Wednesday, July 15, 2020

On the Unexpected Benefits of Solo RP

If I could, I would join a D&D table - a meetup or something (I don't actually know anyone in real life who games) - and play real D&D with real people. I miss it dearly, all the more since I brought RP back into my life through TOTM. But... during COVID, it's just a no-go. My craptastic wifi prevents me from joining a virtual table.

That said, solo RP has been a lot of fun. It does give me the feeling that I'm 'in a game' and I know this because I have started fearing for my characters. I've grown attached to them in a way I did not expect and if I lose (any more of) them, I'll feel a sincere sense of loss.

In my case, solo RP's big flaw is that it unspools incredibly slowly. My game 'happens' at the speed I can type. That's how it plays out, too: I type like a madman (I tell my partner I was busy smashing keys) and edit out the million errors later. When I need to roll a die, I stop typing, roll the die, and go back to typing. That's gameplay.

Despite this limitation, there are some unexpected benefits to solo gaming I would never have considered. Here are five of them:

-No rules-lawyers. As all the players and the DM, I always agree with my rulings, even when, in retrospect, they were bad calls.
-No egos. No look-at-me players sacrificing the story for the spotlight. No hurt feelings. No one feels like they are being picked on by the DM or the other players. It's the rarest of things: a table of perfect harmony with a single intention to experience a great story.
-Storytelling tricks: with solo RP, I can use dramatic irony, flashbacks and even total away-from-player POV shifts. These tricks, stolen from movies and novels, work great for me. They would probably struggle to work at a real table.
-No schedule management: that problem of what to do when Flaky Todd, who plays your cleric, can't show up for the Wednesday game yet again...? I don't have that problem.
-The slowness can be a benefit, too. Moving at a speed bottlenecked by my ability to type X words per minute, plus the added delays caused by needing to record and produce the show, actually gives me dozens - if not hundreds - of moments to think about the story during my everyday activities. Listening & relistening to mixes of the show acts almost like a study session - forcing me to 'learn' the show's details, which I think translates into a sense of interconnectivity in later writing. There is a drawback here I should mention, to be fair: having time to think about the show has, on many occasions made me overthink the show. I'm confident that things are going a certain way, and begin to imagine how the story will shape up, and then an errant die roll changes everything.

Alright, I'm gonna sign off here. Was intending on keeping it short this time round!


  1. I actually wouldn't consider that last point a drawback because it hits home for what makes me come back to tabletop rpgs. I spend free time (over)thinking about games I'm playing, solo or otherwise, and how things would work out and build up this whole narrative in my head only to have it turned on its side with a die roll. To me its sort of like twists in GoT where you think you know what's going to happen and then there's a twist still fits into the story and keeps it fresh. And it happens just often enough that its not out of left field or annoying (obviously tweaking this ratio to your liking).

    Also addressing your first point, have you considered PBP style games at all? It's a way to get some group gaming in and wi-fi issues would be less of a hassle.

  2. Hey Xelor, thanks for the comment. You know, I have never tried a PBP game - but I would like to give it a shot. Are there any you could recommend? I wouldn't know where to start.