When you are solo playing, do you see your character from outside looking in, or are you the character looking out at the world?
For me, I am a definite fly on the wall, or movie director. I am outside the character.
Is this important? Not really, but it may explain why I struggle with solo games such as Wretched, which often ask questions of the character at a very personal level. A level I frequently don’t reach.
I recently played a lot of Gumshoe using Ashen Stars. I like the game and it makes a big deal about your characters drives or motivation. That I can work with. It makes perfect sense. It is also very cinematic. Event to the point of dealing with A-stories and B-stories. The game plays out just like a high budget sci fi space opera.
Forbidden Lands has that same moment in character creation where you are required to create relationships, but many of the suggestions are physical or at least visual, such as not trusting another character. Distrust I can see as much as feel.
3Deep has this same mechanic. When you create your character you are creating plot hooks in the form of relationships, people that are initially on the periphery of your adventures but could be sucked in at any moment. This is a common device. I think Champions has a disadvantage of Dependent NPC that serves the same purpose.
All of these give me something I can see and work with. In Wretched, asking me how I feel about something, when I have barely started playing, just doesn’t tick any boxes.
Get The Minis Out
I cannot be the only person who is picturing their character from the outside looking in. The whole idea of using minis, or even tokens on a VTT display nudges us towards top down or third person views of the scenes.
I frequently enjoy Play by (forum) Post games. This is a very third person medium. You need to explain your actions to the GM in a way that you can be sure that the GM understands exactly what you meant. PbP is the deepest characterisation format of roleplaying I have ever experienced. You get to really delve down into mannerisms that can betray how your character is feeling, their body language and their use of language.
I played an Android medical orderly once who was positively manic. He never sat still and used to badger people with questions and his theories all the time. In a regular group it would have been easy to be relegated to walking first aid kit or accused of hogging the table. I would never willingly talk over someone when they are trying to share their characters actions. But the GM in this game soon picked up on how my character would behave, and even put words into my mouth for me. He [the android] had a habit of asking people if they were sure and trying to look at their eyes and looking for expanding or contracting blood vessels in the skin, often up close and not respecting personal space.
I had created that behaviour pattern and the GM could build it into other peoples responses, but also into mine. In the descriptions of the scenes he would include the flushing of colour on their faces, or if they drained of colour at bad news. It was a two way street, but all very visual.
Yesterday, I mentioned Mariut, in Petrograd. The poverty and injustice of the city is all expressed through what a character sees. Grim and Perilous often comes across as grey.
I am sure that there are many solo players who are completely inside their characters heads, but I am certainly not one of them. Give me my directors chair any day!