A number of people (that number being 0) have asked me why I play role-playing games by myself. They are a social activity! Something to do with friends!
Yes, you’re right. They are. But, they are more than that. They are a way to engage the imagination. Playing alone lets you:
- Occupy a setting or play a game that you love anytime you want.
- It lets you explore a character you’re already playing to a deeper level.
- It lets you practice roleplaying and applying the game rules to the action.
I began looking for ways to play role-playing games by myself when I started getting interested in playing games my local friends and gaming group weren’t interested in playing. It’s really hard being super into a brand new game and not being able to play it! Sitting down to create one or more characters for a game like that is something we’ve all done, but is it enough? Does it scratch the horrible itch to play that game? It didn’t for me. The game that started me down this road was Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. I sat down, read the book at least twice, created a few characters and my mind went spinning around my imagination space, ricocheting off the sides with all the one-shot and campaign ideas I had.
So, I created a character, created the situation and went off on an adventure, all by myself. It was a blast. Initially, keeping my mind in both the GM and Player headspaces felt a little weird, but as I began considering actions and responses by both sides in the scenes, I started to have a lot of fun.
The character I created for the Call of Cthulhu game was not a character I had ever played before. He was created specifically for that solo role-playing game. In the past, I’ve written stories about characters that I was playing in a game with my group to get deeper into their head and enjoy them outside of the game. Now, I think that running a solo scene, or a few, with them would be an even better way to enjoy their company and get to know them better.
This is not something I’ve ever actually done, but it wouldn’t be any more difficult that running a solo role-playing game with a character created specifically for it. Obviously, what happens in those solo games can’t affect the character in the group games the character is played in. At least, not without discussing it with your GM and the other players at the table. But, it’s a fantastic way to build more backstory for the character or participate in some side missions that the group chooses to ignore.
Playing a character from a group game in a solo game is also a great way to learn what their different powers do and how the game rules apply to them. Role-playing games have rules that govern how the world works and how it interacts and reacts to the actions the character attempts. That’s one of the things that I love most about them. But, learning and memorizing the rules can be something that we don’t have time for or are loathe to do. Sitting down with your character, the game book and a side scene to play through alone can really help get those rules down, all while having a super fun time exploring your character.
Another benefit of practicing this way is that no one else is waiting on you to look up that rule when you’re not quite sure how it’s worded. It’s just you. You can take as much time as you need to look up the rule, read it two or three times, look up interpretations on the internet, post a rebuttal to someone’s ignorant remark, check your email and Facebook, giggle at that video of your niece pouring apple juice all down her front. Oh, right, you’re playing a game!
Playing solo role-playing games can be fun and add a lot of benefits to help you as a roleplayer and GM get more comfortable with your character, the setting and the rules of the game. It’s a fantastic way to engage in this wonderful hobby without having to battle your group’s busy lives into submission to find just one night a week where everyone has time to game. It’s just you. You, your character sheet, rulebook and dice. And, whatever else you decide you need.
Now go, go play with yourself! (I’ve been waiting through this whole article to make that joke.)
Here are a couple resources that have been very helpful for me while I play solo games:
- Mythic Game Master Emulator
- The GameMaster’s Apprentice Deck
One issue that always seems to kill my solo RPGs is the feeling that I should be writing a story as I go. I get all caught up in how to word certain things that happened in my notes to make it a good read. This leads me to procrastinate since the idea of writing everything down overwhelms me.
The way I do it is to be writing it down as I go along. For me, a solo RPG session is sitting in front of a keyboard with my character sheet, notes and rulebooks by my side. I approach it as if it were a play by post game, with just me playing and GMing.
Another idea is to do it vocally and record everything that happens. That way, you’ve got it down, but not in a written medium, so that might help kill that feeling of being overwhelmed by the need to write it down.