Some reflections on the categories of solo games

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Hi folks!

This is the #SGAM2017 month for the Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ community and I hope to have time to publish an actual play as well, November is a very prolific month for discussion on solo games.
I’ve been thinking about it and I decided to trying to make it clear on the various categories of solo rules.

Of course this is a personal opinion but still based on the analysis of a fair amount of games. This is not a comprehensive treatise on the subject, but only a series of reflections to be discussed.


SOLO RPG: A complete solo rpg system. A rule system that incorporates a solo engine, character generation and tests. This category includes ‘solo friendly’ RPGs that can be also be played with GM+player(s)

Examples: Quill, Bivius, Scarlet Heroes, Four Against Darkness, Untold, Sword of the Skull Takers etc.


SOLO ENGINE: a rule system that allows to play a specific or any RPGs in solo mode, it is not a complete Solo RPG.

Examples: Mythic GME, Miso, Zathrum, Oculus, CRGE, Tiny Solitary Soldiers etc.


SOLO TOOL: Rule systems that add details to a solo game.

Examples: UNE, NSAABH etc.


USEFUL TOOLS: Rules not specifically created for solo rpgs but still useful.

Examples: GM advices, Random generators


Questions:
1) Is an oracle a solo engine?
No it isn’t.

An oracle (tarots for example) can be a solo tool for a solo game, using only an oracle as a solo engine to me is more creative writing that solo roleplaying, an oracle can be considered a solo engine if there is a specific procedure (rules) to use it to run a solo adventure.

2)What if a Solo Engine has no specific oracle?
Still Solo Engines.

For example Perilous Intersections and 9Qs don’t have a specific oracle but suggest to choose between ‘external’ oracles, so to speak.
Are they Solo Engine or Solo Tool? I think that they are solo engines because an oracle is really useful in a solo game but it is not mandatory.

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Solo Wargaming: Battle of Marathon

marathon_battle2

In recent years I have continued to develop my own universal wargame, playable with multiple players and in solo mode. I have not yet chosen a name for the game and I do not think the game can be released in a short time, however the following is the english translation of the first test I did with the latest version of the game.

My Little Home-Brewed Wargame:

Scenario:

  • Historical, Ancient Period, Alpha Test #1
  • The Battle of Marathon (August/September  490 aC)
  • Athenians (AI) vs Achaemenid Persians (AI)

Generals:

  • Athenians: Strategos Miltiades, rank 4
  • Persians, Admiral Datis, rank 1

Armies:

  • Athenians: 9.000 Hoplites, 1000 Hoplite(Plataean Allies), 1000 skirmishers(Plataeans psiloi and freed slaves)
  • Persians, 12000 Sparabara Archers, 6000 Light Infantry, 2000 Light Infantry (Median and Persian guards), 1000 Medium Cavalry (Reserve)

maratona_b
Deployment:
Miltiades is able to deploy troops after the attackers, he concentrates his forces to the wings of the army, the center will have to be defended only by 1000 hoplites of the Athenian tribes Leontis, led by strategos Themistokles (the future hero of Salamis) and by the 1000 hoplites of the tribe Antiochis led by strategos Aristides, behind them only skirmishers of Plataea and the slaves of Athens enrolled with the promise to be left free after the battle. Miltiades is in the right wing of the Greeks. The Persians had to do without much of the cavalry, replaced by light infantry, General Datis stays as usual in the center of the army, the light infantrymen line up on the front lines forming a thin wicker shield wall to protect the huge number of archers behind them.

Phase 1,  Initiative: Athenians
Athenians, with no shooters, should get in contact with enemies quickly to avoid being hit by wave after wave of Persian arrows. They employ the new tactics of ‘hoplitodromos’ (the hoplite run), they run the last few hundred yards before clashing with the enemy light infantry. It works, only a few holpites of the center and the right wing are injured by arrows.
The melee is driven primarily by the hoplites of Cecropis tribes in the Greek left wing, in the center Themistokles men  face the guards of Datis in a fierce clash, the hoplites of Miltiades lead the fight in the right wing.

Phase 2, Initiative: Persians
Perhaps because of the surprising tactics of the Greeks, the Persian archers fail to inflict losses on the enemy this turn, but the army of Datis still takes the initiative and counter effectively on all fronts. The melee continued and the Greeks in the center and the right wing continued to kill enemies, the Athenians are better protected and more easily penetrate the defenses of Persians. Themistokles’ hoplites get the first victory point by destroying the Mysian light infantry unit.

Phase 3,  Initiative: Athenians
On the right wing Persian archers inflict some losses to hoplites of the Acarantis tribe that recede slightly to regroup.
On that side, the troops of Miltiades and Callimachus have no more obstacles to reach the Persian archers and start the massacre, in the opposite wing the Pisidian light infantry is overwhelmed by the Athenians, in the center the Greeks are in the minority and must give ground to the enemy: Saka light infantry and the Median and Persian guards. The guards led by Datis eliminate Themistokles’ hoplites, one point for the Persians.

Phase 4,  Initiative: Athenians
Perhaps encouraged by the reaction of their comrades, the Persian archers unleashed a hell of arrows, focusing on the right wing hoplites and the skirmishers on the center. But the Greeks also reach the archers of the Persian right wing,  starting the melee. The archers of both wings must use their axes and short swords against the Athenian warriors in close combat. Miltiades easily remove the first archer unit (Cilicians). In the center the guards of Datis are facing skirmishers of Plataea and the former slaves, surprisingly the Greeks maintain the position even if the have to recede much, next to them the hoplites of Aristides eliminate the last enemy light infantry unit.

Phase 5, Initiative: Persians
Only the Persian archers in the center can hurl their arrows effectively and manage to rout the last hoplites remained to defend the center of the Greek formation. The score now is four to two in favor of the Athenians. Datis is advised to call the cavalry reserve, the Persians are about to break through the center of the enemy line, but in the Persian left wing, the one closest to the beach, there are only the Carian archers that are going to be overwhelmed.
The cavalry will take some time to get from the back and in the meantime the Greek disintegrates, as expected, the Persian left wing. The guards of Datis have been decimated by the previous fight with the hoplites of Themistokles but they don’t think that the enemy skirmishers they face are coming back, instead of running away they approach from all sides. The right wing hoplites led by Miltiades begin to converge toward the center, the Persian guards flee precipitously.

End of the Battle:
Athenians get 6 victory points against the 2 obtained by the Persians.

Estimated losses by the game rules:

  • Athenians: 500 casualties (192 historically), Aristides and Callimachus PoW (historically Callimachus died and Aristides survived)
  • Persians: 6000 casualties (6400 historically!) And other 6000 sold to slavery (no historical data), Datis KiA (historically his fate is not clear, for some he died in the battle to others he survived)

Rules Analysys:
the rules have worked pretty well ! Even the losses were strikingly similar to those estimated as realistic for this battle.
If you want to get more information about the battle you can read the Wikipedia version hereLast note: with regard to the disposition of the troops I followed a different theory with armies parallel to the coast.

 

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Ashrozz and Zychell the Blessed

Today I make two characters for Tunnels & Dragons:
Let’s start with the Stats Procedure, as a tribute to OSR games I’ll use a multiple B.R.O. to determine the Stats:
1 d20 for Kinship, 1d12 for Class, 1d10 for Career, 1d8 for Background and 1d6 for Advantage. I decide to block the Background Option to create a link between PCs, I choose Prospector, therefore no need for the d8.

Stats Procedure:

  1. Kinship: A) Human  B) Lizardman
  2. Class: A) Warrior  B) Mage
  3. Career: A) Shooter B)Healer
  4. Background (blocked):  Prospector
  5. Advantage: A) Luck  B) Amulet

I roll my B.R.O. dices and I get the options for the Main PC: BABB

Kinship: (B) Lizardman,  Class: (A) Warrior,  Career: (B) Healer, Background: Prospector, Advantage: (B) Amulet

The discarded options make the Mirror Character:

Kinship: (A) Human, Class: (B) Mage, Career: (A) Shooter, Background: Prospector, Advantage: (A) Luck

if I choose the Mirror Character as Main then the Lizardman Warrior would become its Nemesis (a personal enemy NPC) but I have never played a Lizardman as a PC so I confirm it as Main and the Mirror Character as the Sidekick.

I follow the Data Procedure now:

  1. Gender (blocked): Male
  2. Age (blocked): Adult
  3. Personality: A)Lazy  B)Methodical
  4. Objective: A)Adventure  B)Career (rank 3)
  5. Disadvantage: A)Phobia  B)Hunted

B.R.O. decides the Data for the Main: ABB

Gender: Male, Age: Adult, Personality:(A) Lazy, Objective:(B) Career(Clanmaster), Disadvantage:(B)  Hunted

and the Sidekick’s Data: BAA

Gender: Male, Age: Adult, Personality:(B) Methodical, Objective:(B) Adventure, Disadvantage:(B) Phobia(high places)

I choose their names: Main: Ashrozz, Sidekick: Zychell the Blessed

I follow rules for the remaining info and my characters are completed:

lizardman
Main PC:

Name: ASHROZZ

Rank 1,   XP: 0,   Brownie Pts: 0

Stats:

Kinship: Lizardman (High lv), Class: Warrior (High lv), Career: Healer, Background: Prospector, Advantage: Amulet (medallion)

Data:

Gender: Male, Age: Adult, Personality: Lazy, Objective: Career(Clanmaster), Disadvantage: Hunted(by Bounty hunters) 

Literacy: No

Languages: Lizardish, Common Tongue

Commitment (Rank 1): Paying a Big Debt

  • Weapons: Knife, Longsword
  • Armor: Heavy Leather
  • Equipment: healing herbs, Adventure Kit (backpack with lantern with enough oil for the mission, flint & steel, water bottle, enough rations for the mission)

mage

Sidekick:

Name: ZYCHELL The Blessed

Stats:

Kinship: Human, Class: Mage (High lv), Career: Shooter, Background: Prospector, Advantage: Luck (High lv)

Data:

Gender: Male, Age: Adult, Personality: Methodical, Objective: Adventure, Disadvantage: Phobia(high places)

Literacy: Yes

Languages: Human Language (Panglian), Common Tongue, Orcish

  • Weapons: Knife, Sling
  • Equipment: Spellbook, Adventure Kit (backpack with lantern with enough oil for the mission, flint & steel, water bottle, enough rations for the mission)

 

Posted in Bivius, Miscellanea, Solo RPG, Tunnels & Dragons | 1 Comment

Tunnels & Dragons

I just finished translating the Bivius fantasy sourcebook into English, it took more time than expected due to various delays and commitments, but now Beta is finally available here.

The name of the sourcebook is Tunnels & Dragons (T&D), a clear tribute to the first two fantasy RPGs. In addition to these two games I’ve been influenced by many others including Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Fantasy Hero (1st edition), MERP and Risus.

An element of the game that I really enjoy is the BIVIUS LIST, a simple method that replaces any type of random table; this is a logical development of Bivius rule # 12 found in Bivius Companion.

I cannot wait to go into hazardous dungeons, explore unknown lands and seas and investigate mysteries in the alleys of forgotten cities 🙂

Posted in Bivius, news, Solo RPG | 1 Comment

Join the Dark Side

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After having played many adventures as detectives you would like to experience how you feel in the part of the culprit trying to escape the capture?

Now you can with the newest version of Nine Steps And A Bloody Heart (NSAABH) that you find here.
NSAABH allows you to create investigative adventures for solo rpg but you can also use the system to play a standard RPG with a GM or GM-less.

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A Talk with an NPC, a solo example

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How to play a long and interactive dialogue with an NPC in a solo RPG scene?

This is one example.

TOOLS:
dice rolls:http://a.teall.info/dice/
oracle: FU table from FU
word randomizer: http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator/randomwords/1

———————————–
GENRE: standard fantasy

PC: Zaldorr (generic warrior with a broken spear, hunted by the devilmonkeys, needs a job)

NPC: Yktan (silk merchant of Lost Port, bald and fat, streetwise)

PLACE: Yktan’s office
—————————————-
I have no other idea about the setting and no plot
Let’s start talking with Yktran.

Zaldorr bows awkwardly in front of the merchant and asks for a moment to discuss a deal.

Is Yktran well disposed? NO AND 

The merchant beckons to his bodyguard to drive the warrior

Zaldor resists and says, “I was told that Yktran has a nose for a good deal but I was wrong”

is Yktran intrigued? YES BUT not impressed

Yktran: “you’re not wrong but you do not look to offer me anything interesting”

Zaldor has been guarding the caravan before? NO
Zaldor has experience of the sea? YES AND he commanded a trireme at war

Zaldor: “I can take one of your carracks in every port of the four kingdoms, without any losses”

is Yktran impressed? NO.
random word = handkerchief

Yktran: “really? Big words for a warrior with a broken spear and wearing only rags, I would not trust you to transport a single one of my handkerchiefs of the worst spidersilk”

random words = juice + prison

Zaldor: “I’ve not been lucky in the South but before I commanded a trireme at the Battle of Bloody Captor”

Yktran knows the battle? YES
Yktran you impressed? YES
random word = cocktail

Yktran (to a servant): “Take us to drink, quick!”
Yktran: “An epic victory against the Necromancer’s fleet, if what you say is true it might be worth listening to what you offer me”
Zaldor: “Myself. You will not find a ship captain most skilled and at a lower price than me”

Yktran needs a captain? NO
random word = warehouse
Yktran needs to protect his warehouse? NO

Yktran: “hmmmm … my carracks are far away, my warehouses are empty at the time, I’m waiting for the arrival of a new load of silk tapestries not earlier than 2 months”

random word = graffiti

While the servant returned with a tray of drinks, the merchant makes a pause for reflection
Yktran: “You’ve never been to the Painted Tower?”

was Zaldor there before? NO BUT

Zaldor: “I’m new in town but I’ve heard something about it from some fishermen at the pier”

random word = tyre (LOL)

Yktran: “It is the home of Gytu, The Tired Wizard”

does Yktran want to hire Zalkor for a dirty job? NO
Yktran friends with Gytu? YES AND they are brothers
random word = pilot

Yktran: “The honorable Gytu is studying an old portolan and needs someone who is familiar with the charts to decipher it, you have experience as a pilot?”

did Zaldor work as a ship’s pilot? YES BUT only as an apprentice for a short time
(I decide to lie)

Zaldor: “I’m a skilled pilot, I can read any map and set a course blindfolded and with one hand tied behind my back, sir !!”

Does Yktran totally believe the warrior? (Unlikely -2) NO
Does Yktran get angry? YES BUT doesnt let him see
random word = shoes

Yktran: “Very well then. I’ll write a letter in your favor for dear Gytu but first we have to give thanks to the gods, come with me”
Yktran leads Zaldor  into a shrine dedicated to the worship of the 123 idols of Zxwoo, he bows and whispers to Zaldor: “Take off your shoes before you enter and pray with me”

Does Zaldor note that Yktran did not believe him? NO AND thinks the merchant is charmed by his words

Zaldor follows the merchant 

Is Yktran after (1d6) five minutes asking something? NO
random word = spit (!)
random word = tax

Yktran softly begins to invoke the wrath of Zxwhoo against the tax collectors of the city, the ritual forces Zaldor to pray for (1d6) 2 hours,
the merchant is sure that the gods will punish his enemies and also they teach Zaldor to hold his tongue in front of a silk merchant.

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NSAABH: Skin-doll Hunter

lego spinner

This is another scenario for a NSAABH (Nine Steps And A Bloody Heart) investigative solo adventure, to play you need a suitable RPG system of your choice. It’s obviously inspired by Philip Dick’s “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” novel , Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner movie and the videogame Blade Runner (1997).

You can download NSAABH here

Scenario: “In a cyberpunk metropolis genetically engineered creatures usually called ‘skin-dolls’ are produced as workers for space stations. Recently a group of rebel skin-dolls tried to kill Herbert Capek, Managing Director of the main clone manufacturing corporation. You are an agent of the Police Special Clone Hunting Unit and you have a list of the names of four skin-dolls, prevent their criminal plan and ‘retire’ them…”

Enigma:

  • (Clubs) : Who is the leader of the rebel clones? Where is he/she hiding?
  • (Diamonds) : What they want to accomplish?
  • (Spades): Which special system they want to use?

Clubs: Who is the leader of the rebel clones? (Where is he/she hiding?)
1) Zelda, stripper (Blue Snake Bar)
2) Sergei, metalworker (his hotel room)
3) Anne, nurse (Valis Hospital)
4) Roy, soldier (Isidore Tower rooftop)
5) Roy, soldier (Zelda’s apartment)

Diamonds:  : What they want to accomplish?
1) Killing Capek for revenge
2) Kidnapping Capek
3) Destroying the clone project
4) Killing every skin-doll hunter
5) Creating an undergound organization to help fugitive clones

 

Spades: Which special system they want to use?
1) Gas bombs
2) Dr. Chen’s help
3) Deadly clone animals
4) Hacking software
5) Global blackout

Surprises:
1) Skin-doll Hunter Santiago wounded
2) Dr. Chen murdered
3) Someone breaks into your apartment

Mr Maybe: Skin-doll Hunter Santiago

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My Dice Tower: Picts & Sieges

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(Picts vs Late Romans)

Some of you might ignore what is a the dice tower: it’s a game tool to roll dices in
an efficient and amusing way, a dice tower is a miniature hollowed tower with a couple or more deflectors inside , the dice falls from the top inside the tower, bounces on the deflectors and comes out of an opening at the bottom.
In the world of board games and rpg these towers have spread in recent years, but the idea comes from far away.
It seems that everything started in 1985 when archaeologists found in a roman villa in germany a metallic object, a dice tower of the 4th century AD, it was apparently a gift for the owner of the villa (probably the commander of a legion stationed on the empire frontier).

(the roman dice tower)

This tower was pierced with a a latin inscription:

PICTOS VICTOS
HOSTIS DELETA
LVDITE SECVRI
VTERE FELIX VIVAS

(translation:
The Picts are defeated.
The enemy is destroyed.
Play in safety!
Use it and live luckily/happily.)

This beautiful item also had 3 bells which ring when the dices come out of the lower opening.
An awesome artifact indeed.
In short, I decided to build my dice tower because … it’s fun.

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(The inside of a Dice Tower)

I was thinking of making it in plywood and for that reason I first decided to make a cardboard prototype.
I started to use this prototype and I found it good and for now I did not feel the need for anything else.
And here the siege comes into play, in a sense.
I found in the house a perfect element for my tower:

The empty box of a “Zampone” (tipical italian pork sausage enveloped in a hollowed out pig’s trotter) eaten at New Year’s Eve and retained for future modeling projects,
it is made of plasticized cardboard of the right size.

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(an example of a Zampone package)

I made three oblique cuts on it and inserted the cartboard deflectors (You have to be careful to leave enough distance to the dices to move from one deflector to the other), I cut also the front opening and then I covered the entire body of the tower with gray colored duct tape to increase its solidity.

And the siege? A legend says that the Zampone was created in 1510 during the long siege of the town Mirandola by the troops of Pope Julius II.
The besieged citizens to better survive the difficulties and to prevent the pigs that had been fattened up with such care from falling into the hands of the papal soldiers, ground the meat and stuffed it into the paw skin.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dice_tower

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vettweiss-Froitzheim_Dice_Tower

http://www.mafood.it/en/wikifoodia/cold-cuts/zampone/

 

 

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Zathrum designer’s notes

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Everything started when I got the idea of playing Sword & Backpack RPG in solo mode using Bivius.
S&B uses 1d20 so it was perfectly natural to use a d20 as the B.R.O. in Bivius.
I’ve been thinking that 1d20 has many faces 😀 and I could use this fact to create a more detailed oracle (Bivius has only the Rule # 8 for a binary Y/N answer).

The most natural thing for me was to convert The FU oracle (a d6 table) in a d20 version but with many more variations. I thought of a very famous d20 oracle toy, (http://www.ask8ball.net/) but its answers were not suitable for an rpg: too vague or inconclusive. A quick Google search led me to a list of English conditionals.
I took some that seemed fit (if, while, unless…) and added other ones.
However, I wanted an oracle that was not too rigid in the answers, but adaptable to the situation.
For this I have inserted the conditional in parenthesis as a simple suggestion after the Yes / No responses, if not fit you simply ignore it and use the basic Y / N response.
Now I had a very detailed oracle for questions to be answered during the game, I had Bivius for the rest and S&B as the starting point.

But Bivius is a complete RPG (it has standard RPG rules plus an integrated solo engine), I had seen that the d20 had great potential for the variety of possible outcomes with only one roll.
I then thought of creating a real self-contained Game Master Engine (GME) but still compatible with Bivius and S&B, What could be the other indispensable tables?
To create the story I liked the Bivius system of the two options but having 1d20 available instead of a binary random generator I could also vary the chances of the two options as other games had done. I’m a roleplayer of d6s and d10s games, I’m used to thinking about the odds in terms of percentiles, real-world probabilities are measured in this way as well.
Calculating the odds between two options by rolling dices of different type or using a dice pool is not for me, I wanted a simpler but precise system, a way to calculate the odds in percentiles, roll one d20 and get immediately the selected option.

Each number of a d20 has a 5% probability, it was a great way to calculate the odds that an option would take place. The other option would have occurred otherwise.

To get a simple but complete system other than the oracle and the option selector, I only needed two more things : a scene generator and a NPC generator. With four d20 tables there is enough to run a solo RPG adventure.
I used Zathrum in some short adventures and it all went well!

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It’s Free!

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I’ve created a new page listing free online products, broken down by category: Solo RPGs and Solo Engines, Free RPGs, Random Generators, etc.

it’s HERE

 

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