Investigative adventures are one of my favourite genres for solo play. If you look at what I have been playing this summer (and put out solo rules for) you get:
The consistent thread is all about investigation. Hack and Slash is all very well, but is probably better with friends.
Solo roleplaying excels at intricate and convoluted investigations, where no one knows who did it until the last second. Even then the Oracle could prove the prime suspect innocent.
Three of those five are Cthulhu themed. I did my Cthulhu/Lovecraft challenge with the aim to play and write three solo supplements in three weeks. I did it in 17 days. It was slightly easier to do than I expected because although the game mechanics changed from game to game, the subject matter remained relatively constant. Once you had your Cthulhu head on, all the rest is play style.
Of those three each represented different challenges. Dark Streets and Darker Secrets was the first. It was a new game to me and it took the longest. I had to learn the game, get into playing it, and then start to refine my solo tools down to work nicely with the game.
Eldritch Tales, I already know and play Whitebox stuff. White Star was the basis for my Navigator RPG sci fi game. Eldritch Tales is, in my opinion, the best Whitebox game ever produced. Writing the solo rules was pretty easy because I already knew the rules, I was into the flow of the mythos element and it was just a case of putting it together in a coherent way. The cornerstone is using Feat rolls as the central mechanic.
Call of Cthulhu. This was interesting and I approached it with some trepidation. The thing is that there are already popular solo rules for CoC. The Solo Investigators Handbook is a heavy weight 95 page PDF full of tables for everything. What I wanted to do is offer something different, cater for a different audience. My solo rules, are virtually tableless. I do provide them as a back up, some people like tables, but you don’t need them. In their place it uses elements on the character sheet, real world influences and techniques like word association. Any player will be able to come up with more options than even the biggest random table, and that is what I am relying on.
This summer I have been investigating using more cards for controlling outside influences. This has been inspired by one of the grandfathers of solo play Donald Featherstone in his solo wargaming book, circa 1973. He used a combination of d6s, individual cards to present elements in play and decks of cards. He influence was the game of Monopoly and he saw the Chance cards as a solo oracle.
I have updated his bits of card and empty matchboxes, making them post-it notes. I don’t think d10s and d12s were in common circulation in rural Scotland in 1970. Today you don’t even need the dice, an app will roll them for you. The d12 is a much under used dice. It rolls nicely, has plenty of options and no bell curve, but that is beside the point.
Today, we have more options than those pioneers of solo play, and solo play has never been more popular.
Where the cards come into play is not with questions and answers, they play with your characters fate. Things that are outside your control. We don’t want to play in worlds where nothing moves or changes unless you are there to provoke the change. That is a static world. We want worlds where events can pick us up and sweep us along, especially if we have taken too long to solve the case or thwart the villains.
Tales From The Loop has this kind of mechanism built in. every location or scene has a retribution countdown element to it. By design it is there to guide the GM in how the forces at play will react to the kids investigations and meddling. My solo rules I am playing hook into these and make them part of the solo system. If you start messing with mad scientists someone may well go straight to jail, not pass go and not collect $200. But that is the chance you take.
Solo Rules for Tales From The Loop