TL;DR version: How to create fulfilling storylines through mindless violence.
So, I’ve been tabletop roleplaying for well over 40 years now, and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. While I’m not actively in a gaming group right now, due to… waves arms around in the air… Everything… I am doing a lot in the way of solo roleplaying.
Stop laughing, I’m serious. Despite the common perception, solo tabletop roleplaying can be a lot of fun, and can definitely scratch that itch, if you know what I mean. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The really big problem when solo roleplaying isn’t so much having a good experience, it is more a issue with crafting good stories.
Solo roleplaying often involves using a lot – and I mean a LOT – of random tables and related tools. These “Oracles” help take the place of the GameMaster in your game, to some degree anyway, leaving the Player freed up to spend more time focusing on their character, rather than trying to balance between both roles at the same time. But an Oracle is not a true GameMaster, obviously, and as such, your game can end up just a bit too random to be satisfying.
That’s where the mindless violence comes in.
Solo roleplaying can be hard – trust me, I know. But one can make the game run a heck of a lot smoother, with the proper exercise of Murderhoboism. Simply put, you allow the Oracles to be your guide by taking the NPC factor out of the game almost entirely… Mostly by killing them with extreme prejudice…
Seriously, though, a huge problem with solo roleplaying is that the Player has to portray every role in the game, their character, as well as every Non-Player Character (NPC). Normally the GM would run the NPCs, but since we’ve established that the GM is being replaced with random tables and the like, that won’t fly here.
In my experience, when a solo roleplayer tries to involve a lot of active NPCs in their game, the game tends to devolve down into said player doing little more than talking to themselves, and that isn’t a whole lot of fun. Plus, people tend to look at you funny when you do this in your Friendly Local Game Store.
So, what to do?
Well, I like to treat every NPC in my games not as a truly fleshed out character, but as a victim waiting to be slaughtered. Now I know that sounds weird, but hear me out on this. If you keep your mindset completely in the First Person, focusing solely on your Player Character and how they react to those around them, you spend less time needing to interact with NPCs like Shopkeepers, Bandits, and other NPCs.
Instead, you simply decide what you would say to them, and don’t worry about trying to roleplay how the NPC would react in kind. You just let the Oracle decide, be it through a random roll, draw of a card, or whatever, and move on. No fuss, no muss… and much less blood on the carpets, when you get frustrated by trying to roleplay every semi-intelligent character in your game!
More than that, though, I have started trying to minimize my character’s interactions with Squishies… What I like to call townsfolk, and other NPCs you normally don’t kill… as a general rule. Dungeon crawls are great for this sort of game, since you can quickly gloss over the ‘pre-game’ (getting the quest, gearing up in town, etc), then get right into the adventure. In most cases, you can have a lot of fun doing this, while basically just slicing/dicing your way through the game, like a true Murderhobo.
Kill. Loot. Repeat.
Now I know, this may not seem all that satisfying to “True Roleplayers”, those who really want to spend their time delving into the story, and really interacting with each and every NPC the GM presents to them. But since Solo Roleplaying doesn’t have a GM you can interact with, outside of yourself, that simply won’t work in the long term. Then again, those of you who prefer that style of play can still enjoy it… You just need at least two players total to do it – Yourself and a GM.
Meanwhile, those of us who are just looking to have a good time with tabletop roleplaying, but for one reason or another need to do this on our own, have to make do with what we have. This means we have to think outside of the box, and make some choices that might cause a “True Roleplayer” to turn up their nose in disgust.
It means we might just make do without interacting with every NPC we see, and instead stab them in the gut and take all of their stuff, instead.