So you may well know that I’m into solo tabletop roleplaying, just a bit. Well, this has allowed me to play a variety of different tabletop games in this manner, some that were designed specifically with solo play in mind, and many that were not. Well, that has lead me to form an opinion regarding this hobby, which I think the greater solo roleplaying community might find a bit… controversial…
I’m not a fan of solo tabletop roleplaying games.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love solo roleplaying. What bothers me is comparing games specifically written for solo roleplaying (“Seekers Beyond the Shroud”, etc), to regular tabletop RPGs. I’m just not into them.
That doesn’t mean I won’t play solo-centric TTRPGs, mind you. I would just prefer to play a regular TTRPG, with a separate GameMaster Emulator system.
Recently, I played some “Ironsworn”, a rather popular low-fantasy RPG, that can be played solo, GM-less, or as a regular TTRPG. That is one fine game, and I had a lot of fun with it, to be honest. But the entire time I was playing it, I was missing my favorite GM emulator, “The GameMaster’s Apprentice”.
Now I am playing “Stars Without Number” soon, and I am looking forward to it immensely. This is a sci-fi TTRPG, which is rooted in the “Old School Revival”-style, and intended for standard play (what is called ‘Guided Play’ in “Ironsworn”). I will also be using the Sci-Fi version of GMA as my Oracle system with SWN. There are other oracle systems designed for use with SWN, but I prefer GMA, or possibly Mythic, instead.
Why? They just work.
I’m not saying that solo RPGs like “Ironsworn” don’t work, far from it. In fact, I’m looking forward to the sci-fi version of this game, “Starforged”. But if you had to ask me “Would you prefer to play… well… most any standard TTRPG with a GM emulator, or a solo TTRPG in the same genre?”, the answer is clear:
I’m playing the standard game, 9 times out of 10.
Look, I’m not trying to say GMA or Mythic are better than the oracles in regular, solo tabletop rpgs… but I’m saying in my experience, GMA and Mythic when used with a regular RPG, are way more fun.
It comes to this: Many solo TTRPGs are designed well, but they are too focused on being a great solo RPG, as opposed to a great TTRPG that can be played solo. The distinction may seem minor, but it makes a difference. Comparatively, when you look at a standard TTRPG, they can focus solely on being a great RPG, and nothing else.
Looking at “Stars Without Number”, for example, it is just a great game, period. When I play it, I can just focus on the system therein, and let “GameMaster’s Apprentice” take care of answering the questions you might have for the GameMaster in a normal game. Those cards also help lead the story with various clues and prompts.
Yes, you get those prompts and whatnot in many solo TTRPGs, too. They just work better in a separate GM emulator, most of the time. Not always, mind you, but more often than not.
To be fair, there are indeed some regular TTRPGs that simply don’t work well for solo play, GM emulator or not. For example, games that are specifically focused on interpersonal social interactions between multiple players. “Urban Shadows”, for example, would fit that description.
I’m still going to give that game a go in solo play, eventually. But it won’t be easy, and a solo TTRPG would probably be a better option. Probably. Maybe. Not sure about that, though.
I hear a lot of voices in my head, they can cover the other characters in the group!
Anyway, there are few solo TTRPGs that really focus on being great games first, and fun solo games second. With that in mind, why would I bother with solo-focused games, when I have so many other TTRPGs that work fine with a GM emulator system? I know many people complain that trying to play regular TTRPGs solo is too hard, but if you find a GM emulator that works for you, well, you can make any TTRPG play well in that manner.
Seriously, and honestly, I don’t really care if that is an unpopular opinion, because in the end I am having fun. That’s all that matters, right?