The Art of Logging

image from ArtBreeder

filed under soloing on 09 Nov 2016
tagged solo, solo gaming, and theory

If you happen to read over the various logs I’ve posted, you’ll notice my play style has shifted quite a bit since I first started out experimenting with solo gaming while building Pythia. It’s all part of the natural evolution of practice, of course. I’ve gotten better at some things, improved my tools, dispensed with things I used to think were essential, and discovered a lot about what I like about the process, and what I like in the finished product – and the discrepancy between the two is something I really wrestle with.

There seem to be two styles for logging solo adventures in a way that contains a narrative component, and I’ve drifted between them as I’ve played.

  1. Fiction and mechanics blend together, supporting each other. The author moves from mechanics to fiction and back as needed, not bothering to recap a hit or a miss that’s clearly spelled out in the mechanics, and not necessarily supporting an action in the fiction with explanation if it is clear from the mechanics why the hero acted. It’s assumed that the reader will be following both “lines” concurrently. This style makes for fun, fast play, and pacing the fiction with bursts of mechanics is a lot of fun.

I started out blending my mechanics and fiction together, and this worked really well for fast, loose games where I didn’t know the hero very well and really just wanted to see what would happen.

  1. The fiction should be readable without the mechanics. Of course, fiction generated this way (at least by me!) is usually lackluster; it’s hastily composed, and lacks the kind of coherence or craftsmanship I would put into a comparable work of fiction. And it’s hard to work all the bits of mechanics seamlessly in, especially when nothing seems to “fit”. But oh, do I love the challenge of trying!

As I’ve continued with new campaigns, I’ve really leaned towards making the fiction separate from the mechanics. Even though I’m never really happy with the “flow” of the resulting fiction, it’s nice to know someone could come along and read from start to finish as a short story without needing to know if I rolled a “to hit” or not.

Sometimes I get carried away, especially if I know the hero well, and I end up writing way more than the mechanics would seem to support. I’m okay with that. It’s part of why I wrote Pythia in the first place – jotting down some to hit rolls while typing in a text document seemed way more tedious than it needed to be, and likely to kill all creativity.

Ultimately, though, I think the mechanics are necessary. That’s the “game” part, and the mechanics do – and should – influence every part of it. Part of the challenge, the fun, is incorporating chance results into the narrative in a way that “makes sense” even if it’s not narratively perfect. Just like in a shared gaming experience.

Yes, this whole rambling piece is an apology for the enthusiastic but sloppy writing in my solo logs. Which I hope you enjoy reading; I certainly enjoyed creating them.