So, it turns out that the Scavenging mechanics in Apocthulhu were just crying out to be turning into a basic oracle. The everyday gear has been rated from abundant to impossible to find, and graded from pristine to junk.
The different levels of availability, abundant, uncommon, hard to find etc., fit nicely into the idea of likelihood. Abundant becomes very likely, Impossible to find become the other extreme. The gear is pristine, through heavily worn to junk. Those become your ‘yes, and…’ to ‘no’ answers.
It is a pretty simple matrix that can use the games mechanics of critical successes, and failures, the sub 20% roll and normal success and failure.
Playing out a Yes-No Answer
I like a tidy yes-no oracle because I use them for a lot more than just questions about your scene or world. If I ask an NPC to run back to the truck to try and find a working battery, I can decide just how sensible that NPC is. Then I ask the question, do they go straight there? On any oracle roll there is always the chance of getting an answer that doesn’t pan out too well for your character.
Does billy go straight to the truck? Roll, oops, no he doesn’t.
Do I hear anything that may tell me that Billy has gone astray? Roll Alertness, fail…
There is always a chance that Billy managed to find a better option, maybe Billy saw a display of batteries in a store? You can roll for that as well, Roll, 00 critical fail. Whatever happened to Billy is out of my hands, but probably isn’t good.
All of this leaves me hunkered down with a potentially working radio, but no batteries. How long do I wait? Do I try and find Billy? Or is it every Survivor for themselves?
The oracle and the scavenging rules are pretty much unified, it doesn’t matter if I accidentally ask, can I find any electronics in this pile of junk? The chance is pretty much the same. If I was good at scavenging then a skill test would be the better option. If I just accidentally conflate the question and the skill it is not going to give me any real advantage.
At the moment I am playing through the scenario Amber Waves in the Quickstart. The party started out as myself, I am playing the pregen Francis “Phranque” Judson, with Joby the Dog as my sidekick. Joby is entirely controlled by yes-no question rolls. Billy was a former student and an addition to the party of Survivors.
A Relay Not A Mob
I have never enjoyed trying to control an entire party at once. When I do that, I find that no one has a personality. That then defeats the whole point of roleplaying.
What I am doing is picking the character that has the spotlight, and putting myself in their shoes. Everyone else is controlled by a conbination of what I know about them from the game so far, and the yes-no mechanic to see of they behave true to type.
Whenever the group is together I use Phranque as my character.
When someone else is the lead in a scene, I play that character as my sole character and everyone else, including Phranque is controlled via yes-no rolls.
This gives me an autonomous group of individuals, that generally work well together, but are not just playing pieces on a board. I am always in the driving seat, and the star of the scene. As long as one of my Survivors lives up to the title then the game carries on.
In effect I am playing the adventure as a relay, passing the baton from character to character as the game dictates.
This makes the solo game quite robust. If the party is getting a bit thin on the ground, you can always recruit another survivor into the party. There is no need to start fiddling numbers to balance encounters for just one Survivor. The rules just work as there is a party on hand.
When I do get into a firefight, it is better to play out a number of sequential individual fights, than trying to play everyone at once. I would try and play just three rounds of each Survivor, and then take stock of the situation.
I had high hopes for Apocthulhu as an easy system to solo play, and so far this is bearing out. The mechanics are simple enough. Being post-apocalypse makes it much easier to roll the unnatural into the game without feeling like I am giving the secrets away.
So far, so good.