Reflections on a year-plus of Solo Roleplaying

You haven’t heard it yet, but I’ve been playing a lot of solo tabletop roleplaying, and recording it for the Actual-Play podcast, “Ronin Roleplaying”. In fact, you can hear said podcast right here on this website! But as I said, you haven’t really heard what I’ve done so far… not really.

“Ronin Roleplaying” has been coming out only for a few weeks so far, but I’ve been playing and recording this show for quite some time. So much so that I have the podcast recorded all the way through December 2021. That doesn’t make me any sort of expert in solo roleplaying, but I’d like to think I have gained some experience, and as such, have a few things to say and worth hearing on the subject.

In short: Sit down, newb, and listen!

First things first, if you are into tabletop roleplaying, and you have never tried solo rp, then you haven’t roleplayed. Seriously. You are doing yourself a great disservice by not stretching yourself through solo play. It helps build your imagination, and teaches you a lot about how to be a better GameMaster, all while keeping you safe from the ‘Rona!

Next, I’d like to talk a bit about rules, in solo roleplaying. Rules, quite simply, are for chumps! While I’m all for trying to remain within the rules framework of a given system, don’t feel like you have to be married to it. When playing a game without a built-in Oracle system (which is to say, a normal game, not built for solo play), I use the game I’m playing for the core rolls and such, but if things are bogging down or not ‘fun’, I will focus more on my Oracle to break the slog. Currently, I’m using the various themed decks of the GameMaster’s Apprentice as my Oracle of choice with such games, and it works great to keep things snappy.

NOTE: The link above for GMA is to the base deck. You can use that for any game, or pick up one of the theme-specific decks you’ll find further down the page on its DriveThruRPG page.

Anyway, I got distracted by shiny cards, my apologies. The point I was trying to make is this: Don’t focus too much on the rules of whatever game you are playing. Remember, you are playing a game that is most likely designed for group play, in a solo manner. If you aren’t playing multiple characters at the same time, basically solo playing a group, you will likely need to homebrew the hell out of things, especially combat.

Unless you like dying and rolling new characters all the time, that is.

Also, don’t be discouraged if you have issues or difficulties while learning how to solo play. It happens… Gawd knows it happens! You’ll listen to a lot of my struggles with solo play, on “Ronin Roleplaying”, in the months to come. But you can’t let it get you down, because these things happen.

Solo roleplaying is hard. It takes some getting used to, and you will lose a lot of characters, as you get your feet under you. But just keep plugging away at it, and things will get better!

Furthermore, not all roleplaying games are equal. Which is to say, some are better suited for solo play than others. By this I mean standard TTRPGs, not ones designed with solo play in mind, such as “Ironsworn”.

Now what do I mean by this? Simply this: Some games are a hoot to play solo, even if your characters are dying like flies, while other games are a soul-wrenching disaster! Games like “Feng Shui 2”, “Mythos World”, and “Dresden Files Accelerated” are among the former, and were a huge amount of fun to play solo! Meanwhile, “Rifts” and “The Witcher” were… not as much fun. They weren’t horrible, just not really suited for solo play.

The reason I mention this is that the game you choose to try out solo, might just end up sucking on ice for that purpose. Not all RPGs are made equal, and not all really work that well solo. That’s why I said earlier that you shouldn’t focus too hard on the game rules, especially when they are slogging down play.

The idea is to have fun, right? So just roll with whatever inspiration your Oracle gives you, and roll with it!

Of course, solo play might not be for everyone. This is by design a social hobby, after all, and some people just won’t enjoy roleplaying by themselves. In that case, maybe try playing a cooperative roleplaying session, where you use an Oracle such as GMA to take the role of a GameMaster, while you and your friends play together. The aforementioned “Ironsworn” is among the games designed for solo, cooperative, and standard roleplaying, but you can adapt any game to solo or cooperative play.

The point is, to just have fun. Right now, it’s pretty damn hard to roleplaying as we once did, in the classic sense (a bunch of geeks around a table, rolling dice and eating pizza). Solo play makes this so much easier, and I highly recommend it, if you are dying to roleplay again. That said, cooperative play is also fun, if you have a small group but no GM, or One-on-One play, if you have a GM, and only one other person available to play.

Anyway, that’s about it. Listen to “Ronin Roleplaying” podcast.

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