Solo Deep Dives

I have wanted to get back into blogging for a while but have just been starved for time so it never happened. When I send out my weekly emails they often contain just the barest hint of the ideas that are floating around my head, but I lacked the time to really expand on them.

The DTRPG email system is particularly bad for this as you cannot easily link out to great resources or even to your sources. My blog emails are better, I can use more rich media and I can link to anything I like.

There is nothing like a blog post for having the space to get an idea out of your head.

One of these ideas is that of the deep dive. What I mean by this is taking one specific idea from a game system and basing an entire solo game around that one thing. These rarely work for group games as you are more than likely going to alienate most of the players as the game zeroes in on something that one character does well.

I think I was playing Warlock!* when I played my first adventure entirely within my wizard master’s tower. In the game you have to find spells and I created a particularly unpleasant master, and leaving was my motivation for going out adventuring. That first adventure was about trying to take what my character felt they were owed for all the crap they had put up with and what they should have been taught.

When a game is broad and often class/profession-based, I often find myself doing this. If I am playing a Stainless Steel Rat type character, I am unlikely to build an adventure that is all spaceship combat and powered armour. I want my character to stand a decent chance at surviving so the adventures are more likely to play to their strengths.

In a group game I was involved in the GM asked everyone to create a healer. The game system had multiple types of healing profession each with different strengths and weaknesses. The campaign then started with a mission to get to a city racked by plague and help the victims. In the first encounter, our armed bodyguards were near wiped out and we were on our own. Fighting was not our strong point, but we were a tough bunch to kill.

In most of my solo games, I have two characters. I play my main PC as the central character, the star of the show, and I have a sidekick who is mostly controlled by the oracle. Sometimes, in modern settings, I go for three characters, the lead, a sidekick, and someone back at base that only exists on comms. If you are a runner, you may have used the Zombies, Run! fitness app. I took the idea of the comms character from that app.

When I get to three characters, you start getting into a rounded party, often falling into the warrior, thief, mage cliche. Now the highly specific adventure is not such a natural choice. But what if you deep dive into a different aspect of the game? I came across Caliya’s Chronicle of Runes: A Runic Expansion for D&D 5e Kickstarter. This is the kind of thing that you can build an entire solo game around. It doesn’t matter what classes in D&D you are playing; you can weave runes, in this case, into the game.

I am 99% certain that I have got similar specialised supplements both for 5e and other systems, GURPS is the obvious one that comes to mind, there is a supplement for everything in GURPS. Outside of those two systems it gets a bit sketchier. Rolemaster was a good system for very detailed supplements with its various ‘Law’ books.

This kind of deep delving in a group game would mean the GM going tons of additional prep to work the subject matter into almost every facet of the game, replacing existing lore with the new, and updating NPCs or foes to make use of the new subject matter.

In a solo game, as long as you consider the GM side to still be ‘play’, you can stop playing your character and put on the GM hat at any moment and dig into your source books. Injecting the elements that you want to highlight doesn’t have to be done before you start the solo game, it can be done incrementally as and when you create new elements in your game.

I haven’t had as much chance to play recently, compared to how I normally have two or three games on the go at once. Last week I made a mouse for Mausritter but since then I have barely played more than a scene or two. What I have done is inject bits of Shetland lore and dialect into those few scenes. Mouse settlements are not tree stumps because shetland has almost no trees, and this sort of thing. There is a really cool Shetland<>English online dictionary so I can put zettish phrases into the mouths of characters. This is yet another thing that I simply couldn’t do with a group. My players will do a lot, but learning a different language to play in character is probably a step too far.

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