I truly enjoy playing role-playing games. I truly enjoy running role-playing games. For the last decade, I’ve often found myself in the GM’s chair, crafting narratives and orchestrating encounters for my fellow gamers. As fun as this role can be, I’ve often missed being a player, navigating through the trials and tribulations of a carefully constructed world.
As an adult we all know that scheduling conflicts are as persistent as a goblin horde, and finding time for regular RPG sessions can be as challenging as any epic quest. Coupling that with the some narratives I’ve been itching to explore, ones that may not necessarily resonate with everyone in my gaming circle, I’ve found myself drawn towards a different avenue of role-playing: solo RPGs.
Solo RPGs are a variation of traditional role-playing games designed to be enjoyed by a single player. Similar to their group counterparts, solo RPGs involve character creation, world-building, and plot development. They differ by relying heavily on game mechanics and systems, often involving dice or card-based decisions, to simulate the multifaceted roles typically played by a group and the Dungeon/Game Master. It’s a blend of structured storytelling and imaginative exploration where the player is both the architect and the inhabitant of the narrative universe.
Ironsworn: Starforged is a science fiction-themed game, built on a robust system that’s incredibly conducive to solo play. It provides you with a framework to shape your own unique space opera, using a variety of mechanics like “oracles” (randomized tables that help guide your story) to dictate the ebb and flow of your interstellar journey.
On the other hand, Thousand-Year-Old Vampire is a beautifully melancholic game that challenges you to live through the ages as an immortal vampire. This game is more introspective and narrative-focused, using a set of prompts to guide your character’s progression. It’s less about dice-rolling and more about the personal story you weave for your character, navigating through the centuries of existence.
Finally, Be Like A Crow is a unique blend of RPG and poetry, where you play as a crow exploring different landscapes. It’s quite different from the previous two games, focusing less on character progression and more on the atmosphere, observation, and the beauty of the mundane. It’s a slower-paced, more contemplative experience that offers a different, more lyrical side to solo RPGs.
Despite their differences, these three games share a common thread of promoting creative, independent storytelling, with game mechanics that facilitate rather than dictate your narrative choices. It’s these unique attributes that make them excellent examples of the diversity and potential of solo RPGs.
The thrill of diving into a new story, with its twists and turns unveiled by oracles, writing prompts, and even LLMs, is an experience that breathes fresh life into the RPG genre for me. The joy of discovery, of seeing the story unfold in unexpected ways, is akin to writing and reading a novel simultaneously, where the protagonist’s fate is determined by the roll of a die.
Although digital tools have been invaluable in helping me navigate the complex terrain of solo RPGs, I’ve recently decided to transition my Starforged game to an entirely offline format. The tactile feel of paper, pencil, and dice, coupled with the focused disconnection from the digital world, has done wonders to stimulate my imagination.
Embracing solo RPGs was a significant leap for me, but now that I’ve experienced the rich tapestry of stories that I can weave on my own, it’s become a compelling alternative to less engaging pastimes like watching TV. The narratives I craft in my mind tend to be far more absorbing and exciting.
If you are looking for a change of pace I would recommend delving into the world of solo RPGs. It’s a hobby that’s challenged and thrilled me in equal measure, and I believe it could do the same anyone who loved the thrill of not known what’s beyond the next door.