I now have something to show!
This is my current incarnation of Solo Laser, Solo Roleplaying in The Bleed. If you watched the character creation video, Kal Yang features in this book as my example character.
The basic Gumshoe solo rules were one of the homebrew solo rules I had languishing on my PC for a while now.
Over this Pandemic/lockdown period I have been putting out a solo book every week, but I cannot keep that up much longer. I have nearly published everything I have.
But enough about me, what about Ashen Stars?
The cool thing about solo mysteries is that no one knows how did the deed until you have a theory you can prove. The clues are suggested by oracle answers, and they simply do not exist until you look for them. This is the Schrodinger’s Cat of roleplaying. The eventual villain of the piece is both guilty and innocent right up until you check to see for yourself.
I mention this because it comes up a couple of times in the Ashen Stars rules, the subject of railroading in mystery adventures. I can see how it could be a problem. If the GM is supposed to imagine the crime, decide what clues have been left behind and then introduce the characters to the story to solve the mystery. If the body tells you that the assailant was used a kitchen knife, was left handed and shorter than the victim, that is going to lead you to look for a short, left handed chef. If the chef has disappeared but was last seen at the starport talking to a used grav-sled salesman, you are going to go to the starport… This turn into a railroad pretty quickly.
Solo playing the same mystery, it is all improvisation. Ask the oracle if the victim was stabbed and maybe they were, maybe their weren’t. Where you look for clues is where they will be found, and the evidence you look for will play to your characters strengths. Who did it and why will come from your own inspiration and imagination. Kal Yang’s ‘simple’ suspicious death became politically motivated really quickly. His main investigative strengths were interrogations, and that is where he found the inconsistencies in stories and from that he built his case.
If I had build a character that was a forensic expert then the case could have been very different.
Solo Laser uses a word track for improvisation prompts. You roll a d6 and count that many words along the track, roll again, count and add the new word to first and you have a pair to inspire you.
I don’t know if you can read it but the first word that I rolled was ‘foul play’, that was was joined with ‘Mystery’. Later ‘Lunar’ joined it. That gives you a immediate idea of where this case started.
Later on I rolled Utopia, which is how the old order (that collapsed 7 years ago) was referred and restoration of that order is Kal Yang’s goal in life. That was followed by ‘Kidnapping’.
The word track carries on from page to page, and as long as you don’t scrub out the words as you use them it can be used again and again. The words were chosen to reflect the space opera genre and the mystery/investigative gameplay.
Easy as Gumshoe
Solo playing Ashen Stars will never have you roll more than a single d6. That is the core mechanic of Gumshoe. One die, one roll, 4+ for success.
For an oracle and random inspiration it doesn’t give you much to play with. The oracle was simple enough. When I was playing just for myself, I used 1-3 No, 4-6 yes. This book is a little more refined than that but in principle that is really the core of it.
You can see how the inspiration track works, that took a bit of building to get the right vocabulary.
All the rest is about how to apply specifics from the core rules to a solo character.
This is a wonderful little game.