So you bought this cool new game, you and some friends want to play but none of you really have the experience to GM. Do you let the game languish on your shelf for years never to be played?
Sadly that happens to a lot of games. Soon it is not the newest thing you have bought, I have bought far more games than I have every played! I am sure you are the same.
The answer to this problem is solo tools.
A set of solo tools makes the GM decisions, you and your friends create your characters and you play the game between you.
OK, so that is a slight over simplification but in principle it is right.
Yes, No, and you are all doomed!
A simple set of solo tools provides at least two tools. One for questions that take a yes-no answer, ‘Can I open the box?’, ‘Are there any guards?’ or ‘Is it loaded?’.
The other tool is for open questions that cannot be answered yes-no, ‘What’s in the box?’, ‘What are they talking about?’ or ‘What kind of warhead is this?’
The first tool gives you several shades of grey from a worst case scenario to a yes and better than you expected.
The second comes in the form of some kind of prompt for your imagination.
As you are all sat around the table with your character sheets, one of you starts with the solo rules as well. You start by brainstorming ideas for who the characters are and the situation they are in, their opening scene. The first time a question comes up that you would normally ask the GM, you ask the question and roll the dice.
The solo rules give you an answer and the person holding the rules interprets the answer. Normally the first thing that comes into you mind that fits the answer you go with. Once you have answered the question all of you work that into your game. The rules get passed on to the next person and so the process repeats.
If you draw a blank, an answer means nothing to you, you throw it open to the group and you pick the one that advances the story.
Answer a question, pass it on. It boils down to pass the parcel with guns, swords or fusion cannons, your choice.
Best Possible Story
Role-playing games should never be Game Master vs Players and this style of play should highlight that. A great game is one in which everyone has agency in creating a fantastic shared story. That is the vibe that GM-less play should try and capture. When you have the rules in your hands you are not out to stymie the other players, not to give them a particularly easy ride. What you are there to do is create the best possible story.#
Where to find solo rules?
An increasing number of games come with solo rules built-in. The game above, 3Deep, is one example. Games from Sine Nomine (Scarlett Heroes) and Shawn Tomkin (Ironsworn) all have solo play as a built-in option. Other games have solo rules written for them. You can check out my solo tools to see if the games you want to play have rules available.
Failing that you can use a generic solo engine. On my DriveThru page there is an OSR set of rules that would work with any game driven by the humble d6.
Test The Waters
An improvised game like this is a great way to see if you all enjoy a new game. You get to play something that you have invested your heard earned cash into. It can also save game night if your forever GM cannot make it!
If you all have a great time with the new game, then you know it is a keeper and one that you can get out and play anytime!