My Journey To Solo Roleplaying

As I grew up I played a lot of RPGs on PC and still do today. A couple years ago a friend got me into playing board games. With not a lot of table top experience, I found games with RPG elements like Gloomhaven the most enjoyable.

Some time later I purchased my first tabletop game, Descent 2nd Edition. Descent is designed to have a “game master like” Overlord player who runs the monsters, does the narration, etc. The rest of the players control individual hero characters. Fortunately it has a companion app which provides AI for the Overlord. I am very fond of Descent and intend on playing it more in the future, however there are a lack of choices. For example a travel event I recall was something along the lines of;

The party are traveling along the road and hear animal sounds from the nearby wood. Do you;
A) Investigate the noises
B) Ignore the noises

We chose to investigate the noise and got rabies or something which made us start the next scenario with a negative status effect. This wasn’t a big deal but there were many similar restricted choices in these games due to the limited number of options a board game can present and still have a manageable framework.

These limited options also prevented meaningful role play. Often an encounter would present binary choices, neither of which jived with characters personalities. Still I found these were my favourite table top games I’d experienced so far.

Late November 2019, I decided to try something different. I’d known of Dungeons and Dragons since I was young but at 30+, had yet to try it. Talking to a couple of my gaming friends, they’d tried earlier editions but had no intention of running a game. Others flat out said no, I am not trying D&D. So I decided to try to learn more about it myself.

I watched some videos online but wasn’t able to get a grasp of the concepts until I found Geek and Sundry’s Starter Kit video series for new players. I soon bought the D&D Starter Kit and Players Handbook and started reading through the basic rules. Reading the rules was a hurdle as there was so much minutiae to absorb before being able to start as a DM. Once I thought I had a good enough handle on the rules, I couldn’t convince my friends to give it a go.

Next, I went online and registered interest on various Looking For Group forums. Living in Australia and being a new player, there were not as many opportunities as some people might expect. After some time I finally got a response for a game that would start in a couple months.

I was happy to finally try this new interest of mine out but wanted to get to play sooner. While searching for a way to play without a GM or any other players, I stumbled across /r/solo_roleplaying. This was a hallelujah moment for me… At least at first.

I initially spent many frustrated hours trying to figure out how to play solo with over a dozen different products. In retrospect I believe the problem was attempting to solo a crunchy system with no relevant experience in playing any tabletop RPG. A tip to readers starting their solo RPG journey.

Start with a system you know or go rules light to begin with.

I eventually realised I wasn’t having fun trying to solo D&D 5E while learning the system itself. To remedy this I doubled down on looking for a group game to join. Around January 2020, the online game I’d been waiting to start fell through. Luckily I found an Adventurer’s League group in my area and was able to start playing with them.

A couple months later, with regular play in person and online, I felt I understood the system well enough to try solo again. And it worked out quite well. The crunchiness is enough to ensure I have a rule for most situations. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different GM emulators and generators.

And so that’s the story of how I went from PC gamer to TTRPG solo-er. I still enjoy playing in groups more but solo D&D is a fulfilling experience as well.

K take care 🙂

1 comment

  1. Keep it up! It sounds like you’re feeling more confident with your soloing over time. I also agree with your bolded statement about either starting with a system you know well (which I did) or a rules light system to avoid too much overload while trying to figure out how to solo.

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