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#RPGaDAY2020 Day 12 Message

Day 8 Shade.

Dilemma, dilemma, normally I would share my weekly YouTube video. But, I am also doing the RPGaDay challenge and that says that today is “Message” day.

I am going to do the classic switch sell, and tell you that the important thing about the video is the message that it conveys.

The weak point in my argument is of course that I wanted to do the month entirely solo based.

Actually, solo gets a lot of mentions in the video, so maybe this isn’t so out of line.

Today’s video is all about having to start that marketing effort from zero all over again. I also share some of the analytics for my YouTube channel.

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#RPGaDAY2020 Day 11 Stack

Day 8 Shade.

It is possibly my programming background, but when I saw stack, I thought Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP.

I haven’t actually done any programming worth mentioning for a couple of years now. The last thing I made was an Android App.

You will not be surprised when I tell you that it was a solo play app.

This app has an interesting history. During the great G+ exodus, many solo fans moved to mewe. That was one of those myriad of minor social networks that tried to step into the gap.

It is a quite a good network and picked up enough users in the RPG circles. Enough to make the communities viable.

In one of the solo groups someone asked about apps, and I wanted to learn a bit about Java. The end result was this solo app.

Roll the clock on a bit, and I started to look at Itch.io. I wanted to diversify away from DriveThruRPG. I don’t like the idea of being 100% dependent on a single website. I have some products on Amazon, one on Lulu and I am starting to work up a presence on Itch.

In the new year I will go full steam ahead on Itch.io. Part of my learning process was putting some products on there to find out how the platform works.

Solo Engine with Dungeon Crawler is my solo play app. It uses the Itch.io version of Pay What You Want, or Name Your Own Price.

Technically, this is another programming stack. The app on top of Java on top of Android.

More than that, it means you can solo play anywhere at any time. No need for dice, apart from the dice you need for the game itself. These days I find myself using a dice roller more often than real dice.

This solo engine, doesn’t use dice, it doesn’t access anything on your phone, no data, no permissions. It is a light touch answer.

If you cannot use something that is unified with with your game, this is my best alternative to Mythic. In the same way that Mythic is a ‘thing’. Half the time the Mythic GME is the bigger name than the indie games it is used to solo.

I will point out that this does NOT use mythic mechanics. It is descended from Karl Henricks One Page Solo, and that is descended from Donald Featherstone’s solo wargaming cards and d6 systems.

I think I have written about Donald Featherstone a few times during this RPGaDAY. During the pandemic there has been a bit of a surge in interest in solo play. Something that I have heard repeatedly is “Solo, oh that means Mythic” or words to that effect. The thing is that solo is so much more than Mythic, it does back even before that game was written.

Solo Wargaming was published in 1973 but the rules are older than the book.

I also like the connection through time, from the physical tabletop battles fought in the 1960s to smart phones and apps implementing the same dice and cards fifty or sixty years later.

So this is my stack, layers and layers of evolution between 1973 to today.

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#RPGaDAY2020 Day 10 Want

Day 8 Shade.

Want is an interesting idea for a soloist. We can do pretty much what we want, when we want.

One trend I have noticed is that I tend to buy mainly core rulebooks, and not a read mass of supplements.

I mean, I could if I wanted but with the sandbox campaign style it doesn’t lend itself to running modules.

Bestiaries are something else I don’t think I have bought in a while. Now, a typical core book has more beasties and monsters than I could ever use.

This weekend I ran an adventure module, or investigation, for Eldritch Tales. It was interesting to play an adventure that was ready constructed, but it is also additional work to prep it for solo play.

Was it better than my solo investigations around London? I don’t think it was. My solo investigation was based in London, I picked locations I knew, roads I was familiar with. The pre-written adventure had me going to Canada or several locations that I had never visited or had little experience of.

Sure I can imagine places I have never been to. I have never been down Moria, or to Mars.

There is something special about being able to place these modern day, or near modern day, adventures in places you can more than imagine, places you really see, and know.

I don’t get to go to London very often, but the Thames and Embankment are places I know and like. I can place a character at a restaurant. I can chase them down streets I can picture. As you head down the thames, there are buildings that are two hundred years old, or older. As you head down the river you will reach the Greenwich Observatory, that is a truly iconic building worthy of almost any urban fantasy, it is also the perfect place to visualise a duel!

There are places used by pirates, hanging judges and smugglers.

Going in a different genred directly, the Thames is spanned by bridges from the London Bridge, to the ultra modern millenium bridge and cable cars, and flanked by the millenium dome.

This is not meant to be a travelogue of London, but just to highlight how I like to use a real place and weave it into my solo stories. It doesn’t have to be London. I grew up in the shadow of an Iron Age fort, the landscape was crossed by Roman roads, and if you have read the Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwall, there is a battle at a place called Cannington (there was a gold altar involved), that is where I went to college. This part of the joy of growing up in a coastal region, historically there was lots of raiding and invading going on if you were within easy reach of the coast.

I suspect that this is part of the success of Call of Cthulhu. It is a part of American culture. America doesn’t really have that eurocentric medieval past to draw upon, but it has plenty of myth and magic of its own.

Luckily for me, that Lovecraftian horror was gobe spanning.

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#RPGaDAY2020 Day 9 Light

Day 8 Shade.

Today is day 10 of my Lovecraftian Challenge. Having written for and played Dark Streets & Darker Secrets, Eldritch Tales and starting today the Big One, Call of Cthuhlu, Light is not really featured greatly in my gaming recently.

Strictly speaking, that isn’t true, there has been a great deal of blasphemous, undulating green light, shafts of half light casting grey shadows, shadows that hide unspeakable horrors.

Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel, is the oncoming train.

Taking on a game like Call of Cthulhu is no small task. It is a big game, detailed, and has a long history. I also need to be able to offer something that the other solo toolbox for Call of Cthulhu doesn’t. You can check out The Solo Investigator’s Handbook in the Miskatonic Library.

The Handbook is 95 pages of PDF and provides a lot of content.

Taken from DriveThruRPG

Everything I do tends towards the rules light and tries to fit in with the dice philosophy of the game. I am looking at the top four entry and I can imagine those 200 hooks and rumors being a set of d100 tables, 2% each entry gives you those 50 entries.

In the Eldritch Tales solo rules, which are d6 based, I had a simple table complete the same function.

The Eldritch Tales solo rules.

It may look extremely simplistic, but 6 x 6 x 6 gives 216 combinations. If I go down this same route, d10 x d10 x d10 would be a 1000 possibility table.

The next section is the spooky stuff I am not going to try and touch. It has been much better by other people. Take a look at this section of Azukail Games books. While you are at it, look at those prices. For under $2 you can get hundreds of spooky prompts.

The last four sound like a version of the Mythic GME. The oracle, its Chaos factor and Improv. prompts.

I can see why the Mythic engine would appear to fit here, both are naturally d100 systems.

Most of my solo material is not derived from the Mythic GME. I am a fan of Donald Featherstone’s solo wargaming. He in turn was inspired by Monopoly of all things. What inspired Donald Featherstone was the Chance deck in the Monopoly game. How a simple random card could swing a person’s fate one way or another but using the context and flavour of the setting.

Featherstone rules use a single suit at a time to give 13 options and a countdown mechanic, where an ace can be either exceptionally good news or bad. Because these rules were written back in 1973, you won’t find a lot of dragon dice. I think he only had d6s.

Would it be terrible if I said I was trying to shed some light on how I am going to approach this? (Was that too cringy?)

If I am going to get these CoC rules written, I have 11 days to do it. That is not a lot of time, but don’t be surprised to see the Featherstone card mechanic appear in there somewhere, and maybe a 10 x 10 x 10 table to give you a thousand options.

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#RPGaDAY2020 Day 8 Shade

Day 8 Shade.

What does Shade mean in a solo context? That is an interesting one.

When I think of light and shade in RPGs I think of in terms of good vs evil, lightside vs darkside, and that is where the shades of grey come in.

Now, in a regular game when a player wants to play one of those edgy loners it can destroy a group. The edgy loner is by definition, not a team player.

So is there a place for the edgy loner?

Yes, the solo game is a place where you can play that loner. The oracle makes no distinction between good and evil, villains and vigilantes, heroes and not so heroic figures.

Shades of Grey

If you have that desire to play a character that is not a team player, the solo environment is a great medium for expressing it. Recently I have been dabbling with some more Tarantino/Frank Millar styles. These are both influences that tend to avoid the out and out heroic figure. Combining this with the dark subject matter of the Lovecraftian subject matter and there is great potential for ends justifies the means roleplaying.

My preference still for real heroes, but where the shades of grey come in is the bit part characters I have been jumping into. One was a sorceress responsible for a massacre at an airport, escaping the scene of her crime, another was a petty thief who met a casual and meaningless death. In my case the less than heroic supporting cast simply gives contrast to my own primary character.

When to be evil

If you put your GM hat on and really play your villains to their best potential, the player characters would not stand a chance. The main reason for this is that the villains have years to prepare their plans, years during which they are often ignored and left unhindered. No villain is going to just assume that no one will oppose them, that is non-sensical.

As soon as villains start to take precautions, that is when things get tough. This is the very reason why in the James Bond movies the villain has to capture Bond, bring him into their lair and explain their plans. If they didn’t, they would be very short movies. Villain captures Bond, has him shot, roll credits.

When we play the villain, we end up having to pull them back from their true potential, just to give the characters a chance.

When I encounter a villain in a solo game, I do not pull punches. I let the villain wield the full potential and if they win, it doesn’t matter.

Finding a game to join for a soloist is not a problem, the issue of reintroducing a character to an existing party doesn’t matter, even starting an entirely new adventure to explore another avenue doesn’t matter. Losing to the villains make the victories so much better. The mission or quest may be a failure, but the game can be a huge success. Is the boy from a small town likely to rise up and defeat the demon backed necromancer? Hell no! Can you have fun trying? Of course you can.

Coming back to shades, if you have the urge to bring a loner character to a gaming group, I seriously ask you to consider trying to solo play the character instead. Loners are by definition, not good group characters. They do not add to the enjoyment of the rest of the group, believe me.

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