It’s been almost a year since I last approached this topic in-blog. The Tabletop Roguelike, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Solo Play. But don’t think that I’ve been idle all this time, oh no.I’ve been working on things. So many things.

See, I hit a wall before. One of the problems inherent with trying to play a roguelike by yourself without computer assistance is coming up with the world and all the monsters and stuff. A computer will happily do that for you all day. It might not make a whole lot of sense if it’s all procedurally-generated, but at least there’s plenty for you to do.

The alternative is to play with a group, and as we all know, people suck.

So I’ve been working on the problem of what to do when you want to roleplay by yourself — you need a system that’s generic enough that specializing doesn’t cripple you, that’s simple enough so when you’re presented with tons of information you can process it all without the worry that a mistake will unhinge your story…

The thing is, you just can’t do it all yourself and still have fun. You’d be rolling against charts and tables and it really wouldn’t be the most fantastic storytelling experience ever. You still need input from some other human being somewhere along the line.

But! But, that input doesn’t have to be constant. It just needs to exist, or to have existed. The dice can help shake things up a little, but you need a bit of something that didn’t come from you. I figure there are two main ways to do this–

First is to play a character made by someone else. Part of the challenge in this version is that you’re working against the game to stay in-character. You’re trying to play it “their way,” which means you aren’t telling your own story so much as playing someone else’s story. This requires interesting, pre-generated characters.

This is one of the ways Arkham Horror engages the players. You pick up a pre-defined role — the Redeemd Cultist, the Gangster, the Professor — and you race to beat the minions of the Ancient One before they successfully rouse the beast.

Second is to play a scenario made by someone else. This is the main hook presented by roleplaying games the world over. JRPGs try to have it both ways by defining both the story and the characters, but I’m not going there. Instead you make your character and then put them through the courses someone else dreamed up.

These can take a lot of different forms, from the exploration of emotions like fear or horror, hope, suspense, curiosity, or desire — to exploration of exotic locations — to solving mysteries. I think the key is that you don’t create everything by yourself. You have something to react to, which somehow seems a vital part to roleplaying.

So, what I’ve been working on is simplifying and streamlining a system of play, and developing a coherent setting which players can explore on their own, at their own pace. Time passes at the behest of the player (or players), and stuff happens.

My thought is that somewhere along the line, this becomes a periodical, with new things taking place in the “world,” as it were, and events unfolding beyond the control of the players — which they can in turn react to or ignore.

I would liken it to an Offline MMORPG.

I’m thinking the next D&D campaign I run will incorporate many of the concepts I’ve been working on here, and may even take direction from what I’m developing in this vein (and vice versa). Look for it here, sometime in the coming weeks — I’ve been hard at work developing it for a while now and I’m close to a breakthrough.