Two-Player Creativity Is Harder

Of course not every game of In This World has been magical, but when I hear about sessions that dragged, they often have one thing in common:

Only two players.

In a high creativity game, the difference between two and three players is bigger than it seems. When there’s only one other person in the game, you’re the only one listening to them and thinking of responses. It’s more like tennis, where you have to field every volley. It’s all on you. You never really have the option to kick back and percolate while other people go. It’s an entirely different dynamic.

On top of that pressure, there is also a smaller mix of ideas coming out because there are fewer brains at the table. That means less opportunity for surprises, and being surprised and intrigued by what other people come up with is a big part of the fun: they say things you didn’t expect and then you build on them, surprising them in return. In a two-player game, there’s literally only one brain at the table which is not yours. It is a much tighter — and scarcer — creative loop.

I’ve had similar experiences in two-player games of Microscope. It *can* work, but it’s more challenging. You either mind-meld with the other player and have an awesome time bouncing ideas off each other or it can be exhausting (or both). Compare that to other more character-driven role-playing games like Kingdom: two-player sessions are not really that different, because in any given scene you are role-playing with each other like you normally do, except you are in every scene instead of only some.

I’m not quite at the point of saying In This World doesn’t work with only two players, but I’m definitely adding a warning that it is *less* likely to work. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the bang you normally get. It seems to be more effort and less reward.

Anyone disagree? Anyone having fantastic sessions with only two players?

    Ben Robbins | January 31st, 2023 | , , , | show comments