Over the past year or so, have been seeing people mention solo role-playing game experiences. Up until very recently I have ignored the topic entirely. As someone who was born an only child and is a bit of an introvert by nature, TTRPGs have always been the one part of my life where I have specifically craved social interaction.
To be honest, I have not even experimented with virtual tabletop gaming. It just doesn’t seem appealing to me. I think VTTs are wonderful. I am sure they have brought many more people to the hobby and provided access to games for many who would not be able to partake. It is just that to me, gaming is all about having a bunch of people over, sitting down and rolling dice.
Even my decision to write this blog was largely out of the desire to interact with people and share. The process of reading someone’s comments or posting my own thoughts on someone else’s post is enjoyable to me. It is just very pleasant to interact with a community like this.
All of that aside, I have been unable to escape the topic of solo games. This post is my white flag of surrender. I am going to dip a toe in and see what it is all about.
My History With “Solo Games”
I have written previously about how I came to discover role-playing games. While I have never actually played a solo TTRPG, I guess you could say that my first experience with some type of solo game would have been with the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol.
These children’s mysteries focused on a boy detective in a contemporary setting, solving local crimes. Hints would be provided throughout the book and then the reader would attempt to solve the mystery by the end of the book. These were a bit juvenile for me by the time I discovered them, but the concept was very interesting.
My first genre specific solo game book came in 1982 with Dungeon of Dread by Rose Estes. Released by TSR Hobbies, this was part of their new “Endless Quest” line of paperbacks. To my recollection, the Endless Quest line was preceded by and similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books by Bantam Books.
Written in the second person, these stories followed a pattern of providing the reader with options as to how to continue after a number of pages. Each option would direct the reader to flip to a specific page within the book, where the story would continue. This process would continue until you ultimately arrive a one of numerous endings to the story.
The following year, while browsing a downtown bookstore, I landed a copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. This first book in the famed “Fighting Fantasy” series, this built on the “choose a path” idea by adding actual die rolls, which further simulated playing a TTRPG. From there I recall exploring the Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! series, which built on the Fighting Fantasy series by allowing players to take on the role of either warrior or a wizard.
By the time I was done with these, I was in my mid-teens and my interest in these types of books was waning. It was another 10 years or so before the grind of real life pulled me away from RPGs altogether but in terms of any type of solo gameplay, that was it for me.
Current State of Things
It has been about 10 years now since I have made my way back to the TTRPG hobby. Since that time, I have tinkered with a number of new systems, as well as more old ones than I would have expected. As I mentioned previously, I have been aware of actual solo games being “a thing” for a few years now. However, in the past couple months I have really started to take the idea seriously.
In my ignorance I had assumed that these solo games would not amount to much more than more of what I had experienced in the 80s. However, with the more I read, it becomes clear that it is possible to weave creative tales with these systems. I have decided to investigate a bit deeper and see what I can learn.
I am most likely to start with Ironsworn by Shawn Tomkin. It seems to be the title that crosses my path more frequently than any other. In addition, the few interactions I have had with people who have played the system have been very positive. However, the purpose of this post was to reach out to the folks I interact with the most on here and see what you might be able to suggest.
Have you played any solo TTRPGs? If so, which ones and what were your experiences? Do you have any suggestions to share with someone who is just starting to explore this part of the hobby? I am really starting from square one here, so I would appreciate any input that you might be able to provide.
That is all for now. I hope you have a great week. Good gaming!