First up, they have a new weird sci-fi premise every episode. Easy. Just make some tables that let you generate stuff like “A ______ that makes _______”. “A portal that makes you de-age” or “A glove that makes things shrink.”
The hard part is getting Rick to work. What’s the right feel? Morty says “Oh no, what is that?!” and Rick explains the dangerous weird phenomenon. Having a classic GM-and-players set-up doesn’t work. Rick doesn’t feel like Rick. The GM is the one who knows all the explanations, not Rick.
So what about making Rick the GM? This also sucks - there is now too much on the GM! They introduce every problem, set every scene, the game revolves around their hypercompetent GMPC who solves every problem except when he creates more… Yuck.
Go GMless? Most GMless games I’ve seen are very symmetrical - each player has more or less the same tools available to them. That doesn’t suit the premise here either. What if I keep the part where Rick is hypercompetent and solves every problem, since that follows from the show, but remove the other stuff and give it to Morty? Morty sets the scenes and introduces the problems and takes on that part of the GM’s role.
Now we’ve got something! Morty’s player can go “Oh no, what is that?!” and then describe some insane weird sci-fi craziness, and then Rick’s player gets to try to explain it and make it make some kind of sense. That’s a fun interaction, and one that we can build the core of the game around. So the moves and agendas for both players are designed with that in mind.
With those moves and agendas in place and the game working, now we can expand from just being a Rick and Morty game to being a game about any pair where a know-it-all drags her poor sap sidekick around. The sidekick boggles his eyes at some weird stuff and the know-it-all rolls hers and explains it. Then they both try to deal with the problem.
That is—basically—the game!
We can just swap out sci-fi random tables for fantasy or horror or any other setting. Or, I realized, I could use this base to play the Jeeves and Wooster game I always wanted! Bertie gets in trouble and Jeeves always has a plan to solve it.
I also added in some stuff with scene structure, using an A-plot/B-plot format because that is a tried-and-true method for episodic storytelling to help keep things on track, because it’s otherwise very easy for players to end up either resolving the plot too quickly or end up spinning their wheels as they wait for someone else to resolve the plot. This lets you do a full story in a predictable length of time over a single session.
And then I added in support for a 3rd or 4th player. This part was pretty easy—they get to have a character who is at sub-sidekick level. (A Jerry or a Summer in Rick and Morty terms) And then they get to do more of the work of taking on the roles of NPCs. With only 2-players, playing NPCs and your main characters in the same scene works fine, but having that 3rd player to take on that task improves the game as it lets the other two focus more on their roles.
So then in a 3-player game of Ariadne and Bob, everyone is the GM and no-one is. You could call it GMless, but I feel like GMful is a better term - there are 3 GMs! Bob gets to set the scenes and introduce the weirdness and start the plot in motion, Ariadne gets to explain what everything is and how it all fits together in the end, and the Chorus gets to play most of the NPCs.
If you are interested in seeing this game in action, back today on Kickstarter!