A General Overview of Soloing

image from ArtBreeder

filed under game design on 18 Sep 2021
tagged solo

Soloing is playing a ttrpg by yourself, whether that’s using an emulator to play 5e or playing a full game like Ironsworn or Thousand-year Old Vampire. It is not a particularly social activity, more akin to writing or daydreaming, or to play-by-post, than to a four person table live. Tempering your expectations there is vital; knowing what your desired end state looks like is crucial.

Generally, you need three things; a system you want to play, like 5e, an oracle that handles framing questions (“is there a chandelier here?”), and a framework that keeps the story progressing towards a conclusion. Soloing tools generally provide the oracle, occasionally cover the framework, and sometimes also offer a system (see below for some options). Choosing a soloing tool is actually very easy, because if one doesn’t work for you, you can always try again more or less instantly.

Generally I suggest to folks that they start with Mythic GME (playable as all in one, or oracle + framework, plus extensive additional material) and a system they know well, or with Scarlet Heroes (all in one, but the various tools can be used easily with other systems), and branch out from there.

So, how do I solo?

First, my goal is always to finish up with a log I can re-read and enjoy as a story, later, even if it’s got a lot of plot bridges (points where in a story I’d have written it out but in soloing I let assumptions, mechanics, and fiat bridge to the next interesting part). I tend to prefer less planning, or rather, just as much planning as I find necessary to get started and keep going. I also tend to prefer a smooth, forward-flowing experience over one with a lot of stops to look through rules or assess mechanical inputs and outputs. My Six Hours to Midnight play is pretty much my platonic ideal of a soloing experience. This is vital to know, as if you want a different experience, it might not suit you!

Lately I’ve been into full systems, usually ones I’ve written myself like Bone and Black, or the immensely narrative game I’m working on right now, IF. My “perfect” system is probably World of Dungeons, using PET or the newer models in Scherzo to handle both my PCs (a pair of them) and NPCs. But of course I’m already working on an even newer PC-NPC modeler in IF – which pretty much tells you where my soloing tastes lie; in constant design and iteration.

For technical means, I wrote Pythia Oracle to solo with, but since it’s always open for my group play-by-post, lately I’ve been playing right in vscode, with split panels for character sheets, and a terminal at the bottom for rolling dice and using bone.py, the companion to Bone & Black (that I swear I’ll upload somewhere eventually). This setup is perfect for something like Thousand Year Old Vampire, too, since you can keep everything visible.

Some Soloing Resources

General Resources

Learn more here.

Video & Blog APs:

Remember, there’s no wrong way to play solo!

Tools & Systems:

A few options to get you started.

Mythic GME Discord

A discord for the Mythic GM Emulator and all things soloing.