Solo Roleplaying

The pandemic taught me a lot, including how to play Dungeons & Dragons by myself! Now, I solo roleplay all the time because I just can't get enough!

Solo Roleplaying
A rough overview of what solo roleplaying is and how to get started.

In one form or another, roleplaying has always been part of my life. As a child, I played with toys and created elaborate scenarios, pretending to do all sorts of things. When I was in the fifth grade, I was in AOL chat rooms with people all over the world, collaboratively telling stories about these intricate characters we either assumed or made up. It's always been my pastime.

I was introduced to the wonderful world of Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons back in 2014 and I haven't stopped rolling dice ever since. I'm always creating characters and practically itching to play whenever I get a chance. It's my inner child begging for release. Before I moved back to the DMV (DC-MD-VA) area, I played Pathfinder at my local game shop about four times a week. It's honestly my retirement goal at this point: get on streams and roll dice with great people.

There's just one problem with having this constant need to roleplay: there isn't always time, nor are there always people to play with. Did you know that as you grow older, life makes it very hard to align people's schedules???

Then, one day in The Year That Shall Not Be Named (... 2020), I was casually browsing through r/dndnext when I stumbled upon a post talking about MUNE -- The Madey Upy Namey Emulator.

Thank you to whoever made that Reddit post that I forgot to also upvote, comment on, or save. (I only know it exists because, after searching through my Youtube and Google Search history for why I suddenly searched "Me, Myself, and Die" -- more on that later -- I checked my Reddit and found I left a comment on ANOTHER post talking about the said post.)

While I don't use MUNE today, its mere existence opened my eyes to a world that I never knew could exist. I discovered I could play Dungeons & Dragons by myself. And not only that, there were so many people playing all kinds of games by themselves.

And just like that, I have something to hold me over until I can travel with my friends around Waterdeep or through Barovia. I can roleplay whenever I want.

Oracles

One of the concepts that I keep running across with any solo game I play is that it urges you to let the dice lead the way. Because you don't have someone guiding the way, you need something to guide you instead. When it comes to solo games, you have some tools you can use to fill in that empty space.

Answering yes or no questions

We typically call this kind of tool an oracle. MUNE is a great, simple tool for doing exactly this. You would typically ask the DM these questions, but they don't exist in solo. Instead, you ask it a question and it gives you some kind of yes or no answer.

For instance, with MUNE, you ask a yes or no question and roll a d6. The number rolled corresponds to an answer:

  • 1: No, and... (Not only is it a No, but it's worse)
  • 2: No (Just a straight-up No. Nothing else strange here.)
  • 3: No, but... (It's a No, buuuuut maybe there's something similar or adjacent.)
  • 4: Yes, but... (It's a Yes, buuuuut it's lacking something or is only kind of what you asked for.)
  • 5: Yes (Just a straight-up Yes.)
  • 6: Yes, and... (Not only is a Yes, but there's more!)

Let's say your character is approaching a settlement, but you're unsure of the size of it. It could be a small village, a town, a large city, or a huge kingdom. You know that the kingdoms are far and wide and you are just walking about the land, so you ask the oracle, "Is it a town?" You roll and get a 6! "Yes, and..." The and in this case dictates something extra. It's a town... and they're having a festival! You don't have to roll for every detail, you just use it to help move things along. A festival in this case sounds like a nice surprise for your worn-out traveler, and they could use a relaxing break.

If you want to try out a more "crunchy" oracle, give Mythic a shot. It's a lot of people's go-to.

Inspiration

There's also another concept for those questions that need a bit more than a simple yes or no. This town with the festival: what kind of festival is it? Sure, we can go around guessing all day until something lands.

Or, we can pick two random words and use that as inspiration. MUNE calls these Portents. Mythics calls them Event Meanings. Ironsworn and Starforged have them broken up between Action+Theme and Descriptor+Focus. Whatever the term, you're rolling two words -- typically one adjective or verb, and a noun -- and using those words to spark inspiration for what comes next.

Using Mythic, you ask, "What kind of festival is this?" You roll 2d100 and get an 87 and 66: "Work hard" and "Fears." Interesting. The first thing that comes to mind is something like Halloween. Or perhaps the festival isn't as bright or cheery as you once thought; maybe this is their annual sacrifice rituals to appease the local demon. They're working hard to not be in fear of what this entity will do. Oh no! But, with the context of the previous "Yes, and..." we want a positive result. So, they're doing some kind of Halloween-like ritual fit for this land. Your character can smell the freshly baked goods before they even enter town!

Resources

There's a ton of resources for solo roleplaying once you know where to look. I've amassed quite a large Google Drive folder of all the PDFs I've gathered.

As I mentioned earlier, MUNE is what got me started, and it's a great starter. Honestly, if you're not looking for all the complex bits and pieces, it's all you'll ever need.

Mythic seems to be "the standard." It has a fully fleshed-out system with lots of knobs for difficulty, unpredictability, and "chaos." When I play DnD solo, it's what I use (though I use the variation instead of the standard one).

There are a million resources for the other bits and pieces, as well, such as UNE (Universal NPC Emulator), for creating random NPCs and their characteristics, and BOLD (Book Of Legends and Deeds), a backstory generator. The maker of Mythic also has a series of books to help flesh out the adventure as a whole: The Adventure Crafter, the Creature Crafter, and the Location Crafter. I've used them all and they are AMAZING.

But this can all be super difficult to grasp right away. There are a ton of people with Actual Plays of them using these products and having fun adventures. "Me, Myself, & Die" is talked about far and wide. In Season 1, Trevor Devall used Mythic to play a Savaged Worlds game. Watching him really inspired me. In Season 2, he uses my now-favorite solo system -- Ironsworn -- and had an AMAZING adventure. Trevor is on Season 3 now, using a system called Dominion Rules.I urge you to give him a watch, and maybe try out solo gaming for yourself if you have an insatiable roleplaying itch that needs scratching.

Ironsworn – and now Starforged -- is my go-to solo system. I will definitely have more content around that soon.  The Bad Spot is another amazing podcast I've listened to for Starforged and it is just SO good.

Since I can't play every day, I typically have a solo game running to keep my creativity in check. I just started posting my play reports of my current Starforged campaign, THUNDERFANG. Check it out and let me know what you think!

THUNDERFANG #1
(A Series of Starforged Play Reports) Locke is hired by Jessica Usagi to figure out who framed her husband. As Locke investigates the crime scene, he comes across some unsettling discoveries.