Calypso Revised Released

filed under game design and soloing on 07 Oct 2020
tagged calypso, pbta, and lady blackbird

I finally finished the revision on Calypso! From the page (I will be uploading it to drivethru soonish as well):

Calypso is a narrative solo ttrpg system, powered by the apocalypse, built on the original version and blended with new techniques developed over several years of play. It is designed to support an open-ended, strongly narrative (as in “writing with dice”) style of solo gaming that aims to produce an experience that’s as much fun in the moment of creation as it is to read later!

It doesn’t try to model a traditional GM and player experience, instead letting you, and your own reservoirs of creativity, steer the show (and push your characters around) overtly, using dice, system prompts, and step-by-step scene guides to build and maintain momentum.

It is divided into four sections;

  • core, with the base system, complete with a simple motifs-based framework to guide your story, and ready to play with whatever premise inspires you
  • scenarios, containing seven (gently) evocative premise packages (aka, scenarios)
  • frameworks, with four robust narrative structures that insist you finish what you started
  • appendices, with alternative motif charts, a people and motivation generator, some random event tables, co-op and GM-led play instructions, and troupe play mini-framework and mini-scenario.

The original Calypso Compendium is a barebones mashup of Lady Blackbird-style character creation and Apocalypse World resolution, with a heap of refinements for solo. In this edition, I’ve revised everything in light of years of soloing with it, included DNA from other systems I’ve found useful in solo, included more explanations and examples, made it clearer what this is, and what it is not (hopefully), and (attempted) spiffied up art and layout.

If you’d like to check out the original, it’s here, at katarpgs. Have fun!

It’s licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 license (except for a couple of logos, but fair use covers those).


Several years ago, when I had just left my long-term gaming group (a style mismatch mixed with needing to watch small kids), I rediscovered a love of gamebooks (like Project Aeon). One thing led to another, and to re-discovering soloing as a hobby and community.

Calypso is the first game I ever sat down and finished, at 50+ pages of scenarios, options, and tables. It met my needs then, for a light, flexible framework that was heavily Scarlet Heroes, Lady Blackbird, and pbta-inspired (though at the time I’d played none but SH).

Fast-forward three years, through plenty of play-by-post and a lot of Dungeon World/UMF, to an opportunity to take some time to learn Affinity Publisher and visual layout.

I discovered, as I refined and edited and playtested in light of the way I play now, a very interesting aspect I hadn’t consciously noted (or explained, sadly) when I wrote Calypso originally.

Calypso does not create a “traditional” experience, despite being inspired by several very traditional systems. All of the output comes from you, from how you interpret the prompts, which isn’t at all unusual – but Calypso makes no effort to conceal this, or to pretend that you are not the architect of your own challenges.

The system is just there to help define your premise and build context, the fiction that surrounds your game, as quickly as posssible so you can get to playing, and to encourage momentum with a framework. And to inspire you to write just a little more when you feel uninspired.

I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and I hope everyone likes it! :)

As always, you can reach me on the Dungeon World or Mythic GME discords.