#RPGaDay2020 Day 1 – Beginning

OK, so I forgot to do yesterday’s blog post! Oops.

I am going to do this years RPGaDay from a solo point of view. I think it helps highlight the differences and strengths of this aspect of the hobby.

I am going to take Beginning at meaning the start of a game.

I like to start a game at a moment of high drama. I see the start of a solo adventure as more akin to the opening of a blockbuster movie, or a great action novel.

The idea of the party having to meet in a tavern and get to know each other is simply not relevant to a solo game. I started a game of Dark Streets & Darker Secrets this week and the opening scene has the crowd stampeding from an airport arrivals lounge as a werewolf lays waste around it. My character is trying to escape from some shady figures who are doing the whole “take a look at this photo, do you know this man?” bit as as I stumbled out of the bar, I am confronted with a wave of panicking people. This is an opening scene with trouble in front and trouble behind, what are your gonna do?

This is almost sink or swim, do or die.

Getting started

On a different tack I recieved these tweets at the weekend.

I told Eric that would give it some thought and blog about it. Here it is.

I think my number one piece of advice is purely practical. Try and limit yourself to something physically restraining. I use post-it notes, other people use index cards. The small form factor means that you really have to just use the distilled essence of the idea.

If you are travelling from A to B, what are the most quintessential things you could encounter? Is there an iconic view? A Colossus of Rhodes? Are essence storms a thing in this world or tempests of wild magic? Are flocks of Harpies a scourge that blights the land? If they are, then play out a couple of scenes or vignettes where these things exist. Do you get to play good samaritan after the harpies destroy a trade caravan? Are you forced off the road by a column of arrogant knights? You can have a myriad of little details that create the impression of a very detailed world without having to detail ever mile of the journey, or every village.

I played Zweihander solo for nearly a six months. My setting was a fantasy version of St Petersburg. In all that time I only detailed a triangle of streets from the dockside, to an abandoned tavern that served as my squat, to a mercantile street and back to the docks. I had numerous encounters in dirty alleyways and taverns. I had run ins with the law and met a maid attached to a lady at the Tzar’s court. The entire city never expanded beyond half a dozen post-it notes.

The thing is that you can start play, and when you get a moment when you may not have time to play more than a single scene, you could spend that time just creating a few more details for this area or that.

Solo play, can verge on the solitary pleasures of the miniature painter or terrain builder. You can spend bits of quiet time just expanding your solo setting, just because you can. As you play you may think, I want to explore this in more detail. Then you can do it, but it doesn’t prevent you from getting started, it is building on and expanding the world you are playing in.

There is no wrong

Here is another big idea. No one is going to tell you you are doing it wrong. One of the people who got me into solo play once said, it can feel like you are playing a game, about playing a game, and that is fine. And it is fine. If you are enjoying it then great. If you are putting off starting your solo game because you are afraid you will do it wrong, there is no wrong.

On one of the solo discord servers some one recently said that they were struggling with the actual solo role play aspect, the solo game mechanics were not a problem. It was the social interaction that they struggled with. The advice they got was to play a dungeon crawl for a while as there was very little social interaction in a dungeon crawl.

That is not the advice I would have given.

I would suggest to imagine you are looking at your character from 15′-20′ away. The directors view looking at their actors. Now imagine these actors playing their scene. Possibly you cannot even hear the words they say. Let’s say that you need to get past a gate guard to pass on important news for the lords ears only, just the thing is that you have absolutely no authority.

Now what does the guards body language say? What is his posture? Just looking at your character are they making themselves look big and important or are they arm waving and trying to tell their tale and impress the guard with the importance of their mission? Is the guard impressed? This third person view, often without the words is a great way of seeing the social interactions. It works really well with skills based games where a single die roll gives success or failure. That die roll may be expressed as a guard using his spear to bar the way, maybe calling a colleague to block you or escort you away. It is actions speaking louder than words.

Once you can do this third person-wise, you may be happier moving the camera closer until you can put words in the characters voices.

This is how I would get someone started with the actual roleplaying in solo roleplaying.

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