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Is this a sign of old age games?

As you all undoubtedly know, I am an advocate of Solo role-play. I write dedicated solo rules for games because I don’t want to have to stop playing FUDGE every time I ask a question because my oracle runs off of d100 tables. If I am playing FUDGE I want a FUDGE-like oracle and if I am playing Zweihander, I want a Zwei-ified oracle. I want to be in the game and stay in the game regardless of what is happening.

That is why I do what I do.

But no man is an island…

Shadow of the Demon Lord

I have rules for Shadow of the Demon Lord. These are sold via the Disciple so the Demon Lord CCP [Community Content Program]. These sell pretty well, more than 200 books sold. I have another DotDL title, a book of random dice rolls. My solo rules are the 3rd hottest seller on the CCP and my dice rolls are the 7th hottest seller. Both books are over a year old. The solo rules sell a typical 3 copies a week, the dice tables one a week.

Taking those numbers, just three copies a week is enough to get the 3rd hottest selling title in the CCP is disturbing. The fact that 1 sale a week is enough to be the 7th hottest is even more disappointing.

In the past two years, 50 titles have been added to the CCP, my first was the 13th title. Those before me were a few used to seed the market, and some official releases such as the document templates and creator resources.

7th Sea

My 7th Sea title was released more than two years ago. It is the 4th hottest Explorer’s Society today. It has sat at the top since it’s release. The book is an Electrum bestseller and making its way steadily to Gold. It sells 15 to 20 copies a month.

In the Explorer’s society there are typically two new titles a month, they spend a week or so at the top of the hottest list and then sink into oblivion.

This is a story that is being repeated across all the CCPs right across the board on DriveThruRPG. I am beginning to wonder if one of two things is possibly happening.

Theory #1 VTT

During these pandemic times people are turning to VTT for online games. The most popular VTT games are the traditional games like 5e and all the D&D variations. These are easy to play online and well supported with rulesets and macros and all that sort of thing.

Games that have interesting ‘social’ mechanics, like Zweihander’s cup of fortune tokens, don’t work so well when there are no people. Game play that relies on interrupting and interjecting your actions into another players turn work well around a table where you can feed off of each other’s improvisations. Talking over each other in a VTT game is a nightmare.

I think this may mean that many more interesting games are not being played. If you are not playing them, you are unlikely to spend money buying up more books and adventures for them.

Solo rules then float to the top as a constant niche interest keeps the sales ticking over.

Theory #2 Saturation

CCPs were meant to be by the fans, for the fans. That is fine until there are so many fan-made adventures and odd little house rules that there is more than enough choice. At that point maybe people are more likely to go for the same few books on the hottest list, thinking they are tried and trusted, rather than scrolling down past them to see the newest.

Metal rankings may not help here. People assume that Silver or Gold is better than Copper, when it can often just mean older.

This could buoy up old titles where the metal ranking is seen as a trust signal.

If the problem is closer to Theory #2 than it is #1, this could mean that all the CCPs are short-life products. Once they reach a saturation point, new titles will struggle to gain any traction. If you are a creator and you release three adventures and get poor sales across the board, you are likely to give up. If that happens enough times, either a reputation will form of a CCP not being very good for creators/sales. It also means that new titles will dry up and the CCP may look dead and abandoned. That then does not encourage new creators.

I think solo books benefit from both theory #1 and #2. If these great games are hard to find online, more people are prepared to give solo play a chance. Solo players are a small but dedicated bunch and in buying the rules in a steady regular way, no made rush on release like you would get with a core rulebook or new adventure path, these little books keep their place in the hottest lists, and just stick there.

Or maybe I cam completely wrong!

Another thought that occurs to me is that older games may end up on the back shelves. Most of us have more games than we get to play. If that is the case, are solo rules letting people bring these games out of retirement and giving them another go? The steady, regular sales of solo rule books could just be a bit of regular churn amongst the millions of role players out there, that kind of miss playing some of these older games.

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All Alone in Space – Mothership Solo Rules

I have been reading and to some extent toying with Mothership all week. I first put the proposal forward to Sean McCoy at the beginning of the month but with one thing or another life just got in the way. You know how it is…

Mothership is a d100 roll under blackjack system.

Do you want to know when Mothership Solo is released? See the offer at the bottom of this update.

Blackjack systems have you try and roll as high as you can without going over your skill, as in trying to get as close to 21 without going bust in blackjack, thus the name.

The high but under element is important in opposed tests. At first, this blackjack element was my biggest concern in the solo system.

I could set a target number and any roll below it would be a yes, any roll above would be a ‘no’ and critical yes result would be the more extreme yes, and the likewise for critical no results.

That part of the oracle system was easy but that is not even the start of it.

The magic in Mothership happens when your fellow crew members start to fall apart around you. Panic cascades as one panicking crew member can shake the mental health of others.

I want to capture this contagious panic but in solo rules it is harder. I don’t like solo playing more than one PC. So how do I have a crew of NPCs, make full use of the panic and assistance mechanics and play solo?

I have an, as yet untested, answer.

The opposite of solo play is Solo GMing. It is kind of the opposite way around. In solo play you use tables to find the answers to questions that the GM/Warden would normally handle. In Solo GMing you have random tables of what the players would do. Each player is emulated using a set of random tables. The system I have seen is called PET, Player Emulation with Tags.

There is a bit of irony here, Mothership is a pretty rules light game. My preferred style is also rules light. So this is a good fit. I happen to prefer sci fi as well so we are all good there. The irony is that these solo rules could be the most complex and rules heavy that I have ever written.

I am not just trying to emulate the Warden, I also want to emulate your entire crew without you having to play them as full NPCs.

Over the next few days I am going to try and get all by tables together into some semblance of order and try and make a playable game out of.

Once I can play Mothership solo, then I will try and tidy up what I have and make it slicker and faster. As of today, I have nothing to show. (I could share a photo of my desk covered in scraps of paper and post-it notes but there are too many coffee stains for it to be hygienic.)

Mothership Solo

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Heroes & Hardships – Robin Hood Setting?

I am continuing to look at Heroes & Hardships, with an eye towards running a oneshot adventure in teh autumn, assuming we are allowed out by then.

I want to go with the Robin Hood theme. It is high adventure with tyrancial Bad King John, The Dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham and the evil Guy Gisborne.

Robin Hood is thought to be a real person ( which helps me as I want to run a game where the characters have no magic. I am happy to have belief in magic, maybe even sell the characters a few good luck charms, but whether they work or not is a completely different thing.

The character I made yesterday is quite well rounded and I had given him Quarter Staff (great weapon) and bow for combat, plus a focus on dodging. That was one of the things that enamoured me to the system. Before I even rolled a dice I know what I wanted to play. My rolls were average at best, possibly below average but I still got to play what I wanted. Most of my stats were 2s, most of my skills are 1s and my most important ones are 2s.. This gives me Roll 4 keep 2 in core areas. I took the Lucky ability which does give me a +1 here and there.

I haven’t been able to play yet. It could be that more skills at 2 and 3 are needed.

My preference in games if for point buy stats. It is hinted at there is another option in the core book and I hope that it is a point buy system. If it isn’t it would be easy to house rule. The average on a d10 is 5½, there are 13 rolls so you can give a player 72 points and tell them to buy their own stats.

One of the flaws in most rolemaster versions was that Stats gave you not only stat bonuses towards you skills, but the points you used to buy the skills. Successful skill tests also gave you more EXP. A good set of rolls before the game even started created a snowball. You had more more development point, so you had more skills with bigger bonuses, so you got more skill successes, which meant more EXP, which meant you levelled up faster and leveling up gave you more development points to improve your skills.

I could see the same issue here.

A good set of stat rolls, gives higher stats, which gives you more skill points and they give more ability points. In play higher stats govern your chances of success.

We don’t get to see the experience system in the quickstart guide, but it should not really make much difference. I know my character is going to be keeping 3d10 in his core skills, assuming those d10 are slightly above average that is going to give me circa 18 on average.

At Power Level 1, Challenging tests, which are suitable for a starting character in a first adventure have a Target Number [TN] of 14. I should be able to make them in my core skills most of the time and some of the time in less core areas.

Better Stats would certainly help!

I may try and put something together this week and give the game a playtest.

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Heroes & Hardships – Firstlook

What I am supposed to be doing this week is wrapping my head around Mothership Players Survival Guide, but my head has been turned by the Heroes & Hardships Quickstart.

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Heroes & Hardships [H&H from this point on] is radically different from anything I have looked at recently. When I first saw the name in X&X format I thought d20 looky likey, but I could not have been further from the truth. H&H is a d10 dice pool game and I will be throwing buckets of d10s (8-10 dice per player are recommended) about.

The publisher of H&H is Earl of Fife Games. I first came across the writer on Discord. I talk to a lot of creators on Discord, and what I love about it is that we are are all learning by doing, we all make mistakes and try to learn from them and we all share experiences.

What I liked about sharing experiences here is that we started from opposite poles and yet worked towards the same end. For example, my work tends to be fast and basic, stock art or public domain, rules light and words brief. I would rather release four short adventures than one campaign setting, you get the picture.

Earl of Fife are the opposite. Their work is beautiful to look at, full of bespoke art, utmost care has been taken with the presentation and what they do publish is up there with the best.

Many of my books have got more substantial with more content and more art, and Earl of Fife have dabbled with shorter adventures.

…and so to Heroes & Hardships

I have not read the entire thing yet. The Quickstart Guide is 96 pages. I have read the system overview and it appears solid. Right now I am creating my first character. I have an idea for a character where the legends of Robin Hood were not all one person. I am the ‘other Robin’. I, of course, am the charming and good looking one. The other guy is Robin of Loxley and is a big of a knob, at times.

First Impressions?

The game is making all the right noises. Anything that builds well rounded competent characters and talks about scenes is always going to be received favourably. The look of the book is up to Earl of Fife’s usual standard. I don’t own 10d10, but my dice roller app serves the purpose. I mention this because my regular players like the d20s with 0-9 twice. Those things roll forever. If I took this to a gaming weekend, I could see us spending many hours climbing under the table to retrieve runaway dice.

Or is that just my group?

Tonight I will look at this game in more detail. Right now I am just starting to read up on Combat Basics. This is page 36, so I am over a third of the way through.

If you want to take a look at H&H, it is Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG. Why not pick up a copy, but if you do, please toss at least 20¢ in the tip jar. It will make you feel much better about yourself, honest.

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I released SURP today, the Solo Universal Role Play book. It was intended to be used with that Generic Universal Role Playing game that rhymes with slurps.

Before I started writing I contacted the publisher and told them what I wanted to do, they responded pointing me to the disclaimer to use in the book. All was well and good.

I released the book today and all of a sudden SJG was complaining that this was not a slurps book. I totally agree with them. I had read all the guidance on their website and when I had mentioned slurps I had made sure it was noted as their copyright, I had used their provided wording. What is more I had studiously avoided using any of their wording, I had included none of their rules, and none of their art. The idea of 3d6 roll under is nothing new and existed before slurps ever did.

These days, being right or wrong is neither here nor there. I cannot, not have the inclination, to fight a copyright case against a company I was trying to support. Life is too short.

I have lost my appetite for buying any more of their games and books though, at least for the time being.

Slurps is a good game, and I enjoyed playing it. If you like it, and want to play it, but cannot find a group. You can find the solo rules on DTRPG by following this link. That includes the 40% loyalty discount that I always try and give to my blog readers.