with player interaction.


Mike, that's a cool ass idea. Neato.

Wish I had something more to add. I've played The Pool with 3 players (counting me) several times, but never with just one.


Allowing players to assume the role of GM was one of the things I wanted to achieve in the Puddle variant.

Quote from: The PuddleDuring the course of the game the players can 'take the reins' and guide the direction of the story essentially assuming the role of GM for a short period of time.

Quote from: The PuddleGuiding an event allows you to decide how the event plays out. You get to describe what happens and direct the narrative in the same way that the GM normally would.

Mike Holmes

See, that's where I stole it from. Knew it. :-)

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James V. West


I can't remember... Does The Puddle formalize how GM duties get traded around, as in Mike's MOV=GM suggestion?


Quote from: James V. WestI can't remember... Does The Puddle formalize how GM duties get traded around, as in Mike's MOV=GM suggestion?

Quote from: The Puddle, Chapter IV, Guiding the Outcome of an EventGuiding an event is what The Pool is all about since it allows you to decide how the event plays out. You get to describe what happens and direct the narrative in the same way that the GM normally would.

You can describe your characters actions, the actions of those around him, and the result of those actions. You can exercise directorial control of the story, create situations, add complications, make use of established story elements or even introduce entirely elements of your own.

As the event is being resolved you are effectively in charge of guiding the story.

Guiding the outcome of an event (i.e. effectively becoming the GM when resolving an event) is different to making a MOV. When you guide an event it is not a Monologue. Guiding an event is a multi-player process with dialog and narrative exchanged freely back and forth between players and the GM.

Normally the GM's would adopt the pro-active role in guiding the narrative; players announce actions or state intent, the GM determines the consequence of those actions. Narrative ensues driven primarily by the GM with the assistance of the player.

When it is the player guiding an event the roles are reversed. The player determines the consequence of any actions relevent to the event in such a way as to ultimately achieve the rolled outcome (i.e. positive, negative or uncertain). It is the player that adopts the pro-active role in driving the narrative forward, the GM takes a more passive role becoming (for the duration of the event at least) just another player.

Examples always seem to come across as being a little contrived; however I can't think of any other way to get the concept of guiding an event across.

Scene: Easy Eddie (PC) is cornered by Vinnie "The Brick" Cordoba (NPC) in a seedy little joint in downtown LA. Eddie is up to his ears in debt to Vinnie's boss and Vinnie is here to collect. There is an exchange of words and Eddie not known for his diplomacy ends up pissing Vinnie off. Vinnie arrives at the conclusion that it's time for Eddie to have a little swim with the fishes.

GM: "Time's up Eddie ... playtime is over"
GM: Vinnie makes a move for his gun.

Example of GM guided uncertain outcome:

GM: What are you doing?
Eddie: I'm reaching for my gun also, waste Vinnie before he wastes me.
<<clatter of dice, Eddie rolls an uncertain outcome, GM chooses to guide the event>>
GM: You're quicker than Eddie, you take aim, fire, but miss.
GM: Your shot screws up Vinnies aim, he shoots and misses you too.
GM: The patrons of the club duck for cover.
GM: What next?
Player: I'm getting out of dodge, heading for the exit.
GM: Vinnie lets off another shot, which also misses.
GM: The exit is right ahead of you.
Player: I try and get a couple of parting shots off at Vinnie.
GM: First one misses, second one hits him in the leg.
GM: Vinnie curses, fires back, his aim way off.
Player: OK, I'm out of here.
GM: You open the door to leave and see Enzo, one of Vinnie's men crouched a few feet in front of you, gun drawn, aimed right at you.
GM: "Hello Eddie..."
Player: "Er...."
Etc, etc, etc

Example of GM guided negative outcome:

GM: What are you doing?
Player: I'm running, heading for the exit.
<<clatter of dice, Eddie rolls a negative outcome, GM chooses to guide the event>>
GM: You turn and run. Vinnie lets off a volley of shots and the other patrons duck for cover.
GM: As reach the exit you are spun sideways as Vinnie tags you in the shoulder. Pain overwhelms your senses. You are hit and hit bad.
Player: Still conscious?
GM: Yes.
GM: Vinnie advances seeing that you're screwed.
GM: "Goodbye Eddie ... nice knowing ya"
Player: Er...
Etc, etc, etc...

Example of Player guided positive outcome:

Player: So Vinnie is making a move for his gun?
GM: Yep.
<<clatter of dice, Eddie rolls a positive outcome, Eddie chooses to guide the event>>
Player: As Vinnie goes for his gun I rush forward, taking him by surprise and shoulder charge him off his feet.
GM: Does Vinnie manage to draw his gun?
Player: Yes, but as he is struck the gun is knocked from his grasp and falls to the ground out of arms reach.
GM: Is Vinnie out of it? Stunned?
Player: Not really, he is suprised more than anything else.
GM: OK, Vinnie scrambles to his feet, and tries to retrieve his gun.
Player: A swift kick to his head sends his spiralling backwards.
GM: Vinnie struggles to get to his feet.
Player: As he does, I pick up his gun, and take aim.
GM: Vinnie looks at you with undisguised hatred.
GM: "What you gonna do Eddie?? Kill me or something?"
Player: "Yeah Vinnie ... something like that".
Etc, etc...

That's it really.

Guiding an event determines who has advocacy of the story whilst an event is being resolved. Essentially who gets to decide "what happens".


Here are some ideas that I've been flirting with regarding 2-Player Pool.

First off, my ideas were sparked by "The Poodle" which can be found on this thread:

Essentially, outcomes are based on a number of "successes" or "failures" on the die. I use these terms only because I've seen some variants (IIRC) where a 6 will get you an MoV, or a 1 will, or a 1-2 will. I'm just using these terms for, well, ease of use, rather than try to explain the same thing many different times to pull in line with all the different ways of playing The Pool.


2 or more successes: The Player rolling can either take an MoV (jargon for describing what happens) or the Player can take over the role of the GM, allowing the OTHER player to do the MoV. Following that, the GM will take over the role of the Player.

1 success, no successes, 1 failure: The GM narrates.

2 or more failures: The Player rolling their pool can either take an MoD or the Player can choose to take over as the GM, with the former GM describing the MoD and then becoming "The Player".

The differences between the Player and the GM are:

The GM directs the scenes. The Player interjects with MoVs, MoDs and idea dice (paying one die to introduce an element into the story or scene).

Only the Player can roll Pool dice. The GM cannot use the dice in her pool.

Now, where I see this possibly working is not necessarily in a game where the 2 participants take on the roles of different PCs in the same storyline.

I see this as being useful in the following situations:

1. Where the participants each have different PCs involved in two separate storylines. Essentially, the switching of the GM role becomes the equivalent of cutting from storyline to storyline, with the MoVs/MoDs becoming the cliffhangers for the storyline that is being cut from. So, we have a situation like in Return of the King, where we go from Frodo and Sam to the Siege of Minas Tirith. Back and forth. With each participant playing off the other.

2. Where the participants share a PC that is traded back and forth as the GM role is shifted. This would be a game where both participants have a character for whom they have something invested, or at least some interest. And the switching of the GM role would be akin to one participant saying, "Hey, I have a good idea of where to go with this!" and then taking over from there. It would result (hopefully) in the 2 participants building upon what the other has established before. This could work in a number of genres, IMO. But might be well suited to film noir or really campy stuff. Genres that require that their tropes be ramped up higher and higher.

3. Where the characters are pretty much a communal pool of their own, belonging to no particular participant. Participants then become an abstraction within story terms that define a particular response to the premise. It would work best if the question of the premise had a "yes/no" construction. Such as "Does Love Conquer All?" One participant would represent the answer "Yes" and the other would represent the answer "No." Even a specific question could be addressed such as: "Will the outlaw make it to the Mexican border before the sheriff's posse catches him?" Participants could define the overriding dilemma on a scene by scene basis, with the struggle for directorial control/input either introducing elements to support the premise or reject it.

Participants could also create characters to support their side, maybe 3 or so. While defining one as their primary character. For the supporter of the premise, this might constitute the "heroine" of the story. For the negator of the premise, this would constitute the villain. And could be their main (though not their only) vehicle for interacting with the setting/storyline.

I could see this style of play as working particularly well for romance. With one player basically playing cupid and the other supplying obstacles to the young lovers. Pride and Prejudice illustrates a game where the "Yes" player "won". Wuthering Heights illustrates a game where the "No" player "won".

This is how I could see 2-Player Pool working out.

Thoughts? Anyone willing to give this a whirl?